Friday, November 23, 2007


Sunday, November 11, we got up early and left Hot Springs to drive to Graceland. We wanted to get there when it opened, hoping to beat the crowds. We hadn’t intended to stop at Graceland, but decided it was an American icon and since we were driving by, we had to stop. As expected, it was tackiness galore – and lots of fun!

Parking is across the road from the Graceland mansion and they shuttle you (and the rest of the hordes…) across the road for the main part of the tour. The mansion is the main attraction and a mere $25 gets you in along with an audio tour. For an extra $5, you get the full tour – mansion, Elvis’s auto collection, his two airplanes, and a couple of small museums. Since we were there, we decided to go for the whole shebang. Here’s the front of the mansion with the masses waiting to get in:

The first floor and basement of the mansion were the public areas of the mansion when Elvis lived there. The second floor was Elvis’s private space, and it is kept that way today though there are some items from the second floor on display in other places. The front part of the mansion was very bright – bright white walls and white furniture were offset by drapes in deep royal shades. Elvis was big into mirrors too – there were mirrors everywhere, on the walls, ceilings, stairways, etc.

Here’s a view of the front sitting room. Notice the nifty peacock glass art:

Elvis grew up in a simple home and always dreamed of moving his parents to Graceland, which he eventually did. Here’s their room:

Moving from the front of the house into the back of the first floor, the style of the rooms changed dramatically. The kitchen was very 70s – dark wood paneling, yellow appliances, and patterned carpet.

From there, the tour went to the basement which contained a collection of eclectic rooms. The first room was a TV room. It was decorated in brilliant yellow and blue walls embellished with a lightening bolt and a mirrored ceiling. The lightening bolt was a special symbol for Elvis. Along with the letters “TCB”, it stood for “taking care of business, lightening fast”. A huge wraparound couch covered in sparkly pillows provided lounging space to complement the room’s bar and three TVs. President Johnson was said to watch all three broadcast newscasts at once, so Elvis had three TVs to do the same. The strangest accessory was a white ceramic monkey sitting on the coffee table.

Next, we entered the pool room. This room had decorated walls and ceilings with yards and yards of colorful folded fabric.

Back upstairs, we got a full view of the room off the back of kitchen – the aptly named “Jungle Room”. Of all the odd rooms in the house, this one took the cake for strangeness. The floor and ceiling were covered in green shag carpet. The furniture was upholstered in various fake animal pelts and would have been at home in a hunting lodge. The side wall of the room was a floor-to-ceiling fountain. Like the kitchen, this room was also very dark.

Having toured the living areas of the house, we entered a room that had been converted to show off various other Elvis artifacts, including his wedding attire, Lisa Marie Presley’s crib and some baby clothes, some of Elvis’s sporting gear, and this crazy fur bed:

Outside, we got a view of the house from the back:

Then we continued into another building that had housed a small room that was originally a smokehouse but which Elvis had used as a shooting range. A third building housed a museum of Elvis’s career, including walls and walls of gold and silver records and other awards. It also contained movie memorabilia from the 30-or-so movies he made in the 1960s. Then, after viewing the back pastures, we entered yet another building. This one contained a lounge area with a piano and a racquetball court. The racquetball court had been disassembled and the space now contained numerous awards and a few of Elvis’s jumpsuits. Here’s one of them:

The last stop on the mansion grounds was the meditation garden, where Elvis is buried. The garden also contained the graves of his parents and a marker for his still-born twin brother. The graves were covered in flowers sent by fans.

As if all that wasn’t enough Elvis, across the road from Graceland there were more Elvis museums to be seen. We toured his planes – the “Lisa Marie” (nicknamed “Hound Dog I”) and the “Hound Dog II”. The Hound Dog II was a smaller plane that was used mostly by his manager to fly ahead to performance sites and make sure everything was ready for Elvis. Its distinctive feature was seats in lime green and lemon yellow.

The Lisa Marie was a much larger plane. It was originally a Delta passenger plane that Elvis spent around $1 million redoing. The plane had two restrooms, both with sinks and fixtures plated in gold. It also had a full dining area, a lounging area that could convert to a bedroom for a guest, and Elvis’s bedroom. Elvis’s bedroom contained a bed covered in blue suede with a matching blue suede lamp, headboard, and chair. Though most commonly used for work, the Lisa Marie was occasionally used for pleasure trips, including a middle-of-the-night trip to Denver with friends to get peanut butter sandwiches. Here’s the Lisa Marie:

The next museum was the car museum. It contained a number of cars, motorcycles, and other motor vehicles that Elvis had owned. This included a snowmobile that had been converted to a grass mobile to race around the property. It was pretty dark in the museum, but I did get a picture of his pink Cadillac:

The “Sincerely Elvis” museum contains changing exhibits. At the time of our visit, the exhibit was dozens of Elvis’s stage costumes. It showed the evolution from his early outfits to his signature jumpsuit (you have to wonder who thought that was a good fashion statement…). The jumpsuits were embellished with elaborate embroidery or hundreds of rhinestones.

If all that wasn’t enough Elvis, the last stop was the “Elvis After Dark” museum. This housed a small collection of his items and talked about his insomniac ways and how stardom forced him to do normal things – like shop, go out to eat, or attend a fair – after closing hours to avoid attracting large crowds.

Having seen enough Elvis memorabilia to last us a really long time, we left Memphis for Nashville. We got to Nashville just in time for the early show at the Bluebird Café. The Bluebird Café is a famous Nashville spot where a number of singers and songwriters got their start such as Garth Brooks. The first show was Greg Adkins from Knoxville, who was promoting the release of his second CD. He had several offbeat and entertaining songs about being a parent, like one about all the things he and his son do when his wife is out of town (eat lots of ice cream for breakfast, stay up late, etc.) The first show was so good that we decided to stay for the second show.

The second show was songwriters’ night. The songwriters who audition in advance, and if they make it through the auditions, they get put on an 18-month waiting list for the chance to sing three songs at one of these songwriters’ nights. Many of the songwriters were really good, including Kim-Char Meredith, who had a fantastic amount of energy. The night closed with the emcee, Steve Goodie, singing some of his songs since the scheduled closing singer was sick. Steve has a CD called “Stupid Country” and was just hilarious. One of his songs was “Stand by Your Van,” a takeoff of the Tammy Wynette song making fun of people driving Hummers and America’s dependence on oil. Other tunes included one about NASCAR driving school (“So go straight, take a left, take a left, go straight; Take a left, take a left, go straight”), “Handlin’ My Mandolin” (“Cause she likes the way I’m handlin’ my mandolin; She’s on the Trace Adkins diet, I’m a-gonna have to try it; She’s a country music fan, come to see my band again; Cause she likes the way I’m handlin’ my mandolin”), and a number about sweating the small stuff that was performed with his wife (“When I called collect to say I’d wrecked her new Beemer, my baby was cool; And she didn’t get ticked when I went and picked the wrong kid up from school; And she didn’t get bent when I gave her best friend’s rear end a little goose; But one time I left the seat up, man did I get beat up, I mean all hell broke loose”).

That night, we camped at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, about 30 miles outside the city. There were a number of people there in RVs but only one other group tent camping. Tent camping is apparently not all that popular in November, even when the weather is good. The next day we would drive on to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

1 comment:

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