Memphis, Tennessee


I thought I would kick this off with the famous photo of Nixon and Elvis. In 1970 Elvis decided he would like a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, and at 6:30am with no notice, he personally delivered a handwritten note to the White House security gatehouse in Washington D.C. Within hours he was meeting with President Nixon and extolling to the President the virtues of his capacity to influence kids to say no to drugs.

Like most big attractions in America, I had to walk through a detector of some sort, usually a metal detector, in this case an ‘Elvis fan detector’.

Front of Graceland mansion.

It was very interesting to visit Graceland on what would have been Elvis’ 77th birthday.

A computer generated image of what Elvis may have looked like in 2012 at age 77.

It was fascinating to see what the most powerful and richest celebrity in the world in 1977 would buy and adorn his house with. There were state of the art TVs and stereo systems, and stereo speakers to see. Now they all look very dated, but at the time, this was state of the art.

This is Evlis’ jungle themed lounge room. Just as he left it.

Elvis believed in playing pool. (Note, that is an ‘in joke’ in reference to the time when Governor Schwarzenegger said that exact same phrase in his broken english when he opened a restored historic mansion in Sacramento. My brother and I have laughed about his choice of phrase ever since. I even joked about it with a Californian I met on a bus a couple of months ago). Believed in playing pool.

This is as close as you can get to upstairs, where Elvis died. It has been sealed like a vault since 1977, and the only people who have had access are Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, and one time, actor Nicolas Cage, who was married to Lisa Marie for a short time. A lifelong Elvis fan, Cage is said to have tried on a jacket, sat on Elvis’ toilet, and assumed the prone position on the floor where Elvis died. What exactly it looks like upstairs is something many people would like to find out, it is the last enigma of Americana in a nation that likes to put so much on display.

I was fascinated by home security technology from a young age, I remember being 8 years old when my Mum got a home alarm system. It was very interesting to me to see this 1977 state of the art home security system. Elvis was by far the richest and most high profile celebrity entertainer in the world, the richest man in Memphis by far, and he lived through an era of high profile assassinations. Surrounded by his ‘Memphis Mafia’ at all times, and security patrols of his mansion grounds, it evidently turned out that the greatest threat to his life was himself.

The pool at Graceland.

It seems Elvis also believed in playing racquetball. This racquetball court building was built for Elvis on the grounds of Graceland in 1975. He enjoyed this facility for 18 months or so before he died. He played a game of it hours before he died. He would frequently stay awake all night and sleep all day. On the day he died, he called some friends to play a game in this building at 5 in the morning. Can you imagine pushing your heart to race so fast playing fast paced sports at all hours with a system full of heart rate increasing prescription drugs? That really sounds like pushing the limits of the human heart.

Which brings us to Elvis’ grave. Click on the photo to enlarge it and read the detail.

Elvis’ home brings in tens of millions of dolars a year in tourist money. But I still found it jarring to see a copyright symbol on the grave. Where else in the world could you see a copyrighted grave?

Elvis’ target shooting range. I thought it would be a TV set.

Elvis last drove this 1976 Stutz Blackhawk into his driveway hours before he died.

‘Get set to dig me you cats’.

Elvis had this oil painting of himself commissioned in 1976.

Near to the racquetball court facility, Elvis had built a large storage and display building for his numerous awards. Here can be seen a panorama shot of his gold records. There were about 10 times as many as can fit in this photo, lining the halls.

An award to commemorate 400 million albums sold. No one knows how many albums Elvis sold. Estimates range from 600 million to a billion. For certain he is the only lone artist to compete with a band for the title of best seeling musical artist, competing with The Beatles.

The leather suit worn in the ’68 comeback special.

A display of charity donation cheques signed by Elvis.

Various Elvis jumpsuits.

Elvis’ pink Cadillac. Bought for his mother when he was in his 20s.

Satellite radio, is a broadcasting medium we do not have in Australia. Subscribers can get 250 channels of crystal clear radio anywhere in the United States, one of those channels or stations, plays Elvis music 24/7. It broadcasts from Graceland.

Lisa Marie, Elvis’ private jet. In the late 1970s, Elvis flew in better style than even the President’s Air Force One of the time. It is fascinating to note that this plane was for domestic travel only. Elvis was offered millions for just one date tours in other countries. He turned them down. The most likely and tragic reason for this is that his manager, ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, was an illegal Dutch immigrant to the United States, and there was a question mark over whether he would be allowed to return to the United States. Parker had served in the US military, and been charged with desertion. Elvis firmly credited Parker’s smarts with being the reason behind his success and his loyalty can be seen in the fact he never toured the world. It will always be unknown how long Elvis would have kept up his decision not to perform outside the United States. It became the case that over half of Elvis’ record sales come from the rest of the world.

Interior conference table aboard the Lisa Marie.

Elvis’s personal motto was ‘Taking Care of Business’. He named his show band after this motto. Here it is on the tail of his plane. I saw a young man with the ‘TCB’ and lightning bolt tattoo on his arm in the crowd on this day.

Here is a general shot from the streets of Memphis, a psychic. Maybe we should ask her what Elvis makes of all this from beyond the grave. To be sure, Elvis seems to make a lot of people happy. There were people there with old Graceland jackets on, and you could tell they had visited many times. I think it is clear that with the age of the internet, we will never see such huge stars ever again. The stranglehold of the old media is over, and record companies are far less powerful. I had not planned to travel through Memphis at all, I left Syracuse NY, and took a break and stayed a night in Memphis. All in all it was interesting to see this piece of Americana.


About ryaninseries

Ryan in America travel blog 2011-2012
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