10 Days Living in the Elvis Bubble – stories from Elvis Week 2019
Needless to say, I had a great time in Memphis during Elvis Week 2019 visiting Graceland three times, touring the museums at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, meeting Elvis’ friends and bandmates, hearing great concerts like Ronnie Milsap and BJ Thomas, buying great books and memorabilia, relaxing in the beautiful lobby at the Guest House, enjoying that delicious southern cookin and of course catching up with old friends!
ELVIS WEEK 2019 TRAVEL DAY – THURSDAY AUGUST 8
I was away for almost 12 days. I left my house in Maryland around 10am. Over 7 1/2 hours later listening to 1969 Elvis the entire way, I arrived in Sevierville, Tennessee (at the top of the Pigeon Forge) just after 5:30pm, driving about 488 miles stopping just once along the way. (I always stop at the Love’s Travel Stop in Max Meadows, Virginia for their yummy Chicken Biscuit Sandwich at Chester’s.) The Days Inn in Sevierville was ok – looked better in the photos on their website. But it was just a mile off 40, so it was fine for the night. I was too tired to go out to Cracker Barrel for dinner (my eyes were killing me from all the driving), so I just ordered a pizza in from Pizza Place Plus. It was ok, not great but got the job done. I watched Big Brother and Jersey Shore Family Vacation as my last regular programming before entering the Elvis bubble for the next 10 days. To see my photos from August 8th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 1 – FRIDAY AUGUST 9
You ever just sit back feeling grateful and marvel at how perfectly everything worked out? That was my Friday August 9th. I left Sevierville, TN at 7am est after about 5 hours of sleep waking up at 4am (ok that was perfect, but the rest of the day was). Just over 7 1/2 hours and 446 miles later, stopping twice this time, I arrived in Memphis. It should have only been a 6 hour drive, but I took a little detour through Dickson County to see Luke Perry’s farm in Vanleer. True, I could only see his gate and mailbox, but knowing how much he loved it there and his ashes were spread there, I felt the need to go and pay my respects. This was especially poignant just 36 hours after the emotional BH90210 premiere.
I pulled into Graceland around 1:15pm cst (love that I gain an hour!) to get my Elvis Week tickets. Kelly Woods immediately remembered me from Facebook and as Jerry’s Girls from the Jerry Schilling weekend in January. There was no line for tickets, everything went smoothly and I even picked up my Graceland tour ticket for Sunday. I was checked into the Guest House by 2pm, which was great that my room was ready early. I got my room in the South Tower with my courtyard view like I like, but this time I was on the 4th floor just off the elevator, usually I’m on the 3rd floor. I unloaded my car, which actually only took two trips – pretty good considering I had 2 coolers (one large and one small), a big bag of food and 3 suitcases (one was empty for all the books I was going to buy). I unpacked and organized a little and then went down to EPs for lunch/dinner, since I had only been eating leftovers and snacks all day. I ordered my favorite fried green tomato with pimento cheese sandwich and sweet potato fries and sweet tea. It was just as yummy as I remembered. I ordered the pimento cheese dip to go to have in my room for later. After, I went back up to my room and finished unpacking and organizing before the Evening Meditation Garden Walk Up. (When I say unpacking and organizing, I mean I organized all my food, put my shirts in order of when I was going to wear them and organized all my event tickets in chronological order with the books and records I was taking to be signed.)
Just after 7pm, I walked over to Graceland. This was the first Evening Walk Up to the Meditation Garden of Elvis Week, and I think it was my first ever evening walk up (that I can remember). I really prefer the Evening Walk Up to the Morning Walk Up. I like being there as the sun sets. After paying my respects at the grave, I just like to sit back and relax and listen to the soothing water fountain. I met and talked with Marie and Marie from the UK for a bit (we had been talking on Facebook prior). I ran into other friends on the way out. I was back in my room by 8:30pm eating my pimento cheese dip and posting photos from the day. To see my photos from August 9th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 2 – SATURDAY AUGUST 10
After about 6 hours sleep, I woke up around 7am (which luckily felt like 8am to me – love vacationing in the central time zone) feeling excited about the week! Since this was the one day I had no pressing schedule, I decided to treat myself to a real breakfast at Delta’s. I went down around 10am and got the buffet breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and pineapple – and of course sweet tea. (FYI Delta’s in the Guest House has THE best sweet tea, better than EPs, better than Vernon’s, better than the Cupboard.) So while my breakfast was good, I don’t know that it was worth $30 after tax and tip. But that was my only time eating breakfast out during my stay – the rest of the time I had poptarts or muffins or donuts in my room to start my day.
