Tuesday August 15th, my fifth day of Elvis Week 2017, was another great one (tied with Sunday and Monday as my favorites of the week) and my 3rd day of JERRY SCHILLING – and one great surprise!
After waking up at 6am after about only five hours sleep, my day started off just as the previous day, with the Breakfast Buffet in the Ballroom of the Guest House using my meal plan. I took the 8:45am shuttle over to Elvis Presley’s Memphis. I got in the LONG line for Conversations on Elvis – Friends and Family (with Jerry and Priscilla and others) at 10am. Luckily when I got there at 8:55am (an hour early) the line was still manageable, but within a few minutes the line had grown and wrapped around the complex like it did for the Gospel Concert Saturday night. Everyone was excited to see Priscilla Presley – they should have been there yesterday. Jenna Bush was standing right next to us filming for the Today show. Somehow I still got my front row seat on the side of the stage, so I could be close to Jerry. It seemed as if people still did not know about that section of seats – like they weren’t adventurous enough to go up front and check out the situation before settling on a seat in the back just because the front looked crowded.
At 10:08am, Tom Brown introduced the first guest of Conversation on Elvis – Guy Harris, who was Elvis’ childhood friend in Tupelo. At 10:30am, Bill Morris took the stage and shared his stories about Elvis while he was Sheriff of Shelby County. At 10:52am, Bill Medley (of the Righteous Brothers) took and stage and he was hysterical! His speaking voice is as deep as his singing voice. He was great friends with Elvis and told the story when Elvis walked across the stage during The Righteous Brothers show in Vegas, and the crowd went wild. The next show was sold out because everyone in Vegas heard Elvis walked across the stage, and they were not disappointed when he did it again but this time with some of the guys with him. When Jerry Schilling took the stage at 11:13am, he commented on Bill’s story of Elvis walking across the stage and then while he was talking Bill Medley walked across the stage. Hysterical! Jerry broke down. Tom Brown broke down. And the audience roared! The cutest part though was the audience was cheering when they saw Bill Medley come out and Jerry hadn’t seen him yet and thought the audience was cheering for him and he got a BIG smile on his face. Luckily I happened to be filming and caught the entire thing on video! Jerry talked about going into the casino with Elvis, going to Tupelo with Elvis, and how Elvis was concerned his fans would not like his movies. I especially loved sitting on the side of the stage this time because it looked like Jerry was looking right at me when he was talking with Tom Brown. Priscilla Presley took the stage at 11:35am. This was the first time I have seen Jerry and Priscilla talk separately, but they did embrace back stage as Jerry was leaving and before Priscilla came on. Priscilla mostly promoted though rather than tell stories about her life with Elvis. She promoted the Guest House and the new complex and the new HBO film. But she told personal stories at the Town Hall yesterday, so for me it was ok. She did mention that the 68 Comeback Special was the first time she ever saw Elvis perform live, and I had never put that together before.
At 12pm, I got a locker because we were told we could not have bags during the candlelight vigil – plus I didn’t want to carry around my heavy bag for hours anyway. Luckily I went when I did because there were only three lockers left. And it was only 75 cents – BUT I found out later it was 75 cents each time I opened the locker and only took quarters. At 12:30pm, I went over to Minnie Mae’s Sweets for our Elvis Generation 2.0 MeetUp with Delia, Caroline, Kristy, Josh, Rebecca and Hannah. And Kristina from Norway made an appearance, so we got to meet her briefly. Delia made everyone these amazingly cool Elvis Week 2017 gift bags – SO generous! Kristy and I had a triple scoop ice cream lunch. I had two scoops of chocolate peanut butter and one scoop of banana peanut butter – only available at Graceland.
At 2:30, I walked over to the Sound Stage for the Songwriters Showcase, hosted by Andy Childs, at 3pm. Mark James was the first guest. He wrote “Suspicious Minds,” Always on My Mind,” Raised on Rock” and “Moody Blue.” He performed little snippets from each. At 3:40pm, Mike Stoller took the stage. He was who I was most excited to see. Mike Stoller is from the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller, who wrote songs together for 61 years. They wrote “Hound Dog” in about 10 minutes for Big Mama Thornton and never heard of Elvis Presley until he recorded it. Until Elvis, they had only written blues songs for black artists. For Elvis, Leiber and Stoller wrote “Love Me,” “Lonesome Cowboy,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Treat Me Nice,” “You’re So Square” and “I Want to Be Free.” They stopped writing songs for Elvis after the Colonel threatened them when Elia Kazan approached them (not the Colonel) about writing songs for a movie with Elvis. Mac Davis took the stage at 4:14pm. He wasn’t as funny as he was at the Town Meeting Monday, but still very entertaining. For Elvis, Mac Davis wrote “A Little Less Conversation” (the first of his Elvis recorded), “In the Ghetto” (he wrote it in 24 hours for the ’68 Comeback Special) and “Don’t Cry Daddy” (he wrote when his son saw him crying over the Vietnam War). Mac performed bits of each of these songs, then he sang parts of his own songs such as “Hard to Be Humble” and “I Believe in Music.” At the end, all three songwriters were brought on stage to receive their awards for how many songs they had sold. At 5:10pm, I was in the LONG line to meet Mike Stoller and have him autograph his book I brought from home. (I would have been in the beginning of the line had I not been stupid and when the wrong place.) At 5:50pm, I finally made it up to Mike Stoller and noticed his “Dump Trump” button. I told him I loved his button! He smiled and gave a little cheer. As he was signing my book, I told him how to spell my name with 2 E’s. He said oh not with an I? I said no my mom wanted to be different. He said she must not be Italian. I said no we’re German. Then he said something to me in Italian.
