Elvis in Memphis and Nashville - Graceland, Sun Studios & RCA Records
Today, August 16 2015 marks the 38th year of Elvis Presley‘s death at his Graceland home in 1977 at age 42. Seniors and baby boomers remember Elvis performing in his songs and movies, but today you can tour some of the places that were important in his personal history in Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee.
Graceland is what Elvis named the mansion sitting on 13 acres where he lived with wife Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie, at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee. The mansion seems small compared to today’s megahouse standards; the furnishings inside remain exactly as they were in the 70’s when Elvis died – complete with olive green colour schemes. Plastic covers all the furniture to preserve it’s mint condition.
Outside at Graceland you can see the memorial Meditation Garden near the pool, where Elvis Presley, his grandmother and parents, are buried. Horses run in the paddocks on the property, as they did when Elvis lived there. Presley’s automobile collection and two airplanes are on display and can be toured.
If you travel to Memphis, Tennessee then you should also check out Sun Studios (right), where Sam Phillips “discovered” Elvis Presley and recorded his first singles. Actually it was Sam’s secretary Marion Keisker that first heard and recorded Elvis, in the space Sam rented that was first called Memphis Recording Service and then Sun Records. It took Marion a year to talk Sam into bringing Elvis back into the studio to record another song; the rest is history (that you can see and hear about on the guided tour). Today the space is still used to record music at night.
While in Memphis, be sure to visit Beale St. where you can listen to live music (of all kinds) all day and evening in almost any bar or restaurant, including the great BB King’s Blues club. When BB King died last month, his body was flown to Memphis and a brass band led his funeral procession down Beale St. Coincidentally, BB King’s early recordings in LA starting (1949) were produced by Sam Phillips, before he started Sun Studios in Memphis.
When Sam Phillips got pressed for money he “sold” Elvis’ contract to RCA Records – the sum is disputed depending on which tour you take, but is estimated between $30,000-$40,000. Elvis would go on to accumulate almost 150 Billboard Hot 100 hit singles, 18 #1 songs, and U.S. sales in the neighbourhood of $134million.
Nashville, Tennessee is about a 3.5 hour drive from Memphis and deserves it’s reputation as “Music City” – in addition to visiting Broadway Street where you can listen to live music all day and evening, most bars and restaurants in Nashville will have live music acts at some point during the day. This is not counting the many concert halls where big name performers appear nightly. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and the original Grand Ole Opry house (above) where Elvis Presley performed once in 1954 and was discouraged from returning.
A highlight will be a tour of RCA Studio B, where Elvis Presley and many other great artists recorded countless hit songs. The tour is dynamic, the acoustics are still amazing, and the space is preserved intact today -in fact, as with Sun Studios, Studio B is still used to record music after tour/museum hours.
Would Elvis Presley still be the legend he is today, if he hadn’t died at such a young age? Or would his legend have faded as his abilities aged over time? Hard to say but one thing is sure, baby boomers and senior citizens that remember seeing Elvis perform live on stage, in the movies or on television, are not his only fans today. Tours for Graceland, Sun Studios, and RCA Studio B are busy all day long with new and old fans of all ages.
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*Photographs & text in this article are © 2019 Sandra Swash. All rights reserved. Do not download or reproduce without written permission.*