Just after 11am, I drove down the road to the Travelodge (the old Magnuson Grand) for the Elvis Fan & Collector Show, and saw Sylvain on my way in. It was the first day of the show, and the first hour (it opened at 11am). I wanted to make sure I got first crack at the books – and did I ever! I bought 11 books, 3 records and some great memorabilia. The couple with the great book selection gave me a great deal for the 10 books I bought including a collection set of two Sean Shaver books – now I have all of them (I think). The 11th book I bought from Jimmy Velvet, whom I had somehow never met before. What a great guy he is! He knew Elvis in the 1950s and stayed in touch with him throughout his life. He signed his book for me and also gave me a cd of him and David Allan Coe – he signed that as well. We talked for a bit. Jimmy told me he is going to be 80 years old and isn’t going to be doing these appearances as much. We also talked about our shared loved of Olivia Newton-John. He told me his back gates have the music notes to Olivia’s “I Honestly Love You.” I was surprised Jimmy had never met Olivia, as he had met practically everyone else. We talked about American Sound Studio. Jimmy owned it at one point. His brother co-owned it with Chips Momon, who fought with everyone Jimmy said. They recorded BJ Thomas there. I told Jimmy I had just finished BJ’s book and was looking forward to seeing him perform later in the week. Not sure why I didn’t ask for a photo with Jimmy Velvet, but it was really nice talking with him for a while. I also bought 3 records from a French vendor who had been at Elvis’ August 1969 Vegas shows and took photos and recorded them. I got this great record of Elvis’ Madison Square Garden press conference and two special edition 12″ picture disc vinyls of Jailhouse Rock and Loving You. From Fred Whobrey, who runs the Fan & Collector Show, I got some great memorabilia including the original ticket to the premiere of This is Elvis at The Memphian in 1981 – this is my favorite Elvis documentary ever. I also got an Elvis tour program from 1972 (the year I was born), original newspaper clippings of Girl Happy (my favorite Elvis movie) and these cool stickers from 1974 of Elvis, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and other celebrities.
I was back in my room by 1pm and posted pictures and relaxed then went down to the lobby around 3:30pm to read one of the new books I just bought and people watch. I picked a nice place in the corner so I could see all the goings on. Savannah walked in and we said Hi – she’s always so nice. I saw Betty Harper arrive. Since I had spent so much money at the Fan & Collector Show, for dinner I just ate the cheese and crackers and payday bar I had brought from home and the free water in the lobby. At 6:45 I went to the theater for the Elvis Movie Double Feature of Viva Las Vegas and This is Elvis. They gave us free popcorn, which was nice! After, I got in line for the peanut butter and jelly bar (but I always make peanut butter and banana sandwich) – more free food! I sat in the lobby until after midnight talking with people. I finally met Suzanne Burlew, who I have been talking with on Facebook. I also met Shawn Klush who pointed to my shirt saying he was going to be wearing that red jumpsuit in his next performance. I am not much of an ETA fan, but I remember Shawn Klush being fantastic when I saw him perform years ago in Memphis. To see my photos from August 10th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 3 – SUNDAY AUGUST 11
It was Tour Day at Graceland. I enjoyed it of course, but I wasn’t as elated as I usually am. I think the heat had taken its toll on me – the heat index was 105. I didn’t even go back up to the mansion a second time. I woke up just before 7am after sleeping for about 5 hours. I had finished watching Elvis the Searcher part2 I had started earlier then fell asleep right after I started Elvis That’s the Way It Is. I was at Graceland at 8:30am for my 9am VIP tour. I got a front row parking space, which was great considering the heat. It was fairly empty considering it was Elvis Week, but it was a Sunday and Elvis Week wasn’t officially starting until Tuesday so not everyone was in town yet. When I got up to the mansion, I saw my favorite Graceland employee so we chatted a bit – she’s always so nice. I was surprised the mansion was not crowded, as it usually is first thing in the morning. I got to spend a lot of time alone in the living room and in the foyer – my favorite spots.
