For Elvis Fans, All Roads Lead To The Golden Music Gates.
By David Cohea, ReMIND Magazine
It’s been 43 years since Elvis Presley passed, but there will always be a Graceland to welcome us to the place he called home.
Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the over 10,000-square-foot mansion, which Presley bought in 1957 for $102,500, became his retreat from the clamor of stardom — a place where family was welcome (and stayed). The place is complete with the Jungle Room (a Polynesian-style haunt on the first floor complete with shag carpet on the floor and ceiling), a pool room, a TV room with three TVs, a separate building where his father Vernon managed his personal business, a trophy building stuffed with personal memorabilia, and a racquetball building. The Meditation Garden is where Elvis and many of his family members are buried.
When Elvis passed in 1977, mourners held a candlelight vigil outside the mansion and repeat the ceremony on every anniversary. Partially to help pay off mounting debts, Graceland opened to the public in 1982. The house remains as Presley furnished it, but the property has been extensively expanded, with a 200,000-square-foot exhibit and entertainment complex titled Elvis Presley’s Memphis and the 450-room Guest House resort.
The mansion is now the second most famous house in the United States (behind only the White House), with over 500,000 visitors a year. Visitors can experience home life as Elvis did, pose at the gate, have a moment of silence at the Meditation Garden, gawk at the impressive wall festooned with gold records, eat good Southern cooking at Vernon’s Smokehouse or classic American fare at Gladys’ Diner (named after Elvis’ parents), and leave a “love letter” on the graffiti wall.
Graceland is also home to the world’s largest collection of Elvis memorabilia, with some 1.5 million artifacts and growing. The archives department has cataloged over 50,000 photographs, 3,000 textiles, thousands of documents, and a large collection of furniture, musical instruments, awards, automobiles and other artifacts associated with the personal life and career of Elvis.
“Whether you’re an Elvis fan or a music historian, our archive truly allows you to get an appreciation for one of the most iconic entertainers of all time,” says Angie Marchese, Graceland’s vice president of archives and exhibits.
Only about 25% of the collection is on display, including the King’s pink and white ’55 Cadillac, all of his gold records and a wide assortment of his trademark jumpsuits. There are also his two private planes: Hound Dog II and Lisa Marie, named after his daughter.
“Fans can literally immerse themselves into every stage of his life from the Presley family tree and the early years in Memphis to his time in the military and in Hollywood,” says Marchese.
The highlight at Graceland is Elvis Week, an annual celebration of the movies, music and legacy of the King, normally held each August. The event is timed around the anniversary of Elvis’ passing, and includes appearances by celebrities and musicians, live concerts, panel discussions, parties and fan gatherings.There is also the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest and auctions of Elvis memorabilia, including the new Graceland Elite Auction, offering 30 to 40 of some of the most sought-after Elvis collectibles.
It’s hard to see any other musician or celebrity accorded such recognition and celebration.
“Elvis is widely considered by fans, historians and even his peers as the first true rock star,” says Marchese. “John Lennon himself once said, ‘Before Elvis, there was nothing.’ That continues to be the case today. You can’t recap musical history without including the highest-selling artist of all time.
“Elvis essentially paved the way for entertainers today —- not just musicians,” Marchese continues. “He was the first true icon, and his influence can still be seen in so many places.”
Some legends grow their vast canopies over a fading memory — as anyone knows who still spins their Elvis LPs, or tends their Elvis shrine, or makes the pilgrimage to Graceland. At Graceland, the King will never die.
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