The Musicians of Elvis Presley’s Memphis

A few months ago, Graceland opened a new entertainment and exhibit complex, called Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

The complex, much larger than the former Graceland Plaza, features the world’s largest Elvis museum, a new automobile museum, Discovery Exhibits covering Elvis’ Army years, his life in Tupelo, his style and much more. There’s a soundstage that shows Elvis movies and concerts and restaurants named after his parents. Thanks to the expansion, more artifacts from Graceland Archives are on display than ever before.

While Graceland shares details of Elvis’ personal life, the complex is all about his career and accomplishments. It’s only fitting, then, that we have Memphis musicians who perform at the complex daily. Whether they’re playing their own versions of Elvis hits or something they wrote, these musicians are channeling the king’s musical energy and influence to entertain Graceland guests. Let’s get to know these musicians, and feel free to say hi or request a song if you see them playing at Elvis Presley’s Memphis!

Vinnie Hines

Vinnie Hines

Vinnie Hines

There’s a chance you’ve seen Vinnie Hines before.

He was a contestant on “American Idol” season 15, and for four years, he entertained thousands of guests as he toured for nearly four years with Carnival Cruise Lines. These days, though, the 26-year-old Auburn, Illinois, native is performing in the Bluff City.

Hines was in college studying architecture when he was asked to fill in for his cousin’s band. He realized music was his true calling, so he left college and started pursuing music full time. His style, he said, is a mixture of rock and soul. “Distorted guitar combined with groovy bass lines and classic soul vocals make up my Bill Withers meets Maroon 5 vibe,” Hines said.

Hines comes from a long line of Elvis fans. He grew up listening to Elvis’ music with his grandmother, and his sister is a big Elvis fan, too. “For almost 10 years,” he said, “she dressed up as a tiny sequin-studded Elvis for Halloween and for any other excuse she could find.”

Hines has released a debut album, “HQ,” and he plays around Memphis, as well as at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. His music can be found on both iTunes and Spotify, and you can follow him on Facebook.

Alejandro Paredes

Alejandro Paredes

Alejandro Paredes

At Elvis Presley’s Memphis, Alejandro Paredes is playing music he loves for people who love it, too.

Paredes – or Alex Walls, his more English-friendly stage name – loves classic rock, whether it’s Elvis, The Beatles, Richie Valens or Eddie Cochoran. Guests at Elvis Presley’s Memphis can expect to hear Spanish-influenced versions of songs by those artists when they hear Paredes perform.

“I love this kind of music, and the people here love that kind of music, so people like it,” he said.

The 42-year-old Venezuelan has been soaking up the Memphis sound since moving to the area three years ago. He began playing guitar and bass as a teenager, and he still plays sets in local bars and restaurants. When he’s not playing music, Paredes shoots video and writes stories for local Spanish-speaking media – he has an audiovisual journalism degree from the Catholic University in Caracas – and he works for an urban development non-profit. He’s also a light designer and stage manager for area theaters.

But if you’re at Elvis Presley’s Memphis and you hear a Spanish version of “Jailhouse Rock,” chances are that’s Paredes. Guests have enjoyed his music, often taking photos with him after his set. “I’ve met people from Italy, Japan and all over the United States,” he said. “It’s great.”

Semi-Average Joe

Semi-Average Joe

Semi-Average Joe

Joe Johnson is no stranger to Elvis.

Johnson is, like Elvis, a native Mississippian. The two men have ties to Tupelo, too: Elvis was born there, and Johnson was married there (specifically, in the park where Elvis rocked his 1956 homecoming concert at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair). Now, Johnson is entertaining Elvis fans from around the world when he performs at Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

“I remember coming up here (to Graceland) on vacation as a kid,” he said. “We have pictures of me here in an Elvis black velvet shirt when I was little.”

Now that he’s grown, he’s taken the king’s influence and created his own sound.

“Elvis is very much the reason I got into music,” he said. “It’s a real honor to actually play here.”

Johnson, 33, goes under the stage name of Semi-Average Joe, and he loves playing with a diverse mix of sounds. He’s played folky, Americana music, but he’ll soon release an electronic album. He keeps it more roots-based for his shows at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, and he keeps the king in mind when he’s performing.

“I make sure that Elvis pops up. I think of music that Elvis has touched, and I keep in that time period. But I also watch the crowd; if there are a lot of kids around, a Taylor Swift song might pop up,” he said.

Johnson finds influence in Elvis’ music and performance style, as well as the way he broke down barriers and revolutionized music.

“Whether other musicians like Elvis or not, they know he made this possible for the rest of us,” he said. “That idea of giving to the audience, that came from Elvis.”

Check out Semi-Average Joe on Facebook.

The Skitch

The Skitch

The Skitch

If you listen to the members of The Skitch talk, they sound like young Elvises, thrilled with all genres of music and excited to talk about their favorite artists, songs and albums.

