The Official Blog of Graceland

Welcome to the official blog of Elvis Presley’s Graceland! You can take Elvis-inspired quizzes, get first-looks on events here at Graceland and how-to guides on everything you need to know about Elvis and his home. Like Elvis, we come with a little southern charm!

Elvis Presley’s Memphis Stages

Memphis, Tennessee, wasn’t just Elvis’ home; it was also his stage. From small clubs to large coliseums, Elvis performed in many different Bluff City venues throughout his career. A few weeks ago on the Graceland Blog, we looked at the Presley family’s Memphis homes and apartments. This week, let’s look at a few of the Memphis venues where Elvis wowed his fans. Elvis’ career started small, with gigs at the Bel-Air Club and the Bon Air Club. But his first official billed performance was on July 30, 1954, at the Overton Park Shell – now known as the Levitt Shell. Elvis – billed as Ellis Presley – opened for Slim Whitman, and he was so nervous his legs began to shake. It worked in his favor, and he left that show with a host of new fans. That gig got Elvis and his band a solid booking at The Eagle’s Nest, a country-western club that was just outside the Memphis city limits. The guys played weekend shows for the next three months of 1954.   The Eagle’s Nest was steady work, but Elvis wanted more. His career blossomed: He performed at the Grand Ole Opry, which didn’t go well, so he signed with the Louisiana Hayride. Many of Elvis’ early shows were in high school and junior high auditoriums. In early February 1955, he performed at Messick High School and Messick Junior High School in Memphis. These were no ordinary shows; he actually performed there to help promoter Bob Neal’s son, Sonny, in his campaign for the student council. Elvis’ next venue was one he knows well: Ellis Auditorium. His Humes High School graduation ceremony was held in that same venue, and just a few years later, he returned as a young rock star at the start of his career. He shared the stage with the likes of Faron Young, and in between shows, promoter Bob Neal arrangeed a meeting between Sun Records president Sam Phillips, Col. Tom Parker and Tom Diskin across the street from the auditorium. They were all, of course, interested in Elvis. On August 5, 1955, Elvis returned for a show at the Shell. Fans enjoyed his previous Shell show, but they really loved him at this concert. The concert was Bob Neal’s eighth annual Country Music Jamboree, and Elvis shared the stage with Johnny Cash, Webb Pierce and Sonny James. The show drew more than 4,000 fans.   Overton Park Shell Radio Ad By this point, Elvis’ career is on fire....
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Where’s Elvis Presley: Tupelo or Memphis?

In January 2014, Vanity Fair magazine published an article showing a photo of Elvis Presley presumably taken in downtown Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1947. The article traces the origin of the photo to a woman who was walking into a drugstore to drop off some film that had one exposure left on the roll. According to the story, she noticed a young Elvis on his bike and asked him to pose, snapping her last frame of him. The woman later gave the photo to Presley family friend Janelle McComb of Tupelo, who passed along the photo and the story of how she obtained it to Elvis fan and memorabilia collector Wade Jones shortly before her death. The story behind the photo may have been correct, but the city was wrong. Tupelo lies in Lee County, which was a dry county in the 1940’s, meaning it was illegal to sell alcohol, yet the background of the photo shows a liquor store. Mississippi didn’t repeal Prohibition until 1966. The bike in the photo is also familiar. Elvis received a Firestone Pilot Classic bicycle, most likely for his 13th birthday. In 1993, a photo was found in Gladys’ closet at Graceland of Elvis on a new bike with “age 13” written on the back. The bike is the same one in the Vanity Fair photo, except for the fenders, which were removed in the later photo. The Presleys moved to Memphis in November 1948 and lived at 370 Washington before moving just around the corner to a large rooming house at 572 Poplar Avenue in June 1949. They briefly lived there until September, when they moved to Lauderdale Courts. Elvis’ grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, continued living at the Poplar address, according to the 1950 Memphis City Directory. City directories list homes and businesses by street throughout the city.   The 1950 directory also shows the S&S Drug Store, Lando Marossi restaurant and Milo’s liquor store that appear in the Vanity Fair photo. John Sampietro, whose father operated the S&S Drug Store at the corner of Poplar and High Street, remembered his father talking about how a young Elvis would come into the store to play pinball. Milo Solomito operated the liquor store just across the street from the drug store and his son, Milo Jr., identified the store in the photo as the one his father ran for many years. To the right of the liquor...
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Elvis Presley’s Home Sweet Homes

