I’ve had many people share with me their story about where they were when they found out that Elvis died. I’m sure that my story isn’t that much different from a lot of people who live relatively close to Memphis. Here’s my story.
I was walking back to the entertainment tent at Graceland when I saw 4 people from Brazil. I was in my Elvis Week element when I started talking to them and asking them about their visit. Only one of them had ever been to Graceland before. One of the men did most of the talking. He grabbed at the blue wristband on his arm and said, “I don’t like this.” I said I didn’t like it either. The wristband was a “Graceland Property Pass” that gave you access to various areas during Elvis Week. It was also the only way you could get to the Candlelight Vigil this year. The only way to get this pass was to purchase one of the tour packages. The minimum cost of one of these packages was nearly $30. This was a significant change for an event that has always been free. It didn’t affect us because we were already planning to tour the house and the new visitor’s center exhibits. But it was affecting our Brazilian friends because they were spending the week in Memphis for Elvis Week. They had done the tours and exhibits earlier in the week and had no reason to revisit them. Each of them purchased an additional $30 ticket just to do the candlelight vigil and they didn’t like it. These changes came up early in our conversations with most people and without me asking. Change has come to Graceland and the fans don’t like it.
Graceland the day before. He was a big Elvis fan and it was his idea to do the wedding there. It sounds like they have a nice area on the grounds to conduct weddings and they give the newlyweds and their party a special tour. I had never met anyone that had been married at Graceland or at least no one that told me about it. Later when we did the tour, we ran into another couple that had gotten married on Friday at Graceland. When I mentioned meeting the other couple, they said they were the only two couples that were married that day at Graceland. This second couple was younger and the bride was the one who was the Elvis fan. They were doing the tour with both sets of parents and they were all in from Pennsylvania.
mansion and scope out the visitor’s center to get a first look at the changes.
Enterprises and is located almost directly next to the mansion. The hotel opened in October. A new visitor’s center with new exhibits call Elvis Presley’s Memphis opened in early March. With an autism conference going on, the hotel being open for less than a year and the visitor’s center being less open for less than a month, this was going to be an interesting trip. This would also be the first time that my visit to Graceland involved an overnight stay.
Most of you probably know that the little boy in the picture on the cover of the Elvis Week album is my son, James. This picture was taken at the candlelight vigil in 2003. It was my second year to go to Graceland for Elvis Week and the first year to take my son. When I went in 2002 with my friend Terry, we arrived too late to take a tour of the house. Also in 2002, we waited too late to get in the line to go to the gravesite after the candlelight vigil ceremony. When I took my son in 2003, I knew we would need more to do during the day to keep my 8-year-old son entertained. I went online weeks before the trip and booked the full tour of the house and all other exhibits on the property. The trip with my son would be the first time that I did the house tour and the first time to get the full experience of the candlelight vigil line and gravesite visit.
The rain started falling on us as we got to the edge of Memphis. By the time we pulled into the parking lot at Graceland, the rain had stopped but there was rain and threats of rain all day. When we were getting out of the car, I suggested to Tina that we take the rain ponchos with us that I had purchased several years earlier for a previous Elvis Week. It was the right thing to do.
The day started with visits to the gift shops to purchase a cap and shirt for this year’s Elvis Week. While I was shopping for a pint glass commemorating this year’s event, I saw a child having a meltdown in the toy shop. The kid’s mom told her, “I’m not getting all this stuff! There’s no reason.” Absolutely no reason for all this stuff. Why are any of these people here? Why is this thing still going on for 39 years? Once again, I was there to try to find answers to that question. I was unable to find a pint glass. They didn’t make them this year. It was an example of the changes that are in the air at Graceland.
You probably already know that I go to the candlelight vigil at Graceland on August 15 every year. I started going back in 2002 and have gone every year since then. People-watching is the primary reason for my trips. While I am an Elvis fan, I don’t think I am the typical fan that you run into yearly at Elvis Week. Over the years, I have become more of a fan of the candlelight vigil and Elvis Week than I am an actual Elvis fan. I enjoy meeting people from around the world, talking to them and hearing their Elvis stories, and seeing how the event has changed over the years. Living an hour away makes it possible for me to easily do this each year. When I was getting ready to go on the trip last year, my wife challenged me to write a song about my trips. She has never gone with me, but seems to enjoy the stories that I bring home. She felt that they were interesting enough to write a song that would generate wide interest.
It has been almost two weeks since my latest visit to Graceland and less than a week since I posted the essay for this year’s trip. Earlier this week, I was going through the channel guide on my television and saw that the movie “This is Elvis” was on. This documentary was released in 1981. I remember going to see it in the theater. I remember seeing people crying in the parking lot after the movie. I also remember it being one of the first movies I ever saw on HBO. Back in 1981, I didn’t have any Elvis records and I felt like I needed some. I purchased the soundtrack album to this film because it had most of the songs I really cared to have.
A few days before my yearly trip to Graceland for the Candlelight Vigil, I ran into a friend who had read some of my posts about visiting Graceland. He told me that he was one of the few people ever kicked out of Graceland. Earlier in his life, he was involved in a comedy club in Memphis and went with one of the performers to visit Graceland. During their visit, the performer left a wreath of bacon at the gravesite. This was not appreciated. They were taken to one of the buses and seated at the back to be taken off of the property. He said before they left, the bus filled with a Brownie scout troop. He said it was embarrassing. He said that he took other performers after that without incident and developed a good relationship with the people at Graceland. They were the ones that told him he was one of the few people that had been kicked out.
It appears that in one way my friend had come to know some of the insiders at Graceland. There are other types of insiders at Graceland. The Elvis Insiders Club is a group you can join to get discounts on tours and Elvis swag both at Graceland and on-line. Last year, my friend Tina went for her first Candlelight Vigil. She returned this year. Since last year, she has joined the Elvis Insiders Club. This would be a great year to get treated like a real Insider. To get the VIP treatment for the first time since I started coming to Elvis Week in 2002. To finally complete the process of blending in with the Elvis faithful. Would this be as much fun as in years past? Would I be able to experience Elvis Week with the same vision I had 12 years ago? How far away am I from growing sideburns and dyeing my hair black every August?
Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer, Storyteller