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:
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.
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.
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 serenades you while you hit the treadmill.
You don’t have to look far for nourishment. A pair of restaurants live just steps from the lobby. E.P.’s Bar & Grill goes casual, featuring pub grub with Memphis and Elvis influences. BBQ pork nachos, fried green tomatoes, salads, and the proverbial grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich are among the options. If you ask me, go directly to the Memphis burger, a double-patty affair overflowing with American cheese, bacon, fried onions, lettuce, special sauce, and the crunch of fried green tomato. The banana pudding closer blew me away. Across the lobby at Delta’s Kitchen, buffet-style offerings provide the oft-needed quick meal during Elvis Week. Last night’s dinner saw me piling a plate high with grilled chicken and corn relish, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, pork loin wrapped in bacon, and more. The house-made cranberry sauce gelled well with the pork. The killer chocolate mousse cake stole the show like an Elvis encore.
It’s seems like there’s always something going on at the Guest House, from karaoke in E.P.’s Bar & Grill to Elvis movies on the big screen. Yesterday afternoon, fans gathered in the 464-seat Guest House theater for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Showcase. Contestants including Tim E. Hendry, Mark Anthony, Oliver Steinhoff and Ben Thompson gave the audience a taste of this year’s competition. In the evenings, live music drops in the Lobby Lounge while guests tip back libations. Last night, Brad Birkedahl — his former band The Dempseys are represented on Beale Street’s Brass Note Walk of Fame —rocked the lounge.
FANS AT THE GUEST HOUSE
The family reunion quality of Elvis Week is arguably most apparent at the Guest House. Fans spanning the globe congregate in the lobby, belly up to the bar, and mingle throughout the luxury resort.
The following are a handful of fellow fans I’ve met while staying at the Guest House:
Lisa Bseiso, Qatar
Lisa, the president of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar, beams with an aura of passion and positivity, citing Elvis’ music as a huge influence. Her mission is to help spread Elvis’ music and legacy in her country, something she says has the power to bridge the cultures of the East and West. Last night as a thank you to the hospitality she’s been receiving from stateside Elvis fans, Lisa and the fan club hosted a free party in the Guest House ballroom. Hosted by Elvis Radio personality DJ Argo, the event included performances by Rodell McCord and his band, and an acoustic show from Terry Mike Jeffrey.
Kappa Kunikada, Osaka, Japan
Yesterday you couldn’t miss Kappa in the Guest House lobby. Draped in a colorful shirt depicting the wedding scene from “Blue Hawaii,” Kappa gathered with fellow Japanese travelers before heading out to see the Elvis-related sights. An actor by trade, Kappa says he also serves as an emcee for Elvis tribute artist shows in his home country.
Isabel Elwood, Kristina Rivera, Ilenia Hails, and Tanya Hails, Effingham, Ill.
Known as “the TCB Girls,” this group traveled approximately 350 miles south to celebrate Elvis Week 2017 together. They even had matching shirts made for the occasion. After attending the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Showcase, they hung out in the lobby plotting their next Elvis Week move.
Reano Myers, Pompano Beach, Fla.; Leundria Culpepper, Albuquerque, N.M.; Francisco Ramos, Orlando, Fla.
While on layover, this trio of Delta Airlines flight attendants made a point to visit the Guest House at Graceland to experience the wonder of Elvis Week. Thanks to props provided by the Guest House staff, they posed for a quick picture before grabbing a bite of Memphis barbecue.
Sharon Mynar, Maui, Hawaii
As a 12-year-old living on the island of Oahu, Sharon had a brush with Elvis Presley. While passing him in a vehicle, Mynar watched as Presley gave her the shaka or hang loose hand sign. Now in her 70s, Mynar remains a lifelong fan and dressed in traditional Hawaiian wear for the 40th anniversary concert on Wednesday night.
ELVIS WEEK SHOP-A-THON - PART TWO
I haven’t reached credit card fatigue. Not yet. My Elvis Week shopping adventure continues as I scan the gift shops at Elvis Presley’s Memphis for more souvenirs to bring home. Does anyone know of a Graceland store hawking suitcases? I think I need another one.
The Tiger Jacket
I spotted this one from the other side of the shop located inside the Fashion King exhibit, and it had me growling. Inspired by the image found on the jumpsuit Elvis fans dubbed “the mad tiger,” this cozy creation needs to go back to Atlanta with me, thankyaverymuch. I paired it with an Original Chuck fedora.
Also in the Fashion King store, this guitar is part of the Direct From Graceland line of collectibles.It’s a replica of the famous axe used by the king in concert. The details are spot on, and include a mahogany neck, a spruce plywood top, and the kenpo karate graphic.
Elvis Bling Shirts
I’m not about to squeeze into a girlie tee, but the retail staff at Elvis Presley’s Memphis say these blinged-out shirts continue to be popular with female fans. Available in a variety of styles, they sport the kind of twinkle Elvis adored.
Now these are more my speed. Raglan tees are hot right now, and the shops at Elvis Presley’s Memphis offer several. I like the ones from the Joe Petruccio Collection, and the Graceland shirts pictured here are cool, too.