Today we visited Elvis Presley’s home, 'Graceland' www.elvis.com/graceland at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard, the second most visited home in America after the White House, and which is conveniently situated next door to our campground, itself hidden behind the Heartbreak Hotel, no longer owned by the Elvis Empire.
We walked over carrying our raincoats and cameras and when I went to pay for the tickets with plastic I was told my card had not been accepted which was annoying, something to be investigated another day. As we were travelling light it was the only card we were carrying between us, and so back to the RV we trudged to get more cards AND cash, and were successful on the second attempt.
We started our visit by taking a look around Elvis’s two aircraft, a Boeing 707 and a small executive jet, at the ‘Graceland Complex’, where the aircraft, cars, shops etc are situated. Directly across the road is the Graceland house itself, and visitors are shuttled across Elvis Presley Boulevard to visit it. The most annoying thing was that video cameras are banned from the whole complex and so I had to pay to put mine in a locker. This is a futile rule since modern digital still’s cameras and mobile phones can also capture video, to add to the grief, there was also a ban on flash photography. I’m sure Elvis Inc would counter this by saying that there are videos of the tour available for sale in their shops, but they do not sell a PAL version, and so visitors from outside the USA are at a distinct disadvantage.
After a look around the two aircraft we caught the shuttle across to Graceland House. We were surprised at the size of it; we’d always imagined it to be much larger. The tour of the house is restricted to the downstairs only and was very interesting, though we had to remember that we were seeing tastes and styles of the 1970’s. In fact, I could be bitchy and say we were seeing style and furnishings without any taste at all.
From the house we moved on to displays of Elvis’ stage costumes, gold discs etc, and from there to the separate exterior racquet ball court with supporting rooms, the building of which in 1975 Elvis personally supervised. I struggled to picture him wearing a rhinestone covered overall, silver Cuban heeled wellies, and a hard hat. Today the racquet court is part of the museum and has the walls covered with more awards and stage suits in display cabinets. It was here in a side room that Elvis tickled the ivories on his piano before walking back to the house for something to eat and on that fateful day, visit the bathroom. Since no video cameras were allowed, I captured the moment on the stills camera which had somehow managed to adjust itself to the ‘video’ setting.
The self guided tour ends a short walk away in the Meditation Garden, where Elvis, his mother, father and grandmother are buried. Elvis was originally buried in the local Forest Hill Cemetery but after about three months his father Vernon petitioned the mayor to have the body moved to Graceland for security reasons as there were fears that Elvis’s body could be stolen. Every year on 15th August, the eve of Elvis Presley’s death a candlelit vigil takes place in the garden.
After visiting the graves we popped around to the front of Graceland House again and took a few more pictures before being approached by a security guard who kindly offered to take our picture together with the house in the background. Often this is a way of getting tips, but this member of staff was quite happy to oblige because he just plain enjoyed his job, which is the best reason of all.
At the end of an interesting tour we made for downtown Memphis again. We’d forgotten to buy a souvenir mug from Sun Record Studios www.sunstudio.com and so that was our first port of call, followed by a shuttle bus to Beale Street. We decided to have a walk around followed by a beer in B.B. King’s Club www.bbkingsclub.com before picking up some ribs ‘to go’ at Rendezvous Restaurant and catching the shuttle home.
Our evening meal of ribs was very pleasant but I have to say they’re over-rated. The meal which The Chef had prepared in the slow cooker this morning will now be put in the fridge and eaten tomorrow evening in a Wal-Mart car park in Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
LOCATION TONIGHT: Memphis-Graceland RV Park & Campground 3691 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116. (GPS: N35.049080 W90.027914)