My husband loves me very much. My husband adores me. He would go to the sun and moon and back again for me... or at least he would take me to Graceland.
He loves me so much that he knew what I felt for Elvis since I was a young girl. He knew I experienced the King's magic in the 68 Comeback special. He knew what an out of body experience it was like for me. He knew the King could make me swoon. And my Beloved was okay with it.
So when we were courting he knew that he 'had' me when he suggested that we go on a road trip. He knew that I was in love. For who else could or would, want to share the true Elvis Experience with me?
We went to Graceland,Memphis, Tennessee. The home of the King. We went singing a Blue Christmas and Heartbreak Hotel at the top of our lungs while eating peanut butter sandwiches. We went to Graceland saying'Tank ya, Tank ya very muuuuch'
I loved the camp of Elvis. And as fate would have it we descended upon Graceland on Elvis' Birthday, January 8th, in 1991. There were Elvis impersonators everywhere. There were young Elvis' old Elvis', there were Chinese Elvis' there were Rasta Elvis'. There were women with their best Pricilla bee hive hairdo's , there were old and young alike. They were coming to pay their respects to the King. And me not even knowing it was the King's Birthday...
We stayed across the street from the home of Elvis in the Memory Lane Inn and our room came equipped with the twenty four hour Elvis channel. The swimming pool was in the shape of a guitar and the 'art' on the walls were old album covers that were nailed into the veneer. Our 'consierge' at the front desk looked as though he were Elvis had he lived to age 65 with jet black hair still greased back, weighing a modest three hundred pounds, with gold rings on each finger and a sneer that followed. He walked with his head held on a slant, wearing black high heeled boots coupled with black polyester pants, a ELVIS belt buckle and a shirt unbuttoned to show off his lightening bolt TCB gold necklace. I was living the moment.
'Will you be staying for the continental breakfast?' he asks in the great Tennesee drawl looking at me through his eyebrows.
What is in the continental breakfast? I ask politely.
'Ahhh, doughnuts popcorn, coke and a coffee...'
'Sounds like a breakfast fit for a king! Count us in!'
And with that we checked in and hankered down to watch the Elvis station, where we learned from Elvis' cousin twice removed that Elvis was/is not dead, He informed us at 1 am that "He knows Elvis and that was not Elvis in the coffin that he saw.' We watched bad films, other relatives with various speculations on where Elvis may be living but there was no 68 Comeback Special to be had.
I do not know what I had expected about Elvis' home, collection of Cadillacs, airplane or bus. I do not know if I wanted some sense of connection to this man who reached me over the televison and through records. I do not know if I thought if I perused his home I may have that tingly sensation of his presence.
But Graceland does not give you this. It is just a home, a suburban home that has tour guides who give out scripted antitdotes about Elvis, through an ex-wife's voice. The furniture has all been covered in plastic just as his afterlife seemed to be. The feeling of Elvis had indeed left this building. There was no sense of Elvis ever being in da' building. But I suppose his house does not really have a soul or for that matter his sweat. The sweat has already been tweeked out of all his clothing and has been sold in the officially sanctioned Elvis store across the way.
That is until we walked downstairs into his costume area. And there were all his famous outfits. There it was the leather suit. There is was, and I felt 'tingly'. It brought me right back to being a girl and watching his Comeback Special as a rerun. It brought me back to my parents wreckroom,me lying on the floor,for I certainly could not get up. With the song 'One Night' I thought, this is the man, this man with that voice, the man with the sneer that belts his guitar on his chest, this man in clad in leather,this IS the man I am going to marry. And as I stared gleaming I just kept hearing 'One Night' in my head...
And when we came to his wedding tuxedo. Ohhhh how I just stared.
I remember turning to the Man Who Brought me to Graceland and saying' A brown paisley tux... How utterly cool is that??? Brown Paisley!!! And he just nodded in agreement.
'Did I ever tell you, I thought I was going to marry Elvis?' I inquire, not really to him, but more to the manequin that sported the brown paisley tuxedo behind the bullet proof sheilding.
I should have stayed in that section and not meandered over to the Las Vegas suits but that was also part of his being. And part of his style. And if anything, Elvis had his own type of style. I preferred to remember him always in the 68 Special but acknowledge that the movies and the Vegas years did happen.
But the tour did not seem right, even with all the camp all around us.
I had a good laugh at the King size bed in the Lisa Marie Airplane with the seat belt across the middle for when Elvis had long flights. Sure I had a giggle seeing the eternal flame right beside the swimming pool. And I had a good laugh knowing that Elvis' great Aunt was still living upstairs while we toured her nephew's home. But it left me feeling pretty void. How everyone was cashing in on Elvis. How they were cashing in on his being instead of his music. In Graceland there is no music to be had.
But we decided to get off the tour and explore Memphis ourselves. And in the rain we came upon Sun Studios.
We found Elvis and he was in the building. It was just a small recording studio where Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis first got their start.
The recording engineers who purchased the studio had a real love of music, a real love for the sound that came out of Memphis. They saved the studio as it had been made into a autobody repair shop. They painstakenly brought back the tiles and refurbished the studio back to its grandeur of when Sam Phillips had a vision. These sound engineers brought the Elvis and the other hometown boys home for the tourists and they knew we were all looking for them.
We were given an audio tour. We stood transfixed in the centre of the studio as they played the tapes they had recovered. We heard all of the good takes and the bad. We heard the banter, and we heard them jam with each other. We heard them. We heard them while they were still struggling, or in some cases rising up. There was laughter and artistry in those walls. We heard Elvis come in and interrupt Carl Perkins recording to show off his new Cadillac, we also hear him leave as he curses the kids who were playing on the hood of his new car. We heard Johnny Cash enter from Christmas shopping and wanted to wish Elvis a Merry Christmas as he just saw the Cadillac parked out front.We heard Jerry Lee, enter to find out where his song was on the charts and was startled to meet Mr. Presley. It would known later as the Million Dollar recording session. And we get to hear how these men heard music in the Delta and re-interpretate it for the masses. We heard them jam. And we heard an interpretation of rock and roll history and the sounds of some of the bars in the South. We heard a part of America.
And at the end of the audio there was a sense of satisfaction with all in the room. We took in all that the walls had witnessed and produced with the Memphis rains pouring in the back ground.
And as we stood in the centre of the room, the engineers pointed as an afterthought to the various instruments and props around the studio ' Dat dere is de piano dat Jerry Lee Lewis recorded Great Balls of Fire, and dat dere is the guitar of Mr. Johnny Cash And over dere, dat dere is the microphone dat Elvis is holding in dat dere photograph.'
And to my utter amazement as the sound engineers let us have our moment, a group of elderly women who were with us on the audio tour, the ones with their white hair held high in their bee hive lids, these respectable grannies, these women, these women, looked around to make certain that no one was looking and then they grabbed the microphone and licked it.... I could not believe my eyes... But indeed Elvis was in the building and maybe they could just taste a bit of his saliva.
My Graceland companion gasped and I howled.
And through the years I have met various people who knew Elvis.I have met people that have jammed with Elvis and were given the Elvis trademark TCB lightning bolt necklace instead of the Cadillac. And they could bring Elvis into the building with their stories and their songs.
And in 1994 when I wore a giant merrangue dress, with a veil. for the man I truly love, I found that he, my soul mate, my road companion for life, had worn a brown paisley suit.
And all I could do as I swooned at the alter was to say "Oh baby, for me?'
And I know I am a bit late... with all due respect, Baby,may I call you Baby? Mr. Elvis Aaron Presley... Thank ya Thank ya very much...And Happy Birthday... From your adoring fan # 15,675,393.