HotelView editor David Simpson visits the iconic Memphis mansion of Elvis Presley and is converted into a fan of the King of Rock and Roll
The only reason we visited Graceland was because our cruise up the Mississippi ended in Memphis.
Not being avid fans, we weren’t overly excited about going, but it seemed wrong to visit the so-called birthplace of rock ‘n roll and not visit the fabled mansion belonging to Elvis Presley.
Thank God we did. It ends up joining our personal list of what we call peak experiences, beginning at 9.45am on a gloomy November morning and only coming to a close at 4pm when they kicked us out and closed the doors.
Our experience wasn’t all about Elvis’s home, which we thought would be tacky but was in fact luxurious and classy. It also included a two-night stay at the Graceland Guest House, a 20-minute drive from the center of Memphis and neighbouring the mansion itself.
Opened in 2016, it hardly qualifies as a Guest House, with 450 bedooms and all the facilities of a top class hotel but at the same time not overly expensive.
Our bedroom, overlooking the gardens and pool, was vast and extremely comfortable.
Regrettably, Delta’s Kitchen and EP’s Bar & Grill were disappointing, with only average food and service to match. And there is little competition close at hand to keep them on their toes.
I suppose it was inevitable that we would be subjected to wall-to-wall Elvis music. Even the evening entertainment was a keyboard player mimicking the great man. At least he wasn’t wearing a sequinned suit. When we asked our waitress if she ever got tired of hearing Elvis, she replied: “There is only so much love.”
The location of the Guest House, however, is perfect, just across the road from the 200,000-sq-ft state-of-the-art entertainment and exhibit complex know as “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” which opened in 2017.
The complex is vast, divided into a never-ending trail of museums featuring his gold and platinum records, bejewelled jumpsuits and other clothing, his movie career, his time in the army, and a priceless car and motorcycle collection, including his iconic Pink Cadillac.
Further exhibits relate to his life and those of wife Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie, and as you leave you are steered towards his customised jets to see how he travelled in luxury.
The Lisa Marie is a full-blown Convair 880 that he bought in 1975, two years before his death. He spent almost one million dollars having it fitted out with a living room, conference room, private bedroom, gold-plated seatbelts, leather-covered tables and 24-karat gold-flecked sinks.
You also get a sneak peek at his smaller Lockheed Jetstar, the Hound Dog II.
But obviously the most memorable moments came during the tour of the mansion and its grounds.
Having crossed Elvis Presley Boulevard to collect our tickets at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, we were treated to a short Elvis Presley warm-up film before being transported back across Elvis Presley Boulevard to Graceland.
As you can tell, Elvis is all around you, supported by no end of images, and the sound of his voice singing one or another of his hits is never far away either.
The antebellum-style mansion looks impressive as you approach along the winding drive, and after a short wait at the front door, we were shepherded into the entrance hall to begin the tour of the ground floor the property.
Up the stairs is out of bounds as it is still occasionally used by Lisa Marie and her family.
As we meandered through the various rooms, all were state-of-the-art in its day, such as the kitchen, or tastefully decorated but with unusual flair, such as his Jungle Room, with indoor waterfall, that also doubled as his recording studio for his last two albums.
You could’t help but feel you were in the presence of something great.
And as you stood in the mansion’s Meditation Garden where Presley’s tombstone, along with that of his parents Gladys and Vernon Presley and those of his grandmother Minnie Mae Presley and stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon, you also felt sad his life had ended to abruptly on 16 August, 1977, while he was in residence.
But, had he still been alive today, his life would probably not have been celebrated by the many millions who have made the pilgrimage to Graceland.
One surprising fact is that Elvis reportedly only saw five per cent of his earnings, and was worth a relatively paltry $20m when he died.
But from what we saw, he was still able to live like the King.