“A well’a bless my soul, What’s wrong with me?”
Are you, at this very moment that you’ve clicked on this article to read, wondering what on Earth a Pink Cadillac and Blue Suede Shoes have to do with Adventuring around in a LTV Unity IB? Then “Come Ahead”, “Don’t ask me Why” and read on.
Neither one of us wore “Blue Suede Shoes” when we got to ride in a Pink Cadillac. In fact, we don’t even own Blue Suede Shoes. Coincidentally, all this happened after we stood on the stage at The Ryman Auditorium doing a pretty good impersonation of Elvis. “Fool” came to mind when we got caught. How little we were to know that just a short while later, all these events would be forever linked in our memories “Talk about the Good Times.”
We’d been touring about Nashville the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee. Beautifully located on the Cumberland River, and music was everywhere. While there, one of our stops was the Grand Ole Opry House (what used to be the Union Gospel Tabernacle and is today officially named The Ryman Auditorium) but that’s probably a better story for another Read. However, in an unknown moment of foreshadowing, we did capture this on the streets of Nashville.
Visiting The Ryman had us walking about its hallowed halls, admiring photos and corresponding biographies of world famous performers. Among them, Elvis Presley.
”Did you know he performed Blue Moon of Kentucky here,” Dave asked.
“No, I don’t even know that song!” I replied, and we shared the titles and hummed a few notes, of the songs we both remembered. And that’s how we got Elvis on our mind.
In the concert hall, there was no one around and for the heck of it, (“Fools Rush In”), right? we sneaked onstage, picked up the guitar that was laying there, and just as Dave (aka “Guitar Man”) announced “It feels so right”, a staff person emerged from some hidden, backstage door! We were about to scurry off before we would have to do “The Jailhouse Rock”, when she asked us if we wanted our photo taken. Not being too camera shy, we seized the opportunity, made her laugh as we posed appropriately, and instantly got this overwhelming urge to just “Shake Rattle, and Roll.”
Elvis was a little before my time and although I wasn’t part of the fainting throngs of (female?) fans, in an era when he was taking looks, music and moves to a whole different groove, I did grow up hearing his songs on the radio, sitting in our living room with my parents and watching his movies on what was a very small TV (by today’s standards). I have always loved the sound of his voice, and one of my favourite songs has always been “In the Ghetto.” It brings a tear to my eyes every single time I hear it.
“So do you wanna go see The King?” Asked Dave.
”Hmm…” I pondered.
We were in Nashville, and we didn’t have an agenda or schedule, simply working our way Southwards and Westwards. Having our home with us when we travel makes decisions such as this easy peasy. “Welcome to My World.” We researched the timings and noted that it would take us about 4 hours to drive there.
Travelling full-time requires us to be on a different sort-of-budget, and I’m not one for paying huge amounts of dollars to see any famous person’s house? Or clothes? Or Records. Or planes?. But, I was, admittedly, a tad curious. About Memphis. About Elvis.
“My mom shared the same birth date as Elvis,” said Dave, “She always wanted to come here.” That’s as good a reason as any to go, right?
“Let’s go!” I said, excitedly, “It’s Now or Never!”
So, just like that, on the spur of the moment, we got in our trusted Unity IB and followed the signs for Memphis. A town famous for being home to “A Mess of Blues”.
We arrived at the Graceland RV Park and Campground just shortly after noon. It felt like we were smack dab in the middle of a run-down part of town, the nondescript grounds located behind a hotel, near a large parking lot. “Anyplace is Paradise” when your home is with you, right? After checking in, we followed the highlighted directions on the campground map, the roads setting the mood, as they were appropriately named: “Jailhouse Road”, “Heartbreak Lane” and “Teddy Bear Lane.” Wasn’t long before we found our lot number, backed in, and found ourselves home. “Home is where the Heart Is”, right?
A quick bite for lunch followed by a brief rest, and then we walked the path from the Campground through to the parking lot of the Graceland Visitor Center. It being mid afternoon, the place was near empty, and we were just two couples away from the counter. The kind lady informed us of the different prices of admission, and upon hearing them, we immediately got “All Shook Up.”
“C’mon Everybody,” said the Shuttle Driver, as she opened the doors so we could all board. It was a very short drive, almost directly across the street, through the wrought iron gates, up the hill, where we stopped by the white cement lions that adorned the front doorsteps of the modest looking house nestled in a grove of Oaks with rolling pastures all around.
Rather surprised that this was the King’s house, I couldn’t quite decide if it was a “Little Cabin on the Hill” or “Mansion over the Hilltop.”
We were all handed an iPad and earphones and received brief instructions on how to use the auto-guided/interactive (multilingual) software. Then they opened the front door and allowed us in.
“Do Not Disturb” was the immediate thought that came to mind. It felt, and looked like I had simply stepped back in time. The whole place was hushed and quiet. Dustless. Shiny and clean. Dated. Classically White. Or cream. Name that shade of colour, I immediately thought to myself.
