Graceland is the home of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley. The mansion on a 13.8 acre estate in Memphis, Tennessee, is today a pilgrimage destination for his millions of fans worldwide. The site was listed in the American National Register of Historic Places in 1991and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006. In 1982 it was opened to the public as a museum and is the second most visited site in the US after the White House.
There are very few people who can be recognized historically by their first name. Elvis is one of them. Elvis had a presence. You felt him even when you couldn’t see him, and as we celebrate his 42nd death anniversary on 16th August, Verus Ferreira pays tribute to the rock n roll great on his visit to Graceland.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland was always on my bucket list, and I was privileged to get a chance to visit the place when friends Renuka Rose and Marc Taube invited me and my family for a holiday to their home in Cleveland, I jumped at the offer, especially when they said we could visit Graceland. What I didn’t know was my Marc pitching an idea of a road trip to Tupelo (Mississippi) the birthplace of Elvis, then Nashville - home of country music, Memphis (Graceland), St Louis and back to Cleveland. After soaking in the sights of Cleveland’s iconic Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and other places, we werelooking forward to the trip of a lifetime.
Well stocked for the jaunt in a four wheel drive Toyota SUV, we headed out one early morning for the long drive. After a night halt in Columbus, we headed onto Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis. It was here that Elvis Aaron Presley was born on 8th January, 1935. Presley was supposed to be a twin, but his brother, Jesse was stillborn. Elvis was raised by parents Gladys and Vernon Presley who took up small jobs to keep the home fires burning. Elvis was deeply devoted to his parents, especially his mother, Gladys, and was raised to have a strong faith in God. Presley attended the Assembly of God Church with his parents, where gospel music became an important influence for him. Noticing his love for music,Elvis received his first guitar as a gift from his mother on his 11th birthday.
A tour ($18) which will give you access into the modest two room shack, museum and the Chapel he
attended. It’s hard to believe how humble Elvis really was and how great a star he went on to become.
Quite a difference from the opulence of Graceland. The shack has an outhouse; one full room for the family to sleep that has Elvis’ bed and a small kitchen. The cute lady in the house answered questions about how Elvis’ father bought the house. It is a really peaceful, contemplative place to be. I enjoyed sitting on the porch-seat. In my opinion, this place is far nicer, more appropriate and prettier than Graceland, for people who want to remember Elvis quietly. The timeline surrounding the shack takes you back in time.
The Chapel is quite large and has the original podium that Elvis once used. There is also a replica piano of Elvis’ on one side. It is definitely worth the visit especially to see a rare videos of Elvis singing hymnsat the morning prayers when he was a young child. The museum here is very interesting with a lot of photos and stories.Don’t forget to take a walk around the well manicured garden and then a short climb uphill to see thestatue of Elvis which is really grand. If you are going to Graceland I would suggest visiting Tupelo where it all started.Back to the Elvis journey, in 1948, the family moved to Memphis and it was here that Elvis had his first taste of musical success when he won a talent show at Humes High School in Memphis. After graduating in 1953, he began working as a truck driver to pay his way into the Memphis Recording Services studio to get studio time.
He cut his first demo record at what later became known as Sun Studio. He sang the song My Happiness and That’s when your heartaches begin and before long, Sam Phillips, the record label owner, decided to sign on the young singer. He got his first break with That's All Right Mama which was his first single in 1954. Soon enough, the hits came rolling in for Elvis. Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, Don’t be Cruel, All Shook Up, Jailhouse Rock, Teddy Bear, Its Now or Never among many others put him in everyone’s heart. His impact on American culture was stupendous, as he seemed to have an effect on the manner of dressing, hairstyles, and even behavior, which many copied. His spinning movements on stage became legendary. His stardom got him 136 gold records and 10 platinum records. He was the top recording artist for two straight decades, the 50s and 60s. Elvis received 14 Grammy nominations and won three wins for Gospel recordings - the album ‘How Great Thou Art’ (1967), ‘He Touched Me’ (1972) and his live Memphis concert recording of the song ‘How Great Thou Art’ (1974).
