When I first heard of Elvis’ death on August 8, 1977, I was devastated! I grew up loving Elvis – his music, his movies, his gorgeous blue eyes! I’d lay on the floor just inches away from the TV to watch his movies and that incredible ’68 Come Back Special. My Mom would yell at me to get back away from the TV because it would ruin my eyes or tell me about all the “radiation” it was giving off. Reluctantly, I’d scootch back just enough to make her happy.
I was just three years out of high school when he died and I promised myself that I would “cry on Elvis’ grave” before I die. That was the start of my “bucket list”…..although I didn’t call it that at the time – it was just my “Two things I absolutely MUST do before I die” list – the first was the “cry on Elvis’ grave” thing and the second was “see the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium”. I did manage to get to a Yankees game before they tore down the original Yankees Stadium – I was in NYC for a business trip and the Yanks were in town, so I stayed an extra day and rode the Yankee Clipper boat out to the stadium to see the game – it was May 16, 1998 and they won against the Minnesota Twins. But – it turned out I was a day short……the very next day, David Wells pitched a perfect no-hitter game and made history! But…..I got to cross that off my list about 20 years after the list was created.
Over the past 44 years, a lot of items were added to the list and crossed off the list – it has evolved into an official “Bucket List” and it is ever growing and ever changing. But, that very first item has remained on it….just waiting for me to accomplish it…..and, now, 44 years later……I have finally crossed it off the list!!! Yes, folks…..Kim has cried on Elvis’ grave!!!
My entire trip to Memphis was amazing – one that will stand out as an emotionally charged, fun, and exciting memory. But, the time I spent in Graceland was by far the highlight and something that meant more to me than I can possibly ever express. Here is my unforgettable experience in photos:
I stayed at the Guest House at Graceland – the original plan was to just go down, stay at Graceland and tour the mansion and come home. But, as I browsed the Graceland website, I discovered that they have live shows on Friday nights and that the Monkees were going to be performing the week I was planning to go – OMG – another band I absolutely adored growing up! I also found out they did day trips to Tupelo to see Elvis’ birthplace every Friday. So…..the trip got extended and I decided to also add some time in Memphis while I was there. All of which were amazing and if I had stuck to the original plan, it would have been fabulous, but I’d have missed out on so much more amazing-ness!!!! LOL
I was picked up at the airport by the Guest House shuttle with Elvis on the side and his music playing loud and proud all the way to the hotel!
I arrived too early to check in, so I stowed my bag at the concierge desk and took the shuttle across to Graceland ticket center and entertainment complex. There was a Graceland employee offering to take people’s photos in front of the Welcome to Graceland sign…..so, I struck a pose announcing I finally made it to Graceland!!!
I wanted to get lunch at Gladys’ Diner in the complex, but that restaurant was closed for the season – the only one open at the time I was there was Vernon’s Smokehouse, so I gave it a try! I had a delicious meal of meatloaf, sweet potatoes, corn bread, hush puppies, and sweet tea.
Other restaurants in the complex were Minnie Mae’s Sweet Shop, where I stopped in on another day to get a root beer float and Shake Rattle & Go – I didn’t get a chance to actually eat there, but I took this photo cause it looked so cool.
I wandered around a bit, checked out some of the gift shops, and took the shuttle back to the Guest House to see if my room was ready. It was……
The Guest House is a large luxury hotel — very nice!!! It is designed to be inviting and comfortable – it has a big front porch with chairs and gardens. The courtyard in the back has the same large porch with chairs and a pool. Lots of great places to sit outside and enjoy the the fresh air.
Here I am pool side after dinner that first night.
The lobby was equally inviting and comfortable and very attractive.
There was some form of entertainment in the lobby of the hotel every evening.
Their Covid policies were really good — they made everyone feel very comfortable being there. When I first arrived, it didn’t seem like it was fully booked, but as we got into mid-end of the week, it started picking up quite a bit. But, they still enforced mask wearing indoors and encouraged social distancing.
My room was large and very nice! I had a king size bed that was so comfortable – the mattress and pillows were heavenly – I slept like a baby while I was there!
