I've never been what you consider a huge Elvis fan. Sure, I like his music. But I did not worship him, like my boss at National Record Mart did. In fact, that's where I was the day he died, Aug. 16, 1977.
My boss was devastated, as were millions of his fans.
And to this day, those fans still send flowers, photographs, stuffed bears and notes to Graceland, almost 31 years after "The King" died.
The facade of Elvis’ home.
Elvis was 22 years old in 1957 when he purchased the Southern colonial mansion, now known as Graceland, in Memphis, Tenn.
Some of his happiest times were spent at that home, where he lived with his family.
And as a visitor there, you can hear all about these times, by way of an audio-tour through several rooms of the house and of the grounds. We hear some stories from the voice of Elvis himself as well as from his daughter, Lisa Marie.
We start our tour at the visitor center to purchase tickets and get our picture taken in front of a large photo of the mansion. (A collection of the photos was offered for purchase later in the tour for around $22.)
We then are given the audio device and told to push a particular button that begins the monologue as we approach the gates and the mansion. A tour guide welcomes us at the door and spouts a few details, then directs us into the entryway.
From there, our audio-tour fills us in on what we are seeing.
Along with the actual mansion, Graceland, visitors can explore a new exhibit, Private Presley, which includes Elvis' fatigues, dress uniforms, army foot locker and suitcases. Private Presley covers the time 50 years ago when he was inducted into the U.S. Army. He served in Germany, where he met his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu.
There also is an exhibit titled, "Elvis '68 Special," that celebrates the 40th anniversary of Elvis' landmark television event, the '68 Special. Some of the outfits he wore during the special, the script and timeline of historical events occurring at the time are included in the display.
Visitors can cruise through Elvis' Automobile Museum, checking out more than 33 vehicles owned by Elvis. My favorite was the famous pink 1955 Cadillac that was his mom's favorite car. She didn't drive, however. It was one of the few vehicles he kept throughout this career.
There are a variety of motorcycles, the red MG from "Blue Hawaii," his Stutz Blackhawk, Priscilla's Mercedes 280 roadster, as well as some of his favorite motorized toys.
You can even board Elvis' custom jets, the Lisa Marie and his smaller Lockheed Jetstar. The Lisa Marie is a posh flying machine with leather upholstery, 24-carat gold-plated seatbelt buckles and 24-carat gold flakes in the bathroom sink.
And are there gift shops ... "Exit tour through gift shop" seemed to be a frequent sign. Visitors can take a little piece of Elvis home ... clothing, magnets, jewelry, post cards, books, mints, key chains, mugs and glasses, and more.
Besides shopping, visitors can eat at Graceland's restaurants, the Chrome Grille, the Rockabilly's Diner or Shake, Split & Dip, and also stay at Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel, just across the street from the mansion.
For information, visit www.elvis.