These guys are music fans, and they use that love for music to fuel their energetic performances at Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

The Skitch is made up of three brothers: Jesse James, on bass guitar and vocals; Judah James, on guitar and vocals; and Asher James, on drums and vocals. The brothers grew up in a religious home in Gulfport, Mississippi, and their parents only allowed them to listen to “their version of rock,” Jesse said, like The Beach Boys and The Monkees. As they got older, they discovered more artists – Elvis, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Robert Johnson.

The guys formed a band that paid tribute to those iconic bands, and they play a mix of rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll. They experiment with a little doo wop and reggae, and love to harmonize. “Our three voices make one OK voice,” Judah said with a laugh. “And we’re cool with that,” Jesse added.

The James brothers love Elvis, and are thrilled to play for fellow Elvis fans.

“Going from singing in my bedroom to coming here and singing here, it’s awesome,” Jesse said.

Find out more about the band on Facebook, and give them a listen on iTunes and Spotify.

Jeremy Clement

Jeremy Clement

Jeremy Clement

Jeremy Clement does it all.

No, really – he’s a one-man band. You can often find him in Gladys’ Diner or Presley Cycles rocking and rolling with drums and an autoharp.

Wait – a what? Yeah, he plays an autoharp, an instrument made famous by The Carter Family, who often played the autoharp in live shows. The autoharp isn’t a harp, but a chorded zither. “I love the sound of the instrument, and I love the way it makes me feel,” Clement said.

The shows at Elvis Presley’s Memphis have allowed him to develop his one-man band groove, which is the latest chapter in his musical life. Clement was in a band in Seattle during the grunge days of the early ‘90s – “I remember bumping into Kurt (Cobain) and Courtney (Love) at the grocery store,” he said – and later he was a session drummer in Nashville, working with a variety of artists. Later, he worked for the Royal Caribbean cruise line as supervisor of the music department. He oversaw 20-35 musicians who backed all kinds of artists. He and his team put on a different show every night, and he often had only about 90 minutes to teach the musicians a show they’d never heard before.

Now that he’s a husband and father, he’s staying closer to home. He likes that he can meet Elvis fans from all over the world and play music, and go home at night to his family. He’s passionate about passing on the magic of music to children, too – something that he thinks Elvis would appreciate.

Swing Shift

Swing Shift

Swing Shift

Want to hear some Memphis music, made by Memphians? Look no further than Swing Shift.

The duo, made up of Donna Padgett Bowers and Wayde Peck, have been part of a bluesy jazz band, Motherlode, for six years, and just the two of them have played as Swing Shift for about three years.

The native Memphians love all genres of music. “We do a little bit of everything – rock, blues, rockabilly, Elvis,” Donna said.

“We do a lot of blues, and we explain, that’s where Elvis came from,” Wayde said. “We do a lot of jazz versions of Elvis songs. We reboot what he did, and do it our way.”

It also helps that the band has an Elvis connection. Donna’s father was a songwriter and agent, and was friends with Elvis. She has fond memories of playing with him when she was a child.

“I have a recording of him talking to me and talking to my dad,” she said. “I remember playing hopscotch with him. He had these big shoes, and his shoes wouldn’t fit in the hopscotch squares. He said, ‘Can you make the boxes any bigger?’”

Wayde remembers seeing Elvis around town, and both Wayde and Donna said they can feel his spirit at Elvis Presley’s Memphis and Graceland.

“It’s almost like he’s still around, because he’s everywhere,” Donna said.

The duo love playing for Elvis fans, especially in Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

“It’s like a big family,” Donna said. “It’s like a big city, with a little family.”

Follow Swing Shift on Facebook.

Cecil Yancy

Cecil Yancy

Cecil Yancy

Cecil Yancy is having a bit of a religious experience here at Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

Yancy, 55, an Alabama native, spent many years singing and performing folk and gospel music with his wife. “I had a 16-year honeymoon with my wife,” he said. The pair wrote songs together, performed together and threw parties. After she recently passed, he felt a little lost – but he is starting to find himself at Graceland. He loves meeting Elvis fans from around the world and sharing Elvis’ music with them.

“I really think Elvis has helped me sing through my grief,” he said. “I play a lot of Elvis gospel music. One day I was performing, and I said, ‘I’m gonna take you to church.’ Before I knew it, the whole diner was singing gospel songs with me.”

Like the guys in The Skitch, Yancy was raised on gospel and spirituals, and wasn’t allowed to listen to secular tunes until middle school. While he loved Elvis’ gospel music, he was excited to discover the rest of Elvis’ discography, as well as artists like The Beatles and Johnny Cash.

Still, the king’s gospel music is some of his favorite music, and he loves performing it for Elvis’ fans at Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

“You heard Elvis’ heart in his gospel music,” he said. “Ninety percent of an entertainer’s job is connecting with people and talking with people. The best way out of a broken heart is to sing, and this is wonderful music therapy. Elvis provided a music therapy to me.”

