I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the main museum of Graceland this past weekend—no idea whatsoever. The best description I can give is that it's like you've stepping into a literal time capsule where you're instantly transported back into the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Sure there's a lot of museums out there where you get to see the items and artifacts that have been preserved for decades and even centuries, but Graceland is much different. You're stepping into a home, and not just anybody's home—Elvis' home. First opening to the general public on June 7, 1982, nearly five years after Elvis' untimely passing, Graceland has been in the tourism business for over forty years. The idea of opening the property for public consumption was one Priscilla Presley had toyed with for a while in the years after Elvis' passing, but it has since proven to be a decision that has been very lucrative for the Presley family and estate.
A Review of Elvis' Legendary Graceland and Guide to its History
We got a chance to visit the estate this past weekend
What is Graceland?
Where is Graceland?
The official address of Graceland is Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116.
Who owns Graceland?
Prior to her passing this past January, Lisa Marie Presley was the owner of Graceland. Now that ownership has been passed down to her eldest daughter Riley Keough.
When did Elvis purchase Graceland?
Elvis purchased Graceland in early 1957 while he was in the process of filming his second film Loving You.
We got the opportunity to tour Graceland this past weekend in Memphis, and like we said earlier, it was an incredible experience. Whether you drive or Uber, the first stop is the 20,000 sq ft Elvis entertainment complex where there's an abundance of costumes, artifacts, shops, and restaurants to eat at. We'll get to that later. Also outside of the complex is The Lisa Marie, Elvis' 1958 Convair 880 that is obviously named after his only daughter Lisa Marie. Once you get into the complex, you're divided into groups by way of your ticket, and you start your tour off with a short film detailing the history of Elvis' career and Graceland as a whole. From there, you take a shuttle over to the actual Graceland Property where you have to quickly overcome the wow factor of actually seeing it in person for the first time.
"Graceland was given to a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Thomas all the way back in 1939 as a wedding gift," says a Graceland representative. "In 1957 Elvis purchased this home—at the age of 22 he was already an international superstar. This is 13.8 acres of land, across the street Elvis bought 11.8 acres." Across the street, of course, is the Elvis Presley complex, meaning that Elvis has owned the land from the get-go—it wasn't something that was purchased after his death to make the complex happen. The rules are understandably strict once you get inside of the house. There's no recordings allowed, and under no circumstance are you to try and go upstairs. Go upstairs, and you'll be seen on camera with security coming to greet you soon afterwards.
With that being said, you're still allowed an unprecedented amount of access into what was a music legend's home. Tablets with guided instructions are available to take you from one area of the estate to the next, and what awaits you is magical. Your first steps into the house is where you'll encounter the living room, which is so pristine that you feel guilty walking in there with shoes on. Seriously. You'll see the couches, television, Elvis' piano and plenty of family portraits.
You'll make your way over to the TV Room, which still features the actual televisions the Presley's used. "Elvis got the idea for three TV sets from former President Johnson who used to watch all three news networks at the same time," reads the descriptor. Except, Elvis wasn't using the televisions for news programming, he was using it for...football. Men. Along the way you'll also encounter other rooms such as the pool room, which features a pool table Elvis purchased back in 1960 and Louis XV style chairs and art that were a part of a 1974 renovation. You'll then hit the Jungle Room, which has a case for being the most intriguing in the house.
According to Graceland representatives, Polynesian and Tiki furniture were very popular in the mid-1970s, and Elvis purchased the furniture from a local shop because it reminded him of Hawaii. The Jungle Room is reportedly also the place where Presley recorded From Elvis Presley Blvd Memphis, TN and over half of his final album Moody Blue in between the kitchen and the den.
From there, you'll also get the chance to check out an exhibit within the house that's loaded with artwork/painting, photos, and items/memorabilia from the Presley family. What kind of items you ask? W-2 statements from the Presley's, Glady's (Elvis' mom) high heeled pumps, actual items and toys from Lisa Marie's nursery and more. After you've experienced everything the inside of the house has to offer, you'll step outside where you get to see the area Elvis used to ride his horses at, and the family swimming pool. Videos of Elvis are constantly being displayed both inside the house and outside. The most poignant part of Graceland, however, is The Meditation Garden—where Presley himself is buried along with his parents, grandparents, and now sadly his daughter Lisa Marie and grandson Benjamin. The Meditation Garden also contains tons of handwritten notes, pictures, and tributes at each of their respective burial sites.
The mood was definitely a bit somber after visiting The Meditation Garden, so maybe that's why we were taken back to the complex right afterwards. What lies in the complex is that time machine we referred to earlier. Tons (and we do mean tons) of Elvis' costumes and outfits are displayed in glass cases, with each outfit having a card that tells you the backstory of where he wore it to. Archival footage of Elvis getting his hair cut as he entered into the Army is there as well. So is a section called Presley Motors, where you get to see Presley's numerous cars collected during his lifetime including multiple Rolls Royces, a car called the Centaur which was produced in 1974 and 1975, and a 1975 Lincoln Mark IV, which was produced as a two door coupe between 1972 and 1976. Oh, and there's also some of the earlier cars Presley owned showcased as well including the The Continental Mark II, which was produced between 1955 and 1957 that Elvis used to drive around in the mid-50s.
That television that Elvis infamously put a bullet through? That's in the exhibit as well, along with old school retro telephones, a vintage drink fountain, some of his books, and more. If you want memorabilia, there's quite a few shops for you to make those purchases, and if you want to get something to eat, there's restaurants available as well. I chose to eat at Glady's Diner, which was primarily full of breakfast/brunch foods and sweet treats.
I really enjoyed my time at both Graceland and Memphis. Memphis is very much a town that has stayed true to its old school roots with everything from the music, to the car shows, right down to the 1950s-style diners and food. If you are ever in the Memphis area, we suggest giving Graceland a go. And if you want to check out more music-related museums and history in the area, we also suggest places like Sun Studio which is where Elvis and many other music legends used to record as additional treat.
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