I toured Elvis Presley’s Memphis seeing the new Elvis Nascars, well not new but new to the EPM, in the car and motorcycle museums. I also saw Elvis’ little red ‘Von Dutch’ vehicle that was just put on display. I saw the auction jewelry. One day, I will own a piece of Elvis’ jewelry – that’s my dream memorabilia (preferably one of his rings). I watched the 1960 Army Release press conference that I love so much in the Elvis in the Army Exhibit. I looked at Elvis’ books in The Archives, which I always do. And I actually walked through The Icons exhibit, which I never do (except for the first time and when there is something new) and sat down and watched the video to listen to Bono. I went to Vernon’s for lunch and was there for over an hour posting pics, relaxing and getting out of the heat. I had the veggie plate for lunch. I had double mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and this yummy broccoli, cheddar and rice casserole with sweet tea and banana pudding for dessert. After lunch, I went to my favorite Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum. My first stop is always the Movie Exhibit, and I always sit down to watch the video of all 31 movie clips. Then it was off to the Gospel exhibit. Then where the jumpsuits are I noticed there were finally benches to sit and watch That’s the Way It Is, but then I noticed that’s not what was playing. It was Elvis on Tour, as I had just watched it the night before in the Guest House Theater. Then I looked left and noticed a brand new exhibit next to the ’68 Comeback exhibit. It was an Elvis in Vegas 1969 exhibit – and it was wonderful! There That’s the Way It Is was playing with a Vegas-style booth right in front of it so I felt like I was at the International 50 years ago watching Elvis. Also in the exhibit were photos and Elvis’ outfits. Then I went into the theater and was happily surprised The Searcher was no longer playing, now it is the Aloha from Hawaii exhibit with Aloha playing on the big screen and all of Elvis’ outfits from Hawaii. It is also a wonderful new exhibit. In all of my excitement over the two new great exhibits, I forgot to stop and watch my favorite Jaycees video. I did go through the Hollywood Back Lot though and noticed the eerie feeling the fake Sun Studio gave me. I went through Lisa’s exhibit, and then relaxed in the VIP lounge, which I love to do. I was there for almost an hour sitting on that comfy blue velvet couch in the back corner posting pics and relaxing. I saw Lowell Hayes during his Trunk Show, but he didn’t have anything different than what the Haberdashery was already selling. Plus I already have three of his rings.
I made my way over to the new Exhibition Center. With my tour ticket, I was allowed into the exhibits so I went through the Mohammed Ali and Century of American Motorcycle exhibits. Then I went to hang out in the Jungle Room Bar. I think I had it built up in my mind too much. It was ok, but not great. I prefer to hang out in the VIP lounge or the Guest House lobby. I was back at the Guest House by 5pm and Delia came by with her husband, so we got to chat for a bit. I finally met my facebook friend Mary, and saw my friend Nannette briefly. I was hungry, but EPs was so crowded and loud, so I knew it would be slow and I was already grumpy from the extreme heat. I just wanted a quite place to eat, so I decided to go to Delta’s and enjoy that amazing pasta dish I had back in January. (FYI it is called The Campanelle Pasta and has Monterey Mushroom Wild Mushrooms, Sundried Tomatoes, Fresh Snipped Peas and Shaved Parmesan Cheese – and it is superb!) After dinner, I went to the lobby to journal and people watch for about a half hour before going to the theater to watch Jailhouse Rock at 7pm. While waiting for the movie to start, I got a chance to catch up with Nannette. I was back up in my room by 9pm watching Loving You on YouTube while journaling and reading. To see my photos from August 11th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 4 – MONDAY AUGUST 12
I woke up around 8am after sleeping about 6 hours falling asleep to my favorite Elvis movie Girl Happy. I finished it when I woke up then got read to go to Jon Daly’s Elvis Con over at the Holiday Inn Express. I was there just after it opened at 10am. Like the Fan & Collector Show, I was there on the first day. I immediately went to Ray Jackson’s book collection to see what he had that I did not. He is a huge Elvis collector / dealer. I bought 5 Elvis books including a signed Rick Stanley book, and I also bought a James Dean magazine from 1956, a Cliff Richards book and an Everly Brothers book. All of his books were first editions. I went to see what Angie Simpson had, but I already had everything she was selling, but it was good to finally meet her in person and hear her stories. I talked with a nice couple who were selling records, but they didn’t have anything I didn’t have either. Then I talked for a long while with Bardahl and Rose Clayton Phillips, who were so nice. I bought Rose’s 1st edition hardback Elvis Up Close and Personal, even though I have already read it but my copy is an old paperback. I also bought her Elvis in the Beat of the Night book. She signed both for me. I had already bought Bardahl’s book and he signed for me a couple of years ago, so I just enjoyed his stories about sleeping with Elvis – to keep him from sleepwalking. They both told me they would look for me at Marian’s dinner that night and wrote down what table I was sitting at. Rose told me she wanted me to meet her husband, who just happens to be Sam Phillips’ nephew. I saw Bill Morris, but he had already signed his book and sent it to me.
