On February 6th, 2011 I made my second visit to the home of The King: Graceland. I had spent the morning touring through Sun Studios for the first time, an experience that left me breathless with reverence. Truly, I was aghast at the import of the room; four walls that held together the history of popular music. My pulse is racing just thinking about it. But this story is not that story.
It was Superbowl Sunday, an annual event that captures the attention of most of North America but something I really have to be lulled into caring about. This year I had not been lulled, and as such I gave the competition no attention whatsoever. I couldn’t possibly even tell you who was playing. I’m referring to the half-time show of course…the game itself never interests me enough to know or care who is battling whom.
Anyways, following up the Sun Studio tour m’lady and I hopped the free tourist shuttle to Graceland where we intended to make a detour and walk a mile and-a-half down a side road to the Full Gospel Tabernacle, where the Reverend Al Green preached every Sunday.
Yes, the (late) Reverend Al Green. Preaching the gospel in a Memphis church. It had been a self-discovered opportunity for a free and doubtlessly unique concert(-ish) experience but when push came to shove we were surprised to find that we were already running late. We debated how uncool it would be to arrive at the church late and leave early (the shuttle driver told us that his sermons tended to last several hours) and we ultimately concluded that it would be extremely uncool, so we let the worshipers worship without us, saved ourselves a bit of a walk, and made our way through the pearly gates of Graceland instead.
I had visited Graceland on Elvis Day (August 16th) ten years previously, along with about 25,000 others. This was a much different experience. Visiting during the off season and on Super Sunday taboot made things much quieter.
There was literally only one other couple there.
We meandered through Elvis’ decadent Kingdom at our leisure, lingering at the Jungle Room and the meditation garden, where we had Elvis’ grave all to ourselves. We had purchased the Platinum Pass, which gained us entry to Elvis’ car museum, the ’68 comeback museum, his wardrobe museum, the airplane tour, and the movie museum. Of course each collection comes complete with it’s own extensive gift shop, so the tour(s) kept us busy for most of the afternoon.
(Not long enough to bother sticking around for the late-afternoon touch-football game between the surviving members of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia that was scheduled to take place on the front lawn. In retrospect it’s amazing to me that I skipped out on not one but two utterly unique events in one day, but I did. Frankly, I’m a bit ashamed of retroactive me.)
And while I was happy to visit Graceland a second time – frankly, it just couldn’t be left out of the Rock & Roll Field Trip From Hell – but hallowed ground it certainly is not. It’s just a house where an overly-famous guy killed time with his crew away from the spotlight, and the surrounding museums are just a way to cash in and propagate his overt fame. Don’t get me wrong, I love Elvis. He was an incredibly talented individual who will forever stand as the pivot between Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll.
And while Elvis’ house is decidedly not hallowed ground, it is due largely to his legend and legacy that Sun Studios is hallowed ground.
Once we were both hungry and tired enough we caught the shuttle back to Sun Studios, walked from there back to our hotel, piled into the car, hit a drive-thru to keep our hunger temporarily at bay, popped the right Bob Dylan album into the CD player and drove south on Highway 61 – the Blues Highway – until we got to the corner of highway 161 and highway 49; The Crossroads.
I got out and stood there for a minute, but only because I felt I had to. It’s generally accepted that this wasn’t the actual crossroads, and as such the place had no real significance whatsoever.
And to think, I couldn’t make time for either Reverend Al Green or a Memphis Mafia touch-football game, but I made time to drive to a neon signpost that serves as a bunky blues legend tourist trap. What is wrong with me?