Yesterday marked what would have been Elvis Aaron Presley's 75th birthday.  And, oh, I was trying to get this post done yesterday but many distractions kept me from it.

Elvis called Memphis home for the majority of his very short 42 year life.  He loved this city with his heart and soul and we loved him back, then and today.



Front entrance to Graceland


Elvis purchased Graceland, a 13.8 acre estate, in 1957 when he was a mere 22 years old.  His music career began in 1954 with a rockabilly style that was a fusion of country, rhythm and blues.  His commercial breakthrough came in 1956 and he was recognized as the leading figure of a newly popular sound of music, rock-n-roll.  Elvis still remains the best selling solo artist in the history of popular music, with sales over 1 billion units worldwide.  He was nominated for fourteen Grammys, won 3, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award at thirty-six and was inducted into 4 music Hall of Fames.

Elvis traveled the world touring and making movies but he longed for Memphis when he was away.  He lived in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Memphis during his life.  Graceland was always home to him:  the place he could be himself, relax, rejuvenate and enjoy life.  Every chance he got, he would come home for time with his very close family and special friends.


Elvis traveling home to Graceland after being on tour

Graceland was Elvis' pride and joy.  It was originally owned by S.E. Toof, publisher of the Memphis newspaper, The Memphis Daily Appeal.  The grounds were named after Toof's daughter, Grace, who would come to inherit the farm.  Soon after, the portion of the land designated as Graceland today was given to a niece, Ruth Moore, who, in 1939 together with her husband, Dr. Thomas Moore, had the present American colonial style mansion built.


Elvis posing in front of Graceland

Elvis bought Graceland as a private retreat and safe haven for his family and for him.  His mother and father, Gladys and Vernon Presley, lived with Elvis throughout his life.  His wife and only daughter, Priscilla and Lisa Marie, lived there until their divorce.  Elvis had many people who worked for him and a multitude of friends.  Everyone who spent time at Graceland during his life remembers it as constantly buzzing with activity, a home filled with love and a playground for Elvis and his entourage.


Another Elvis pose at Graceland

The house, which is modest by today's standards, was built with tan limestone, has twenty-three rooms, 8 bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as multiple outbuildings that functioned as offices for Elvis and his father, Vernon.  The entrance way contains Corinthian columns with 2 large lions perched on both sides of the front porch.

Graceland with snow in 1963



Elvis on the front porch at Graceland



Elvis posing in front of his recently added gates at Graceland

After purchasing Graceland, Elvis made many improvements to the estate.  He added a fieldstone wall surrounding the grounds, a wrought iron music themed gate, swimming pool, racquet ball court, famous "Jungle Room" which features an indoor waterfall and a meditation garden where now he, his mother and father and grandmother are all buried.  There is also a small stone memorializing Elvis' twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, who died at birth.


Elvis signing autographs in front of Graceland



Elvis posing with fans in front of Graceland

Following Elvis' death August 16, 1977 people flocked to Graceland to mourn and pay their respects to a man that, truly, changed many people's lives.  He was a man with many vices, troubles and disappointments.  But Elvis loved his admiring fans like they were part of his family and  many times would walk down his driveway just to sign autographs.


Graceland

Graceland was opened to the public in 1982.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and added as a National Historic Landmark in 2006.  It's one of the most visited private residences in the United States, second only to the White House.  Over 600,000 people visit Graceland a year.  Truth be told, though I spent a lot of my childhood in Memphis, I first visited when I brought friends home from college one summer.  I have been many times since, taking friends who come to visit and can't say they came and went from Memphis without seeing Graceland.  Last I went was about a year ago when friends were visiting us from Kentucky.

I'm always amazed when I go that it's, truly, a place fixed in time.  Though grand looking on the exterior, it's a modest house with human scale spaces.   It resembles nothing like homes of today with soaring ceilings and grand rooms.  It's a 1970's dream version of luxury and style that some might deem tacky and gauche.  I, for one, liken it to listening to old music from days of your past; it warms your heart being there reminding us of how things used to be.


Entrance Hall

Upon walking in the front door is a white staircase with mirrors and a portrait of Elvis, his mother's favorite.

Entrance Hall



Entrance Hall


Entrance Hall


Living Room and Music Room

To the right of the Entrance Hall is the Living Room and the Music Room beyond.  Look at that sofa, fifteen feet long!  Crazy.  Rumor has it that before Graceland was opened to the public, Priscilla recreated the decor to represent how it was when she lived there.  Apparently, Elvis' girlfriend at the time of his death, Linda Thompson, had decorated it with red velvet and white fur bathing every room.  Yikes!



Fireplace in Living Room



Living Room and Music Room



Living Room and Music Room


Living Room and Music Room



Dining Room


To the left of the Entrance Hall is the Dining Room.  Elvis loved to have family meals right here at this dining table whenever he was home.

Dining Room


Dining Room


Downstairs Guest Room

This downstairs bedroom belonged to Gladys and Vernon Presley.  It's the only bedroom available for viewing on the Graceland tour.  All other bedrooms are located upstairs and still remain private.


Kitchen



Kitchen


The Kitchen is located just beyond the Dining Room and is an interior space located between the Dining Room and the famed Jungle Room.


Jungle Room

Elvis added the Jungle Room, pictured above, featuring an indoor waterfall, after spending time in Hawaii.  In February and October of 1976, the Jungle Room was converted to a recording studio, where he recorded the bulk of his final two albums, From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee and Moody Blue.


Jungle Room


Media Room

The basement at Graceland contained two special rooms, the Media Room and Billiard Room.  Both spaces are where Elvis spent most time with his friends watching sports (on three TV's simultaneously) and playing pool.


Media Room


Media Room


Media Room



Billiard Room


Billiard Room
The Billiard Room, I think, is actually really cool.  It's walls are pleated upholstery in a richly colored cotton patchwork calico or paisley fabric.  I'd be interested to know what fabric it was, maybe a Clarence House or Brunschwig & Fils.  Anyone know?


Swimming Pool


Pasture

Most importantly, Graceland was Elvis' home.  It called to him from near and far and was where he came to feel safe.


Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley

He raised his only child, Lisa Marie at Graceland,


Elvis at Christmas

and spent many happy holidays there,


Elvis at home at Christmas (the draperies were changed to red every year at Christmas)

and picked on his guitar strings,


Elvis and friends in Music Room at Graceland

and sang songs with friends,


Elvis and friends in Music Room at Graceland
and played the piano,



Elvis riding horses at Graceland
and rode his beloved horses,



Elvis riding horses to sign autographs at gates at Graceland

many times to sign autographs,



Elvis playing touch football in Memphis neighborhood

and played touch football in the neighborhood,



Elvis riding go carts in the driveway at Graceland

and rode go carts on his driveway like a grown kid,



Check written by Elvis for donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

and, with his heartfelt manner, gave thousands and thousands of dollars to support our city.  He employed many local people, supported hundreds of local businesses, gave cars as Christmas gifts to friends and was a Southerner by choice.

He also had an incredibly strong Christian faith.   A life size nativity scene resided in the front lawn at Graceland every year at Christmas.  I can remember, as a child, driving out to view the lights and nativity scene.

A light burned out in Memphis many years ago when Elvis passed on.  We continue to miss him these many years later.

If you haven't visited Graceland, put it on your list of places to visit here in the U.S.  It's a part of history and a lot of fun too.

We'll talk soon.

Gwen




Images courtesy of Flickr.

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