After spending more money, I decided to eat cheaply stopping at Checker’s getting their 2 for $5 deal – chicken sandwich and a cheeseburger. I was back in my room before noon, ate, called my mom and journaled. I always think I will have nothing to do when I don’t have an event planned every hour of the day, but I always end up busy. But by journaling and posting pics during the day, taking time for myself, is much more relaxing then running from event to event with no down time then trying to do it all late at night. I read in the lobby for a bit then came back up to take a little nap before getting ready for Marian Cocke’s Dinner at the Peabody. I have only attended one other of Marian’s dinners and that was back in 2007 or 2008. I arrived at The Peabody just after 5:30, and just as Marian was arriving. I walked around the lobby and it felt (the mix of history and tourists enjoying themselves), smelled (the fresh flowers) and sounded (the piano music, fountain, clinking of the glasses and people chatting) just as it did when I worked there over 16 years ago. It was an odd yet comforting feeling. I took a selfie of myself in front of the lobby fountain. Then I went into Lansky’s and talked to Hal and told him I used to work at the front desk and talk to his dad Mr. B early every morning and he would greet me with a ‘hello young lady’ at 7am. He was a great guy!
We went upstairs to the skyway just as the doors were opening for Marian Cocke’s Elvis Presley Memorial Dinner, the 30th anniversary and Marian’s last. I wasn’t sitting with my friends, but I had a great table on the railing one step up just three back from the stage and right behind Marian’s table, which also included Dixie Locke, Tish Henley, Bill Morris, Cynthia Pepper, DJ Fontana’s widow and Missy from Marlowe’s. And at my table was a fellow nurse of Marian’s and her sister and husband, Tom Brown and Tom’s mother. There were two empty seats at our table, so I jokingly asked Tom if they were for Jerry and Cindy Schilling. He said he didn’t know. I asked Tom if he remembered me and he said yes you’re Jerry’s Girls. Then I told him a stranger came up to me and recognized me as Jerry’s Girls, and he said that is my legacy. That stranger was a friend of Dixie Locke’s, who took our photo. Dixie asked me what is a Jerry’s Girl, so I explained there is a group of us who enjoy Jerry Schilling and we had shirts made etc. Dixie seemed to also enjoy Jerry as her eyes lit up and she had a big smile on her face. Dick Grob was also in attendance. He lit the candle for the ceremony. Marian was given the key to the city of Memphis and was recognized by the Tennessee governor. There was a tribute to George and Klein and DJ Fontana. I left just before the auction and the raffle, talking to Mary Clark on my way out. I was back at the Guest House by 10:15 and saw Mark James taking photos with his friends on the staircase. To see my photos and videos from August 12th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 5 – TUESDAY AUGUST 13
This is the day the real Elvis Week began, with the panels and concerts etc. After about six hours of sleep falling asleep watching Blue Hawaii, I woke up around 8am. I was over at EPM by 9:45 for the first panel of Elvis Week American Sound Studio with Mary and Ginger Holladay, Mark James, Ernst Jorgensen, Gene Chrisman, Bobby Wood, BJ Thomas and Ronnie Milsap. After the panel, I waited in the meet and greet line and had Gene, Bobby, Mary, Ginger and Mark sign my original issue 1969 From Elvis to Memphis album, which was recorded at American Sound Studio. Mary Holladay was impressed I had the actual album, and said she didn’t even have one. The Holladay Sisters had a small book, so of course I bought it and they signed it. Bobby Wood also had a book, so of course I bought it and had him sign it. I told Gene Chrisman how much I loved drums and drummers and about U2 and Larry’s It’s All About Drums shirt, and he laughed. Mark James was very sweet. I have never actually met him before, although I’ve seen him several times at various events over the years.
Around 12:30, I went back over to Elvis Con. I saw Dick Grob. He and his wife Melissa are SO nice! I’ve met them before, but never had my photo taken with Dick, so we did that. He held me tight, tilting his head resting it against mine as is his M.O. I brought his first book The Elvis Conspiracy for Dick to sign, as I had him sign his new back last year (or was it the year before?). He seemed impressed I had his first book. I asked Dick to make it out to Deena, and he mentioned something about signing with a Q but that would cost me extra and laughed. I also mentioned to Dick that I had bought his Sean Shaver books from Jon Daly, so he and Melissa were happy to hear that. I went to just say Hi to Jon and ended up buying the complete set of 8 Girl Happy Lobby Cards! I can never find any Girl Happy memorabilia, and it’s my favorite Elvis movie so I was SO excited! I went to Checker’s again for my 2 for $5 lunch to save some money – I’d rather spend money on Elvis memorabilia than food (and if you know me that’s a HUGE statement!).
