34 years ago today, August 16, 1977, I was watching tv and they told me Elvis Presley died. I ran to tell my mom who initially did not believe me. I was 4. It is hard to believe that after all these years people know exactly what they were doing when they heard Elvis had died, and it is even harder to believe that tens of thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Memphis every August to honor Elvis Presley with a candlelight vigil at Graceland.
I arrived at Graceland just after 6pm because that’s when you can park for free and just before they shut down the road. I took my chair and cooler and secured a nice spot in the median on Elvis Presley Boulevard in front of the gates of Graceland. It was a beautiful night – cool for Memphis in August. It was great to be sitting in front of Graceland listening to Elvis music with people who love Elvis as much as I do. I saw my friends Caroline, Kimberly, Rhonda, Lisa and Marr, folks from the Elvis world Jack Soden and Ernst Jorgensen and popular Memphians Jack Oblivian and Kerry Crawford.
At 8:30, the opening ceremony began with a note from Lisa Marie Presley saying that she and Priscilla and the rest of the family would be in Memphis next year to celebrate the 35th anniversary. Then everyone lit their candles and sang along with Elvis’ If I Can Dream– “there must be lights burning brighter somewhere…out there in the dark there’s a beckoning candle.”
After the opening ceremony, I watched the first people in line pass through the gates and make their way up the driveway to the meditation garden to Elvis’ grave. I walked around a bit admiring everyone’s Elvis sidewalk art and sat back in my chair for a few hours enjoying the night.
At 11pm, I got in line to make my way up the driveway. I passed through the gates of Graceland at 11:15 and was at the Meditation Garden by 1am.
Please watch my video of the Elvis Presley Candlelight Vigil on 8.15.11