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.
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.