Catch up with Cecil on Facebook.

Thompson Springs

Thompson Springs

Thompson Springs

A collaborative project, Thompson Springs became an outlet for a backlog of songs 24-year-old Chicagoan Matt Smith gathered over the years. The band consists of a rotating crew who helped shape his tunes into folk-rock gems. Produced by Rob Laakso of Kurt Vile and the Violators, the band’s first EP is a mini-collection of rambling self-reflection and hitch-hiker’s poetry.

The group will be releasing its second EP in August 2017, which features Pat Sansone of Wilco, and will be touring to California and back in August and September. Catch the band now at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, and follow Thompson Springs on Facebook.

Hear these amazing artists for yourself when you visit Graceland! Check out our ticket options and make your plans to experience Graceland today.


14 Comments

  1. Diane Kelley

    I don’t like the idea of being at Graceland and hearing random people singing. It should be all Elvis all the time at Graceland, he is the reason that everyone comes to visit Graceland.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. All of these musicians perform in addition to the Elvis music that plays throughout the complex. We hope that by including these artists, we’re supporting Memphis musicians and celebrating Elvis and Memphis music.

    • Jeremy Clement

      I’m one of the regular performers at Graceland. In reality, all of us understood Elvis music fans concerns going into this. This is why our shows feature songs from Elvis’s recording catalog, as well as his contemporaries at Sun Records. Elvis has had such a profound influence on all of our careers, that we felt highly honored to be asked to perform regularly at his home. Therefore, we View our role at Graceland as one of bringing Elvis’s music to life, through performance, and allowing his fans to see up close and personally just how far-reaching his musical influence has been. This may be why most of the comments about the live music from those who attend Graceland has been highly positive and receptive. We greatly appreciate your feedback, and do pledge to honor Elvis’s memory, and his music, everyday we go to work.

  2. Are you telling us that Elvis and HIS voice are no longer the ONLY music played? What have you done to the Elvis wonderland that existed there? Graceland was once 100% Elvis! You heard only HIS voice everywhere at Graceland Plaza. It is only HIS voice that fans want to hear, don’t you know that? The only musician who matters to fans when they are at Graceland is Elvis Presley.

    • These musicians perform in addition to the Elvis music that plays throughout the complex. These artists cover Elvis in their own ways, and many of them, as noted in the blog, have a special Elvis connection. We hope that by including these artists, we’re supporting Memphis musicians and celebrating Elvis and Memphis music.

    • Jeremy Clement

      Thank you for being candid about your concerns. One of the positive outcomes of having Elvis’s Music performed in a live setting is that it encourages visitors to sing along with us. Elvis and his recordings are indeed broadcasted during all hours of operation. But when customers come by the live performances, they often join in to sing with us on their favorite Elvis songs, and this adds to the positivity of their experience. This is especially true of children, who didn’t grow up with Elvis’s music and lack the familiarity that their parents and grandparents have. When the kids sing along with the live performances, they leave Graceland with a guided musical experience, and we hope this continues to push forward Elvis’s musical influences into a new generation of talent. Furthermore, we often take the time to talk to young people about Elvis and his friends, and how they shaped the music we hear today. At Graceland, there are guided tours of the Mansion, the car museum, and the other exhibits. We view our role as a guided tour through the music itself. And in this way, we wish only to ensure that Elvis’s music lives on forever.

  3. Mike McKinney

    dont like them playing in the shops useless

    • These musicians perform in addition to the Elvis music that plays throughout the complex. These artists cover Elvis in their own ways, and many of them, as noted in the blog, have a special Elvis connection. We hope that by including these artists, we’re supporting Memphis musicians and celebrating Elvis and Memphis music.

      • Michele Signa

        Just came back from Graceland. I ENJOYED listening to the various artists performing throughout the complex!! They Love what they do and it shows!! How wonderful it is to have artists of all genres and generations be part of this amazing experience!!!!

  4. Audrey Manasterski

    Very interesting, looking forward to being there for the 40th anniversary.
    Elvis is still TCB’ing.

  5. Moira Stephens

    I agree with previous posts. Graceland should be ALL Elvis ALL the time. Having other artists there is a mockery of Elvis and NOT what Elvis fans are there to hear.

  6. Tony Stuchbury

    I do get what Graceland is trying to do here by supporting local musicians, but I feel you’ve lost your way and are not fully understanding the majority of your customer base.

  7. Suzanne

    Cecil Yancy is amazing! He has a great voice and kind heart. He interacts and really connects with people. A must see/hear when at Graceland!

  8. cj Charlton

    I’ve been an Elvis fan since 1954.Elvis is like a box of Crayola’s.. Elvis fans as well.We all loved and still do..Im the Cherokee Indian Elvis of Las Vegas.

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