After relaxing for a bit in my room (and journaling and posting pics), I went over to EPM at 4:15pm and it was 116 degrees heat index! Luckily everyone had still not yet arrived for Elvis Week, so I was lucky enough to get a front row parking space. I went straight to the Elvis Entertainer Career Museum. I hung out in the new Aloha from Hawaii exhibit. Josh joined me for a bit. We went over to the new 1969 Vegas exhibit and sat in the booth and talked and relaxed. Josh left, so I went over to the movies exhibit for a bit. I stopped by the Jaycees exhibit and watched the video a few times before going over to Minnie’s for my ice cream dinner – 2 huge scoops of peanut butter fudge (another cheap meal!). Josh, Delia and Steve were there, so we chatted for a bit.
Then I walked over to the Soundstage for the Ronnie Milsap Concert. My seat was in the front row, but all the way to the right (3 right of where my seat would be for the rest of the concerts). I saw Tracy, Sherry, Tom and Mary. The opener Harper Grae performed from 7:00 to 7:30, and she was fantastic. Apparently, she was on Glee. I don’t like country music (unless it’s Johnny Cash or Patsy Cline) and opening acts annoy me, so I was pleasantly surprised with Harper Grae. She didn’t sound too country to me, more soulful with a powerful voice. Ronnie Milsap took the stage around 8:10 and played until almost 9:30pm. I was surprised at how many songs I knew like “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World,” “There Ain’t No Gettin Over Me,” “Smokey Mountain Rain,” “Any Day Now” and “Love Me.” Some of the other more country, twangy songs I did not know and did not particularly enjoy. While I was in the concert, a terrible storm was taking place outside and even knocked out the power at the Guest House for a while. When I left, it was still raining a little. To see my photos and videos from August 13th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 6 – WEDNESDAY AUGUST 14
Had a great night’s sleep, a solid 6 hours plus. I woke up just after 6am and finished Blue Hawaii and started Girls Girls Girls. I left at 8:30 for the Book Sale at Marlowe’s, picking up Josh along way. We arrived just before 8:45am, although the Book Sale didn’t officially begin until 9am. I told Jon I was there to help him set up, but he didn’t need me to help. Instead, he took me right over to the Bill Stanley book. Not Billy Stanley the son, but Bill Stanley the father to Billy, Ricky and David and ex-husband to Dee. I got it. I also got a signed Gene Smith book, a signed Sue McCasland Elvis Forever book and a never seen before True Presley Family History book. Attending the Book Sale were Dick and Melissa Grob, Cynthia Pepper, Tish Henley, Jimmy Velvet and Bardahl. I talked with Debbie a bit, and she told me a few of her Elvis gate-girl stories. Josh and I sat down in a booth while I ate my free 2 chocolate donuts and orange juice – talk about a sugar rush!
By 10am we were at the Fan Celebration at the Guest House. I sat at a table with Josh, Delia and Julie joined us for the last half hour. The event was hosted by Tom Brown, Argo, Dean Z and Joey Sullipeck. They played ‘would you rather?’ about Elvis events. Terry Mike Jeffrey came out and told the story about meeting Elvis in Vegas on August 1, 1969. It was a great story, and one I had never heard before. Elvis Trivia was played by a few selected audience members – not teams like last year. Angie Marchese did a little archives session with these great scrapbooks from 1969 Vegas from Tom Diskin’s sisters. Then they played this hysterical game with selected audience members and Tom Brown and Dean Z where they were all blindfolded and had to put letters together for answers to Elvis Trivia. The Fan Celebration was over at noon, but I stayed around for a while and caught up with Tracy and Sherry (and Julie) until almost 1pm. I went to my room for a bit to eat and post pics and rest, then I went down to the lobby to read. Julie came down, and we decided to have a nice, quiet, relaxing, delicious dinner at Delta’s when they opened at 5pm. Oddly enough we were seated in the same booth I sat in back in January when I was wearing the same black Jerry’s Girls shirt I was that night – and so was Julie. This time though I got the small plates of fried green tomatoes and bacon wrapped shrimp with sweet tea of course, but like I have mentioned Delta’s has THE best sweet tea. Delta’s gave us THE best cheese biscuits I have EVER had – warm! So good we asked for seconds.
