Monday August 14th, my fourth day of Elvis Week 2017, was to be my second of four days of JERRY SCHILLING! It was actually a double dose of both Jerry and Priscilla, but it was not originally scheduled that way. This great day (probably tied with Sunday as my favorites of the week) consisted of Graceland Insiders and Elvis Radio Town Hall – both were surprises.
I woke up at 7am after a good night’s sleep – finally! (Probably because I had met Jerry that night!) I had the breakfast buffet in the Ballroom at the Guest House with my meal plan – they had cheese for the eggs this morning! Yay! And they were showing the ’68 Comeback Special on a tv. I jumped on the 8:30am shuttle over to Elvis Presley’s Memphis.
At 9am, the Graceland Insiders’ Conference began. I was in the same seat as Sunday – front row side stage. Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace was the first guest. He was a karate instructor of Elvis’. At 9:34am, Charles Stone took the stage. He assured us Colonel Parker took 25% (not 50%) of what Elvis made. Charles said if Elvis wanted to play a venue and a NHL game, for example, was scheduled for that same date, they would move the NHL game to another date. Charles also said he would get pinned against the stage by women during Elvis’ show and Elvis would see him and laugh and throw a scarf on him. At 9:54am, Ron Strauss shared his stories as the pilot of the Lisa Marie. Then we were shown the movie short Elvis A Boy from Tupelo, which I had watched online a few days prior. At 10:32am, Robert Gordon (who produced the film short), Matt Ross-Spang (from Sun Studio), Ernst Jorgensen and Jerry Phillips (Sam’s son) took the stage to discuss A Boy from Tupelo. I was excited because I have a book written by Robert Gordon titled It Came From Memphis, and I used to chat with Matt at Sun a lot when I lived in Memphis.
As soon as part one of the Insiders Conference was over at 10:55am, I bolted over to Vernon’s – which didn’t open until 11am. I wanted to be first in line because everyone at the conference was either going to be eating at Vernon’s or Gladys’. They were lined up at the door when I was sitting down eating. I again got my five side platter, but it was much better than Friday’s lunch. The Mac n Cheese tasted better and the BBQ spaghetti was not as spicy. I got green beans instead of collard greens, and they were good. The mashed potatoes and gravy, corn bread and sweet tea were all good. After lunch, at 11:40am, I went back over to Sound Stage for the afternoon session of the Graceland Insiders Conference that was to start at 12:30pm. I figured I would wait in line to get in because they had just posted a sign that Jerry Schilling and Priscilla Presley were added to the afternoon session. But to my surprise, there was no line because they doors had remained open. So I got my same seat front row on the side of the stage and read my book – one of the 24 I had purchased over the weekend.
At 12:35, Tom Brown introduced Jerry Schilling, Priscilla Presley and Thom Zimny. They discussed the upcoming two part, four hour HBO documentary about Elvis titled Elvis Presley, the Searcher to air in 2018. Both Jerry and Priscilla are producers and Thom is the director / producer. He was actually allowed to film inside Graceland. They showed up a little clip of the film. SO excited! Immediately after, Priscilla was called back out onto the stage, along with Jack Soden, to receive two awards for Elvis’ symphony albums If I Can Dream and The Wonder of You (which immediately went up in the trophy room at Elvis Presley’s Memphis). And after that at 1:10pm, Priscilla came back out on the stage holding hands with Dixie Locke, Elvis’ first girlfriend from before he was famous. I have never seen so much Priscilla before. I think she’s loosening just a bit. At 1:30pm, Dick Grob took the stage. He was hysterical as always. He told the Samari story and the funniest story about how when they were on the train and it stopped and wouldn’t start, so Elvis walked over to a liquor store and the drunk guys drove them to Graceland and then Elvis invited them in and showed them around. Dick says, “That was life with Elvis.” They showed a clip from Elvis on Tour indication this year marks its 45th Anniversary November 1, 1972 – less than a month after I was born. At 2pm, Sam Thompson took the stage and shared some of his stories about life with Elvis. Same said they would walk through back doors and kitchens, and the staff would line up and Elvis would sign autographs. Elvis would always take the time to ask how to spell their names, and the guys would get annoyed because it took too long but Elvis cared enough to take the time. Sam also shared how one time in Cincinnati (I think) Elvis didn’t like his hotel room because it wasn’t cold enough, so he just walked across the street to another hotel to get a room. Then the police had to come to stop traffic because all the guys and their stuff and Elvis’ jumpsuits were being wheeled across the street.
I actually left the Graceland Insiders after the last guest, Wanda Jackson, was announced. Although I would have liked to hear what Wanda had to say about Elvis, I wanted to get in line at the theater over at the Guest House for the the first ever SiriusXm Elvis Radio Town Hall with Jerry Schilling, Priscilla Presley, Mac Davis and Peter Guralnick. The event began at 4:30, but doors were at 4pm and I thought a lot of people would be going. I first found out about this Town Hall when our Lyft driver on Sunday told us he won tickets from Sirius. I told my new friends Tracy, Katy and Sherry about the event, then they heard Sirius was giving away tickets so they got me one as well. (It seemed I told them about events they didn’t know about and they got me into them – a pretty good system.) Apparently, Founders (of the Guest House) and those who bought the Elite Package to Elvis Week received tickets (or wristbands as it was) to this Town Hall – and I have to say were not too please that us regularly folk were also able to attend.
We were let in just after 4pm, and I got a seat in the 4th row in the center section for this great Town Hall on SiriusXM Elvis Radio. The contest winners were seated in the front row and had a meet and greet with the panelists before and they got to ask them their questions during. Peter Guralnick and Mac Davis was only asked one question each by the contest winners (most questions were of course for Jerry and Priscilla), but Argo asked them a few. Mac Davis, who wrote A Little Less Conversation,” “In the Ghetto,” “Memories” and theme to “Charro” among others, is hysterical. What a great guy! Jerry and Priscilla told what it was like being on the movie sets with Elvis. Jerry said he was a stand in for Elvis in about eight movies including Live a Little, Love a Little. Jerry and Priscilla explained why Elvis always carried a huge flashlight everywhere with him, how Elvis never thought he would be this popular 40 years later and how future generations should remember Elvis. Jerry talked about what he learned from Elvis about the music business and said “If I Can Dream” was the closest Elvis ever came to writing a song because he told the songwriter his feelings about what was going on in 1968 with racism and the riots and the assassinations of RFK and MLK.
At 5:30 the great Town Hall was over, Jerry and Priscilla shook hands but did not sign autographs or take photos. I quickly made my way down the hall to EPs, so I could partake in Happy Hour (half priced appetizers and $4 wine). I sat at the bar where the bartender recognized me from when I was there in March. I enjoyed the BBQ Nachos and a cold glass of Pinot Grigio as Moscato was not eligible for Happy Hour. On the way back to my room, I saw Sam Thompson and Charles Stone hanging out on the stairs in front of the replica Graceland staircase and chandelier. I don’t need to get a photo and autograph every time I see these guys. It’s just seeing them hanging out in the same hotel I’m staying in. I went up to my room, dropped off my stuff, grabbed a book and went back down and sat on one of the comfy couches out on the back porch and read for about an hour – until it started getting crowded with smokers.
To see all of my photos from my Day 4 of Elvis Week 2017, please click here.