This extended weekend trip to Memphis was truly one of the best I have ever had. The reason for this trip to Memphis was for the opening of the new Guest House at Graceland, a beautiful new resort next to Graceland. It was more like a mini Elvis Week with two Grizzlies game, rather than my normal trip to Memphis. There were four full days of Elvis events sandwiched between the first two Grizzlies home games.
Memphis Day 1 – Wed Oct 26
On Wednesday, I woke up at 5am est, got the dogs up and fed and back in bed with me since I wouldn’t see them again until Monday. I left my house just after 10am to take the dogs to the Vet to board. Elvis just pranced back with the tech and didn’t even look back, while Priscilla cowered behind my legs. I had to walk her back, where Elvis was excitedly waiting. I drove to Fast Park, got the shuttle, went through security and was eating at Arby’s by 11:15am for my 1:10pm flight. I watched my favorite Elvis movie Girl Happy while waiting. In line to board the plane, I met some folks from Memphis who have family in Baltimore. Their son was going to be the ball boy at the Grizzlies Opening Night. My plane landed 10 minutes early, but than I had to wait about a half hour for the free shuttle to Heartbreak Hotel.
I don’t normally stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel, in fact I’ve only stayed there one other time, but it was the final night as it was closing its doors as the new Guest House at Graceland opened – and my friend Caroline invited me to share her room. We were in room 401, which is right next door to the room I stayed in back in 2002. I know this because I still have the key – they used to use real keys with the Heartbreak Hotel logo on it. I talked with Caroline and Laurie for a bit then around 4:45 cst grabbed a cab to FedEx Forum for the Grizzlies game. I knowingly missed the Closing Ceremony with Priscilla Presley (but I did get my commemorative glass and print) because I wanted to be at the Grizzlies game early since it was opening night and figured I’d see Priscilla at the Opening Ceremony at the Guest House.
FedEx Forum doors opened at 5pm, but I couldn’t go down to my seat until 6pm. I got my free Grind City shirt, checked out the Grizzlies den, then decided to grab some dinner in the Bud Light Bar and Grill just inside the doors. I had my favorite cheese and sausage plate and sweet tea, which I ate half of and saved the rest for after the game. I talked with some nice Memphis folks, including a lady who was a Grizzlies and a Broncos fan! At 6pm sharp, I ran down to my seat. I was front row in section 101 directly behind the basket (there were 3 rows on the floor in front of me) by the Grizzlies bench and next to the Grizzlies tunnel. It had been two years since I was in the Grind House, and I was SO excited to be back! I walked to the end of my row and watched the team run out from the tunnel onto the court for warm ups. I saw the father and son from my flight and talked with them for a bit. Before the introductions, Mike Conley took to center court and thanked everyone in Memphis.
The Grizzlies started off really slow, but finally took the lead in the third quarter holding on to defeat the Timberwolves 102-98. I was really impressed with Chandler Parsons. He did not play, but he was out in his suit during warm ups and the first one jumping off the bench supporting his teammates and even running out on the court to calm down Marc Gasol. For being new to the team, Parsons is fitting right in with the passion of Tony Allen, who didn’t play either. Both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol had three-pointers and Mike Conley played great, but the refs were terrible. After the win, I listened to the band outside enjoying the party on the plaza while waiting for my car service to pick me up and take me back to the Heartbreak Hotel where Caroline, Laurie and I talked and watched Elvis movies until it was time for bed. Well they went to bed. I finished my cheese and sausage plate and watched Elvis movies most of the night.
To see my photos from my first day in Memphis, please click here.
Memphis Day 2 Thurs Oct 27
I didn’t get much sleep, maybe 2 hours, on the final night at the Heartbreak Hotel, but it was ok because I had the Elvis Movie channel to keep me company. Maybe it was the excitement of the upcoming events or sleeping on the couch or sharing the room with others, but it didn’t really matter because I had four days of Elvis events to look forward to so I was running on adrenaline. I got up around 7:30am, then Caroline and I went down to enjoy the free breakfast which included mini chicken biscuits from chick fil a – yummy!
