As we rolled east toward the mighty Mississippi from Little Rock, it’s not hard to have music on your mind. As Paul Simon says in his classic tribute, on this particular day “the Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar” and we were “following the river down the highway through the cradle of the civil war.” We were going to Graceland.
The closer you get to Nashville, the louder the music of the Delta seems to play in your head. After crossing Old Man River on Route 40, we turned south to make our first stop in Tennessee – the home of the most recognized and imitated man on the planet – the incomparable Elvis Aaron Presley.
His limestone home, modest by today’s star standards, was his sanctuary, his escape from what became almost unimaginable pressure and world-wide attention. He made some modest improvements over time, but the most talked about design of the house was his decorative touches, which – considering Kimmer’s love of novelty – we were pretty excited to see.
We bought the tickets and hopped in line just moments ahead of a busload of shuffling blue-hairs clamoring for a chance to see the mansion before their 4:00 dinner. We hopped on the bus and crossed the street, through the iconic and beautiful music-themed gates and roared up the hill toward the mansion.
Once inside, the audio tour (utilizing headsets) which comes with every paid admission is well done and helps keep the crowd moving as you stroll through halls of the home. The tour includes the first level and basement which allows you to see the living room and dining room – comfortable rooms for enjoying time with friends and family. The kitchen where I imagine thousands of peanut butter and banana sandwiches being laid out on serving trays to be sent down to the basement billiards room or jungle room where Elvis and his famous friends (or many adoring female fans) were enjoying drinks, sharing stories or singing.
The decoration throughout is a mostly art deco and WAAAAY over the top. The pool room is covered from floor to ceiling with folded tapestry, and the jungle room, as its name implies, has green shag carpet on the walls and floors, a waterfall and wood, leather and animal prints throughout.
It’s a little disappointing that the tour includes only the lower levels and, out of respect for Elvis’s private life, keeps visitors away from his upstairs refuge – which remained private even when he lived in the home.
The tour continues through the “trophy room,” a building dedicated to an amazing collection of his gold and platinum records and memorabilia from his movie and an overview of his charitable efforts – which were immense – with hundreds of pieces of memorabilia. Then to the racquetball room which has been converted to hold more of Elvis’s Gold Records.
Then past his pool and on to the meditation garden which today is the gravesite of Elvis, his mother, grandmother and includes a plaque commemorating his twin brother Jessie Garon.
While the tickets are pricey, you also get access to The Elvis Presley Car Museum, a chance to tour his two custom jets it and three other Elvis-themed museums. While the mansion is small by today’s standards, the dated but immaculate decor give you insight into Elvis’ life, but more importantly, the things he enjoyed having around him in order to feel comfortable. It’s definitely worth the visit. For more information.