Monday, March 18, 2013

Mon 18 Mar - Memphis, TN

Today we are in the presence of royalty, first The King (although we don't think this is a very good likeness).

At the Memphis Visitors centre down by the Missisippi, there is also a statue of that other Memphis King, BB King (we think that his was a much better statue and likeness).

But today belongs to the first of these two kings, Elvis Aaron Presley. We are off to visit Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee (imagine Paul Simon singing his song). And yes, we booked a tour with "Memphis Best Tours" who came to pick us up at our motel in the morning and we then had to switch minibus at the Memphis Visitor Centre.

As you can tell, it was pouring with rain, with occasional thunder and lightening too. The lightening bolts are appropriate as Elvis adopted this as his symbol, together with TCB - "Taking Care of Business in a flash".

Graceland was built for a doctor in 1939 and already had its name when Elvis bought the place for $102,000 at the age of 22 in 1957. A part of the sales contract stipulated that the purchaser had to keep the name which Elvis willingly did as he loved the place. Graceland sits on 13 acres of land and to access it you join a shuttle from across the road on Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Graceland is very well organised and unsurprisingly a big machine and drawcard.

You are ushered onto a Graceland shuttle bus and given a headset for a self guided tour at your own pace. Of course, you are forced to have that mandatory photo taken which you can later pick up for a cost... We didn't.

Outside the front door of Graceland and Hans is very ready to enter this holy ground...he's been humming and singing Elvis songs all morning.

Di getting excited about it too!

Through the front door and into the living room immediately to the right. It's lovely and quite tasteful. Elvis received his guests on the ground floor and the upstairs remained private and is still out of bounds today.

The dining room where the family and friends ate. It's nice to see childhood photos of Lisa Marie and personal items like the portrait of Vernon, his father, which he gave to Elvis the Christmas of 1976. Elvis loved his parents and had them move in with him to Graceland.
The kitchen was a hive of activity and the hub of the home. And it really does feel homely, not staid or formal like other grand homes. Note the fashionable (for its time, the 70s) carpet in the kitchen.

Hans looking fab with his headset at the entrance to the jungle room. More on this room later.

You then go downstairs to the TV room. Very tasteful and the height of elegance when it was decorated by a professional interior designer in 1975. Today... Hmm bright yellow and navy with a mirrored ceiling?

This is just a small fraction of Elvis' record collection. He loved all kinds of music and there were pianos and stereos throughout the house. And TV sets too for that matter.

The pool room was covered in 350 yards of fabric, including walls and ceiling.

Then back up the stairs to ground floor and the "Jungle Room". It's a family room extension to the original house and was decorated with heavy carved furniture, which reminded Elvis of Hawaii, an indoor waterfall and green shag carpet on floor and ceiling. The resulting acoustics were so good that he actually recorded some music here, including Moody Blue, his last studio album. Seems odd that it would be the case...

Lisa Marie's favourite chair. Now with a teddy bear and a guitar. Very sweet.

You then exit out the back of Graceland, and this is how it looks from behind.
This detached building was used for Elvis' father's Vernon's office.

Vernon continued to work like a private secretary for Elvis. Helping to manage his diary and all the fan mail. This sign was on the door.

A very functional office for the 70s.

Part of the building Vernon used as a smokehouse for meats until Elvis thought it would make a good firing range...

Onto the Trophy room, which is actually another large and detached building but is still not big enough to hold all Elvis awards and trophies. It is, in one word, amazing.

This display includes some TV show recordings and Elvis memorabilia of the time.

And this amazing section is the "Hall of Gold". These are all Gold or Platinum records including some Grammy awards.

Despite the size there are even more awards in the now converted Raquetball pavilion. One part of the display progresses on to Elvis' very successful return to live performances in 1968 and his marriage to Priscilla.

Out to the now converted old Raquetball court where the awards continue posthumously. Incredible. The sales just keep on rolling in for RCA who bought Elvis' recording contract from Sun Studios in 1954 for $35,000, a record price then.
There were even some Australian ARIA awards on display.
Now for the sad part. The meditation garden and graves. Elvis had a twin brother who was stillborn and there is a plaque for him, and the graves of his grandmother, his mother, his father Vernon, and of course himself at the young age of 42.
Hans is paying his respects to the King.

Gifts, flowers and tributes still arrive from all over the world and are displayed at the grave or elsewhere in Graceland for a period. Very touching.

After about 2 hours at Graceland, we wrap up the tour where we started, shuttle back to the Visitor's Centre on Elvis Presley Boulevard across the street from the mansion.

We don't go to Heartbreak Hotel because its pouring with rain and we are already soggy but we figure this is the next best thing, a sign on display. Mind you, Heartbreak Hotel is a newer place around the corner a bit and seems to be a bit of a tourist trap to get more $ out of the punters.

All around, another very interesting, informative and sometimes moving experience.

We come back to downtown Memphis around 12.30pm for a lunch at Denny's. Cheese Quesadilla for $2? At that price Di had 2 servings, with Hans nibbling on some too after finishing his skillet.

Mind you the service at Denny's today is nothing like last Saturday. Denny's was packed then and service and food were excellent. Today we had the B Team working there. Slow and forgetful. It did not matter to us because we were in no rush, just wanted to return to the hotel to dry off and wait for the weather to improve after lunch.

Later, we go out for dinner. We just can't leave without trying the smoked hickory ribs that this area is famous for.

There is a basketball game on today at the FedEx Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies, the local NBA team. The FedEx Forum is just next to Beale Street and as we can see activities there, we go over to have a look. Hans, to his delight, saw a real football on the sidewalk and decided to kick it... Nah, better not.

We wander past Silky O'Sullivan's pub and bar. The main indoor section was open, but the the outdoor area was closed. Somewhat different to last weekend's St Patrick's celebrations.
We decide to have our ribs at the Rum Boogie Cafe as the interior is very cool (guitars everywhere) and there is a band playing (from South Florida nevertheless, didn't seem quite right for Beale Street)
Our whole rack of pork ribs. Good, but not as good as Ribs and Rumps in Manly...
Some interior shots from Rum Boogie Cafe...
Some famous guitarists whose guitar hang there are Carlos Santana, Mickey Dolenz from Monkees and... Billy Joel (isn't he a piano man..?)
We were not sure what the story is here...
Even the downlight over our table had scribbles inside.
As we leave, the sun sets on Beale Street.
We wander around for a short while and then decide to go back to Vista Inn for the last time. We are off to Nashville tomorrow. Good night.

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