Elvis Presley Takes Care of Business

Long before he was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, long before he was a millionaire, Elvis Presley was a working stiff like the rest of us. It’s hard to imagine Elvis – studded jumpsuit Elvis, rock ‘n’ rolling ’68 Special Elvis, movie star Elvis or gold lame Elvis – working a 9 to 5, but a young Elvis had to make a living. This Labor Day weekend, let’s take a peek at how Elvis took care of business long before he came to wear those TCB necklaces. Elvis took the entrepreneurial route for his first job. In his freshman year of high school, he teamed up with three friends, Buzzy Forbes, Paul Dougher and Farley Guy, to start a lawn business. With a push lawn mower that his father, Vernon, purchased for him, and a few sickles, Elvis and his team mowed yards at the cost of $4.00 per yard. Elvis’ next job title was movie theater usher. He began working at Loew’s State Theater on Main Street in Memphis in September 1950. The next summer, Elvis worked at Precision Tool. He worked there for three months and he operated a spindle drill press at the plant, which manufactured rocket shells for the military. Elvis earned $27.00 a week. In this same year, 1951, Elvis took his driver’s license test using his uncle Travis Smith’s 1940 Buick. Elvis returned to work at Loew’s State Theater as an usher in April 1952. His second stint there only lasted five weeks – he was fired due to a fight with a fellow usher. Rumor has it, the other usher started the argument because he was jealous that a female co-worker had the hots for Elvis. Elvis may have lost that job, but soon after, he got a car. Vernon purchased an old Lincoln, which became Elvis’. In August 1952, Elvis applied to work at Upholsterers Specialties Company. He actually fibbed on his application, giving his birthdate as January 8, 1934 – making him one year older and, therefore, old enough to work there. He only worked there a month, earning $109.00. In September, Elvis began working as an assembler at a furniture manufacturer, MARL Metal Products. His hours were 3:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., which didn’t fit in well with his school schedule. His mother, Gladys, made him quit the job after she learned he was falling asleep in class....
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Elvis Week 2017 – That’s a Wrap

By Jon Waterhouse It’s time to pack the blue suede shoes back in the suitcase and slip the jumpsuit in the garment bag. I can imagine the director of an Elvis movie shouting after shooting the final scene, “That’s a wrap!” Similar to a motion picture, all of the fantastic scenes of Elvis Week 2017 linked together to create something massive and magical. As the projector in my mind replays the events of the past nine days, I smile recollecting some of my favorite experiences. The Live Interviews This year arguably had the largest special guest list in Elvis Week history. Elvis’ friends, family, co-stars, musical collaborators, and others participated in live interviews, often with unexpected moments. The highlights are way too numerous mention. Some include Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling giving behind-the-curtain recollections; the king’s martial arts trainer, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, karate kicking onstage; and rockabilly queen, Wanda Jackson, telling the story of how Elvis taught her to rock. The Fans Elvis fan interaction and the shared communal experience may just be my favorite aspect of Elvis Week. That instant bond and understanding among fans impresses me to no end. Hugs and handshakes from familiar faces I’ve met in years past came daily. And newfound friends from throughout and the world —Australia, Japan, Qatar, the UK and elsewhere— add to my personal, ever-growing list. The Gospel Concert More than any genre, gospel gave Elvis peace in his own personal valley. So, Elvis Week gospel shows always have extra significance. The fact this performance featured guys who actually crooned alongside the king —Terry Blackwood, Bill Baize, Larry Strickland, and Donnie Sumner— made it priceless. And Donnie, if you’re reading, you need to take the comedy act on the road. Seriously funny. Elvis Presley’s Memphis This new 40-acre entertainment complex brings fans closer to Elvis than ever. Jaw-dropping exhibits, many featuring 360-degree views of stage wear, automobiles, and more, provide amazing perspective. With a live entertainment venue, a pair of full-service restaurants, and gift shops, Graceland visitors can easily spend a full day exploring Elvis Presley’s Memphis. The Guest House at Graceland Memphis’ largest hotel project in nearly 100 years opened its doors last fall, and it served as a hospitality hub for Elvis Week 2017. With an exterior inspired by the Colonial Revival style of the Graceland mansion, the hotel interior boasts 450 rooms, a pair of restaurants, a...
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Elvis Week Day 8 – A Graceland Wedding and Ultimate Advice

By Jon Waterhouse For the first time in my life, I’m a best man in a wedding. A best man for a groom I have never met. At the altar inside Graceland’s Wedding Chapel in the Woods —it’s located behind the Elvis Presley Enterprises corporate office and next door to Graceland— I stand next to Berend Peters. He and his girlfriend of 12 years, Naomi Quijs, traveled all the way from the Netherlands to tie the knot on Elvis’ property. In an effort to have a better understanding of the Graceland wedding experience, I asked the couple if I could participate in the ceremony. Surprisingly, they obliged, and I broke out my best Lansky Bros. jacket for the occasion. Awaiting his bride to walk the aisle, Berend looks calm and cool in his rockabilly hipster wedding duds. His short sleeve shirt reveals a mass of tattoos, including an Elvis portrait and the label of Elvis’ first Sun single, “That’s All Right.” “Are you nervous?” I ask. His shakes his head “no.” Struggling with his English, Berend does his best to explain this is he and Naomi’s third trip to Elvis Week, and Graceland means a great deal to them both. Others couples certainly feel the same. Savannah Faircloth, one of Graceland’s special events facilitators, says 20 weddings have been scheduled throughout Elvis Week 2017. Pairs from the UK, Australia, Japan, Canada, and elsewhere have or will do the deed at Graceland’s Chapel in the Woods. And Elvis Week 2017 marks the first time a Chilean couple have exchanged vows at the chapel. Faircloth said Graceland has been in the wedding biz since 2000 and hosts approximately 125 weddings annually. Depending on the price, the all-inclusive package can range from simple to all-out extravagant. A couple can have a basic ceremony in the intimate chapel with a photographer and a faux cake for photo ops. Or they can shoot the moon with various add-on options including a catered reception in the Presley Motors car museum. Sometimes celebrities from Elvis world drop in as surprise guests. During an Elvis Week 2017 wedding, Elvis’ bodyguard Dick Grob crashed a ceremony. “It’s kind of a one-stop shop,” Faircloth said. “We do everything for the brides; everything from booking the vendors to bustling them up in their dresses. We help them with anything they need. So it’s a stress-free experience where you can enjoy...
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Elvis Week Day 7 – The Guest House and Shop-A-Thon, Part Two