Around 9:45am, we decided to take the shuttle over to the Guest House at Graceland hoping to check in early before it got too crowded. As we pulled up, a lot of the staff was lined up outside to greet us. They informed us there was going to be a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the media at 10:15am. I knew about the 5pm Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, but didn’t know about this one. I quickly checked into my room, threw my bags down and rushed back outside. Along with the media, there were about 10-20 fans on the lawn for this the first Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the day. After a few minutes, out walks Joel Weinshanker of Graceland Holdings LLC, Jack Soden Graceland CEO and Priscilla Presley. I recorded the entire six minute ceremony (see below).
After the ribbon cutting cermony, I went to get my event credentials then went to the theater for the first event of the weekend. It was the screening of the ’68 Special. I’ve seen it a million times, as we all have, but I’ve never seen it on the big screen before. It was pretty cool. And the movie theater is huge and beautiful – just like any modern movie theater out there (holds over 400 people). After, we tried to get lunch. Delta’s Kitchen, the sit down a little more upscale country cookin restaurant, was not open for lunch but they would be the rest of the weekend. The line was too long at E.P.’s Bar and Grill – over an hour wait. We were starving as it was almost 2pm and had it been five hours ago that we our mini chicken and biscuits. We decided to grab something from Shake, Rattle and Go. I got a small fruit and cheese plate, a bottle of water and a Butterfinger for $16, yes $16. We took our ‘lunch’ and sat in the lobby lounge to eat and soak in the atmosphere.
While sitting in the lobby lounge eating our lunch, I saw Grizzlies’ Chandler Parsons standing right outside in the hallway apparently taking the tour of the new resort. Without even knowing it, I was screaming his name. He kind of looked around. When he walked away, I jumped up and followed him down the hallway. When they stopped, I stopped at a safe distance behind figuring they would come back since they were at the end of the hallway. But unfortunately, they left out the door. Oh well! We saw Priscilla’s parents go into Delta’s Kitchen and then while we were still hanging out in the hallway outside, they left so I held the door open for them. I went to the Gift Shop and bought a Guest House shirt, hoodie, magnet and chocolate bar. Unfortunately, there was nothing dated with Opening Weekend.
I then went up to my room to unpack and rest up a bit. I used the South Tower Elevator, which was closer to my room and right next to the gorgeous Graceland replica staircase with the chandelier Elvis had bought but was too big to hang in Graceland. It is a beautiful sight and was great to walk by it each time I went and came from my room. My room was beautiful with all the modern conveniences including NetFlix on a big screen tv with four Elvis channels. I had a beautiful view of the courtyard and pool. Just before 5pm I went down to the front lawn for the second Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the day, but this was a much bigger affair with lots of fans and everyone from the Elvis world including Priscilla and her parents, Jerry Schilling, George Klein, Marion Kocke, James Burton, Ronnie Tutt, Cynthia Pepper, Marlyn Mason, Jerry Phillips and many more. I stood up front off to the side. I couldn’t see the actual ribbon cutting, but I was right next to Elvis’ friends. I was very happy I had attended the original ribbon cutting ceremony with just a few of us.
After the ceremony, Caroline and I called the pink limo from Marlowe’s to pick us up for dinner – the only meal we would eat outside of the resort. We love Marlowe’s and Thursday was the least busy day for us to go. We split the yummy fried gouda sticks (on Caroline’s suggestion) – much better than mozzarella sticks. I got the bbq beef brisket with mac n cheese and green beans, a glass of moscato and water. It was amazing and so much food. I brought half of the brisket back with me, even though I didn’t have a microwave in my room. I figured I eat cold roast beef sandwiches, so this should be fine. In the great gift shop at Marlowe’s, I bought three old Elvis books I can’t get anywhere else, a Million Dollar Quartet lunchbox, Million Dollar Quartet magnet and a vintage orange and silver sparkly Elvis bracelet.