A man’s home is his castle – and so Graceland is definitely the king’s castle. But for about the first half of his life, Elvis and his family had many other home sweet homes. The family moved often in both Tupelo and Memphis, and lived in many different houses and apartment complexes. Before Elvis ever crossed the gates of Graceland, he called many other places in Memphis “home.” Let’s take a look at where the Presley family lived in Memphis before their move to their beloved Graceland. In November 1948, Elvis and his parents, Gladys and Vernon, packed up their 1937 Plymouth and drove about two hours northwest from Tupelo, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee. Vernon and Gladys hoped for better job prospects in the bigger city, but work was often scarce or low-wage. And it wasn’t just the three of them; other family members, such as Elvis’ paternal grandmother, Minnie Mae, moved with the family, too. The family’s first address in Memphis was 370 Washington and they paid $11/week in rent. The Presleys stayed there for less than a year, and then moved to 572 Poplar, where they stayed just a few months. Elvis entered Humes High School while living on Poplar, and he earned mostly B’s and C’s in school. In September 1949, the family moved to 185 Winchester Street, which is the address of the Lauderdale Courts apartments. The family shared a two-bedroom, first-floor apartment for $35 a month. Elvis and Buzzy Forbess and Farley Guy hang out at Lauderdale Courts in 1954. Elvis’ career was growing by the time this picture was taken. The family stayed at Lauderdale Courts from September 1949 to January 1953, which was the longest time they lived at a single residence that wasn’t Graceland. Elvis had many friends who lived in and around Lauderdale Courts. Some of those friends remember playing music with Elvis in and around the complex. Even after Elvis found fame, he still went back to Lauderdale Courts to see his friends who lived there. The family packed up again and moved to 698 Saffarans, which was across the street from Humes High School, followed just a couple of months later with a move to 462 Alabama in April 1953. Elvis graduated from Humes High School while they lived on Alabama. Next, the family moved to 2414 Lamar Avenue in 1954, followed by 1414 Getwell in late 1955. There isn’t a lot of detail in Elvis biographies about these moves, because it’s during...
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Elvis Presley: Singer, Actor and Football Player

The earthy smell of turf, the colorful school spirit, the roar of the crowd as the quarterback throws the winning touchdown… it’s football season. It’s also one of Elvis’ favorite times of the year. When he wasn’t on stage, in a studio or on the big screen, there’s a good chance you could find Elvis Presley playing football. Elvis loved other sports, too, like karate and racquetball. But Elvis always found time for a quick game, and if he couldn’t play it himself, he watched his favorite teams compete on TV. “The thing I keep up with most is professional football. I know all the players. I know all their numbers, who they play for. I’ve had people quiz me on it, just in games when we’ve got nothing to do,” Elvis said in a 1962 interview. “And that’s a big thing with me right now. I watch all the games that I can. I get the films from the teams themselves if I can. But next to the entertainment thing, and music, that I guess, would be the biggest (interest).” Elvis was a busy man in 1956: He released his first album, starred in his first movie and toured across the country. He had a rare day off on December 27, 1956, and spent it playing football. The two previous photos were taken at that game. Elvis played touch football with a group of friends at the Dave Wells Community Center in Memphis. Hundreds showed up to watch the young superstar play a little pigskin in the park. Elvis also played football on the grounds at Graceland. In fact, on October 16, 1960, he broke his finger while playing touch football at Graceland. Elvis’ famous generosity and his love for football often worked hand-in-hand. Elvis played some football while he was a student at Humes High School, but he wasn’t a star athlete. But a few years after graduating high school (and after becoming a worldwide sensation), he purchased 1,400 tickets – seen in the photo above – for every Humes High School student so they could all attend the annual E.H. Crump Memorial Football Game for the Blind. Total cost? $1,050. Elvis even sponsored a football team. His friends had started a team, so he sponsored it – notice E.P. Enterprises on the jersey. His friend Red West, who was on the team, later said it was some of the most fun...
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Elvis Presley’s Highest Honor

