Elvis Presley, Memphis USA
“ Is Memphis too far to go to?” I asked as that was on my to do bucket list.
“ Sure we can go, It’s just a six hour drive,” he said.
Amazing how these Americans just get into their cars and drive huge distances. Thats because their roads are better than airport tarmacs and the cost of petrol is cheaper than India and we are talking gallons not liters like us.
So we packed for the weekend and hopped into the SUV with the kids and Annika. The snack bag and the fruit bag sustain us along the way, with one pit stop for coffee maybe, if the driver is getting sleepy.
Memphis happily was a very mixed town which was nice for us. But we had booked online at an air B and B, as I wanted a hot breakfast. Most are run by our Guju brethren and serve either pancakes or waffles along with cereal for the kids. However we had unknowingly booked in a shady area and were scared when we had to lock away our car in an enclosed, gated area.
We did have one hair raising interlude with a young couple running and screaming at one another, while we watched open mouthed, but otherwise the sheets were spotless and so was the toilet and the room.
To be able to enjoy the place Annika said,” lets divide and conquer. I will take the kids to the world famous Memphis zoo and you guys can enjoy Elvis in peace.”
We drove in after paying for parking, into the Graceland property. Andy had taken his DSLR camera as my point and shoot had been accidently spoiled. We walked into the plush lobby to buy our tickets, which could rival any movie hall lobby.
You can’t go inside the mansion unless you purchase tickets. As of 2019, tickets cost $46 for the most basic tour (up from $31 in 2011). I made sure I asked for a senior citizen ticket which was 5 $ less. That helps explain why so many people are interested in just visiting the meditation garden for free without paying for the full mansion visit. VIP tours range from $59-169. The most expensive tour includes a chance to see Elvis’ custom jets.
Then we lined up to see a short film on Elvis to prep us for the tour, in a small room with a voice over. It was interesting as I got to love Elvis’s music only later in life. The reason, Dad wanted us to learn classical western music, so our free time was spent practising for our Trinity College of music exams.
The story of Elvis reads like a fairy tale. Dirt poor boy becomes fabulously wealthy purely on talent. His one-of-a-kind voice, catapulted him into world shaking fame and wealth. In the spring of 1957, when Elvis Presley was 22, he purchased Graceland the home and grounds for just over $100,000. The previous year had been a whirlwind - it was Elvis' first year of super-stardom including historic network television appearances, record-breaking live performances and armloads of gold record awards. At the time he bought Graceland, Elvis was working on his second motion picture, "Loving You," with "Jailhouse Rock" to follow, just the beginning of a long film career for Elvis Presley.
Elvis Presley was born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. His last name Presley was anglicized after his ancestor Johann Valentin Pressler emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1710. Today Presley is known as “King of Rock N' Roll.”
Although Elvis had various homes in the Los Angeles area and spent a great deal of time on the road with his concerts, Graceland was always home base - a constant in the life of Elvis Presley.
There was 13.8 acres around the house, which was bought in May 16, 1957. His parents and grandmother moved in while Elvis continued to film "Jailhouse Rock." His parents, Vernon and Gladys saw the house first and placed a $1,000 down payment on March 16, 1957. The place was named by the original owners --Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Moore, after Mrs. Moore's Aunt Grace Toof, the original landowner.
Then ofcourse Elvis did a lot of renovations including the famous music gates which were installed in April 22, 1957. Elvis paid $102,500 for Graceland — an equivalent of about $924,000 today. When Elvis purchased Graceland, the property was just shy of 14 acres and a little over 10,000 square feet. Today the mansion occupies over 17,500 square feet. Graceland has five sets of stairs. And Graceland is the second most-visited home in the United States, with more than 700,000 visitors annually after the White House.
Over the twenty years that Elvis Presley lived at Graceland, the home’s décor went through many changes, as did those who lived there with him. The greatest changes, though, came in those final 10 months of 1957, when Elvis decided to buy Graceland and make it his home for life.
The interiors are quite outlandish with a jungle room full of artefacts from Africa. A pool table with a roof and walls of pleated printed cloth. One staircase with mirrors on all sides -- top and sides making it a feeling you are upside down. The hall was in typical ‘60’s style and the dining room had a beautiful chandelier.
Besides Elvis's love for fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, he insisted that there be cans of sauerkraut, fresh banana pudding and Doublemint gum stocked in the kitchen at all times. A portion of Graceland's upstairs area is forbidden to the public. It was a private place where Elvis found solace from the outside world.
Much Elvis’s music he may have 'borrowed' from black blues performers and from white country stars and white pop singers. But most of his borrowings came from the church as its gospel music was his primary musical influence.
Curiously, his famous song "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is a song by the British rock band Queen. Written by Freddie Mercury in 1979, the track is included on their 1980 album The Game, and also appears on the band's compilation album, Greatest Hits in 1981.
Because attempts were made to steal Elvis's body from his gravesite in Forest Hill Cemetery, he, along with his mother Gladys, were re-interred at Graceland's Meditation Garden in 1977.
Even he could never have imagined what a mecca it would become for his fans and the curious alike after his death.
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