Just after 6pm, I went over to Gladys’ diner to get a pizza assuming I wouldn’t get back to my hotel room for another 12 hours and a pizza would keep me filled and happy. Little did I know the restaurants were staying open after midnight for the Candlelight Vigil. But the line was a bit too long for me, so I chatted with Tracy and Katy for a while then Caroline and Kristy came over, so I got in line with them. We ordered our pizzas at 6:45, and they said would bring them out to our table. We paid and found a table and waited and waited and waited. 45 minutes later at 7:30 still no pizza, and the Opening Ceremony for the Candlelight Vigil was to begin at 8:30pm and we heard there were huge lines to get in since this year you had to go through security as the street was fenced off. We walked back over to the front of the line and inquired about our pizzas. They had no idea what we were talking about but quickly made them for us. We quickly ate a couple of pieces then put them in my locker while we went down to the Opening Ceremony. I was down by the gates of Graceland by 8:10pm. I was further from the stage than I wanted, but I didn’t want to get in the middle of those people, so I stood up front but to the left of the gates. It was SO humid out, like being in a sauna. All of a sudden I heard Jerry talking! He was on the screen, but not on the stage – Argo was talking with him in front of Graceland (not sure why he did not come down). At 8:30pm, Jack Soden introduced Priscilla who began the ceremony for the Candlelight Vigil. As tradition, they played “If I Can Dream” then the Elvis Country Fan Club gave their speech. Then Lisa Marie, with her son Ben and twin daughters Harper and Finley, walked down the driveway, gave a little speech and held the flame opening the Candlelight Vigil on the 40th Anniversary of her father’s death.
By 9pm, I had taken my stuff out of my locker and was back in Gladys’ with my pizza and my bag. I didn’t really want to get in line for the Candlelight Vigil until after midnight because the line would be shorter plus I like being up at the gravesight as late as possible. Caroline and Kristy joined me. Around 10:45pm, I saw on Twitter Lisa Marie and Ben were in the Sirius Elvis Radio booth, so we grabbed our pizzas and bags and took off across the way. There were only a few people outside waiting. All of sudden Lisa walks out with her kids and bodyguard and Joel Weinshanker. She was busy chatting with Joel about going over to Vernon’s, so we didn’t want to approach her. We waited a minute or two before we followed her as to not be SO obvious. When we got to Vernon’s, we saw a LOT of people with their faces pressed up against the window looking into Minnie Mae’s (connected to and next to Vernon’s). Lisa was inside with her family sampling the candy and looked like she was talking to the crowd inside. We decided to go to Vernon’s and sit at a table figuring Lisa would be there next, and we were right. Lisa came into Vernon’s with her family to eat. People were literally following her around to every station. We stood a respectable distance away. Lisa and her family ate in the back room with the door shut so as to have some well deserved privacy. We figured she would be leaving after, so we walked down to entrance and sure enough there were two black SUVs waiting. A few minutes later, at 11:40pm, Lisa comes walking down with her family. Unlike many others we did not run up to the car and put our faces to the window. We stood back, but I did shout out something like ‘waiting for that new album Lisa’ or ‘how’s that new album coming?’ She didn’t turn around, but responded something like ‘Ah OK.’ So for an hour we followed Lisa Marie around the new Graceland complex while carrying our pizzas – too funny. We returned to Glady’s to hang out in the air conditioning and eat some more of our pizza. We ran into our friend Stacy. When Gladys’ closed, we moved over to Vernon’s. At 2:37am Kristy and I got in line for the Candlelight Vigil. Unlike the 30th Anniversary, when the street was still lined with fans and their Elvis Vigil Art, there was hardly anyone left on the street. The line for the Vigil was not that long, still within the ropes, and people were allowed to bring in backpacks and large bags at that late hour. At 3:38am, we were through the gates and lighting our candles. It was very breezy and after the third time my candle blew out, I decided to let it stay out until I got to the Meditation Garden to ensure I had some candle left at Elvis’ grave. At 4:25am about halfway up the driveway, I heard my favorite “Loving Arms.” We noticed the lights inside the Music Room at Graceland were on – not sure why. At 5:26am, we were at Elvis’ grave, and we both lost it. (as I cry writing this now) We were back through the gates at 5:34am and no one was in line. The Elvis Country Fan Club (the last to go through) were waiting on the driveway as we walked down. We were one of the last to visit Elvis’ grave on the 40th Anniversary of his death. I walked back up to gather my things from my locker, then back down and over to the Guest House and was in my room just before 6am. The sun was coming up, and I had been awake for 24 hours and at Graceland / EP’s Memphis for 21 of them. They reported this was the biggest Candlelight Vigil ever, but I completely disagree. I was at the 30th and there were still people lined up at 6:30am when we were coming down.
To see all of my photos from Day 5 of Elvis Week 2017, please click here.