Before we got to Graceland, we had a quick stop in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, Paris Tennessee that is😉
One of the primary reasons to visit Memphis Tennessee is to go visit Elvis and Graceland. They have an RV park right on the grounds, so we booked in for 2 nights. Graceland consists of Elvis’ mansion and then across the street a complex of museums. The RV Park was a 2-minute walk to the museum complex. It’s certainly not inexpensive to see everything as it costed $80 USD each to see all the exhibits. However, it took us 8 hours to tour everything, so I guess it’s just $10 per hour😉 After purchasing our tickets we had a bit of time before the bus took us across the street to the mansion so we looked at a few of the exhibits in the Hollywood set. For the mansion tour you first watched a short video on his life and then took your tablet and headphones on the bus to begin the mansion tour. It took us about 2 hours to go through all the mansion rooms they let you see. He certainly had some wild tastes for decorating back in the 70’s! After we returned to the museum complex, we had a smoked meat lunch at Vernon’s Smokehouse and then began going through all the exhibits. We will list some of the interesting facts we learned about Elvis first and then show a subset of our photos grouped by the areas.
Here are some of the interesting things we learned about Elvis (sort of in the order we leaned them):
- Sun Records was owned by Sam Phillips and really tells the story of the birth of Rock’n’roll. He ran the record business for about a decade. Young musicians like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis combined the styles of Hillbilly Country with the 1950’s R&B sound created by artists like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Fats Domino, and Ike Turner to change the course of music forever. An eight-episode TV Series called Sun Records was made in 2017 to chronicle this time period.
- Elvis was born on January 8th 1935 in Tupelo Mississippi and his parents were Vernon Presley, and Gladys Smith. He also had a stillborn twin brother, Jessie.
- Graceland (the mansion) was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
- The original owner of the land was Grace Toff Ward, from 1894 to 1901 and they had 480 acres that they used for family gatherings. The family then nicknamed it Grace’s Land and the name stuck. The land was eventually spilt up among family members and one of the kids built the actual mansion that Elvis would purchase.
- In 1957 Elvis and his parents were looking for a larger and more private home and found Graceland on the outskirts of Memphis. Elvis purchased the house and 13.5 acres of land for $103,500. He immediately started doing renovations (which he did throughout his life) including the stone wall around the property, an iron musical gate, and a swimming pool and patio.
- Elvis was also a huge technology fan. RCA gifted him a large RCA TV console for the sale of 50 million records from 1956 to 1960. RCA also gave him a desk that had a built-in radio, TV, and 8 Track player which was state of the art at the time.
- Elvis met Priscilla Beaulieu while stationed in Germany and they were married at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas on May 1st, 1967. In February of 1968 they had their only child Lisa Marie Presley.
- Elvis had a deep respect for law enforcement and said if he did not pursue singing, he would have been a police officer. He amassed a huge collection of guns and police badges.
- He was also extremely interested in football and even had pick up games with local teams. In the early 1970’s he also really enjoyed racquetball, so he had a court built on the Graceland property for $200,000. He also enjoyed horse back riding and had a stable with horses to ride around the grounds.
- Elvis’ mom Gladys died in 1958, Elvis died on August 16th, 1977, and his father Vernon died in 1979. Vernon actually made special arrangements to have Gladys and Elvis moved from Forest Hill Cemetery to Graceland in October of 1977. They are all buried now in the Graceland Meditation Garden. The stained-glass near the graves was handmade in Spain in the 1800’s.
- There was a very large exhibit of Elvis’s cars, and they called it Presley Motors. He liked Cadillacs, Mercedes, Ferrari’s, Lincolns, and Rolls Royce’s. His saying was “Life is too short to drive boring cars”😉He also liked racing toys like midget cars, trikes, and dune buggies. At the mansion we saw the car port but it wasn’t big enough to hold all of his cars so he must have had a large warehouse garage somewhere.
- Next, we went to see the 2 airplanes they had on display. The Lisa Marie was the larger one and it was 1958 Convair 880 purchased in 1975 for $250,000. He spent $800,000 to have it remodeled with a living room, conference room, private bedroom, gold plated seatbelts, a Quadrophonic Sound system, and a 24-karat gold flecked sinks. Elvis and Lisa Marie would stay up late and one night at 1 am they had the crew get the plane ready so they could fly to Colorado because Lisa Marie had never seen snow. After Elvis died they removed the ends of the wings so they could tow the plane from the airport to it’s final resting spot at Graceland where they reattached the wings. The smaller jet plane had really wild coloured seats.
- Elvis did not like to drink alcohol and preferred Gatorade and Mountain Valley Spring Water.
- Elvis liked to spoil Lisa Marie. She has had a career as a model, songwriter, musician, artist, and spokesperson for causes she felt deeply about. Her family says she is very much like her father.
- Elvis’ first official recording session at Sun Records was on July 5th, 1954. He started doing a sped-up version of “That’s All Right” and Sam recognized the talent and made the record.
- Every Saturday night Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys (Scotty, Bill, and DJ Fontana) would play at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. Entertainment Promoter Colonel Tom Parker would discover them there and negotiated the sale of Elvis’s contract from Sun Records to RCA. 1956 was considered Elvis’s breakout year with his first recording with RCA. The first single was Heartbreak Hotel and it became the first gold record selling over 1 million copies by April 1956.
- Elvis was inducted into the army in March of 1958 at Fort Chaffee Arkansas. He got his G.I haircut in front of 55 photographers and commented “ Hair today, gone tomorrow”. In September 1958 he was stationed in Germany and he was there until March 1960 when he finished his active duty.
- Elvis did a TV special on NBC in December 1968, and it garnered 42 percent of the viewing audience so he was indeed back on top. On August 11th of 1997 BMG Entertainment commemorated international record sales of 400,000,000 albums. He also had 14 Grammy nominations and won 3 Grammys all in the Gospel category.
- In 1969 Elvis started a show in Las Vegas and he really wanted to wear something different than the traditional tux outfits. He worked with Bill Belew to come up with unique costumes. In the 1970’s this morphed into his famous jumpsuits, capes, and jewelry. There was a massive collection of the jumpsuits on display.
- Elvis was fascinated with movies and at 15 years old spent countless hours observing, learning, and mimicking his screen idols, Valentino, Brando, Dean, and Curtis. Elvis made his first movie “Love Me Tender” in 1956 and when he showed up to film, he didn’t know what was expected so he had memorized the entire script for all the cast! In his career Elvis made 31 feature movies and two theatrically released concert documentaries.
- Another exhibit was called Icons and it showed a variety of other famous artists talking about how significant Elvis was in forming their careers.
- Lastly there was an exhibit called Graceland Archives Experience where they had catalogued documents and artifacts from Elvis’ all too short 42-year life.
Here are the photos from the various areas we visited. We put captions on all the photos to help explain what they were showing. The first section was the Hollywood backlot which were the sets used to film the Sun Records TV Series.
Graceland Mansion photos.
Presley Motors Automobile Museum.
Lunch at Vernon’s Smokehouse followed by Elvis’ Airplanes.
Elvis’ start at Sun Records.
Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum.
Elvis’ Movie Career.
Icons: The Influence of Elvis Presley.
Archives Experience and Elvis in the Army.
On our way back to the RV park we stopped into the new Guest House at Graceland hotel for a drink and even a game of shuffleboard! Truly a memorable day of touring.
Next destination is Louisiana.