“Does my dog have to pay full price to enter?” My question to the young lady behind the Graceland ticket counter was met with a blank stare. Access denied I guess. Bingo would be missing out on this one.
I wasn’t a big Elvis fan growing up. Sure, I was aware of his swiveling hips and quivering lip, but my most vivid recollection of him was at the time that he unexpectedly died. Those of you living in Lexington in August of 1977 remember that The King was scheduled to play Rupp Arena right before he tragically passed away. The only sadness I really felt back then was for those who had purchased concert tickets. I wondered if they would ever be able to get a refund. Over the years, I’ve since developed a much greater appreciation for Elvis’s musical genius and his subsequent rise to superstardom. He was definitely a talent ahead of his time. Thus, me and my hound dog are making a pit stop to visit his home in Memphis. We’re going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee. We’re going to Graceland.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I knew that Elvis was buried at Graceland. So in a way, I felt like we were making sort of long-overdue, pay-our-respect type pilgrimage. I recall my brother Michael telling me once that he had actually broken down and cried at Elvis’s grave (which is not so surprising as he has been known to tear up at Star Wars movies, house-warming parties, and restaurant closings). As Bingo waited patiently in the car, I hesitatingly plunked down $38.95 and was then treated to what the brochure described as an “unforgettable journey into the private world of an American legend, guided by a state-of-the-art iPad tour narrated by Elvis fan and actor John Stamos.”
Purchased by Elvis in 1957, I had always heard Graceland described as an elaborate mansion, but my initial impression was that it was more like just a very nice home. In fact, I could imagine myself living here back in the 60’s and 70’s, a young Chinese Elvis entertaining guests at my grand piano, shooting pool with friends in the basement, and frolicking with Priscilla in my newly decorated “jungle room”. I took my time strolling through the diverse exhibits, past all the gold records and awards, and the various paraphernalia documenting the life of the King of Rock-n-Roll. I was surprised to learn that of Elvis’s three Grammy Awards, all of them were for his gospel performances only. Oh, by the way, the King also found time to star in 31 Hollywood films, spent two years in military service, and was active in numerous charitable activities.
In the end, I felt a newly-developed kinship with the man behind the soulful voice, sideburns, and the blue-suede shoes. Not so much for all the fame and fortune he acquired in a relatively short professional career, but rather just knowing that despite his exceptional talent and success, he suffered through the same insecurities, tortured thoughts, trials and tribulations as you and me. As I lingered pensively by his gravesite in the meditation garden, I reflected again on the enormous impact he had on everyone in the entertainment industry and on all of us who simply love music. I didn’t cry though. Well, maybe just a little bit.
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