Elvis also tried his hand at acting, thereby showcasing his music too. His first film was ‘Love Me Tender’ (1956) and the very popular ‘Jailhouse Rock’ (1957) followed by many more, making him singer and actor. Called to serve his country, Elvis began a well-publicized stint in the army in 1958, but returned when his mother passed away in 1958. The remainder of his military service was spent stationed in Germany (until 1960), where he met his future wife Priscilla Beaulieu who he married in 1967. Theywere blessed with a daughter Lisa Marie.
Elvis's success in the entertainment industry came the hard way and with it a few wrong decisions and
unneeded advice. This took a toll on him when he faced numerous failures in his personal life. In 1973, he and Priscilla divorced; As Elvis's millions grew, so too did the mismanagement by Parker, his long time manager. Elvis made an estimated $4.3 billion in earnings during his lifetime, but he never acquired a concept of financial responsibility. His personal problems were never ending, weight gain and drug dependency hitting him hard. Through all this, Elvis continued a steady flow of concert performances in sold-out arenas well into the 1970s. On 16th August, 1977, the day before another concert tour was about to begin, Elvis was found dead in Graceland Mansion by his fiancée, Ginger Alden. He was only 42 years. The official cause of death was heart disease, although information revealed after his death about his drug dependency. His death caused worldwide scenes of mourning.Elvis continues to be celebrated as superstar and legend as much in death as he was in life. Graceland
Mansion, which he had purchased in 1957 for his parents for $102,500, is the top tourist attraction in
Memphis and attracts millions of visitors from both America and around the world.
Elvis’ Graceland lies near the majestic Graceland Hotel on Elvis Presley Boulevard. There are many budget hotels nearby. It is advisable to book your tickets online to avoid serpentine queues. You can opt for The Ultimate VIP Tour ($169) that gets you a personal tour guide, a meal voucher, an exclusive lounge and a chance to view and hold some rare exhibits of the King. The pass also lets you make multiple return visits to the exhibits before closing time. There’s also the Elvis Entourage ($96) and the most popular $59 Elvis Experience Tour. All tours have a mandatory interactive iPad.
Once on the tour you would be drooling over the man and his almost unbelievable, superhuman charisma. I went crazy to see the home where he had lived, breathed, sang, made love to Priscilla and years later breathed his last. Our eight member group, (yes I opted for the Ultimate VIP Pass), began just outside the museum, when we were bused across the street to a sweeping lawn and into the environs of the Graceland mansion. The two storied limestone mansion with green shutters, white Corinthian pillars, and two white marble lions, beckons every visitor aka Elvis fan. The Living room has 15 foot long white sofa, gold drapes, peacock stained glass windows. A staircase leading to the first floor was out of bounds for visitors and probably is only accessible to Elvis’ wife
Priscilla and his only child Lisa Marie who visit Graceland. You can feel Elvis’ presence as you wander though the mansion, maybe seated at his Dining table. Move ahead and you have the kitchen with a vintage blender, fridge, microwave oven, wash basin and cabinets. The tropical rain forest evoking Jungle Room with stone walls, carved heavy wood Polynesian furniture also has part of the walls covered in green shag rug with a non functioning waterfall. You couldn’t miss out the Teddy Bear seated on the sofa nearby. His French dynasty-inspired Billiards Room (Pool room) was decorative to the core, with its tuck-and-draped ceiling made of 350 yards of heavy brocade fabric; the media room was all lemon yellow and black with a mirrored ceiling for good effect, with three TVs, where the ‘King’ sat and watched television,. There are a couple of LP records around with a white porcelain monkey on the centre glass table.
