I typically don’t gravitate to the top tourist attractions when I land at a destination – largely, it’s not the tourist attraction per se that attracts me to the place, but there may be something about it or the people from a place I’m interested in finding out more about.
You can’t go to Memphis Tennessee and not take in at least something connecting to Elvis Presley, especially if you love Rock-and-Roll and the blues. I of course, am a fan of both and have always loved Elvis songs. That said, I heard mixed things about Graceland so was somewhat hesitant about visiting, however I had to see it – after all, how did Priscilla decorate the house after all? I had to know and had to see, kitch 1960’s, 1970’s and all.
Truth be told, it was a bit like people described – the size of the place is daunting since Graceland has become much much more than the home Elvis once lived in. After parking in a large lot, you then have to hop a shuttle bus to the beginning of the guided tour, which walks you through the main house itself. Luckily it was off-season so while we were not alone, we had time to leisurely walk through and marvel at the colors, decor style and design of time and it was, as you can imagine, insatiably over-the-top. Below is one angle of the living room, one I found palatable.
I also really liked the dining room — apparently Priscilla still visits from time-to-time and was told they dine here on occasion.
As you go through the estate, you begin to realize the grandness of it, as well as the fact that you’re walking through the most famous rock ‘n’ roll residence in the world. Some of the rooms are oh so very retro……and colorful. The room with the monkey and the yellow glittery pillows had me at hello.
This room was a little dizzying but I suppose incredibly chic at the time.
After going through several rooms, you step outside of the home, which doesn’t look particularly ostentatious at first glance.
But as you continue meandering through the property, you realize that the Graceland experience includes much much more than just his residence. Today, the Graceland experience takes you back in time to his mansion, the added Elvis’ Automobile Museum, the Live from Vegas Exhibit and Elvis’ Hawaii: Concerts, Movies and More Exhibit. How many of you remember his Hawaii phase?
The museum portion has his recording collections, much of the clothing he wore on and off stage (mostly on-stage), his shoes and more. It’s a maze of all things Elvis – whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard not to be impressed by the volume of what this man created and the impact he had on his fans, the music industry and on society as a whole.
Outside, you pass a peaceful serenity pond – surrounding it, are gravestones adorned with tons of flowers and hearts in various colors.
It is here that you are reminded just how religious Elvis was….while fans know this from his gospel music (his favorite to sing and record), others may not realize how much religion and gospel was at his core.
Elvis Presley died at Graceland on August 16, 1977. His will appointed his father, Vernon Presley, who had long handled Elvis’ personal, non-career business affairs, as executor and trustee. The beneficiaries were Elvis’ grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley; his father, Vernon Presley; and his only child, Lisa Marie Presley. The will provided that Vernon Presley could, at his discretion, provide funds to other family members as needed. Vernon Presley died in 1979. Minnie Mae Presley died in 1980. This left Lisa Marie Presley as the sole heir to the estate. Elvis’ will stated that her inheritance was to be held in trust for her until her twenty-fifth birthday, February 1, 1993.
Vernon Presley’s will brought about the appointment of three co-executors/co-trustees to succeed him. They were: the National Bank of Commerce in Memphis, which was the bank Elvis and Vernon had done business with; Joseph Hanks, who had been Elvis and Vernon’s accountant for a number of years; and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, who had divorced Elvis in 1973, but had continued a close friendship with him and was Lisa’s legal guardian. Joseph Hanks retired from his post in 1990.
Upon Lisa Presley’s twenty-fifth birthday in 1993, the trust automatically dissolved and Lisa chose to form a new trust, The Elvis Presley Trust, to continue the successful management of the estate, with Priscilla Presley and the National Bank of Commerce continuing to serve as co-trustees.
In 1998, as Lisa Marie Presley’s role in the management grew, Priscilla Presley chose to redirect her efforts by moving to an advisory position, continuing her close involvement and support while focusing more time on her own ever-expanding individual pursuits as a successful actress and businessperson.
One important development for the Graceland visitor experience was the addition of Elvis’ Lisa Marie jet and Hound Dog II JetStar planes, which Elvis’ father had sold in 1978. They were brought back home to Memphis in a joint venture with the current owners and opened for onboard tours in 1984. Another major development was the opening of the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum in Graceland Plaza in 1989.
Since opening to the public in 1982, Graceland has hosted millions of visitors from every state in the union and nearly every country of the world. Prior to Graceland’s opening, there was minimal tourism trade in Memphis. Graceland quickly became the cornerstone of the industry for the city and the region. The Memphis tourism industry has expanded greatly with the development of attractions such as the FedEx Forum, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music (see our write up on the very impressive soul music museum), and the National Civil Rights Museum, which is also a must visit.
In 2006, Graceland was designated a National Historic Landmark.
We were there towards the end of the afternoon and as the light changed around the property, so did the mood – there was a sense of serenity and peace that came with the sun’s after glow soothingly making its way through the bare winter trees.
While it may indeed be an extremely over-visited tourist attraction in Memphis, it sheds so much light on the history of Elvis, how he lived, what he accomplished and how this was instrumental in rock-and-roll as we know it today, it’s definitely worth a visit – my recommendation to take it all in without the crowds is to visit off-season like we did (January-February is a good choice), or give them a call and ask when is a quieter time of year or day to visit to avoid long lines.
3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38116