Plus Sun Studio and Beale Street, Memphis...
26.08.2010 - 27.08.2010 30 °C
Day 11 – Graceland – The Home of the King and Sun Studios, Memphis
Graceland is located on Elvis Presley Blvd in Memphis. Although built a number of years before, Elvis bought it when he was 22 and ‘modernised’ it by adding certain buildings and changing the decor over the years. Whilst it looks very cheesy in parts today, it was the height of fashion at the time. The tour actually starts across the road from the mansion, where all the other exhibits are located (his cars and planes) and numerous gift shops. From there they bus you across the road with a self guided audio tour that explains each room. The tour consists of the ground floor and all the out buildings but not the upper floor which out of respect they keep private.
The house itself is not massive but together with the additional buildings and the grounds it does make an impressive place, particularly when you consider that he was born in a very poor two room house and just a few years before he bought Graceland he was working for the local electric company delivering parts around Memphis.
The most touching bit are the graves of Elvis and his mum and dad. His mum died a few years before Elvis and was buried in Memphis. When Elvis died he too was buried together with his mum but after a while Elvis’s dad had them both moved and reburied at Graceland. There was also a little memorial to Elvis’s twin brother who died at birth.
As it would have been Elvis’s 75th birthday a few weeks ago, there were still many wreaths and flowers from all over the world around the grave and surrounding gardens.
Across the road we then looked around his many cars (Rolls Royce’s, Ferraris, Mercedes and various American makes) and his two private aircraft. One large one which they used for Elvis and his band when touring and a smaller Lear Jet size plane he used for private use.
Whilst I thought the tour around Graceland was very poignant almost as good was the tour around Sun Studios in the afternoon. For those who don’t know about Sun Studios, this is the place in downtown Memphis that was run by a guy called Sam Phillips, essentially a radio engineer, who ran the studio as a place for recording blues artists for other companies. This place is probably the most famous recording studio in the world, where the blending of blues and country music exploded in the big bang of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This is the place that launched the careers of Elvis, BB King, Johnny Cash, The Howlin Wolf, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and many others. Through a quirk of fate, it’s in exactly the same state as it was when it closed as a recording studio, down to the same tiles on the floor (with marks for where particular musicians should stand) and the same tiles on the walls to provide the soundproofing.
The tour was guided by a real Tennessee rock chick with a great southern drawl who really knew her stuff. The highlight though was to stand in the same spot that Elvis, and many others did years before; actually hold the microphone used by such greats and pretend to be one.... Sent a tingle down the spine...
We then had a quick hour in downtown Memphis and in particular Beale Street with blues music beating out from every bar and restaurant along the road. Chatting with one of the local guys, he was telling me how it’s the beating heart of Memphis and in days gone by it often exploded into violence (remember; it’s legal in Tennessee to carry your gun with you... It’s only recently that they have brought in a law that says you cannot carry a gun on Beale Street at all...) Siobhan insisted on getting her Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and Hooters vest... (Lovely looking girl served us in Hooters... Can’t think why they call it Hooters though!!) All in all, it was amazing. A very cool place; that still has an edge about it...
To finish off this great day we had a meal in the restaurant that Elvis used to take his family to. The restaurant provides a pink stretch Cadillac to pick you up and take you back after your meal. To be fair the food wasn’t fantastic but we had a great time with an Aussie couple we met who were also touring the States (they had six months to do it, we had 3 weeks!!).
A long day and a lot packed into it.
Tomorrow it’s driving and then overnight, maybe two in Nashville.