4/7/14 Monday in Middleton,TN (Cherokee Landing-TT)
We listened to Elvis Radio (on Sirius XM Radio) as John drove the 1.5 hour trip to Graceland. We hadn’t realized that it’s recorded at Graceland even. On the way we saw bayous (like in Louisiana) and flowering dogwoods. Memphis (where Graceland is) borders Arkansas and Mississippi. It’s on the Mississippi River at the very SW corner of Tennessee. It’s know for its BBQ dishes and music. As with any large city, the highway enlarges to 8 and more lanes as you near downtown. The traffic was not that bad at around 9:30 am when we arrived, thank heavens. Parking is $10. You can park at Sun Record Studio for free and catch a shuttle that will get you to Graceland and the Rock and Soul Museum (free), but John figured we wouldn’t have the time for all three in one day so he felt it was worth paying for parking. Tickets: House only ticket was $30, but we recommend getting the Platinum package for only a few dollars more to see many more things: $33.30/adult. The next level (VIP) was $72 each. Too rich for us.
At the parking lot entrance nice people offered to take our picture, then we took theirs and another family – from Switzerland! They are very organized here. Everyone gets an audio receiver then steps onto their shuttle which drives you through the gates (note the music on the left part) and up to the house itself. The guides explained that this mansion was owned by another couple who sold it to Elvis. The wife’s name was Grace so they named their home Graceland. Elvis liked the name so much he decided to keep it. It’s been left pretty much the same as it was when he died in 1977, so there is a definite “70’s” flavor here. I’m so glad they let us take photos (no flash or video). Street level and the basement were for anyone who came to visit. The upstairs was off limits to all but Elvis and his family. Priscilla said he would “dress up” before coming downstairs, jangling as he walked down the stairs. She also noted that his presence permeated the place. Since he often had visitors the kitchen was large – to feed them all. One set of stairs were surrounded by mirrors, another by green shag carpet. The last was leading to the room he liked to jam in and record songs. Note the ceiling is also in green shag carpet. Lisa Marie had fond memories of the chair with the teddy bear.
This pool room was covered with miles (can’t remember the number) of folded fabric. As you walk from the mansion to Elvis’ father’s office you pass along the carport for his cars and see the pasture and horses. He gave one to Priscilla and had one for himself. One sign said he was just as happy driving his old John Deere tractor as riding his horse. In front of Vernon’s office you see Lisa Marie’s swing set. To the right is the smokehouse where Elvis, for a while, practiced shooting. He later used it mostly for storage. Next is the trophy building.
When we walked from the trophy building to the Racquetball building we saw his swimming pool. He took up rackquetball in the early 70’s and enjoyed it so much he built his own court and personally supervised its construction. It’s now where even more trophies reside. Naturally, along with weight training and Jacuzzi areas, he included this room for music. Apparently this is where he was spending his time the day he died.
Just outside this building is the Meditation Garden which he built in 1965. Vernon got special permission from the city to have Elvis and his mother moved here from their original burial places. Vernon and his mother Minnie were buried here as well. When your finished at the Mansion the shuttle takes you back across the road (Elvis Presley Blvd) to all the other Elvis attractions (included in the Platinum ticket).
Next we visited the Elvis Presley Automotive Museum. I let John enjoy while I sat down to watch little movie clips of Elvis with cars in his movies. He made 31 under “that horrible movie contract” as Priscilla said. There was a poster of the “Million Dollar Quartet” – a show coming out soon about the impromptu get together of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun Records.
Next we saw his 2 planes, the “Lisa Marie” (large) and a small jet plane (Hound Dog II). He had the first completely remodeled before using it. The Colonel would fly ahead in the little jet to the next city on Elvis’ tour to get things lined up. Elvis had an extensive tour of the US lined up (including Spokane), using the “Lisa Marie” to get to each venue. Early in his career he was in a plane that came close to crashing. He developed a real fear of flying, going everywhere by car until the Colonel lined up this big tour. I’m impressed that Elvis overcame his fears to buy these planes (staffed of course) to take him to his tour sites. He even used it for crazy things like flying a whole group of people to Colorado for peanut butter and banana sandwiches! He had his slogan (TCB + lightening-Taking Care of Business in a flash) put on the tail. He had an FAA certified (gold plated) seat belt (required by law) on his bed.
Lunch time. We were pretty much “captured customers”, so we ate at the “Rockabilly’s Burger Shop”. Expensive of course, but I really enjoyed my Cajun sausage and John his burger.
Refreshed we set off for Elvis’ ’68 Special Exhibit. It was to help Elvis get better recognition after all the movies, to show him in a natural way, doing what he loved. It was set up as a theater in the round with Elvis and his band members sitting in a group surrounded by a love audience. A jam session was added at the end. They said he was really nervous-so much was riding on this. Neither of us had seen it so we just settled in on the 1 bench and watched all that was taped for this exhibit. I took photos of the TV screen. Priscilla said he was at the best weight he’d ever been (168 lbs.)
On to Elvis and Hawaii: Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite (viewed in about 40 countries by over 1 billion people) In America more people watched it than saw man’s first walk on the moon. John and I (and most who came into the exhibit) sat and watched what was on the video of the show. Wonderful. Tickets for his pre show rehearsal had no price. Each was to pay what they could. All proceeds went to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. They raised over $75,000. When Elvis was in the Army in Germany he got interested in Karate. He studied it for the rest of his life. He met Ed Parker in 1960, beginning the study of Kenpo with Parker. He attained an 8th degree black belt.
Big day. I am SO glad we watched the ’68 Special and Aloha From Hawaii. They left us with a great sense of joy and peace. He had his faults and struggles (don’t we all) yet he shared his rich, powerful yet delicate voice and his very being with great generosity.
NOTE: Last year (4/15/2013) I posted our time in Tupelo, MS, learning about Elvis’ early years. This is a wonderful exhibit, well worth your time. I’m so glad we got to enjoy it before we saw his home and explanations of his later years.