Most people in their 50s and older can likely remember the day Elvis Presley died – Aug. 16, 1977.
I remember my oldest sister coming over to our house that evening to watch a special on TV about his life and death. I remember how emotional she was. Elvis had that effect on people.
Elvis was in Omaha about two months before his death. His concert here was filmed, along with a concert in Rapid City, SD, two days later as a special CBS planned for the fall season. The show, “Elvis in Concert,” aired in October 1977, about two months after his death. His actual last concert was in Indianapolis, IN, June 26.
Elvis was the true American music icon. He WAS the “King” of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He could sing rock, pop, gospel, country and soul, and people would faint over him.
Even being an Elvis tribute artist (imitator, back in the day) is a major career move for some men. We watched a performance in Omaha in the past year featuring three Elvis tribute artists. Women reacted to them like they were actually Elvis.
During our trip to Memphis, we had the pleasure of touring Graceland. Elvis bought the 23-room mansion in 1957 at the age of 22. He spent $100,000 for the house and the land. He lived there until his death. His parents, wife Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie also spent time living there. Elvis and Priscilla eventually divorced.
Graceland was opened to the public in 1982. Since its opening, the mansion and surrounding exhibits have averaged 600,000 visitors annually.
The Graceland mansion is just part of a larger complex honoring the King. The Graceland Plaza features museums, restaurants, gift shops and his two personal airplanes.
We started our Elvis experience with the mansion tour. Visitors take a shuttle bus from the complex entrance to Graceland. The tour is well-organized and they keep people moving along. The mansion tour is aided with an audio and visual tour on an iPad, narrated by actor/singer John Stamos.
As you drive through the gate with the music notes design, you notice that the house doesn’t look too large. The main structure is fairly small, but there are additions to each side.
The entrance to the mansion allows visitors a view of the living room. A portrait of Elvis hangs on the wall. Special guests would wait in the foyer for Elvis to greet them, according to the mansion’s website, www.graceland.com. The living room has a 1960-70s décor.
Next to the living room is the bedroom for his mother, Gladys.
The dining room was well decorated and maintained.
Next to it was the kitchen.
Heading downstairs, we got a look at his TV room. Today, it would be considered a media room.
Next to it was the famous Jungle Room. In the song, “Walking in Memphis,” Mark Cohn refers to seeing the ghost of Elvis: “…there’s a pretty little thing waiting for the King and she’s down in the Jungle Room.”
The Jungle Room features green shag carpet. It has a Polynesian décor and carved wood. It was once the exterior access to the basement. It was later a screened porch during a remodel job. It later became Elvis’ favorite room, because it reminded him of Hawaii, which was one of his favorite vacationing areas, according to www.graceland.com.
Nearby, a pool room featured an odd interior design, from floor to ceiling. Literally.
A few steps outside was his dad’s office. This is where Vernon Presley managed Elvis’ personal business. The professional career was managed by Colonel Tom Parker. Vernon also managed the Graceland operation.
Outside the building is a swing set that Elvis bought for Lisa Marie.
The Trophy Building houses a collection of Elvis’ gold and platinum records. The records lined the walls. The man could sing some hit songs.
“In the Ghetto” is my favorite song by Elvis, so I had to pose for a picture.
In addition, there are movie posters and outfits Elvis wore. Priscilla’s bridal gown is on display.
The Racquetball Room is full of more awards and outfits.
A special item was the tri-folded American flag given to the family when a veteran passes away. Since Elvis served in the Army, Lisa Marie was offered the flag on behalf of a grateful nation (for many reasons).
There is a room near the front where Elvis and friends could relax. Elvis sang a couple of songs for friends while playing the piano on the day he died.
The last stop on the mansion tour was the Meditation Garden. This marks the burial spot for Elvis, his parents and grandmother. A memorial for his brother – who died in childhood and was buried in Tupelo, MS – is located next to his mother’s grave.
A new addition that started a couple weeks before our visit is the Elvis Archives. Graceland has thousands of pieces of memorabilia that cannot be displayed on a regular basis. Visitors on the VIP and Platinum tours can attend a short presentation on some of the items. A staff member will share a few items and discuss their significance. We saw a “cell” phone in a briefcase that Elvis used, among a few other items.
After catching the shuttle bus back to the entrance area, we decided to check out some of the other museums and exhibits.
The automobile museum houses more than 20 vehicles that belonged to Elvis. The museum is set up like you’re walking along a street and see the vehicles off to the side.
A drive-in features a couple of vehicles.
An old-time gas station is featured along the walk.
Prominently featured is a pink Cadillac. Elvis bought it and drove it, but later gave it to his mom.
Some interesting “toys” are on display, including motorcycles and go-karts. But, interestingly, Elvis had a snowmobile fitted to be driven around his grounds. He apparently loved riding it.
Outside the automobile museum, several side exhibits and gift shops line the attraction entrance.
Want to see Elvis’ Tupelo (his hometown)? Head on in. Elvis in Vegas offers visitors a look at outfits he wore during shows there. Elvis’ Hawaii allows a look at why he loved the state so much for vacations, movie locations and concerts.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a look at the planes. We were running a bit behind schedule, and decided to forego the custom jets he owned. These are available on the VIP tour, if you are interested. Otherwise, it is an upcharge on the Platinum tour.
Next door to Graceland is the Heartbreak Hotel. We checked out the lobby area. It was definitely worth the stop. The hotel was busy, so I doubt it lacks for guests.
We spent almost three hours at Graceland and its attractions. Was it worth it? Yep! I think you have to have been somewhat of an Elvis fan to truly enjoy the experience. But, if you like checking out area attractions, Graceland would be worth the visit.
We recommend making Graceland part of your Memphis experience.
For more information on visiting Graceland, please visit www.graceland.com.
Disclaimer: Thanks to the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau for the complimentary tickets. However, all opinions and views are ours.