We rode the pink limo back to the Guest House, put our leftovers in our rooms, stopped by Terry Mike Jeffrey for about five minutes then hung out in the lobby where we saw Jerry Schilling, George Klein and Jerry Phillips in the lounge. We just hung out near them then went outside and sat directly across the glass door from them. We went back inside and saw Priscilla and her parents walking down the hall then Jerry and his wife. Jerry kind of walked around us. He looked me in the eye, but I shyly looked away. I should have asked him for a photo, but it just didn’t feel right. Besides, I already have a photo of Jerry and myself from 2009. Caroline and I went outside and sat by the pool until about 10:30 or so. It is so beautiful out there, so relaxing. We watched Brad Birkedahl for one song than retreated to our rooms. I ate my leftover bbq beef brisket, which was fabulous cold.
To see my photos from Day 2 in Memphis, please click here.
Memphis Day 3 Fri Oct 28
Friday was my favorite day of this trip, and I knew it would be by the events scheduled. I woke up just after 8am after a great night’s sleep in my comfortable king be in my quiet room in the Guest House. While waiting in line for the first event, I met a great lady named Sherry who was also a U2 fan from Wellsboro, PA. Apparently she follows me on Twitter. The Elvis world is a small world. At 10am, the first great event of the day was Conversations on Elvis with bodyguards and security Sam Thompson, Dick Groeb, Charles Stone and friend Jerry Schilling. Jerry talked a bit about the Elvis and Nixon movie that he was a part of then not a part of then was a part of – he wasn’t too happy with the results. After we had the yummy Lunch Buffet at Delta’s Kitchen for $16 – the same price as our fruit and cheese plate the day before.
After lunch was the live broadcast of the Sirius Elvis Radio show at 2pm. First up Argo talked with Jack Soden for about 15 minutes then talked with Priscilla for about 45 minutes. Priscilla mentioned that “Just Pretend,” which is one of my favorite Elvis songs was also one of his favorites. At 3pm, George Klein started his Elvis Radio show with Priscilla and Jerry. Priscilla mentioned that if Elvis were alive, he would be all over Twitter. Jerry mentioned he is now managing the Beach Boys. Priscilla stayed until just before 3:30, and Jerry stayed until just before 4pm. Then George spoke with James Burton, Elvis’ guitarist in the 1970s. After, I went up to my room and rested for a couple of hours – I actually napped for a bit.
I was downstairs by 7pm to catch the shuttle over to Graceland for our rare night tour. It was so fantastic to be at Graceland at night with hardly anyone else there touring. Most of the folks went over with the first shuttles at 5:30, but we waited until the last shuttles so we could have Graceland almost all to ourselves. The mansion was lit in pink for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which made it even more beautiful. Graceland is even more serene at night. I spent as much time in my favorite living room and foyer as I wanted and took so many photos as if it was not my 100th time at Graceland. In the VIP exhibit, we saw the actual plans Elvis had to build a Guest House for his friends to stay in while in Memphis. I had to buy a bag because of the books and lunchbox I had bought the night before that would not fit in my suitcase. I found a great Elvis duffle bag with wheels and a handle for just $40. Then since I had a bag, I figured I could buy some more souvenirs. So I bought a Million Dollar Quartet tin and shirt, a coral and blue graceland shirt and another book.
Around 9pm we went back to the Guest House and had a very late dinner at E.P’s Bar and Grill, sitting at the bar with who would become my favorite server Valerie. Caroline and I each had a glass of Mascato and split appetizers fried mac n cheese bites and the pimento sausage bake – both were delicious. And I grabbed a banana pudding to go, which was amazing! I saved it for my midnight snack. It was banana pudding layered with butter cookies – fantastic! After dinner I attended the screening of Viva Las Vegas in the theater. I was in my room by midnight enjoying the scrumptious banana pudding.
To see my photos from my third day in Memphis, please click here.