And in my ear, the husky voice of John Stamos welcomed me and began to tell me a story as I swiped the area of my surroundings.
I could almost feel a presence as I entered each area. “Do you know who I am?” The voice in my ears anecdotally told me about the rooms, the who’s who in the frames, and slowly, as I entered and exited each room, the personality of a person, a King in the making, began to come to emerge.
He was in the simplicity of the furnishings in the Foyer. He was in the photo frames that decorated the coffee tables, strangers face staring back at me until John Stamos told me a bit about them.
He was in the long white sofa elegantly placed against the wall, and he was in the Music Room visible behind the vivid blue peacocks embedded in the glass walls. He was in the baby black piano just barely visible from where I stood, and I could almost hear tunes in the creating.
Totally at my own leisure, I meandered through, listening to the voice in my ears, and sometimes swiping the pause button, so I could visually inhale my surroundings.
The kitchen where the infamous PB&B sandwiches were made.
Each room we visited held a totally different look, a jig-saw house of various jaw-dropping themes.
A sort of progression of what “Fame and Fortune” could do to an emerging artist.
We were not allowed to go upstairs. “Don’t be Cruel” I told John Stamos.
The remarkable Jungle Room, with its green shag carpets, Polynesian feel and exotically carved wood required an extra bit of time to take in all the details.
Downstairs, my eyes needed to adjust to too many shades of yellow
when I found myself in a room that housed three TV sets. And a TCB logo of a lightning bolt and cloud on the wall: “Taking Care of Business”.
Outside, the back of the house was just as admirable,
and we followed the walkway to tour the office, the stables visible in the distance. The Racquetball building with its very own court, luxurious lobby, a pinball machine and a piano.
Through it all, we were witness to countless personal artifacts on display, from the cost of the house, his birth certificate, letters, photos, clothes…
And then we were “In the Garden” where Elvis was known to go and meditate.
And with the unfortunate passing of time, where he and members of his family have been laid to rest. And the one and the only place that visitors can access, for free, for a certain time, every morning. A hushed, serene place. A for “A Little Less Conversation.”
“Funny how time slips away” for the 2 hours that we spent in The King’s home, I felt that we just barely started to grasp an intimate snapshot of the man that was Elvis. He was generous. He read a lot of spiritual type books. He was the proverbial “Rags to Riches” success story. Religion was a huge part of his life, and although he was surrounded by “Loving Arms”, substance abuse destroyed him. Fame and “Heartbreak” on so many fronts.
We sat outside the house for a moment “Indescribably Blue” and breathing in the serenity of the place, and I have to admit, just a little awestruck. Humbled. A little inspired. Not to mention tired. The shuttle arrived, and we handed in the iPads as we boarded, and got driven back to the Visitor Center. We stopped in to visit his personal plane,
a state of the art Corvair 880 jet, named after his daughter, Lisa Marie. It was more roomy and regal, than any of the presidential planes we’ve toured. Leather tables, incredibly soft suede seats, and gold-laden bathroom sinks.
It was a short walk back across the parking lot into the Graceland RV Park and Campground, towards our lot and into our RV, where we sat back, put our feet up, sighed and said: “There’s No Place Like Home”.
“What’s for Dinner?” asked Dave shortly.
“I have no idea. I sure don’t want a Hot Dog, how about Crawfish?” I replied.
And that’s when we saw the little slip of paper the campground had given us when we checked in. It was a 10% discount coupon if we had dinner at Marlowe’s, and printed on there, a phone number to call if we wanted a pickup. Sounds good to us!
We had finished dressing when we heard the honk of a horn. Must be our drive, and we headed out the door. And (gasp) what do we see? A pink Cadillac!
The story tells that Elvis had bought a pink Cadillac for his mother with his first royalty check. “If that isn’t Love” I don’t know what is?
Since Elvis was reputed to have eaten here (is there somewhere he hasn’t eaten?), Marlowe’s, a BBQ restaurant a couple of miles from the campground, followed suit and bought a Cadillac Limousine. They painted it pink, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today there’s a fleet of limousines that will pick you up and drive you home (free of charge), after feasting at their establishment (remember to bring your campground 10% coupon).
We sat down at our table, perused the menu, and wasn’t long before the food arrived.
All around us, the TV’s on the walls played Elvis movies. The frames on the walls held photos of Elvis. The glass cages held his outlandish outfits. Elvis tunes played all around us. The food was delicious. And the Pink Cadillac drove us home.
“This is the Story!”
Would you believe, I wrote all this “Without A Song” playing in my head? And I’m absolutely positive I’ve planted a few earworms in yours, right?
Wait, “What’d I say?”
“Love me tender”, please, and leave me a comment. Do you have a memory about the King of Rock and Roll? What’s your favourite Elvis song?
Have you ever had days when one thing leads to another effortlessly: where everywhere you go, everything you do, and everyone you meet seem to be placed perfectly in your path for your enjoyment? That was our experience of Nashville, Tennessee. (more…)