Today we were going to drive from Vicksburg to the home of the King - the one, the only, Elvis Presley. While we packed up the car we slapped on our “Blue Suede Shoes” and got “All Shook Up” for a little “Good Rockin’ Tonight”, but first we needed some brunch. We swung by some fast food places for disgustingly delicious fried chicken, corn dogs and tacos - but “Don’t Be Cruel,” we eat better than that usually (mom). We continued down Highway 61 - the Blues Highway - which was a fitting highway to bring us into Memphis where the birthplace of rock isn’t far from the bluesy tunes echoing from Beale Street.
We drove toward Elvis’ mansion and arrived around three o’clock in a WalMart sized parking lot able to handle large busses full of people on a rock pilgrimage. We jumped out of the car and the first thing I saw was a banner on a street light that read: What happens in Vegas started at Graceland
As we walked towards the main ticket counter and passed Lisa Marie’s tour plane we knew this place was going to be impressive. As it turns out this huge Elvis inspired complex was kind of like Disney World. You had to pay to get in, then, if you wanted to, you could pay to see the tour plane. And while you’re at it why not stay at the “Heartbreak Hotel?” You could pay to eat at the “Welcome To My World” ‘50s style diner and you could pay for any number of items with Elvis’ face on it or Elvis’ signature peanut butter and banana sandwich recipe cards if it struck your fancy. It did not so much strike our fancy so we just paid for the mansion tour and headed towards the tour buses. We each received our official Elvis Mansion Tour Headsets and were instructed to push start.
We rolled up to the famous home and headed to the front door. It was a little distracting trying to listen to the audio recording and the park attendants but with “A Little Less Conversation” our whole bus group figured out how to get in the front door and navigate from room to room. As soon as I saw the first carpeted ceiling inside the mansion I thought to myself: “I Don’t Care If the Sun Don’t Shine,” this tour was going to be a good one.
Imagine “If Everyday Was Like Christmas” and you might get a sense of what life in this place might have been like. There was a Jungle Room that had green shag carpet from floor to ceiling and all over the walls; even the kitchen floor was carpeted. There was an audio clip from Lisa Marie who talked about how the kitchen was always open because there was always “A Whole Lot-ta Shakin’ Goin’ On”.
The “Big Boss Man,” Elvis, never entertained upstairs, so keeping with tradition, the tour did not lead up there. We circled around the downstairs walking around the dining room and past the living room where the portraits of Elvis’ parents were, (“Mama Liked the Roses” and Elvis loved his Mama). We headed past the kitchen and walked down shag-carpeted stairs to the basement. The first thing I saw in the basement was the game room. The fabric ceiling and rows of televisions screamed out “It’s Carnival Time” and the pinball machine in the corner seemed to be singing “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear.”
Elvis had apparently been impressed by L.B.J. and his televisions. President Johnson prided himself on watching four major news networks at the same time on four different TVs. Elvis was not one to be upstaged and got himself four TVs also and made one heck of a TV room out of the whole situation. Like I said, this place must have been awesome to live in.
The three of us kind of hung back to let the other tourists by and took our time seeing the stables, the shooting range, and the hallway lined with Gold and Platinum Records. Elvis’ stage costumes lined the walls in glass cases, and a wedding picture with Elvis and Pricilla stood near their wedding clothes. The audio tape told us all about Elvis’ charity and how his mantra was “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” or, in non- Elvis lyric speak: empathize with those in need. We walked by a small glass case that showed several cashed checks Elvis had given to help out causes near to his heart. Everything near to his heart included buying a Cadillac for strangers on the lot at the same time he was though, so this charity business is under a pretty big umbrella.
We made our way down a somber cement path and towards the Presley Family grave site where Elvis lay with his mother, father, twin brother and grandmother. We snapped a few pictures then headed back to the tour bus which clunked down the road towards the parking lot.
We headed out of his historic site into downtown Memphis for some dinner and some Beale Street. We stopped at the Blue Plate Café
at the top of the street for a little Southern Barbeque. I “Got My Mojo Working” with some tamales, fried catfish, and delicious barbeque and then we headed out on the town.
As with New Orleans and Savannah, this certain street in Memphis - Beale Street - allowed happy customers of its establishments to walk up and down the sidewalks, drinking in public, as they listened to live music emanating from within. Following a few beers, we headed back to our hotel room to sleep after a long blue Memphis day.
“Aloha Oe” Elvis fans, and, until next time America!