After dinner, we went over to the Soundstage for the American Sound 50th Anniversary Concert. I was seated in the front row, but all the way to the right of the stage. Julie was seated in the 2nd or 3rd row all the way to the left of the stage. Andy Childs and Terry Mike Jeffrey alternated singing songs from the 1969 Memphis sessions with Memphis Boys drummer Gene Chrisman and pianist Bobby Wood, along with the Holladay Sisters. Then BJ Thomas came out and sang four songs: “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” (always one of my favorites of Elvis’) “Rain Drops Falling on My Head,” “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Peace in the Valley” a cappella that stunned the audience as well as the band. The concert closed with “Suspicious Minds” with Mark James on back up vocals, then the audience joined in – even Dixie Locke was jamming. It was an amazing moment, an amazing show! The concert was from 7:10-9:00pm then we went out to the Elvis Week Bash throughout EPM. I wasn’t really hungry enough to enjoy the food, but still ate a little. Julie and I sat at a table in the car museum and ate and talked for a bit. Then we went over to the Elvis Entertainer Career Museum and wandered around as we had the entire place to ourselves. Some of the videos stopped at 10, so we left shortly after. I went back to my room to post pics and finish watching Girls Girls Girls. To see my photos and videos from August 14th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 7 – WEDNESDAY AUGUST 15
After about only four or five hours of sleep, I woke up early around 6:30am and watched This is Elvis, a tradition on Vigil day. Julie and I met in the lobby and headed over to the Soundstage for Conversations on Elvis. There was some empty seats, so Julie and I actually sat togehter. Pat West was great, but her book STILL isn’t out yet. She said it would be out ‘soon,’ but she has been saying that since before Red died. Another one of Elvis’ secretaries, Bonya McGarrity, also spoke. I have never seen these two ladies before, and they had some great stories to share. Jerry Williams (whom I saw at Marian’s dinner), Jim Sykes and TY did a little George Klein tribute. Angie Marchese shared some cool archives from Vernon’s office like the phone bill (complete with Graceland’s phone number), Vernon’s order of Elvis’ grave marker (the words), a hotel bill from the Bahamas where Jerry’s room was only $100 and everyone else’s was $500. Bill Morris finished up. He is very outspoken and funny. I was at EPs eating lunch by 12:30pm. I had the Memphis Burger with sweet potato fries and sweet tea. I went up to my room, talked with my mom for a while and posted pics then I went down to the lobby to read for a bit. While in the lobby, I saw Ronnie Tutt, Gene Chrisman, James Burton and Terry Blackwood. Josh stopped by and we chatted for a bit.
At 4pm, I checked in at the ballroom for the Memories of Elvis Dinner Banquet. It was a great dinner, and I was lucky enough to sit at a table right up front thanks to the generosity of Ramona. It was a full room. I could not believe that many people booked their reservation at the Guest House a full year in advance. The food was really good. Marian Cocke was in attendance. The program was the Inaugural Class of 2019 of the Graceland Legends. The inductees were the Blue Moon Boys and the TCB Band. Representing the Blue Moon Boys were DJ Fontana’s widow, Bill Black’s daughter and Scotty Moore’s grandson. Representing the TCB Band were James Burton, Ronnie Tutt and Glen D Hardin. The dinner was over by 6:30, and I went straight over to EPM and stayed in the car for a bit while charging my phone and uploading photos until about 7:15pm. I went over to Vernon’s for a bit before heading down to the Gates of Graceland for the Opening Ceremony of the Candlelight Vigil. I talked with Vanessa and Tracy and saw Julie, Jon, Toni and Rhonda. After, I met up with Julie at Gladys’ and did my usual hang out, eat and watch Elvis movies while waiting to go down for the Vigil. Unfortunately, they have changed the pizza at Glady’s and it isn’t at good, so I won’t be getting that anymore. I put on Frankie and Johnny while we chatted. Vanessa stopped by and chatted for a bit as did Cissie and the two Marie’s from England. Jon and Mary stopped by, so we chatted as well. I went down to the Gates around 11:30, but wasn’t quite ready to go up the driveway yet, so I talked with Delia, Mary, Sylvain, Marr and Jon. I walked through the Gates at 12:20am on August 16th. Jon lit my candle just inside the gate and again when entering the Meditation Garden. I was back down the driveway and walking out the Gates by 1:50am. Jerry Schilling’s favorite song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was playing as I was walking down the driveway alone. I got back to my room and put on Paradise Hawaiian Style until I fell asleep. To see my photos and videos from August 15th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 8 – WEDNESDAY AUGUST 16
It actually hurt at 8:30am when my alarm went off the morning of the 42nd anniversary of Elvis’ death, as I had only been asleep for about four hours. But I had to get up for the Gospel Brunch at 9:30. Luckily, it was right downstairs in the Ballroom. I went downstairs at 9:15am and the line was already back through the other side of the lobby. It was a full room, but luckily Julie, Karol and I sat together at a table just two back from the stage. They called it a Brunch, but it was a Breakfast – more specifically the Breakfast Buffet from Delta’s. The food was good – I just prefer lunch to breakfast. The Blackwood Brothers came on at 10am and sang until about 10:50am. Billy Blackwood (his dad was James Blackwood) talked a bit about the Blackwood Brothers history with Elvis and with The Stamps and JD Sumner. The bass singer in the group was Butch Owens, who replaced JD in The Stamps. After, I stood in line for a half hour to meet Billy Blackwood and have him sign his dad’s book I brought that was already signed by his brother Jimmy, his cousin Terry, Cecil and JD. He seemed excited I had the book and was telling me who all the signatures were in relationship to him. I was back in my room by 11:30.
