A big stop during my stay in Memphis was Graceland.
Inside the ticket area we met up with Amanda Pannell who is the Online Content Specialist for Graceland. She accompanied us on the tour of the estate and added little tidbits that I never knew about Elvis Presley.
From the road it doesn't look like there would be much to it. Looks can be deceiving. Behind those iron gates is a true estate fit for...well, fit for a king! The rolling green fields are a testament to their gardeners.
A highlight of the tour was the Jungle Room. This is where The Jungle Sessions were recorded back in the 70's. The avocado colored shag carpeting covering the floors and ceiling helped with the acoustics in the room. A large chair bearing a teddy bear and a guitar sits in the corner. I learned that Elvis's daughter slept in that chair when she was a little girl because it was so big.
You can get a feel for the man that Elvis was in the details of the displays at Graceland. His love for his daughter was evident in testimonials about flying her to Colorado on a whim because she'd never seen snow before. After she played in the snow, they got back on the plane and they went home.
Cashed checks signed by Elvis Presley showed another, charitable side to him. Local groups received quiet donations from him regularly while he was still alive. Even after his death, his estate continues with the same big heart. Behind his home are large, white fenced fields where his horses used to grace. Today, one of the four horses that call Graceland home is a direct descendant of one of Elvis's original horses. The rest are rescue horses adopted by Graceland.
In the racquet ball area there is a water fountain that is still running today that Elvis used to use while he was alive. You can stop and take a sip of water, just as he he used to after getting too hot.
My favorite part of the tour is the Reflection Gardens which is Elvis's final resting place. The beautiful day, bright sunshine and air that wasn't too hot. Despite the cheerful weather, the talking and laughing crowds turned quiet and respectful. One by one they stopped to pay their respects to the man who impacted music in such a big way.
Around the grave markers are many tokens from the fans. Flowers, statues, and hand written notes are left in tribute from around the world. Amanda explained that real flowers are left until they wilt so many people leave artificial flowers so they will stay forever. I thought it was thoughtful to let people leave a flower or a note if they wanted to pay their respects.
I've heard Elvis's songs, I've seen his movies, but I have to say that I never got a good look at the man behind the name. Walking in his home, seeing what he did for his family, and the fans who still come 700,000 strong a year, gives me a glimpse of the personality behind the man. He was generous when nobody was there to see, loved animals, adored his child and wife all the while creating beautiful music for people to enjoy.
Truly, he was the king.
For more information on Graceland visit www.elvis.com/graceland.