In the Trophy room, the walls are lined with silver and gold records, while his Racquetball building, houses the piano that was used by him to entertain his friends. It’s the same piano he played the day he passed away. A passage leads you to his father’s office where a host of exhibits are displayed. Elvis was a cowboy at heart. Out on the lawns you can watch horses graze, but none of these are Elvis’, namely the most famous Rising Sun, who was the last to die in 2005. After another gallery of exhibits, you then head outside to a kidney shaped swimming pool that overlooks the Meditation garden, Elvis’ favorite space at Graceland. It’s where he lies buried alongside his parents Gladys and Vernon, Grandmother Minnie Mae and his twin brother Jesse. I spent awhile in reflection of his great spirit. I couldn’t hold back the tears, but I wasn’t alone, diehard fans were weeping, staring at his grave, prayingat his gravesite, feeling his presence.
Back in the bus and across the road, the tour continues with the Museum exhibits that follow Elvis life and career gaining insights into his roots, influences and artistry, his movies and his life in the army. Iswooned over every photo gushing about just how handsome he was. There’s lots to see from his Automobile Museum that has over 20 cars, his 1955 Pink Cadillac or the black 1973 Stutz Blackhawk III, the car he used the night before he died. There’s the Lisa Marie Conair 880 aircraft, the fashionable outfits he wore on stage, one better than the other, it is all here. Elvis loved dressing up, just wearing what he liked and felt right; he became a fashion icon that everyone followed, the bell bottom, different colored sequined jackets, flared shirts, boots and ornaments to go with such royal attire.
Our tour ended with the secret room. Here our select group got a chance to see his comb, the necklace and ring he gave Priscilla, and the microphone he used. I almost wept with delight as I held the microphone. It was a magical moment for me, something I would always cherish for the rest of my life.Before leaving don’t forget to pick your souvenirs from Graceland or the nearby merchandise shops. The wall and at places even the footpath outside Graceland is inscribed with messages from fans from across the world who have visited Graceland and left their memories here.
The Elvis Presley story does not end at Graceland. Head to Downtown Memphis to visit Sun Studio where his career started. You learn all about the birthplace of rock n roll, you can even stand on the spot where Elvis stood (I unknowingly did), take a picture with the microphone Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis used. You can also grab a bite or a beer at the BB King Bar or Hard Rock Café on Beale Street. While many referred to him as The King or the King of Rock n Roll, he calmly remarked, “I am not the King, Jesus Christ is the King. I am only an Entertainer.” Elvis’ charisma, style and that deep melodic voice that measured every word, is unforgettable. So rich, velvety. It was Elvis’ dream to sing. He taughtus, that dreams can come true.
Historically, poetry, song and literature have often been used as a means to propagate new ideas, social reform and to protest against injustice and oppression. They have triggered revolutions, helped overthrow many a despot and been instrumental in bringing about much needed change. Many of these poets, writers, thinkers and revolutionaries have gone on to become heroes, for their contribution to the social, political and cultural evolution of our civilization.
Some of the great protest songs that come to mind, include, the gospel based We Shall Overcome, Bob Dylan’s Masters of War and Times They are a Changing, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Edwin Starr’s War. Some were born out of the oppression, persecution and injustice suffered by the people under the ruling classes, while others have been triggered by specific events or ideas such as, Hurricane by Bob Dylan, Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Free Nelson Mandela by The Specials, Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine, or Alright by Kendrick Lamar, to name a few.
In an ideal world, where lawmakers, administrators and industry, the people in power, are responsible, clean, transparent and non-corrupt and everything is open to public scrutiny, there is nothing to expose, everything is out in the open. In an ideal world you don’t need the likes of Julian Assange, or W Mark Felt, Woodword and Bernstein, or Serpico, or Sherron Watkins and Cynthia Cooper, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, etc.
But the real world is a far cry from the ideal. Most Governments, private and public institutions are often recklessly irresponsible, thrive on corruption, indulge in heinous criminal deeds and are necessarily opaque, because they have a lot to hide.
It is in this scenario that people like Assange or any of the others mentioned above become relevant. Through his efforts, Julian Assange, Founder of Wikileaks, the organization he founded to expose war crimes, corruption and human rights abuses and aided by former intelligence analyst, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, published several secret documents that incriminated those in power.