Memphis Day 4 Sat Oct 29
After another great night’s sleep, a full seven hours, I peeled myself out of bed to enjoy the buffet breakfast at Delta’s Kitchen where I met Caroline and Sherry at 9am. (The buffet breakfast was also $16 like the lunch buffet). At 10am, we went to the beautiful Grand Ballroom for Conversations on Elvis with Cynthia Pepper (costar from Kissin’ Cousins), Angie Marchese (Graceland Archivist) and Marlyn Mason (costar from The Trouble with Girls). I had no idea Cynthia also starred on My Three Sons. Marlyn Mason is hysterical and her zipper story was fantastic! (you can use your imagination about Elvis, his zipper and Marlyn sitting while Elvis was standing and the director trying to get a reaction out of Elvis.) Angie brought some stuff from Jailhouse Rock including a shirt Elvis wore in the movie, the receipt for that famous sweater and his contract. It is staggering Elvis started in 1954 making $82 a week and three years later was making $25,000. a week on Jailhouse Rock. Five days after signing the Jailhouse Rock contract, Elvis bought Graceland. Angie is also now the archivist for Prince’s Paisley Park. While there, she saw Prince had Elvis’ 1950s box set on cd and a VHS copy of the ’68 Special.
Only had just over an hour before the next Conversations on Elvis at 1pm, so I decided just to hang out and relax in the beautiful lobby. I sat down on one of the big chairs. After a few minutes Marion Kocke, Elvis’ nurse, and her friend come over and sit on the couch next to me. I talk with them a bit then Cynthia Pepper comes over and joins them on the couch. Then Jerry Schilling walks by and Marion starts waving at him, but he doesn’t see her and walks away. A little bit later I see Jerry come back into the lobby, so I tell Marion and she begins to wave at him again. He still doesn’t see her, but his wife comes over and takes a photo with her. Jerry walks over behind the couch, so Marion jumps up (at 91 years old) leaves her walker, almost trips on her cane just so she won’t miss talking with Jerry. Her friend said Jerry is Marion’s cup of tea. I responded, “Mine too!” Jerry then came over and said Hi to Cynthia and looked down at me sitting in my chair smiled and said, “Hi. How are you?” Not sure if he thought I was with Marion and Cynthia or remembered me from Thursday night following him around or was just being polite. Either way, I did not feel it was the right time to ask for a photo. It was nice just to have Jerry recognize me.
The next Conversations on Elvis included his childhood friend from Tupelo Sam Bell, his teenage girlfriend Dixie Locke and Sam Phillips’ son Jerry and granddaughter Haley. After I relaxed in the room until dinner – actually napped again. I met Caroline and Laurie at Delta’s Kitchen for their dinner buffet at 5:30 ($19.). Then I hung out in the lobby until it was time to go to Elvis Unplugged at 8pm with Andy Childs, David Briggs and Norbert Putnam. After about an hour I left to go to the bathroom then noticed the Grizzlies game on at EP’s Bar and Grill, so snuck in there to watch the fourth quarter. AT 10:30 I headed over to the theater for the screening of Jailhouse Rock. I was in my room by midnight snacking and enjoying the view of the courtyard lit up.
To see my photos from Day 4 in Memphis, please click here.
Memphis Day 5 Sun Oct 30
After another restful night of sleep, I slept in until 9am just eating a PopTart in my room and not going downstairs until almost 10am for the Gospel Side of Elvis event with Andy Childs, Terry Blackwood and Donnie Sumner, Bill Baize, Ed Hill and Larry Strickland of The Stamps. They were great. Donnie was especially funny, but also got choked up a few times. They ended with my favorite “How Great Thou Art.” At 1pm, I went to the theater for the final Elvis event of the weekend – a screening of Aloha from Hawaii. After, I said my goodbyes to everyone and headed to EP’s Bar and Grill to finally eat and watch the Broncos game at 3pm. I got the Memphis Burger, which was huge and amazingly yummy! Unfortunately, there was a little snafu with their NFL Sunday Ticket, so I was unable to watch my Broncos. After finishing my Memphis Burger, fries and three sweet teas, I went up to room to pack and then down to the lobby to hang out for the last time.
