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!

Animal Instinct: Elvis Presley’s Pets

In “Tiger Man,” Elvis Presley sings that he’s the “king of the jungle” – and that’s a pretty accurate description of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Elvis loved animals of all kinds. He had many pets during his lifetime – so many, in fact, that it would be a pretty difficult to name them all. We’ll stick to a few of the favorites for this week’s blog. When Elvis purchased Graceland in 1957, he bought not only the house, but 13.8 acres of the surrounding land. That provided for a nice little farm for the Presley family. Elvis’ mother, Gladys, had some chickens, and Elvis owned a turkey named Bowtie. Vernon, Elvis’ father, raised hogs, and he smoked and cured pork in the old pump house that Elvis, years later, would turn into a temporary makeshift firing range (you can tour this building at Graceland). Elvis was given some donkeys, but because the fence around the property wasn’t finished yet, he kept the donkeys in his new, empty swimming pool. The Presley family added even more animals to their farm when Elvis, Vernon and friend Lamar Fike drove a limousine to Germantown, just outside of Memphis, to buy more chickens and ducks. Lamar sat in the back of the limo with the birds to try to control them, but they flew around and made a mess. They cleaned and fumigated the limo, but it was never the same, and the vehicle was eventually replaced. And speaking of birds, Elvis once had a mynah bird that would repeat the excuses it heard about why Elvis couldn’t come to the phone: “Elvis is asleep,” “Elvis isn’t available,” “Elvis isn’t here.” One day the bird began repeating all of the phrases, over and over, which Elvis thought was hilarious. Australian fans sent Elvis a wallaby – twice. Once was while he was filming “Jailhouse Rock” in 1957, and the second time was in 1962. He donated each of the animals to the Memphis Zoo. Elvis also had a few peacocks, but they scratched at their reflections in the shiny paint of his cars – so they, too, went to live at the Memphis Zoo. Elvis owned several horses throughout this lifetime – in fact, you can read more about them here on a past Graceland Blog post. His favorite horses included Rising Sun, a golden palomino quarter horse and a Tennessee Walking Horses named Bear. A...
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Elvis Presley, the Student

Get your No. 2 pencils out – it’s back to school season. The stores are full of supplies and school bells are ringing, and surely, Elvis fans everywhere are wondering: what was Elvis like as a student? Elvis is often described, especially in high school, as a “fair” student, earning a lot of B’s and a few C’s. He graduated high school in 1953, not long before his incredible career took off. But of course, Elvis’ school years began in Tupelo, Mississippi, where he was born. He began first grade in the fall of 1941 at East Tupelo Consolidated School on Lake Street. Elvis continued his elementary school years in Tupelo, mostly uneventful, until the fifth grade. October 3, 1945, was Children’s Day at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair, and all of the schools were let out for the day. Elvis’ fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Oleta Grimes, entered Elvis into the fair’s talent show after hearing him sing in the morning prayer program at school. He sang “Old Shep” with no accompaniment. He won fifth place, and the prize was a few dollars worth of ride tickets. Elvis would later recall that his mother, Gladys, gave him a spanking that day too, probably for riding the more dangerous rides and giving her a scare. Elvis entered sixth grade at Milam Junior High School, which is still there, in Tupelo, in September 1946. His classmates remembered Elvis as a shy boy who didn’t fit in very well, but that he loved music. He often sang gospel favorites and songs he learned from listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. Gladys bought Elvis his first guitar in 1946, and by the time Elvis entered the seventh grade at Milam, he was bringing that guitar to school with him most every day. He’d play during recess and lunch time for his classmates. His classmates were mostly indifferent to his performances – and a few were even hostile. During Elvis’ eighth grade year at Milam, a group of bullies cut his guitar strings. Elvis’ classmates knew how much Elvis loved his guitar, and some of them took up a collection to buy him another set of strings. A few months later, the Presley family moved to Memphis, where Elvis was enrolled in the eighth grade at Humes High School. Vernon later recalled that Elvis looked very nervous as he walked his son to the...
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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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Elvis Week Day 5 – Epically Elvis

BY JON WATERHOUSE Without fail, something epic drops daily at Elvis Week. Yesterday, however, things hit a peak. The day began with computer glitches, which had me struggling to meet my blog deadline. Soon after wrapping, I found myself sprinting to the sold-out Conversations on Elvis: Elvis Family & Friends event at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. Unfortunately, I missed most of it. Host Tom Brown would later tell me Bill Medley’s appearance was not only monumental, but monumentally hilarious. After telling the audience the story of Elvis crashing the stage in the middle of a Righteous Brothers performance, Medley followed suit by walking across the stage in the middle of Jerry Schilling’s interview. I did, however, arrive in time to catch Priscilla Presley’s Q&A with Tom. She spoke about a variety of things, including the upcoming Elvis Exhibit at the O2 Arena beginning in November; Elvis’ personal search for spirituality; his love for road trips; and more. When chatting about his penchant for gadgets, she said, “I think he wanted to be James Bond.” Priscilla then commented on the fact Elvis was one of the first people in the world to have a cellular phone. As far as contemporary digital tech goes, however, she said she couldn’t have imagined Elvis taking a selfie. The conversation ended with Priscilla thanking the fans for their continued support. Backstage, she shook my hand before saying, “Keep on blogging.” My reply: “A blogging we will go.” Here are a few excerpts from Priscilla’s onstage conversation with Tom Brown: On seeing Elvis perform live for the first time: “I had never seen Elvis perform before until ‘The ’68 Comeback Special.’ You have to remember, he had only done movies. He was doing three movies a year, and he hadn’t (performed live) in 10 years. I was in the audience and saw him perform in the round. Mind you, this was a small studio set. So, I’m looking at him performing, and I think, ‘Oh, my God. I finally get it.’ He came out in that black leather suit, and I almost ran up to the front to give him a kiss myself.” On The Guest House at Graceland hotel: “With our new partners, we’ve been able to fulfill the dream that we’ve always wanted. When we started, Jack Soden and I always wanted to have a nicer and better place. We always wanted to have...
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Elvis Week Day 4 – Gold and Platinum Records, and Legends – Oh My!

