2/9/18: After stopping in St. Louis to see the Arch, we looked ahead for another place to stop. Our route to New Orleans too us right through Memphis, and what’s in Memphis? Graceland! OK, off to see the place “The King” was always most happy: his home.
Even before we left St. Louis, we had mixed feelings about going there. What gave us most apprehension was the cost. Visiting Graceland is ungodly expensive! Just to visit his mansion was $40 per person. If you wanted to add seeing the museum exhibits, it was another $20 per person. It was an extra $5 per person to walk through his private jet. They also have VIP tours for $100 per person, as well as a private tour guide option for the low, low price of $169 per person.
Besides the cost, neither of us are fervent or devout Elvis fans, although we both like some of his songs. But this was Graceland: home of Elvis Presley. Love him or hate him, there can be no argument that he was one of the most (if not *THE* most) influential music artist of the 50’s and 60’s. His influence on rock & roll and country music is undeniable. Dozens (maybe hundrends) of singers, songwriters, and bands claim influence (and sometimes their success) on him and his music. We had to go see it, and opted for the mansion plus museum package (but no plane).
We arrived in Memphis and stayed at a motel right next to Graceland. It just so happened to be an Elvis-themed motel, so we got our first dosing of Elvis even before visiting the actual musem and mansion. The next morning, we drove the 1 block to the entrance, parked, and got our tickets. We could not believe how big the museum complex was. Besides the mansion and grounds (which was across the street from the museum), there were 4 separate museum exhibit areas, 2 restaurants, and several gift shops. The 4 exhibits were focused on different aspects of his life: his car collection, his military career, cultural icons who were influenced by him, and his music career (including many of his famous jumpsuits).
The tour started at the mansion. They give you and iPad and headphones, load you on a bus, and take you across the road to the front door of his mansion. The iPad was supposed to be a self-guided tour enhancement, but it didn’t work very well. The speed at which you could walk through didn’t match the speed of the iPad, so it inevitably started talking about rooms you hadn’t got to yet, or got too far behind and was hard to fast-forward. It was interesting to hear, but just wasn’t timed very well at all.
The mansion itself was a lot smaller than we thought it would be. It’s hard to describe the layout, but there was a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom on the first floor, as well as the lounge area where Elvis wrote and practiced many of his songs. The basement had the bar area and pool room. The second floor was strictly off limits (even to museum staff), as that was Elvis’s personal area, and out of respect, nobody is allowed there. The only exception to that is when Priscilla or Lisa visit, which they still do a couple times a year. We also toured the grounds area, which included an office area, handball court, and garage – now turned into a mini-museum with various items that belonged to Elvis. The mansion tour ends at Elvis’s grave. Located next to the pool in the meditation garden, it’s a remarkably quiet and somber place. There lies Elvis, next to his parents, grandmother, and twin brother, who died at birth. Each tombstone is adorned with fresh flowers, and an eternal flame burns behind Elvis’s grave stone.
After the mansion tour, we hopped back on the bus to the museum. Since we also paid for the museum tour, we were ushered in that direction (those that didn’t were either ushered back to the parking lot, or to the airplane lot where his private jet was located). The museum tour was OK, but not as interesting as the mansion. We saw his car collection, which includes his famous Pink Cadillac, a Stutz Blackhawk, an older Ferrari, and sevral Harley-Davidson motorcycles. His military exhibit included various things from his Army days including his uniforms, footlocker and other memoribilia. The “icons” area had several displays from various artists with items donated or on loan from them. Some of the artists included Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Kiss, Jimi Hendrix, Carrie Underwood, and John Lennon. Each display featured a quote from the artist explaining Elvis’s influence on their music and career. Lastly wad his career exhibit which displayed many of his iconic jumpsuits and hundreds of gold, platinum, and silver albums he was awarded through the years.
We toured Graceland for about 4 hours. We both agreed that the mansion was more interesting than the museum, but we’re glad we toured both. Would we do it again? No, probably not. But we’re definitely happy we did it when we had the chance to. Elvis Presley was, without doubt, one of the greatest influences on rock and country music. We’re glad we were able to see a little into the life of the man who forever changed music history.