No, I’ve never been to Memphis, Tennessee, and so have never walked the grounds of Graceland. But now you can visit Graceland online, and since I loved Elvis Presley when I was 12, I took the time for a virtual tour.
Graceland is apparently still quite popular, although I can’t imagine anyone much younger than I having the slightest interest. Elvis died in 1977, at the age of 42. The beloved King of Rock and Roll had turned into a drug-addled, grossly overweight version of himself, struggling to perform onstage for adoring fans who still paid to see him take the stage. He died of a heart attack on the floor of his bathroom and is buried at Graceland, making the home not only an ode to his early success but a memorial.
The Rock and Roll Museum in Cleveland has an extensive tribute to Elvis, showing the roots of his music in the black church culture of the South, and honoring his outsized role in shaping the music of an era. If I wanted to know more about Elvis I’d go there, not to Graceland — which is in fact what I did.
Like many young unsophisticated performers, Elvis was taken advantage of by everyone, most significantly his managers. Graceland would have been a large home in the days when Elvis lived there, but it’s by no means a mansion. The King of Rock and Roll lived a glittering life, but rather a tragic one.
When I was 12 in 1957, WINS 1010 New York played Elvis all day long, and host Alan Freed [or was it Cousin Brucie?} ended the evening show just before 10pm with an Elvis song every single night. I listened, every single night. I had to turn my radio off by 10pm, and I went to sleep with the sound of Elvis crooning in my ears.