After posting my photos from the Gospel Brunch, I finished watching Paradise Hawaiian Style then put on It Happened at the World’s Fair until I fell asleep. About 4:15pm, Julie and I went over to Marlowe’s to meet everyone for our dinner. We had the two large tables in the Elvis room and a lot of my friends were there: Julie, Delia, Josh, Karol, Pam, Tracy, Sherry, Celeste, Cissie and some of their friends. We all got free banana pudding in honor of Marlowe’s anniversary. My favorite Girl Happy was playing on the televisions – on a loop! I had the yummy fried gouda sticks and the unbelievably delicious fried peanut butter and banana sandwich with bacon with water (at least I skipped the sweet tea). We were there until almost 6:30pm.
Then I drove Julie and Josh over to EPM for the 50th Anniversary Vegas Concert – and we had the most hysterical drive including a drive through Capt D’s just for laughs! (I think all those carbs made me giddy!) The concert was Elvis singing on the big screen and Ronnie Tutt, James Burton, Glen D Hardin, Estelle Brown and Terry Blackwood playing. The concert was great fun, but I think I enjoyed the 50th Anniversary American Sound Concert more. I was in my same seat, but there were empty ones on either side of me. As the concert started, James Burton’s wife sat next to me saying they didn’t have a seat for her. I watched her during the concert watching James and him watching her. It was very sweet. Following the concert, Julie and I walked out to the Vegas After Party throughout EPM. It was similar to the Elvis Week Bash, except food and drinks were extra. We walked over to see the new Graceland Legends exhibit and took photos. Then we went to the ’69 Vegas exhibit and just stayed there and talked and relaxed while watching TTWII on loop. Vanessa and Michelle stopped by for a bit. We went back to the Guest House around 10:15, saw Delia and got in line for our free peanut butter and banana sandwiches because apparently I can’t have enough peanut butter and banana in one day! I took it to my room to eat while uploading my photos. I finished It Happened at the World’s Fair to fall asleep to. To see my photos and videos from August 16th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 DAY 9 – WEDNESDAY AUGUST 17
Even though I only slept about five hours, I woke up around 6am. I put on Roustabout and fell back to sleep. Around 9:15am or so I left for the Elvis in Vegas Panel at EPM. I stepped into the elevator to find Terry Blackwood. I asked him how he was feeling after the show last night, told him how much I enjoyed the concert and asked him if he was heading over to speak at the panel. I showed Terry my Elvis That’s The Way It Is record and said I was hoping everyone would sign it after the panel. He assured me they would. On my way into the Soundstage, I saw Anthony was VERY impressed I had the actual record. The panel was great. First up was Estelle Brown from The Sweet Inspirations and Jim Murray and Terry Blackwood from The Imperials. Up next was Ernst Jorgensen, John Jackson and Roger somebody from RCA I think. Closing up the panel was The TCB Band Ronnie Tutt, James Burton and Glen D. Hardin. The second the panel ended, I ran back to get in line for autographs. I was in the front half of the line and still waited an hour. But it was worth it because they all signed my original issue Elvis That’s The Way It Is album: Terry Blackwood, Jim Murray, Glen D Hardin, Ronnie Tutt, James Burton and Estelle Brown. Terry is SO sweet! He remembered me from the elevator. He asked me where I was from and I said Maryland, then he commented on how Baltimore had been in the news lately. He agreed maybe the president should help rather than criticize. Terry showed me a photo of his puppy Drew, who they might rename – SO cute! I told Glen D Hardin how I loved hearing him speak because he is SO funny! He thanked me. Ronnie was as sweet and humble as ever. I told Estelle I had met Cissy Houston last year and Myrna several years ago. And she said, “oh you got us all then.” Estelle and James toasted with what they claimed was pink lemonade. I saw James Burton’s wife as I was leaving the autograph line and she remembered me from the concert, so we chatted for a minute. I told her I loved watching her watch James and him look at her. She was annoyed his guitar wasn’t turned up more. She is such a sweet lady!
