30 Years of Graceland…
It was 30 years ago this month that Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee first opened its doors to the public. It is now the second most visited buidling in American – after the White House!
"We had no idea whether 30 people or 300 were coming on that first day" said Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises. In fact, 3,024 tickets were sold on that historic first day, and since then every year 600,000 visitors flock to the Memphis suburb to see the mansion where Elvis lived for 20 years.
The busiest time of the year is August, during the annual commemoration of Elvis' death. August 2012 marks the 35th anniversary of the death of the King of Rock'n'Roll, when Graceland expects to greet its 18th million visitor!
Built by a Memphis chiropractor for his wife in 1939, and named after her aunt Grace, Elvis bought the property in March 1957 and it remained his home until his untimely death aged only 42 in 1977. Graceland is chock full of Elvis memorabilia, everything from stage suits to private jets. There is a jaw-dropping display of all the gold records Elvis accumulated during his lifetime, and those he received posthumously.
"It's incredible to see that the legacy of Elvis is still going strong" his widow Priscilla said on the occasion of Graceland's 30th anniversary, "We wouldn't have imagined that when it opened in 1982. Elvis is as popular now as he was then, if not even more".
It was Priscilla who was the moving force behind the opening of Graceland following the death of Elvis' father Vernon in 1979. To look at the practicalities, Priscilla visited other homes-turned-museums, including those of Thomas Edison, William Randolph Hearst and even popped into Disney World – for inspiration!
Over the years, Graceland has attracted legions of celebrity visitors: rock legends who have come to pay their repects include Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Ozzy Osbourne, Keith Richards, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry, Elvis Costello, U2, Florence + the Machine, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (three times!). Bruce Springsteen famously tried to clamber over the wall before the house was open to the public.
Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush have been there; authors Stephen King and Nigella Lawson and actors Tom Hanks, Orlando Bloom, Russell Crowe, Cameron Diaz, Joan Collins, Keanu Reeves, Jack Nicholson, Russell Brand, Glenn Close and Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Among the first visitors to Graceland was Paul Simon, who used the home as the inspiration for what he called the best song he'd ever written… 'Graceland'.
"Every time I go there" Priscilla said recently, "I feel like Elvis is going to come down the stairs any minute. I have no doubt that he's there, somewhere, his spirit. I think people feel that".
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