‘Memphis is where the king of music, Elvis Presley, lives on in perpetuity and nowhere is his presence felt more than at Graceland, his abode.’
Memphis is so synonymous with iconic singer Elvis Presley that his estate, Graceland, is probably the single most important landmark for visitors to the city. Located on Elvis Presley Boulevard in the Whitehaven neighbourhood of the city, it is about 15 km from the downtown area.
Split into two sections placed on either side of the boulevard, Graceland is enormous to say the least. Spread over nearly 14 acres, what catches the eye initially are his two customised aeroplanes – a 1958 Convair and a Lockheed Jet Star. But once through the large gates with musical notes, the exhibition centre has massive warehouse style structures displaying his artefacts such as clothes, his guitars and others, including a display of his gold and platinum records. More striking is the sprawling structure housing a selection of his cars, including the famous Pink Cadillac, Blackhawk and 1975 Ferrari. Adjacent to this is the display of his motorcycles amidst which is his John Deere tractor.
However, more revealing is a tour of the mansion across the street. Small buses regularly ferry visitors and deposit them outside the stunning white colonial revival style building with Corinthian columns located on a slight elevation surrounded by rolling lawns punctuated by tall trees. The main door opens into an elegant and opulent interior where the living room, dining room and hall are plush and full of references to the singer. The house continues on the second floor where the highlight is the bedroom and the kitschy den titled the Jungle Room with an indoor waterfall. Other rooms include the TV room and the pool room, and an indoor racquetball court with pinball machine and piano outside which is a kidney shaped swimming pool. Most of the rooms have been retained and preserved like how it was during his time. So, walking through and around the mansion feels like getting a fleeting glimpse of what his life might have been.
However, the most poignant place of the whole experience lies at the end of the path leading off from the mansion. Called the Meditation Garden, it is a circular space with pillars and colonnades with stained glass details amidst which lie the graves of Elvis’ family. But the highlight is his grave in the centre surrounded by bright flowers, stuffed toys and cards. There’s a sense of peace as well as melancholy while soft lilting music plays in the background. Strangely and rather poetically enough, this is where Elvis’ presence is felt more than anywhere else.