Elvis Presley is possibly the most celebrated entertainer of all time. He won Grammy Awards, has sold millions of records and his own Hall of Gold at his home can’t even hold all of his Gold, Platinum and Diamond Records, much less the countless other awards he won during his legendary career. But his most treasured award wasn’t for making money or becoming a household name; it was for being a good man. In 1970, Elvis was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men by the United States Junior Chamber, or the Jaycees. It was the only award he ever accepted in person, and it was the only award he carried with him every where he went for the rest of his life. In celebration of Citizenship Day on September 17, let’s take a look at Elvis’ highest honor. The Ten Outstanding Young Men program – now renamed the Ten Outstanding Young Americans – was created by the Jaycees in 1938 to honor 10 Americans, aged 18-40, who “best exemplify the highest attributes of the nation’s emerging generation,” according to the Jaycee’s website. Men and women who excel in all fields, including entertainment, sports, business, academics, politics, medicine, science, technology and humanitarian efforts, are honored. In 1970, Elvis was close friends with Bill Morris. Bill was the Shelby County Sheriff, and he went on to serve as the mayor of Memphis. Bill nominated Elvis for inclusion in Ten Outstanding Young Men, thanks to his impact on music and culture, not to mention his charitable heart. Elvis constantly donated to charities, especially those in Memphis and Shelby County. Elvis was incredibly honored by his inclusion in Ten Outstanding Young Men. He and Priscilla attended the JCC prayer breakfast at the Memphis Holiday Inn Rivermont, and later that afternoon, United Nations ambassador-appointee and future U.S. President George H. W. Bush spoke at the JCC luncheon. That evening, Elvis and Priscilla held a reception at Graceland for the award winners and Jaycee officials, followed by a formal dinner at the Four Flames Restaurant. The 8 p.m. awards ceremony took place at Ellis Auditorium – a building very special to Elvis. He went to plenty of concerts there and eventually performed there himself as a young singer. Elvis always commanded a stage, and that’s what he did with his heartfelt speech at the awards ceremony. He quoted one of his favorite Roy Hamilton songs in his...
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Meet Elvis Presley’s Grandma, Minnie Mae

Most folks have a grandmother. Elvis had “Dodger.” Sunday, September 13 is Grandparents’ Day, and to celebrate we’re getting to know Minnie Mae Presley, Elvis’ paternal grandmother, whom he affectionately called “Dodger.” Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in Lee County. His family tree traces both east and west of the All America City. His parents came from the the two counties that surround Lee County: His mother’s family is from Pontotoc County, which is to the west of Lee County, and his father’s family is from Itawamba County, which to to the east. The Hoods came to Itawamba County from Alabama in the 1830s, and one Hood family member, Joshua, built a log cabin there. It’s believed Minnie Mae Hood was born there on June 17, 1890, to Mary Louisa and William H. “Buck” Hood. A portion of that log cabin still stands, and there are many Hood relatives still living in the area. Minnie Mae married Jessie D. McDowell Presley on July 20, 1913. The couple welcomed their first child, Vernon Presley, on April 10, 1916. The couple went on to have four more children: Vester, Delta Mae, Gladys Erlene Dowling, and Rev. Nashval Lorene Pritchett (Presley). Minnie Mae and Jessie’s marriage slowly declined and the couple unofficially separated; she moved in with her son, Vernon, his wife, Gladys, and son, Elvis. She moved with them when they moved from Tupelo to Memphis, and Minnie Mae and her husband officially divorced in 1954. Minnie Mae lived with Elvis and his parents at all of their homes in Memphis, including Graceland. She even traveled to Germany with Elvis while he was stationed there. Elvis, always the family man, loved having his relatives so close. Others called her “Grandma,” but Elvis nicknamed her “Dodger.” No matter what life threw her way, she always came through it in the end. Minnie Mae died on May 8, 1980, in Memphis. She is buried at the Meditation Garden at Graceland near her son, Vernon, daughter-in-law Gladys, and her grandson, Elvis. In the mornings, visitors can walk up to visit the Meditation Garden at Graceland for free. Check Graceland.com for more information and how to book your visit to experience the the king’s...
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Elvis Presley’s Books

Elvis Presley loved to read. Not only did he keep books at home at Graceland Mansion, he often took many books out on the road with him while he toured. Elvis’ favorite books are well-worn and well-loved; he would often underline his favorite passages and add notes in the margins. National Read a Book Day is Sunday, September 6, so in celebration, here’s a look at a few books from Elvis’ collection. Elvis’ record collection contains music from all genres, but he owned a lot of gospel records. His library is similar: There are books on just about every topic, but he owned a lot of religious books. He owned many, many copies of The Holy Bible. Some are hard cover; some are soft covers. Some are copies that he purchased and some are gifts from fans. In his King of Kings Holy Bible were found notes he’d written to himself on sheet music. He also kept a note from a fan in that Bible, as well as a card and bookmark. One Bible, The New Chain Reference Bible, was a gift from the Elvis Presley Fan Club in Melbourne. “To Elvis with Fondest Wishes from Your Australian Fans,” is stamped on the inside cover. Elvis was interested in and inspired by spiritualism and religion. His library reflects that: Titles in his library include “Bible Mystery and Bible Meaning” by Thomas Troward; “The Mystic Bible” by Dr. Randolph Stone; “Certain Women – A Study of Biblical Women” by Zona Bays Marshall; and, of course, one of his favorites, Joseph Benner’s “The Impersonal Life.” Elvis purchased hundreds of copies of that book over the years and gave them to family and friends. Elvis had quite a collection of fascinating history books and historical biographies, too. Like the Bibles, some he purchased, while others were gifts from fans and friends. Topics include American history and Presidents, World Wars I and II, the Kennedy family, Winston Churchill, Eugene Lyons and more. Elvis also owned lots of books about sports, especially football and karate. His library included “Illustrated History of Football” by Robert Smith; “The History of Pro Football” by Harold Claassen; and both volumes of “Vince Lombardi on Football.” Elvis also owned a signed copy of famed Ole Miss coach John Vaught’s “Rebel Coach.” Elvis owned countless karate books. Just a few of his karate books include “Karate Kata Heian 5” and “Dynamic Karate” by...
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Q&A: 2015 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist David Lee

