Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tennessee, Memphis - Monday, May 1, 2017 - Elvis Presley's Memphis Tour

After our tour of Graceland on Monday we stopped for lunch.  Yes, I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich grilled with bacon grease – Elvis’ mom’s special sandwich.  No, it isn’t on our diet, but it was great!!

Gladys’s Diner is a 50’s style diner featuring classic American food – burgers, hot dogs, pizza and the peanut butter and banana sandwich.  The only problem with lunch is there was a musician playing and he was way too loud.

After lunch we walked through the Elvis Presley’s Memphis exhibits.  This opened this spring.  It’s over 200,000 square feet of Elvis and Rock and Roll history and of course lots of gift shops.

Lots of his cars are on display.  This 1971 De Tomaso Pantera was purchased used in 1974 for his then girlfriend, Linda Thompson for $2,400.  He once shot it because it wouldn’t start.  The holes in the steering wheel and floor pan were never fixed.

The 1955 pink Cadillac was his mother, Gladys’ favorite.

The “Mongrel T” was built for the movie “Easy Come, Easy Go” out of spare parts and a few surfboards.  After that movie the car went on to be the Jokermobile in the Batman TV series.

The 1960 MG is my favorite of the collection.  It was used in the movie “Blue Hawaii”.  Elvis gave this car to his secretary.  She later traded it in at a Memphis car lot (what was she thinking?).  A chef who had worked on Elvis’ movie “Spinout” knew about the car and purchased it for a wedding present for his daughter.

Although Elvis had a lot of big boy toys they don’t seem to be that extravagant.  He bought most of his cars used and this boat seems pretty common.

I was a little surprised to see this.  I think they said Elvis owned a farm in Missouri and one of his favorite things to do was to get out on this tractor.  It was restored by a group of high school students.

There is a lot of Elvis memorabilia on display but they don’t have the descriptions for what it is provided yet.  There has to be a good story behind this TV with what looks like a bullet hole in it.

Elvis was at the forefront of a revolution in American pop culture.  He crossed racial barriers by embracing the new sound of rock & roll, a mix of pop, country and gospel.  In June 1953, shortly after graduating from high school his journey to stardom began.  He took some time off work as a driver for Crown Electric Company to stop by Memphis Recording Studios home of Sun Records to record two songs as a birthday gift for his mother.

For the next year he stopped in every so often to Sun Records just to see what was going on.  In July 1954 Sam Phillips, the owner suggested he make a recording.  Sam picked Scotty Moore, a guitarist, and Bill Black, a bass player to accompany him.  It was pretty ho-hum until on break Elvis broke into a sped up version of a rhythm and blues tune, “That’s All Right”.  Scotty and Bill jumped in the fun.  Sam Phillips ran to hit the recorder and their first hit record was on its way.

After that the group would play at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport on Saturdays.  That is where he met Colonel Parker who become his manager.

On November 15, 1955 he officially became and RCA Victor recording artist, signing his contract in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel.  He received a $5,000 sign on bonus, something no other artist had received at the time.

In January of 1956 he recorded his first single for RCA, “Heartbreak Hotel”, it went gold by April of that year.  In the early 70’s I worked at the RCA Record Club in Indianapolis.  Elvis visited there one day but I wasn’t able to go downstairs to be part of the visitation.  I worked as secretary to the Manager of Labor Relations and we were in negotiations with the union which took precedent over Elvis.

By August of 1956 Elvis was headed to Hollywood for his first of many movies, “Love Me Tender”.  He was so unsure about what the process would be that not only did he memorize his lines, he memorized the entire script.  Lots of movie memorabilia was on display.

Embellished jumpsuits became a signature outfit for Elvis when he was performing and many of them are on display.  I think this is my favorite.

We finished up our day by looking at the customized planes.  The larger one, Lisa Marie, includes a living room, a conference room, private bedroom and two baths.  One of the baths has a 24-karat gold-flecked sink.  The planes seem to lean more to the extravagant than anything else we’ve seen today.

Everything is covered in plastic so it’s kind of hard to envision what it really looked like when Elvis traveled on it.  In the dining room Elvis always sat in the green chair at the end of the table so he could watch TV.  The guide pointed out the gold-plated seatbelts and the leather covered table.

The bed in the bedroom has a large seat belt across it.  I know this is FAA regulation but it does look really odd.

The smaller plane, Hound Dog II, is a Lockhead Jetstar.

The interior of it is much smaller than that of the Lisa Marie.

We extended our stay here because of bad weather ahead of us in Indiana but we aren’t doing any more sightseeing.  We went to get groceries this afternoon, worst Kroger store I have ever been in.  And, they don’t have Senior Day here in Memphis where seniors get 10% off the first Wednesday of the month!  We will be leaving here early Friday morning headed to St. Louis, hope they are over their flooding problems by then.  Our plan is to attend the Annual St. Louis Square Dance Jubilee which will be going on Friday night and all day Saturday.  We will rest on Sunday and head to Indiana on Monday.  Looking forward to visits with family and friends.

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