The Graceland Mansion tour is a satisfying two-hour stop for anyone that loves music and pop culture. The legacy of Elvis certainly lives there, and there are plenty of details about his music career, Hollywood days and family life to satisfy super fans. But the tour moves fast enough that most anyone would enjoy the interesting look at a celebrated treasure of American music history.
The Colonial Revival home is surprisingly tasteful and less opulent than you might imagine. It is situated on a hill in Whitehaven, TN, just outside Memphis. Our tour was narrated by actor John Stamos, presented via iPad and headsets. Although it was a little tricky to manage my bag of souvenirs, purse, camera/phone and the iPad, it worked well at merging narrative with snippets of music and interviews with The King.
A few facts we gleaned from the tour:
- Elvis purchased the mansion on March 22, 1957, for $102,500. He was 22.
- He was drafted into the army in 1958 and after basic training at Fort Hood spent 18 months deployed and away from Graceland in Germany;
- He married Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas; Daughter Lisa Marie was born the following February;
- The Jungle Room, which Elvis called The Den, was an add-on in 1974;
- Lisa Marie said (via the recorded tour) that a favorite memory was when her father and his friends loaded into golf carts for a impromptu parade down what is now Presley Ave;
- A beloved horse was called Rising Son and Elvis named Graceland’s barn the House of Rising Son;
- A giant concert for his local family, friends and droves of fans was held in Tupelo (his birthplace) on September 26, 1956;
- He really cranked out the hits, with 140 singles listed on Billboard’s Top 100 charts;
- Elvis sold 50 million records between the years 1956-1960, 75 million by 1961 and one billion by 1984. Whew.
- He was nominated for 14 Grammy awards but won only three (for gospel). He was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award when he was 36. His music was described on the tour as a merger of gospel, country, pop and rhythm and blues. That’s rock and roll, right?
- Elvis was in 31 feature films and was the first actor to earn $1 million upfront for one picture;
- On August 16, 1977, Elvis died at Graceland. Earlier the same day he spent time with friends and sang and played Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain and Unchained Melody at a piano in his racquet ball building.
- Elvis and his parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley, and grandmother Minnie are all buried near the home in the Meditation Garden. Minnie outlived the rest. His only sibling, his twin named Jessie Garon, was stillborn.
As a child I enjoyed hearing Elvis Presley on the radio, watching his TV specials with my parents and I especially loved his movies. With classics like,”Love Me Tender,” and “Tickle Me,” he was the RomCom King back in the day. My husband Dan was particularly struck by Elvis’ generosity and closeness with his family. We enjoyed getting to know Elvis Presley.