At 6pm, I took the hotel shuttle to Beale Street. Well it was supposed to be at 6pm, but folks in Memphis don’t really hurry so we didn’t really leave until 6:10ish. The driver could sense I was very anxious and wanted to get to the FedEx Forum like yesterday, so he dropped me off then continued to give his little tour of downtown to the Memphis newbies on the shuttle. It was about 6:30 when I finally got to my seat – the same seat I had for opening night. I missed the initial shoot around, but was there in time to see the Grizzlies run out of the tunnel for warm ups. This time the Grizzlies were playing the Washington Wizards, who I really dislike since they’re technically my home team. Wizards fans are always rude (and very fair weather) when I go there to watch the Grizzlies play. (And it’s not just because we’re the visiting team – fans in other cities have been much nicer.) Grizz came by and I got a selfie with him.
We were winning the entire game until the last quarter. The Grizzlies never make it easy. With 24 seconds to go, the score was 97- 100 Wizards winning. Grizzlies had the ball and the inbound play went to Mike Conley – everyone assumed he would take the final shot being the best shooter on the court. But that was not Coach Fizdale’s plan. Instead, Conley passed the ball to seven-foot center Marc Gasol, aka”Big Spain,” and he sunk a three-pointer to send the game into Over Time! It was unreal! My throat still hurts from screaming! The Grizzlies defeated the Wizards 112-103, and Gasol finished with four three pointers.
I had about a half hour until the hotel shuttle would pick me up, so I celebrated the Grizzlies win on Beale Street listening to the great blues and soaking in all that Memphis soul. I grabbed a cheese and sausage plate from Blues City (which was amazing because of the BBQ dipping sauce) and took it back to the Guest House to enjoy on my last night in Memphis. After eating, I went down and sat by the pool around 11:30pm and stayed there until after 1am just listening to the Elvis music and soaking up the last minutes of the wonderful Guest House at Graceland and Memphis. I went back up to my room and didn’t fall asleep until 3am. I didn’t want to sleep at all because I didn’t want my time in Memphis to end. I ‘slept’ with the curtains opened all night so I could enjoy the beautiful view of the courtyard and pool.
To see my photos from my fifth in Memphis, please click here.
Memphis Day 6 Mon Oct 31
I was up at 6am after just three hours of sleep. Just after 7am, I decided to walk next door to Graceland and do the Walk Up to the Mediation Garden (you can do it every day from 7:30-8:30am). Realizing it was Larry Mullen’s (U2’s drummer) birthday, I wore my Larry Mullen Band shirt. (Larry is also a big Elvis fan and was photographed at Elvis’ grave back in 1987). I was the first one to walk up the driveway at Graceland and the first one in the Meditation Garden. After paying my respects, I just sat off to the side spending my last morning in Memphis with Elvis. Unfortunately, they kicked usaiout just after 8am saying there was an early tour so we needed to leave. I walked back to the Guest House, gathered my things and took the free shuttle to the airport for my 11am flight back home where I was happily greeted by my dogs Elvis and Priscilla.
To see my photos from Day 6 in Memphis, please click here.
I can’t say enough about The Guest House at Graceland. It was first class all the way decorated retro modern, but classy. The food was spectacular and the service even better. Every restaurant and bar also had outside seating. The constant Elvis music playing throughout the hotel made waiting for an event or a table enjoyable. For the first time while traveling, I actually slept each night. With all the events, I didn’t even had time to read or watch television. Also for the first time visiting Memphis (and I visit once or twice a year), I did not go to Sun Studio or eat at the Cupboard and barely spent any time on Beale Street. There was just so much to do at the Guest House at Graceland. It was lot like being in Vegas where I did not know what time it was or even what day it was. I didn’t even go outside from Friday night until Sunday afternoon – there was no reason to, everything you need is in the resort. This Opening Weekend of the Guest House at Graceland was truly like a mini Elvis Week. Elvis is alive in all his fans and he keeps his friends together every year and brings new friends together. I cried so many times hearing Elvis’ friends tell stories. With all the new Guest House and new Graceland Visitor / Entertainment Center opening, the HBO series, the Million Dollar Quartet series, the Sam Phillips movie and the 40th Anniversary of Elvis’ death in August, 2017 really is the Year of Elvis.