If you don’t know by now, I am a huge Elvis fan. From young Elvis to Hawaii Live, there is no record that hasn’t been played on repeat in my car. I have groomed my Elvis Pandora station for over 7 years, a feat I am quite proud of! Naturally my love of Elvis and travel have come together to create a list of places every fan needs to visit if you are looking to find Elvis in Memphis.
Elvis in Tennessee, A memphis Transplant
Leaving Mississippi behind, the Presley’s headed north to Memphis where Elvis discovered the bluesy vibes of Beale Street and made a home at Graceland. Though Elvis never forgot his Mississippi roots, he grew and established himself in Memphis. There are so many places where you can spot Elvis that it isn’t hard to spend a few days walking in Memphis following his footsteps. So, grab you camera and grow your sideburns out. We are about to cover all the Memphis places you need to check out next time you are in town!
Lauderdale Courts Apartment
Lauderdale Courts, known presently as Uptown Square, is where Elvis and his parents live when they moved to Memphis. While you can’t explore the upstairs bedrooms at Graceland, you can get a peek into Elvis’ teenage home. The Presley’s lived at 185 Winchester, apartment 328 from 1949 until 1953 and is renovated to make sure that the old apartment is still authentic to the time period. Through out the apartment you will find family photos, vintage furniture, and a feeling similar to that of the his birthplace – How did a presence and performer so large live in such a relatively small place? This apartment helped shape Elvis’ sound as he practiced his guitar, walked to nearby Beale Street to feel the Blues, and listened to records at Pop Tunes.
Elvis’ room is decorated with just enough teenaged flair – comic books, a guitar, and a toy gun. There is even an ode to his future in the form of a lipstick lip print decorated wall where female fans plant one for the King. There are tours available and and for those die hard fans, well you can even stay the night in the apartment!
Humes High School
Elvis was a student at Humes High School from 1948 until he graduated in 1953. As the first of his family to finish high school, his peers have said he was a kind and respectful student who kept to himself. It was at the high school that Elvis gave his first performance with an audience for a talent show, which he won. The original school building is still standing today and includes a historic marker noting its ties to the King.
The historic downtown hotel is where Elvis went for his senior prom. He is rumored to have told his date that he didn’t dance and was incredibly nervous the whole night – a hard to believe line from a man who swayed his hips and made girls swoon. If you are visiting Memphis, stay a night at the hotel and grab a drink at the bar as you wonder what the King was like on his senior prom.
It was at Sun Records, then known as Memphis Recording Service, in 1953 that Elvis walked in with his dream and a cheap guitar to catapult a type of music the world had never heard before. Sam Phillips wasn’t impressed with Elvis’ nervous demo performance. But a dream isn’t easily extinguished. Elvis continued to hand around and that next year Sam asked him to sing again. This time he was backed by a band. In true jam session fashion, Elvis started playing around, just for fun, with the old blues tune “That’s Alright Mama.” It was this cover that landed him a recording contract.
FIRST TIME HOMEOWNER AT AUDUBON DRIVE
Following the success of his first #1 hit, “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis became a multiple hit recording artist, teen idol movie star, heartbreaker, and homeowner. Elvis bought the house at 1034 Audubon for his family in 1956 paying $29,000. The Presleys’ stay at the Audubon home was brief as Elvis’ star kept rising there was an increase in needed security. Television helped skyrocket his career and ended his need to constantly tour and Graceland was to be his next home.
When fans started camping out in their front yard at Audubon Drive, the Presley’s realized it was time to move.
Elvis bought Graceland in 1957 for $102,000, a property that would come to define the King’s style, personality, and home life. While visiting Graceland, guest can tour the iconic home which includes the living room, his parents’ bedroom, the kitchen, TV room, pool room, the famous Jungle Room, his father’s office, Trophy Building, the Racquetball Building, and Meditation Garden. It is easy to spend a whole weekend exploring Elvis’ Memphis and Graceland has so much to offer.
VERN PRESLEY’S HERMITAGE DRIVE HOME
Elvis was very close to his parents and they lived with him at Graceland. After his mother’s death, his father remarried to Dee Stanley. Elvis refused to go to the wedding and was not thrilled that his father was remarrying so soon after his mother’s passing. While Vern and his new wife did live at Graceland with the King, it didn’t take long for Elvis to ask them to leave. Rumor has it, Dee made it a point to redecorate and move furniture around while Elvis was gone which didn’t sit well as he felt she was trying to erase his mother’s touch from Graceland. So, in 1961 Vernon, Dee, and her 3 children moved into the 3650 Hermitage Drive home.
Priscilla lived at this house before she married Elvis and moved into Graceland. A photos released by Graceland shows Priscilla, her father, and Vernon on the front steps of the house.
VERN PRESLEY’S DOLAN DRIVE HOME
Vern’s time at the Hermitage house wasn’t forever. In 1964, the family moved to a new home on Dolan Drive which ran up the right side of Graceland. It is said that Elvis had the home built for them as a present and the property line backs up to that of Graceland. In fact, you can see part of the Graceland barn from the second floor of the home. Vern had a gate installed which gave direct access to the Graceland grounds and his office. While Vern lived in the home, there was a phone with direct line access to Graceland. 1266 Dolan Drive is another home at which Priscilla lived before she married Elvis.
