If you’re an Elvis fan, you owe it to yourself to take a trip to Memphis and Tupelo.
By MARILYN ROBITAILLE
Elvis Presley died Aug. 16, 1977, but he lives on in his music. If you’re a die-hard Elvis fan, you owe it to yourself to visit two very special places: Memphis, Tennessee, and Tupelo, Mississippi.
If you don’t get chills when the King sings a sweet ballad in your ear or makes you dance to his brand of hard-core rock and roll, Memphis and Tupelo will still show you a good time. Check your pulse if you don’t find yourself excited by all they have to offer.
From a plethora of historical hotels, fabulous local eateries and shop-laden streets, you’ll find plenty to occupy your time in the city of Memphis; however, I’m “All Shook Up” about “A Big Hunk O’ Love” for an Elvis-focused plan.
Start your Elvis-themed jaunt in Memphis, Tennessee, with a multi-option Elvis tour ticket. If you don’t mind crowds, and you want a taste of true fandom, plan your travel for “Elvis Week 2021.”
This extravaganza covers almost a week from Aug. 11–17. This year’s especially significant with a 50th anniversary concert to celebrate Elvis’s first Nashville recording sessions, plus lots of other events centered on the King and all his accomplishments.
Don’t be cheap when you’re selecting your Graceland tour tickets. Go for the big banana for $190 “Ultimate VIP Tour.” This includes the tour of Elvis’s Graceland mansion, his jet and the museum complex.
This step back in history will take you to the heady days when Elvis and his wife Priscilla lived there in the heyday of Elvis’s popularity. Everything looks as though the mansion’s occupants just walked out for the time that you’ve been invited in.
From the TV room with its full wall of screens to the tiger-themed jungle room, you’ll experience the romance and reality of all that money could buy.
By today’s design standards, most of it can be described as over-the-top and awful, but don’t be judgmental. If the year was 1966, and you had unlimited resources, you might have a casbah-themed room covered with a garish silken-tent, too.
The VIP tour means that you’ll be part of a small group instead of traipsing through the house with the masses. The personalized service and being able to hear the knowledgeable tour guide make the experience truly remarkable. Pay attention to the details, and you’ll learn about famous guests, quirky activities, and various, one-of-a-kind artifacts on display.
After visiting the house, you can enter other buildings on the property and visit the memorial garden where Elvis and his parents are buried. This gives you a moment of solitude to process all that you’ve seen so far. I don’t know if the music I heard at the gravesite played over a loudspeaker or was simply running through my head as I pondered the beautiful garden setting.
The other parts of the tour will involve a short drive to the Elvis Presley Memphis Entertainment Complex. Elvis loved cars, and you can walk through the garage to appreciate his excellent automotive tastes.
In the complex, music historians have amassed displays of everything Elvis to document his musical career, as well his time in the Army, and early experiences.
By late afternoon, you’ll be completely saturated, but don’t call it quits until you take a self-guided tour of Elvis’s jet. It’s the worse for wear, but you’ll have an idea of the many ways he applied his lightning bolt logo and mantra of “taking care of business” to the plane’s interior.
Graceland and the museums take a full day or two, but don’t plan on moving on until you’ve visited the historic Sun Studios. Located on Union Avenue near downtown, Sun Studios was opened by music pioneer Sam Philips. A guided tour of the facilities will make you appreciate Sun Studios as the true birthplace of rock and roll with Blues influences.
Once you’ve satisfied the career-side of Elvis, you’ll be ready to appreciate his childhood roots. I recommend saving Tupelo until you’ve been exposed to the vast riches of his career and rise to world-wide fame instead of the other way around. The drive there takes about two hours, but it’s worth every mile. Rent a car for your excursion, so you have some flexibility.
When you pull up to that little white house that’s Elvis’s birthplace and visit with the good people of Tupelo, you’ll come to understand the true meaning of rags-to-riches.
If you arrive at the right time, you’ll find a woman dressed in 1930s clothes complete with a bonnet on her head. She spends her afternoons rocking on the front porch, smiling and welcoming visitors into the house. You’ll be able to see the real house, but most of the time-accurate furnishings have replaced the actual furniture.
When your host tells stories about Elvis as a little boy, spending time in that kitchen and being doted on by his mama, you’ll be transported to the past.
Just across the way, you can visit Elvis’s family church that’s been moved to the site and set up exactly the way it was when Elvis sang there as a little boy. The gentleman in charge of church visitations knew Elvis’s family, and mentioned, almost as an afterthought, that Elvis’s cousin worked in the gift shop around the corner.
Six degrees of separation moves fast in Tupelo. Elvis’s delightful cousin told me all about Elvis’s father and a bizarre story about him going to jail for forging a check for a pig he sold. It seems that he changed a $4 check to $40 and went to jail for his ingenuity.
As she finished the story, she made quick to mention that Vernon was from the “other” side of the family, and not her side.
You’ll need lots of time for Elvis reflection when you return home to process all this history. Make yourself a peanut butter and banana sandwich (Elvis’s favorite), and play the King’s music a little louder than you normally would.