By Jeff Game
Take a stroll on my Elvis fan’s guide through Memphis and my personal Memphis.
A blues station plays in the background, as I wind through an industrial area at 2 A.M., three-legged dog runs in front of my car at the moment my cell phone rings. I am just trying to find my way to a hotel near Graceland and I am lost in downtown Memphis.
I had been through Memphis two different times – over ten years ago – mainly to see Graceland and Sun Records. As an Elvis fan, finally getting to see these two places of the King of rock-n-roll is like getting to see Mecca.
Even so, now was my chance to experience all I could in Memphis. Not only was I seeing Memphis really for the first time – on this trip I brought my Dad who when he was in the Navy was stationed in Memphis and spent a lot of time in the city from ’62-63. Through his memories it was great to see what it was like then and where Memphis is today.
Change Don’t Come Easy
Memphis is a city that has a past of race riots, segregation, great-southern food and of course music. The blues, jazz, country and lastly rock-n-roll can all claim origins in Memphis. The city of Memphis has seen many changes since I was here over a decade ago and you can see them all around. Whether it is the hipsters moving in down Main Street near the new condos off the Mississippi River or the clean up of Beale Street; Memphis is a city to see, hear and taste.
In fact, Beale Street and the surrounding area are getting a much-needed facelift, so says Tiffany Langston of Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, “the completion of Beale Street Landing will drive the central part of Downtown Memphis. It will not only offer a place for the American Queen Steamboat to dock, but it will also connect the Beale Street Entertainment District to the Mississippi River.”
As a result, there are new homes, hip lofts, artists, new businesses, a NBA basketball team and yet the city itself still maintains the rich history of music, food and an ever-moving forward of the “new South”. Memphis is back as one of the great cities of the South.
Walk A Mile In His Shoes
There is no way that any trip, be it long or short, should anyone with any taste in any kind of music not see Graceland. Going to Graceland is a must and is paying homage to one of the creators of any form of modern music. That is the impact Elvis left on music and our pop culture. After all, he was the King.
In fact, going to Graceland is a right of passage and to pay your respects to the King of Rock-n-Roll, Elvis Presley. You will not be disappointed with the great 70’s décor, a very interactive audio and visual tour and of course, the music of Elvis. Come on, he has a jungle room with leather walls!
Graceland was Elvis’ home for many years and along with his parents and grandmother, Elvis is interned at Graceland and viewing his grave is an emotional climax to the self-guided audio tour. Those who are not the biggest fans may even find themselves shedding tear as you walk past the graves and back on to the tour bus.
As I said before, yes I am a fan of Elvis and so is my Dad. This was my third time coming to Graceland and even though I am a fan, I am not at all one of those Elvis “fanatics”, there are plenty of those too at Graceland, but that makes it like going to any Wal-Mart – great people watching.
This trip was even more special because when my Dad was stationed in Memphis he and his girlfriend at the time attended a party at Graceland. Even growing up a big Elvis fan, I never heard this story from my Dad until this trip and this would be his first time back since his days in the Navy.
In the end, Elvis never showed his face at the party, but it was rumored he was hanging with his Memphis Mafia in the very private wing of Graceland. As we walked passed the pool area my Dad remembered that party of the King, “the bandstand was set up over by the pool and they had a few great bands that night”. My Dad continued to describe the night, “we kept looking around to see if Elvis was coming out, but he never did.”
Hearing the story for the first time that my Dad came to a party at Graceland – while Elvis was alive and in his prime – while we were in Graceland – that was the Graceland “experience” I was looking for.
My Mixed Tape
When your are walking in Memphis, of course my playlist has to feature the King, as well as some other Memphis greats. Check out my Memphis Mixed Tape List.
Burning Love – Elvis Presley
Boom, Boom – John Lee Hooker
Love and Happiness – Al Green
Hold On I’m Comin’ – Sam and Dave