Where: Memphis, Tennessee, Deep South USA
When: August 16th
What’s it about: Candlelit vigil & all out tackiness to celebrate the King of Rock n Roll (and Don of the burger)
Remember to Bring: Las Vegas style white jumpsuit and a quiff
The Elvis phenomenon is undoubtedly unique, and his record sales stand testament to this. Over a billion Elvis records have been sold worldwide – that’s more sales than any other artist in the history of the world.
It is in Memphis, Tennessee, though, that the fixation with the ‘King’ reaches its most astronomical heights. The site of Elvis’ home has become a place of pilgrimage, with around eight thousand visitors congregating at Graceland Mansion for the culmination of Elvis week.
All this attention has caused many of the good people of Memphis to profess links to the legend, some of which can only be regarded as dubious. The occasional few have even opened up their own Elvis memorabilia museums; ‘Graceland Too‘ is an example of this, run by one particularly devout Elvis fan, Paul McLoed, the self-styled ‘Elvis’ No. 1 fan’. The museum is situated between Memphis and Tupelo, Elvis’ birthplace, and is run by McLoed and his son, Elvis Aaron Presley.
Do you recognize this sad and deluded Elvis-look-alike?
History of a King
Elvis’ beginnings were humble. He was born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in a two-room house in Tupels, Mississippi on January 8th, 1935, along with a stillborn twin brother. He moved to Memphis in 1948 and was an international sensation by 1956. He married Prescilla Beaulieu, a Catholic schoolgirl, and together they produced Lisa-Marie, who grew up to marry the once king of pop, Michael Jackson.
The King’s musical influences included pop, country, gospel and the black R&B he absorbed on the historic Beale Street as a Memphis teenager. His own style was said to challenge the social and racial barriers of the time. West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein saw Elvis as the progenitor of the 60’s social revolution.
Elvis said of his style of hip gyrating dance, which many in the 50’s saw as shocking an unacceptable, that it was instinctive; “some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do ’em all together, I guess.” So offensive were the mighty Presley hips that in the 1950’s, the TV shots of him were all ‘above the belt’.
Of course, with his ground breaking style, Elvis was not an instant hit with everyone. One of his early detractors, oddly, was Frank Sinatra, who said in the 50s “His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac…It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.” By the time of Elvis’ tragic and bloated death, though, of a heart attack at the age of 42, Frank seems to have changed his tune. In 1977 Sinatra eulogised “There have been many accolades uttered about Elvis’ talent and performances through the years, all of which I agree with wholeheartedly. I shall miss him dearly as a friend. He was a warm, considerate and generous man.”
Celebrating Elvis Week in Memphis
Today, thousands of vigilant fans and regular tourists alike swarm to Memphis for ‘Elvis week‘, an annual pilgrimage in the week of the anniversary of the King’s death on August 16th. A Cadillac cab tour takes in the sights of the town: Elvis’ childhood home, his school, and Sun Studios, where Elvis recorded his first hit. Through the night of August 16th is a candlelit vigil through the town.
Some would argue that Elvis devotees are taking things a little too far – He is worshipped more than any King alive and the cult of Elvis to some is more powerful than any religion. Many even refuse to believe that he is dead, although his bloated corpse and tombstone declare otherwise. Nevertheless, the cultural impact Elvis made on the face of 20th Century popular music and iconography is undeniable.
A tour of Graceland Mansion includes a new section recently open to the public with never-before-seen items like the desk from Elvis’ personal office and an extensive collection of his stage costumes. Only here can you really begin to appreciate Elvis’ predilection for purple velvet, green shag pile and gold-plated phones. The guide to the 60-90 minute long tour is Elvis’ daughter, Lisa-Marie, along with the King himself…
Explore the weird and wonderful world of Elvis’ No. 1 Fan
The Official Website for Memphis, Tennessee
The services, sites, sounds, attractions and cultural traditions of one of the South’s premier cities.
Elvis Presley’s Official Website
Home of the undisputed King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and his beloved Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.