I'm going to Graceland,
Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee.
For reasons I cannot explain
there's some part of me wants to see Graceland

- Paul Simon

Graceland is the second most famous home in American. The first is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

Elvis Presley’s home is included in my travel bible: Patricia Schultz’s cool book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Personally, I would never have made a special trip there, but when an assignment took us to the area I figured, why not?
Unlike the Japanese tourists on our bus, we did not spend the extra $43 each for the Graceland VIP Experience. VIPs get into the Elvis car museum where his 2 dozen (mostly Cadillac, now vintage) autos are showcased. We did poke our heads in the themed restaurant adjacent the museum called aptly, The Chrome Grille. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a fried banana/peanut butter sandwich to be found anywhere on the menu. When Elvis returns from Mars or where ever it is his loyal but delusional fans claim he is, one look at that menu and like me, his Blue Suede Shoes will be heading out the door.

Gallery Elvis is The Place to expand your Velvet Elvis painting collection.

There were several places to shop for your special Elvis memento on the Graceland complex. I quote from the Graceland brochure:
Gallery Elvis offers upscale art pieces and collectibles. Upscale? Yes, if you mean the price. Art? Yes, if you consider ceramic monkeys with glass eyeballs art.

Coffee table art in Elvis’ den

All about Elvis has free Elvis ecards, screensavers and an interactive Elvis trivia game.

My fondest Elvis memory is of me and my sister, Teresa, aged 10 and 8 respectively, watching “Return to Sender” at a giant, ornately decorated movie house back in 1962. Actually that is my only Elvis memory until this trip to Graceland. I was not a fan when The King was King or after he, eh, fell off his throne. I was unfamiliar with the music – so I mistakenly thought the movie was titled “Return to Cinder” - as in ashes to ashes - and went expecting a show about stuff being burned. Instead Teresa and I watched as Elvis curled his lip, gyrated his hips and made scores of girls with massive amounts of immovable hair - and very little else covering their bodies - magically appear and look adorningly at him. This was the entire plot for “Return to Sender” – as well as the other 30 movies Elvis made.

The PhotoGuy goes Native – My personal hunka hunka burning love

It seems phenomenal now, but that day in 1962 my sister and I were all alone all day in downtown Houston – two little girls under 10 years old wandering around in the fourth largest city in America. I can’t begin to imagine letting my kids do that. We were too young to have a good sense of direction and too innocent to have a good sense of danger.

But that day was a common occurrence for us. We would ride into town with our dad on Saturdays and after getting our cheeks pinched by everyone in his law office, we would race out the door and argue over who got to push the down button on the elevator. When the ancient black elevator operator opened the doors and asked us where we wanted to go, “Main floor, please”, we would say in our best grown-up voices. Then I would catch T’s eye and make a face which would make her giggle. Giggling was our favorite pastime. Teresa was a pro at it. I’ve never known anybody easier to set off giggling than my sweet sister - she was and still is the giggle queen.

Once free from the confines of the elevator and restraining eyes, we would hit the revolving door running. We would twirl, round and round in the door as fast as we could go before centrifugal force would propel us out into THE WORLD. We were totally alone, without aid of adult, cellphone, mace or even a planned check-in point or time. In 1962, that was possible.

The Hall of Fame showcased Elvis’ incredible musical acheivements

When “Return to Sender” debuted, there were only 3 movie theaters in all of Houston, Texas. Each had just one screen and all 3 were located within blocks of each other downtown. I vividly remember the real live ushers who wore uniforms with stripes up the leg and goofy-even-then pillbox hats with chin straps. They would punch your ticket and escort you to your seat using baseball bat sized flashlights. I remember us lounging back in the reclining seats and absent mindedly kicking the seat in front of us while staring at the real crystal chandeliers on the ceiling. I filled the time before the movie began by alternately eating and throwing popcorn at my sister, which of course made her mad and then made her giggle. There was a real stage where occasionally someone would appear and enough velvet curtain material to outfit an army of Scarlet O’Haras. The curtains dramatically opened and closed at the start and end of the movie. It cost us 50cents a ticket to get into the theater to see “Return to Sender” and the popcorn cost 20cents for a big buttery bag.

Elvis was into mirrors. There are mirrors on the walls and ceilings of several rooms at Graceland, including this staircase.

Fan or not, you cannot escape the amazing impact Elvis has had on the American music scene or on the American culture. Even 30 years after his death the numbers are impressive: Over a billion records sold, and to this day more number one hits - 18 - than anyone in history.

The Graceland webcam is one of the top 25 most visited webcams in the world belying the fact that Elvis has been dead since 1977.

Vote for Your Favorite Elvis Song

Don’t be Cruel
Burning Love
Are you Lonesome Tonight?
All Shook Up
Hearbreak Hotel
Jailhouse Rock
Stuck On You
Blue Christmas
Blue Suede Shoes
Viva Las Vegas
In the Ghetto
Hound Dog
Can’t Help Falling in Love
Return To Sender
Love Me Tender

Are you All Shook Up or In the Ghetto? Leave me a comment with your choice and why.

Thank you, thank you very much