The shower was amazing…..it had a rain shower head coming down from the ceiling and another shower head directing water from the wall….loved it!!!
On my first night, I was tired and didn’t want to venture out too far for dinner, so I ate at EP’s Bar & Grill just off the lobby of the hotel. I had an amazing sirloin steak – done PERFECTLY – with demi-glaze, rice pilaf, and broccoli.
I also had the Priscilla Royale, which was Prosecco and Grenadine with an orange wedge. The drink was good, but I’m not much of a drinker anymore and was pretty full from dinner, so I drank about 1/2 of it. The waitress bartender and hostess all stopped when they passed my table asking if I was OK and if I liked the drink – I assured them I did and that it was good! Then, just as I got up to leave, the bartender came by with a cup with some orange juice in it and said, “no – you can’t leave yet – I’m going to make it taste even better” and topped off the glass with the OJ – of course, I had to sit back down and try it – it would have been rude to just leave after she went to the trouble….OMG – it was good before, but amazing after – that’s how that drink should always be made! I finished it! LOL
Everyone at the Guest House and Graceland were so nice, helpful, friendly, and eager to make my stay a perfect experience! I can’t say enough about how wonderful everything was.
The next day – Tuesday – I had my ticket to tour Graceland. I purchased the Ultimate VIP Tour……if you’re going to Graceland, you really need to spend the extra money and get the best ticket. It made no sense to me to go all that way and just get a ticket that only allows a self guided tour of the mansion – or even the intermediate tour packages. The Ultimate VIP Tour includes an expert guide and lots of other parts of the property that is not included in the mansion tour. It included access to both the airplanes, the building with all his vehicles, several themed museums……AND……a stop in a room that has personal items that no other tour package has access to! It is well worth the price!
Here are some of the photos I took during my Graceland Tour.
I had some time between when I checked in and got my tour ID and the time I was scheduled for the mansion part of the tour. So, I decided to go check out the airplanes first.
The first was the smaller of the two planes – you could just go up the steps and look in. the second is the larger plane – the Lisa Marie – and you could walk through it.
Then it was time for my group to go through the mansion — they only let people go through in small groups to ensure social distancing and the Ultimate VIP groups were even smaller so the guide could have more personalized discussions as we went through – I think there were about 9 or 10 in our group. We all got a small device that we connected to ear phones so the guide could talk in a normal voice and we could all hear her no matter how far we stood away from her – it was nice – they just hung around our necks and we hardly knew they were there – the self guided groups had big iPads they had to carry to hear the pre-recorded messages at each display.
The mansion was across the street from the ticket and entertainment complex, so we were shuttled over for the tour.
This is the living room and through the doors beyond this room is the music room. The super long couch and coffee table were custom made for this room. Elvis felt comfortable there and could be found sitting with his feet up on the coffee table playing the guitar when he had guests. Later, I’ll point out a photo of a red couch — when Linda Thompson was Elvis’ girlfriend, she redecorated Graceland and this room was changed to have a red carpet, the red couch you’ll see later, and other red furnishings. When Lisa Marie and Priscilla were setting up the mansion for tours after his death, they thought the red was a bit much and put it all back to the way it was before that redecoration —- definitely glad they did – this looks so much more welcoming and comfortable. They put that red couch on display in another area.
The peacock stained glass windows were a favorite of Elvis’ because he read that they represented beauty, dignity, and immortality. The mirrors were put on the walls to make the room look larger and to magnify the beauty of the peacocks.
Beyond the living room is Elvis’ mother, Gladys’ bedroom and en-suite – kept just as she had it in the colors she chose for it.
No one is allowed upstairs! Ever! Even when Elvis was alive, no one went upstairs unless they were personally invited by him. The family decided that since he is not there to invite someone up there, that they would respect his wishes and not permit anyone to go up – including the guides and staff of Graceland.
Look above the railing on the right hand side of the photo – Elvis put in a privacy panel so that anyone who might look up the stairs could not see into his personal space. The privacy panel has a small “window” that Elvis could look through at the mirrors going up the stairs and see who was in the foyer and living room below (the living room is directly across the hall to the right of these stairs.
In the painting going up the stairs is of Elvis in his natural hair color, which was a sandy blonde.