Dreams came true for David Lee on August 13, 2015, when he was named the 2015 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, and a big Elvis fan, David advanced to the Semifinal and Final Rounds during Elvis Week after winning the Ocean City Elvis Festival’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Preliminary Round. David won the title of 2015 Ultimate ETA, a contract to perform for Legends in Concert, the 2015 Ultimate ETA Contest belt designed by B&K Enterprises, and a cash prize of $20,000. Let’s get to know David Lee better. Q: When and how did you become a fan of Elvis Presley? A: Of course, like most people, I heard Elvis at a young age, and knew something about him was different. But I became a die-hard Elvis fan thanks to a guy named Kevin Muir, who I worked with in my early 20s. He introduced me to the more obscure songs and I was hooked instantly! I now have a huge Elvis collection – well over 10,000 pieces. I even have over 1,000 Elvis 8-track tapes! Q: How did you become an Elvis Tribute Artist? A: Simply put, my love of everything Elvis was so strong that I had to have an outlet to express that. It was the early ’90s and karaoke was really becoming very popular, so I would go and sing at local establishments. The first time I can remember actually dressing the part was when a coworker was leaving the company we worked for, so myself and another friend actually bought a cheap Elvis costume and performed in front of about 100 people at his going-away party. I must have had half of those 100 come up to me and say, ‘Wow, you sound like Elvis,’ ‘Can you come and sing for daughter’s birthday?’ and so forth and so on. I knew that day that things were going to change. I just had no idea how much and that there was an Elvis world out there! Q: What are some of the highlights of your ETA career thus far (besides being named the 2015 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist)? A: Wow. Great question. This is my 20th year as an ETA and I have had a lot of great things happen to me. I have been fortunate enough to win the biggest competitions in the world. In 2004, I was and still am the only person to win the International...
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Elvis Week Instagram Challenge

Just before Elvis Week, we issued a challenge to Elvis fans: Share your Elvis Week experience on Instagram. We asked fans to snap photos while they’re at Elvis Week at Graceland, tag Graceland and post those pictures to Instagram. And, as always, Elvis fans answered the challenge. There were hundreds of photos tagged #ElvisWeek, #Graceland and more, and here are just a very few of our favorites. TYTYVM for answering the challenge, Elvis fans, and remember to follow Graceland on Instagram at @VisitGraceland!   TYTYVM to all of the Elvis fans who took amazing Instagram pictures at Elvis Week! Be sure to check out the Elvis Week photo gallery at Graceland.com for even more photos from the...
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Candlelight Vigil

By Alyssa Long The Candlelight Vigil is completely different from all other Elvis Week events. While other things during the week are high energy, loud and entertaining (all in very good way), the Candlelight Vigil is a time during the festival when everyone can gather together and pay their respects to Elvis Presley. This year, an estimated 30,000 people arrived at the Graceland gates to stand together in remembering Elvis. The evening started with Lisa Marie, Elvis’ daughter, lighting candles for fans. This gesture meant so much to everyone in attendance. It doesn’t happen every year, but the impact was incredibly touching. After a few words are spoken and a few songs are played, the procession to the Meditation Garden begins with the Elvis Presley Fan Clubs. These fan club members come from all over the world and are made up of fans of all different ages. Throughout the night, they’ll line part of the driveway with candles in hand to welcome all other fans in attendance.   The procession continues up the driveway and it’s a beautiful thing to see. From a distance, it’s incredibly picturesque with the whole Graceland area all lit up and hundreds of candles dotting the drive. To actually walk up the driveway and then through the Meditation Garden surrounded by other fans all in quiet remembrance is unlike anything else. The love and passion for Elvis Presley and all he did is contagious and can truly be felt at the Candlelight Vigil.   Back on Elvis Presley Boulevard, a normally very busy road, cars are not permitted and fans make shrines to commemorate Elvis. They use candles and pictures, they build structures and draw art on the pavement. They all gather together, share stories, share memories and bond over their love for Elvis Presley and his music.   Elvis is more than the jumpsuits, more than the pink Cadillacs, more than the sideburns. He is special to so many people and fans will continue remembering Elvis each year at this special event–his memory and legacy will live...
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