With the result he has since been persecuted by those who feel threatened by what he had exposed. Isn’t what they did justified, when you consider the greater good. Don’t citizens have a right to know what is happening? Don’t governments themselves use the reason of greater good to justify many of their actions when it is convenient? You could say that technically the means used by Assange may have been illegal, but as a journalist wasn’t it his duty to expose the wrong doings?
No man or woman is infallible. So Julian Assange has his shortcomings but his journalistic endeavours cannot be called criminal. He believed in protecting freedom of speech, and the right to free expression and set about doing what he had to do.
Facing US extradition proceedings, he surrendered to the British police in 2010 but broke bail and sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador, where he remained for seven years, before he was jailed last month when Ecuador withdrew his asylum.
So why has no one thought of writing a song protesting the treatment meted out to Julian Assange. There have been movies and documentaries made about him but alas, no one has thought to write a song about this man who fought for human rights, freedom of expression, transparency and free flow of information.
Where are the great protest singers like Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Kendrick Lamar, or Morrissey? Had they been alive, maybe Phil Ochs or Pete Seeger or Lennon would have written one. With escalating global conflicts, intolerance, increased muzzling of the press and restrictions on the free flow of information on the net, wouldn’t it have been a timely reflection of our times?
Don’t you think he deserves a Song?-
-Stanley Paul & Pradeep Joseph
Believe me! Remember when you were twelve years old and your grandmother washed out your mouth with soap and
water for using foul language and then threatened to wash your ears out too for listening to and singing songs like “Cocaine” or “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summers”? Yes, our grandparents are constantly reminiscing about the “good old, clean, romantic, wholesome music”, music of the 30’s 40’s and the 50’s”. And you too may have been a victim of having being “brainwashed” into feeling that, yes, the music of the 80’s, 90’s & 2000’s (heavy metal, punk, soul, rap and hip hop) are really full of violence, drugs and sex!
Talking of violence, sex and drugs, every generation thinks they had the right value system during their times and that with every new generation it was going to the dogs. Well, we’re here to break a few age old myths and to enlighten you about the real truth as to why those days were called the “Good Old Bad Days” and how your grandparents lied to you!
“Sometimes she gets unruly;
An she act like she just don't wanna do;
But I get my 22-20;
I cut that woman half in two;
Your .38 Special;
Buddy, it's most too light;
But my 22-20;
Will make ev'rything, alright;
No, this isn’t a song of 80’s or the 90’s. These are the violent lyrics of a song where Skip James sings about cutting a woman in half in this blues number called "22-20 Blues" and he sang it way back in …1931! Compared to this the lyrics of “Ma Baker” sung by Boney M in the 70’s seem positively “tame”.
Couldn’t possibly get more violent than that right? Wrong! Check out the lyrics of Blind Willie McTell singing the "A to Z Blues" – circa 1956
“I’m gonna cut your head four different ways;
That's long, short, deep and wide.
When I get a rhythm of this rusty black handle razor;
you're gonna be booked out for an ambulance ride;
Cause I'm gonna cut A, B, C, D on top of your head;
That's gonna be treating you nice, like mama you ain't gonna be dead.
I'm gonna cut E, F, G right across your face;
H, I, J, K, that's where runnin' bound to take place;
Cut L, M, N cross both your arms;
You'll sell an' peddle gal your whole life long;
Cut N, O, P, Q that's gonna be trouble too;
Cause I'm gonna grab you mama and turn you every way but loose;
Cut R, S, T to hear you cry;
That'll be the last time tears a run from over your eyes;
Cut U, V, W on the bottom of your feet;
That'll be the last time you walk up an' down 25th street;
Marking cross your bosom with X, Y, Z;
When I get through with this alphabet;
You'll quit your messing with me”.
Let’s all be thankful that Blind Willie wasn’t a KG teacher teaching little kids the A to Z of the alphabet!