The dining room – Elvis sat at the head of the table (furthest from the door) and had a button under the table that he could summon the staff – he didn’t like it if he had to yell for someone – he thought it was bad manners.
The kitchen – very 1960’s style and colors.
The next few photos are of what is known as the Jungle Room – it was Elvis’ den. The story is that his father Vernon came home one day and told Elvis about the ugliest furniture he ever saw….well, Elvis had to go look at it and fell in love with it, so he bought it…..Vernon still thought it was ugly! The room has green carpet on the floor and ceiling and a waterfall on the wall to the far left – it is not in operation, at this time.
If I remember right, I think this was a TV room…..Elvis loved watching TV and had at least one in every room in the house – some rooms had more than one, but this one had several that he could watch on different channels at the same time! Again – mirrors everywhere to make the rooms appear bigger.
The pool room – that is fabric pleated on the walls and ceiling and the same fabric is on some of the furnishings.
Vernon’s office and where Elvis filmed a press conference where he was asked about the girl he met in Germany (Priscilla).
When Vernon, Gladys, and Elvis left Tupelo to move to Memphis when he was 13, they packed all of their belongings in this steamer chest – everything they owned fit inside it. He kept it to remind him of where he came from.
A hymnal from 1869 that originally belonged to a distant relative that Elvis used.
this is the red couch I told you about earlier in this post – it was in the living room when Linda Thompson redecorated the mansion.
Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding clothes
The only portrait Elvis ever commissioned to be done…..he hung it here and it has never been moved.
The pool and beyond it is the first glimpse of the Meditation Garden
The last room Elvis was in the evening prior to his death — he returned home after a dentist appointment — this room is adjacent to an indoor racquetball court where he played that night with friends and also played that piano and sang gospel songs and “Blues Eyes Crying in the Rain” for friends. He went to bed earlier than usual because of tooth pain from his earlier dentist appointment and was found unresponsive on the floor hours later and pronounced dead……August 16, 1977.
And……here’s where my promise to my 21 year old self was fulfilled……the Meditation Garden at Graceland where Elvis, his mother Gladys, his father Vernon, his grandmother Minnie Mae, and his grandson – Lisa Marie’s son Benjamin are all buried and there is also a memorial marker for his still born twin, Jesse Garon.
Elvis loved horses and they still maintain horses on the property now!
After we finished touring the mansion, we took photos in front of the house……
And, then went to areas not accessible to other groups……
This is one of Elvis’ personal guitars……we were allowed to touch it (with white cotton gloves) and have our photo taken with it.
Then, we were shown other personal items that we could photograph, but not touch…..
Elvis had a suitcase phone!!! There it is at the top of this photo along with his handwritten instructions for how to use it.
Rings, glasses, wallet, his Memphis police badge (he was an actual police officer and had authority to arrest people, but never did – he did, however, routinely pull people over for speeding or other traffic violations to give them a lecture and an autographed photo – hehehe), and a collection of Kahlil Gibran books (his favorite author – mine, too, at that time).
The wall paper in that room was loaded with amazing photos – like this one of ’68 come back black leather Elvis!!! hubba hubba!!!
Next up was a museum full of his vehicles and vehicles from his movies…….
And then on to the Elvis The Entertainer Museum…….
Elvis threw this cape into the audience at a concert in Hawaii……the man who caught it kept it till he died and left instructions in his will that it be returned to Graceland.
Our U-VIP tickets also included a meal voucher at Vernon’s Smokehouse…….I had the beef brisket, corn, beans, corn bread, banana pudding, and sweet tea!!!
After our tour was over, I walked back across the street to the front entrance of Graceland — those famous gates……I signed my name on one of the bricks and took a few selfies with the gates.
And…finally….adjacent to the Guest House is a trail that takes you to the Chapel In The Woods where they allow weddings and other events……I wandered down the trail to see what it looked like.
The door was locked, but I took this photo through the window:
That’s all from Graceland and the Guest House…….an emotional and thrilling day!!! I hope to get to go, again…..I am sure I missed something!!! LOL
Watch for the next post that will focus on the day trip to Tupelo to visit Elvis’ birthplace!