By Jon Waterhouse During Elvis Week last year, I got a sneak peek at the Guest House at Graceland under construction. I was instantly impressed by its exterior design directly inspired by the Colonial Revival style of the Graceland mansion. Ever since, I’ve imagined what it would feel like crashing at a posh hotel fit for rock royalty. Now one year later, the 450-room Guest House serves as my home base for Elvis Week 2017. I’ve been soaking up the sights, sounds, and surroundings of Memphis’ largest hotel project in nearly 100 years. A combination of class and luxury, with just the right amount of kingly cool and Memphis flash, the Guest House has oodles to offer. Here a just a few of my favorite aspects of the Guest House at Graceland: The Decor Elvis’ personal fashion sense and flair echoes throughout the entire hotel grounds. From the lobby’s mirrored ceiling to the hallway light fixtures shaped in the letters EP, the Guest House oozes Elvis style. A massive couch in the Founders Lounge runs along a wall, not unlike the sofa at Elvis’ Palm Springs, Ca. abode. My favorite nod to Graceland’s interior would be the hotel’s mirrored staircase and blue velvet curtains. The Rooms As far as the accommodations go, the Guest House had me at double-headed shower. For Elvis fans, the hits keep on coming. Where else can you find television channels entirely dedicated to the iconic “Aloha From Hawaii” concert and the 1968  TV special? Elvis-related artwork hangs on the walls of each room, and mine boasts a stylistic shot of one of the king’s jumpsuits. For my next visit, I might spring for one of the 20 specialty suites, many of which feature design supervised by Priscilla Presley. A kingsize bed with a TCB headboard? I’m in. The Amenities Among the Guest House amenities you’ll find a large green space where guests relax on the adjacent patio, and play foosball and other games. Visitors gravitate to the nearby aquatics area where you’ll find a hot tub bubbling next to the swimming pool. While some swimmers splash about, others simply chill on a ledge while sprawling on one of several floating loungers. Even the bath house resembles Graceland’s architecture. An all-Elvis soundtrack can be heard poolside, as well as in the hotel fitness center located on the ground floor. Forgot your iPod? No sweat. Elvis...
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Elvis Week Day 6 – Elvis Comes Home, Super Fans, and Gladys’ Diner

By Jon Waterhouse ELVIS: THE WONDER OF YOU 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION CONCERT On Aug. 16, a massive crowd —I’m guesstimating more than 20,000— filled the FedEx forum in downtown Memphis for this celebratory concert, the closest thing to seeing the king back on the live stage. A live orchestra played in tandem with isolated Elvis vocal tracks, and accompanying live and archival video of the king on jumbo screens. In no particular order, here are my Top Three Takeaways of the evening: Priscilla Presley The live strains of the orchestra playing “If I Can Dream” behind her, Priscilla Presley hit the stage, welcoming audience members from Memphis and around the world. “We’re bringing him home again,” Priscilla told the crowd, who reacted with a collective cheer. Priscilla would return to the stage periodically throughout the evening. Midway through the show, she treated the audience to home movies, narrating the visuals herself. The footage included Elvis and Priscilla boarding Frank Sinatra’s private plane en route to their Las Vegas wedding; a playful road trip on the king’s custom bus; a Hawaiian vacation; an infant Lisa Marie’s arrival at Graceland; and more. The Music The show kicked off with a pulsing version of “Burning Love” featuring Elvis imagery from the “Aloha From Hawaii” TV special. More than 30 songs followed. A trombone solo provided a sultry intro to “Fever.” A rousing “Blue Suede Shoes” found the string section dancing, some waving their bows in the air. And “American Trilogy” pumped with power. To me, the suspension of disbelief worked best with “Suspicious Minds.” Using Las Vegas footage shot for the documentary concert film “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is,” the orchestra’s high energy and the audience excitement combined with just the right camera angles of Elvis. Together, it gave the sensation that Elvis had indeed returned to the building. The Fans The reaction from the crowd only heightened the concert experience. When Elvis would make certain movements on the big screen —a swivel of a hip to the curl of a lip— fans cheered with enthusiasm. During certain songs, including “Memories” and “If I Can Dream,” many members of the audience fired up their cell phone lights, providing a star field of illumination. Some fans sang, others danced, and some simply watched the spectacle in awe as beams of multicolored light cut across the arena. CONCERT FAN ROUND-UP Before the show, I explored...
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