I went to Vernon’s for lunch and stayed for over an hour and a half. I had the chicken tenders, mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, sweet tea and banana pudding. I talked to Tracy and Sherry for a bit. I was touring EPM by 3pm. I ran into Josh so we walked through the Sam Philips and Marty Robbins exhibits together. Then I went over to the Elvis Entertainer Career Museum to hang out in the Movie Exhibit and watch the movie clips reel. Then I toured Graceland again. I was standing in the foyer at 3:42pm. 42 years ago at that exact time in that exact space was the Fan Viewing where Elvis was laid out under the chandelier in the foyer. I stayed there for a while letting tours pass by me. Actually I really had every room to myself as I stayed in between tour groups. I spent some time by myself in the basement in front of Jerry’s door. I stood against the vent in the corner by the phone next to Jerry’s room and heard voices from other tours. Not sure if they were from the living room or the foyer or the dining room or where, but I have never heard through that vent before – maybe I never tried. I spent a little time in the Jungle Room. There was a real sense of Elvis in the house that day. I mean there always is, but that day was especially strong. As I was walking to Vernon’s office, I noticed the door was shut. I have never been to Graceland when Vernon’s door was shut. As I approached the door, I found not only was it shut but it was also locked. So I walked through the shooting / target (whatever you call it) room and got into Vernon’s office that way. I was in there a long time by myself, which was wonderful. I love it there almost as much as the living room / foyer. I talked for a while with the employee in the Racquetball Court, who was really nice and had a real appreciation for Elvis. That might sound ridiculous considering she works at Graceland, but not employees are so enthusiastic.
I was back at EPM by 5pm. I sat in the car museum for a bit, then went over to my favorite Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum for one last visit. I sat in the booth in the ’69 Vegas Exhibit for a while, then of course went over and sat in the Movies Exhibit and watched the 31 movies clips reel again. I stopped to watch the Jaycees video (twice) on my way out. Always have to hit my highlights. I was at Gladys’ eating dinner by 6:15pm. This time I had the double cheeseburger and fries with regular tea, since they were out of sweet tea. The food was actually really good. After about a half hour after running into Karol, I walked back over to the Soundstage for the Elvis Presley Gospel Homecoming at 7pm. The Blackwood Brothers opened and were good, but it was the same exact show they did the day before at the Gospel Brunch. The Imperials were up next, and they were fun. Then Andy Childs talked with Billy Blackwood, Terry Blackwood and the Stamps Ed Hill and Larry Strickland, which was very entertaining but the whole time I was wondering where Donnie Sumner was as he was supposed to be there. I hope he’s ok. And selfishly I was missing him because he is SO funny and entertaining! I left at 9pm even though the show wasn’t quite over yet because I wanted to finish packing and get a good night’s sleep before heading out in the morning. I got back to my room and reflected on what a perfect day I had had. 11 hours at EPM and Graceland that literally flew by! A perfect end to Elvis Week. I put on Wild in the Country to fall asleep to. To see my photos and videos from August 17th, please click here.
ELVIS WEEK 2019 TRAVEL DAY – SUNDAY AUGUST 18
I woke up at 7am after sleeping about 6 hours. After three trips to my car, it was packed. I showered and was pulling out of the Guest House by 8:30am cst. About an hour later, my car crossed 100,000 miles! Then I stopped at Love’s for gas and breakfast just before Jackson. I had the chicken biscuit sandwich from Hardees – who knew? And it was really good! Does every fast food joint in the South have a chicken biscuit sandwich? I stopped again about five hours later at the Pilot in Balleyton – just before Bristol. I got a footlong chicken, bacon, ranch sub for dinner and lunch tomorrow. I finally made it to the La Quinta in Wytheville, VA around 6:15pm est for the night – 578 miles later. The day I just had a five hour drive home.
I had a great time at Elvis Week, as I always do. Ok now the countdown to the great 85th Elvis Birthday Celebration with JERRY and Priscilla starts – just about 3 months away!
That was such a fun trip. Thank you for documenting everything, I had forgot about some of those things. So much fun and all of our laughing was simply the best! What great memories we all made.
yes we had a great time! soon to be another great time in january! thanks for reading julie. so glad you enjoyed it and i could bring back some memories for you.