By Jon Waterhouse If they gave badges for making mistakes in life, mine would be the biggest and shiniest. Yes, I slipped, I stumbled, I fell. Repeatedly. Yet, when you look down at your phone and see a text image of your 13-year-old son rocking the Elvis Presley Snapchat lens, you know you’ve done something right. Due to the proper exposure, our boy Levi was loving the king before he could walk. And while I was attending yesterday’s Official Graceland Insiders Conference at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, inspiration struck. Now I know what to bring home to him: CD copies of Elvis’s albums with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. While watching Priscilla Presley’s acceptance of a pair of gold and platinum record awards for “If I Can Dream” and “The Wonder of You,” respectively, I realized Levi didn’t have those in his collection. And he needs them. A gazillion Elvis fans can’t be wrong. Backstage after the acceptance, Priscilla, Jerry Schilling, Elvis Presley Enterprises’ CEO Jack Soden, and others mingled with record label staff. The framed awards sat nearby, propped up on chairs and shining beneath florescent lights. When Priscilla and the record company team posed around the awards for pics, I suppressed the urge to photobomb. The crowd began to disperse, and I noticed a familiar face entering backstage. Wanda Jackson, the queen of rockabilly and a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, made her way toward the dressing room. My inner fan boy threatening to explode from within, I managed to keep it at bay while smiling and shaking her hand. Wanda’s catalog —from 1958’s blistering single “Fujiyama Mama” to her contemporary albums such as 2011’s “The Party Ain’t Over”— stays in heavy rotation on my iPod. Wanda’s Elvis connection remains the stuff of legend. Her country music career began in 1952 while Wanda was in her teens. After graduating high school in 1955, she began touring with her father, Tom Jackson, who managed her career. She soon found herself on a bill with Elvis, and the pair became fast friends. They even dated briefly in 1955 and 1956. In fact, she cites Elvis as someone who pushed her to venture into rock ‘n’ roll. Today Wanda’s musical significance continues. An endless array of artists call her an influence, including Adele and Jack White, the latter producing “The Party Ain’t Over.” At the moment, Wanda is collaborating with producer...
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Elvis Week Day 3 – Rockin’ the Exhibits at Elvis Presley’s Memphis

By Jon Waterhouse If I had to choose one person to guide me through the new museum spaces at Elvis Presley’s Memphis —with the exception of Elvis himselvis— it would be Angie Marchese, director of archives for Elvis Presley Enterprises. And yesterday Angie gave me the grandest of tours. A large portion of the 40-acre entertainment complex consists of vibrant exhibit halls showcasing everything from the king’s shimmering stage wear to his fleet of slick rides and all points in between. In addition to overseeing and preserving the vast Presley archives in storage, and managing a staff of 26, it’s Angie who determines how the collection is displayed, right down to the paint that’s slathered on the walls. If you like the up-close-and-personal and take-all-the-time-you-want aspects of the new museums, you have Angie to thank. Not only does she have a comprehensive and detailed knowledge of the museums’ contents, Angie rocks Elvis trivia like a computerized databank. As we trekked our way around the grounds, Angie shake, rattled, and rolled off facts faster than my note-taking hand could write. The following are the highlights from my tour of Elvis Presley’s Memphis with Angie Marchese: The Country Road to Rock: The Marty Stuart Collection The complex has permanent exhibits and rotating ones, the latter which Angie and the staff refer to as “discovery zones.” These specific areas take a specialized look at different aspects of Elvis’ life and career. This one examines the country music and style that influenced a pre-fame Elvis. Country star Marty Stuart shares portions of his impressive collection of genre memorabilia, much of it from the Grand Ole Opry’s heyday, which seeped into Presley’s pores. Elaborate stage duds, like Hank Snow’s floral suit by legendary designer Nudie Cohn, certainly rubbed off on Elvis. The exhibit also shows Elvis’ own influence on country music entertainers. A pair of sunglasses Elvis gave to the recently departed Glen Campbell glisten beneath the lights. Mystery Train: The Sam Phillips Exhibit Across the hall from the Stuart collection, you’ll find the story of Sam Phillips, the groundbreaking record producer not only responsible for discovering Elvis, but for helping lay the groundwork for rock ‘n’ roll. At the helm of Memphis Recording Service, Phillips recorded Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, and other African-American artists he thought deserved to be heard. One was Jackie Brenston, who many critics cite as cutting the first rock...
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