COLETTA’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Coletta’s Italian Restaurant is a Memphis staple that first opened in 1923. There are two locations but it is the one on South Parkway that Elvis frequented. The restaurant claims to be the creator and inventory of BBQ pizza which is rumored to have Elvis’ favorite. You can dine in the Elvis room surrounded by photos and memorabilia from when the Memphis Mafia would take over their own private room.
THE ARCADE RESTAURANT
The Arcade is Memphis’ oldest restaurant, founded in 1919. The restaurant has been in numerous films and become a staple of Downtown Memphis’ personality. Elvis was a regular and there is even a booth towards the back where he use to sit. Make sure you order the Peanut Butter ‘N’ Banana Sandwich, a fried sandwich just like Elvis himself ordered!
MEMPHIS ROCK N’ SOUL MUSEUM
This museum offers a Memphis music experience that covers the cities expansive music history. It gives guests the opportunity to learn about the social and economic changes that impacted the nation, music, and led to the development of rock ‘n’ roll. Explore the impact that small record companies like Sun Records gave musicians who lacked money, agents, and influence to record. The Memphis sound redefined the music scene.
GIBSON’S MEMPHIS GUITAR FACTORY
Take a tour of Gibson’s Memphis guitar factory and see how the finest guitars in the world are made. Located on the ever iconic Beale Street, you can see first hand the process of guitar making and how Gibson helped shape the world of music, including Elvis’ rock and roll.
STAX MUSEUM OF AMERICAN SOUL MUSIC
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is another Memphis music must. With an authentic 100 + year old Mississippi Delta church to show the gospel roots of soul music, you are transported into the fascinating history of the Memphis music scene which frequently intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement, popular culture, and recording culture before the big names of the industry become king.
LANSKY BROTHERS CLOTHING STORE
The King’s image is just as iconic as his sultry voice and both were known to make women swoon. Lansky Brothers helped dress some of the best known names in music. In the fifties and sixties Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis were all shopping at Lansky Bros. Focusing on men’s high fashion the store was offering the styles that were made popular by Hollywood actors like Dean and Brando.
The window displays of the store with bright colors and flashy designs that naturally would pop on stage, caught a young Elvis’ eye. Bernard Lansky tells that he looked up one day and saw a young Elvis looking at the displays in the window and invited him in. Elvis replied by telling him that he didn’t have any money but that someday when he was rich he was going to buy him out. Lansky joked with him and said “Don’t buy my out, just buy from me!” and the relationship began that would shape Elvis’ image, making him a household name.
Elvis’ performance on The Ed Sullivan show is iconic and when they chose to censor his performance by primarily shooting him from the waist up, all attention was on his sport jacket which was styled by Bernard Lansky. Elvis didn’t have the money to buy the jacket but had recently opened a credit account with Lansky Bros. that allowed him to be Ed Sullivan ready.
Bernard and Elvis’ relationship has many more antidotes that have been talked about over the years. When Elvis was given by RCA a rare German Messerschmitt car, he parked it in front of the store to show Bernard. When Bernard told Elvis that when he was done with the car he would buy it from him, Elvis decided to trade in the car. He told Bernard “I’ll make you a deal. You let me pick out all of the clothes in here and you can have the car.” Elvis later recalled “I was in there about two hours and the store was a wreck when I left.”
Bernard often said, very fondly, about his famous customer and friend, “I put his first suit on him and his last suit on him.” He was an honorary pallbearer at Elvis’ funeral and picked out the white suite with blue tie that he wore when he was buried. The day after his passing, Lansky Bros. took out a full page ad as a tribute to The King.
The store is back at its original location and they have a line inspired by the King, Clothier to the King, where some of his famous looks are updated and created.
B.B. KING AND ELVIS PRESLEY WELCOME CENTER
The B.B. King and Elvis Presley Welcome Center houses statues of the two music legends who have heavy influenced music and the Memphis scene. The Elvis statue is the one that was first unveiled on Beale Street that didn’t stand up to fans who took bits and pieces of the statue over the years.
EAST TRIGG BAPTIST CHURCH
Elvis’ love of gospel music was deeply rooted in his Mississippi upbringing and church going. While W. H. Brewster is known for his legacy in black gospel music his influence also touched on Elvis. Elvis occasionally attended services at East Trigg Baptist Church. It was rare for whites and blacks to worship together, but Brewster encouraged white visitors to his East Trigg Baptist Church services on his Sunday night radio broadcast.
Today the congregation worships at a new building right around the corner, but the original building Elvis frequented still stands at 1189 East Trigg.
MEMPHIS MUSIC HALL OF FAME
Elvis has been inducted into 4 music halls of fame. With numerous hits, successful records, and movies it is hard to imagine a time before Elvis and let along without him. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame introduces you to some of the greatest musicians of all time who changed and shaped music in Memphis.
CHISCA HOTEL ON MAIN
When Elvis recorded “That’s Alright Mama” at Sun Studio, Sam Phillips’ didn’t waste any time before he went to a nearby radio station. He went to the mezzanine floor of the Chisca Hotel and played Elvis’ recording for the radio host. The response they got from playing the recordings was amazing – calls and telegrams flooded the studio. The moment changed modern American music and set the stage for the soon-to-be megastar. The Chisca not only saw Elvis’ first broadcast, it was also where he gave his first on-air interview that same night. Elvis would return in 1956 for a live performance in the Chisca Hotel basement.