And if the “bad blue” boys of the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s thought they were going to get away with violence against women, they were absolutely wrong! Because Josie Miles and her sister “blues” singers proved that they too were equally blood thirsty (if not more) and didn’t even need a reason for getting violent! Compared to these “bad mamas, the so called “bad girls” of today come across as “pristine virgins”.
In the following song "Mad Mama Blues" Bad sister Josie Miles is out to wreck the city, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop her.
“Now I could see blood runnin'
Through the streets;
Could be everyone;
Layin' dead right right at my feet.
Give me gunpowder;
Give me dynamite;
Yes I'd wreck the city;
Wanna blow it up tonight.
I took my big Winchester;
Down off the shelf;
When I get through shootin';
There won't be nobody left.
Violent enough? “But hey”, I hear you say, “maybe they were violent, but at least they weren’t doing drugs!” At least they didn’t have songs like Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” or The Beatles “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” encouraging people to try LSD or snort coke! Wrong again sister! just check out the lyrics of this next song -
Dreamed about a reefer five feet long.
Mighty Mezz, but not too strong.
You'll be high but not for long.
If you're a viper.
I'm the king of everything.
I've got to be high before I can swing.
Light a tea and let it be
If you're a viper.
When your throat gets dry you know you're high.
Everything is dandy.
Truck on down to the candy store.
Bust your konk on peppermint candy.
Then you know that you’re body's spent.
You don't care if you don't pay rent.
Sky is high and so am I
If you're a viper.
Name of the song? ‘If You’re A Viper” sung by Stuff Smith in the year 1936 and I’m sure he was really flying super duper high if he smoked five foot reefers!!
Do I hear a few voices still protesting, “OK fine, they had violence and drugs in their lyrics, but at least they didn’t have any “F” words or explicit sex in their songs, like “Oh Me So Horny,” by “2 Live Crew” who Broward County Police had to haul into court, because their album “As Nasty As They Want To Be” had been banned for its obscene lyrical content.”
So Wrong again!
Lucille Bogan, a very motherly, plain looking woman was not called the queen of the "Dirty Blues" for nothing. Yes, this “plain Jane” was the writer and singer of such dirty classics as "Sloppy Drunk Blues," "Tricks Ain't Walkin’ No More" and the "Bull Dyke Women's Blues’s”.
And the lyrics of her most famous song, “Shave ‘Em Dry” which she sang live in pubs in 1935 are too explicit to even print here. But if you don’t believe me you can go to Goggle and type out “Lucille Bogan – Lyrics of “Shave “Em Dry” and check them out. But don’t blame me if you’re scandalized!
And yes, dear child, if you still don’t believe that your grandparents lied to you, then I’m sure you’ll also believe that “Madonna” is still a virgin, that “Michael Jackson” is still alive and “moon walking” and that “The Beatles” are practicing hard… for their next gig!
- Noel Keymer
Those of you who have been around from the 1960's through the 1990's will remember the vibrant live music scene in almost every starred hotel in India. Those were the days when you walked into a nightclub like 'Rendezvous' at The Taj Mahal hotel and 'Supper Club' at the Oberoi Sheraton in Mumbai to see curtains going up on a band that was the prime focus of these outlets. Every seat in these restaurants allowed an unobstructed view of the band that performed every night on resident contracts. Today all this has disappeared thanks to some ridiculously high entertainment taxes on live music. Today, non off these hotels have complete bands playing save for a few that feature small duos or solo singers. The Lodhi in New Delhi, recently listed among the world's best hotels, decided to step in and rewind to the good old days. They got Goa's premier jazz quartet 'Jazz Junction' to move to Delhi on a resident contract and the decision has paid off in terms of footfalls generated by the band. Jazz Junction featuring singer Daniella Rodrigues, pianist Tony Dias,
bassist Colin D'Cruz and drummer Angelo Colasco began playing at The Lodhi in June 2018. Four months into the contract the band generated a sizeable following, with quite a few high profile guests choosing to celebrate their special occasion at the Elan bar where the band performs. Against all odds the rewind option proved to be a huge success and hopefully other properties around the country takes the cue to trigger a whole new revival of live music.