With a free weekend, Anna and I decided to go visit Elvis’ Graceland in Memphis. Not being a die-hard fanatic fan of Elvis, I was still totally impressed of his legacy and how organized Graceland was. Let me explain.
We arrive mid day on a Saturday into Memphis. Haul down a taxi and head to our hotel. The city of Memphis looked deserted. No traffic, no one on the road and upon asking the cab driver if this is normal, he assures that the holiday weekend calms the city down. It was different on Beale street; True home of the Blues!
Our hotel was walking distance to the famous Beale street and although a small road spanning perhaps 3 blocks at the busiest attractions, Beale street was alive. Just passing along the bars with live music playing blues simply gives energy to the whole street. It was as if walking the street places you in a time warp in which you were actually living in the 1940’s. Entering antique stores gazing at items used in the 1930’s, books that were completely yellow enduring the test to time and signage on store fronts that haven’t been repainted ever since. It was remarkable. There were definitely hardships in the 1930’s but it seemed that people enjoyed life to the fullest.
Every so often, passing along the sidewalk, we would see large guitars painted with legends that shaped the music industry. This whole area was simply brought up with soul and we couldn’t help feel that vibe.
As we head down to the Mississippi river, we see the crowd dwindling. Separated by a structural bridge, the clear blue sky from atop and the river from below made such a beautiful picture as if time was standing still. We rested for a while and admired the river but with the hunger setting in, we walked back to the action and had supper.
Great decor in having the front façade fully bricked in, while the courtyard was actually outdoors. Slight breeze made our supper very comfortable. We continue the night with more walking and indulge the night life, atmosphere and great evening weather.
Next morning, as the hotel shuttle wasn’t busy, they offered to drive us to Graceland. Elvis here we come.
Our tickets (and our hotel stay) were actually booked about 2 minutes after getting cleared on the flight from Atlanta to Memphis. We show them the electronic receipts from our phone and enter a room where we were shown a brief introductory video of Elvis. “Exit to the right”, one usher says and we’re given an iPad with headphones. From the start, I was extremely impressed from the cleanliness and organization of Graceland. We quickly get into a shuttle bus and they take us across the street to his home. A few house rules and instructions were given and away the self guided tour starts.
Whenever Anna is given any form of electronic or computer accessory, it automatically spells out confusion and frustration. This tour proved history always repeats itself. While we were enjoying the animated voice of John Stamos explaining the life of Elvis along with preset images on the iPad, she seemed to be 4 screens behind with the voice not matching the physical location. Her headset chord tangled with the iPad neck holder made it very difficult to snap pictures. I would catch her in the corner of my eye looking dazed, confused and upset. Until she gave up and simply looked through the house taking pictures.
The tour was fabulous. We were able to visit all rooms in the house except the upstairs. Apparently the home was left as is since 1977 after Elvis’ death. It clearly showed the style of the mid 1950’s. All was well-preserved and the home tour truly gave the sense of that era.
Continuing to the courtyard in the back of the home, we see the horse stable, his in ground pool and the location where Elvis and family members are buried. It did run shivers down my spine when the tour ended around his grave and couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. A true King of Rock and Roll.
Next we board a bus and head back to Graceland to see the “Presley Motors”. A museum filled with all of Elvis’ automobiles, boats, motorcycles, go-karts and tractors. The exhibit was done with great thought behind it. All cars had a picture and explanation of where the car was used, which film, or to whom it was given to. The amounts he paid them were also indicated which made it so interesting. The lighting was so subtle and any accents were strategically placed to make it all more appealing. Really well done.
Next stop was an area in which held all personal belongings, his furniture and many other artifacts. It also had a location with all his army attire. This too took quite some time since it was great seeing what he used during his life. From his football helmet to his favourite cologne, this museum had it all. Again, beautifully done.
When you think the tour is over, we head to the “Entertainer Career Museum”. Walls filled with Gold platinum records. I never knew he was this successful and his record achievements broke every base line ranking him the King of Rock and Roll.
His jumpsuits that he used to perform along with certain guitars he used filled a complete wing of the museum. Graceland simply had everything.
Four and half hours have gone by and we find ourselves still interested in all what Graceland had to offer. The last part of the tour was seeing his 2 private airplanes. The larger of the two, Convair 880, was named Lisa Marie after Elvis purchased it from Delta Air Lines in 1975. The plane cost $250,000.00 and after refurbishing it, the total cost reached $600,000.00. The smaller of the two, Lockheed JetStar, was purchased to fly his manager around to prepare the next days concerts.
Losing track of time, we head to Gladys’ Diner for lunch before we head back. Pizza was tasty and the diner was fitted with great artifacts. We felt we were living in the 50’s. Again, they have done such great work in keeping the theme of that era, and whether you are an Elvis fan or not, this place should definitely be on your bucket list.
We had planned to return to the hotel via a shuttle that would drop us off at Sun Studio. This was the studio in which Elvis did his recordings along with other influential musicians of that time. All was going as planned until 5 minutes out, the shuttle breaks down and we’re stuck walking the rest of the way. It turned out well, since we didn’t pay the shuttle, got to see the Sun Studio and walked back to our hotel from there.
We’ve also happened to be part of history during this trip as Memphis had their very first soccer team play their very first game. While walking the downtown area, we see a sea of people leaving a stadium to which Anna and I walked right in. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. We end with some relaxing time along the Mississippi River, have our last diner and reminisce the way home of how surprisingly great the weekend was.
Elvis has left the building.