For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see Graceland
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there’s no obligations now
Maybe I’ve a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland – Graceland by Paul Simon
The story is, Paul Simon wrote the song Graceland as part homage to the legendary musician Elvis Presley through his road trip to Memphis, Tennessee and part reference to an attempt to find some peace following his marriage breakup with actress Carrie Fisher. We decided to follow in his footsteps to 3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TN, 38116. Just around the corner from Lonely Street. Although we didn’t leave from Louisiana nor did it involve any marriage breakups.
We left the Natchez Trace Parkway at Tupelo after once again entering into Mississippi this time from Alabama. This turn west was our signal to start the journey back to Boulder. But first we had some important business in this small Mississippi city of 38,000 people. On the eighth January 1935 Tupelo was unprepossessing, rural, quiet and unaware that it would hit the headlines some 20 years later. For on this day in a small two bedroom cabin, twins were born to Gladys and Vernon Presley. One would die during birth, the other and younger would go on to become the undisputed “King of Rock n’ Roll”. Elvis Aaron Presley lived his first 13 years in Tupelo and we were going to see the cabin where it all came about. The cabin has been preserved alongside the wooden church the Presley’s attended in a suburb on the outskirts of Tupelo. It is now surrounded by more modern homes but sits in a few acres of park that is now set up for tourist visits.
Memphis is about 110 miles from Tupelo and this is where the Presleys moved when Elvis was 13 years old. The rest is history. In March 1957 Elvis bought the Graceland estate for $102,000. He actually bought the property for his parents and the Certificate of Title in their names and this sits on one wall. He later lived there with Priscilla, his wife, and died there on 16th August 1977. Controversy surrounds his death, but it is generally accepted that he died, in hospital, from heart failure brought on by an overdose of a number of drugs. Regardless, we were there to experience the thrill of quietly walking in the steps of “The King”. Or so we thought as no doubt did the many hundreds of others making this same pilgrimage on this particular day. Graceland and its 13.8 acres (5.6 hectares) was left to Presley’s daughter, Lisa-Marie but has since been preserved as a monument to Presley. The house and grounds are kept as they were in their heyday. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the surrounds. What was once rolling farmland is now a sprawling industrial estate. Graceland sits there in complete contrast alongside the massive money-making machine that is the Elvis Presley village of museums, restaurants and retail outlets. The Elvis Presley Estate made around US$27m in 2020 mostly from Graceland but also one million in album sales worldwide – at least the music is not completely forgotten. Everything Elvis is there – a car museum, his two planes, a display of his stage costumes and a walk through his music and film career history in videos and displays. A large section is dedicated to a homage to the influence Elvis had on the careers of numerous musicians and actors including one particularly poignant dedication from John Lennon and extraordinarily a remarkable note of respect from “The Rock”. The general theme is “we wouldn’t be doing what we are today without Elvis’s influence”. The whole experience is an incredible insight into the influence Presley had on modern day music including the crossover from blues to country to rock and roll. And in such a short career.
Graceland mansion is itself an attractive but unremarkable building bought to life by the look into the Elvis lifestyle. There is the music room still containing banks of recording gear and a large record collection and the Jungle Room with its animal skin rugs and decor where Elvis and his friends relaxed and played guitar. On one wing there is the racquet ball court, he had built for US$250,000 in 1975. He had apparently fallen in love with the sport. Another little known fact is that Elvis was hugely into martial arts – a love that started from his time in the US Army (1958 – 1960)- and was a seventh dan black belt in karate. The mansion is also a museum of gold discs, documents, photos and videos and paraphernalia from his life. The pool, grounds and stables remain maintained as if it was 1977. It is a two hour wander (with many other fans) through the home and grounds and a two hour spectacular through the museums alongside. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
3 thoughts on “All Hail “The King””
I would love to visit Graceland as well! What a talented man. He could act,sing,dance,and play piano and guitar. He was The King of Rock and Rock and others pale in comparison. I wish the American people could have saved him.
I have been there three times but it’s been a while since my last visit. Time to go back again and see the new exhibits.
It certainly is an experience. Especially for an old fan from Aotearoa New Zealand. I hope you get there again David. All the best.