Ironic then, that I ended up in a place called the Pilgram Hostel which was housed in a church. This was situated in sleepy part of town called Cooper Young, a ways from downtown. I arrived at 730am. Note to self, no more overnight flights. Public transport was sparse, so I rented a bike and started off on a 7 mile ride in the 35 degree heat. I got so hot and bothered, and hit a wall (not literally) that I turned around and came home for a kip.
I freshened up and had some beers and a late lunch at one of the local bars, smiling all the time at everyone calling me m’am and the coolest playlist of Etta James, Bill Withers, Howlin Wolf.
I later went for a walk in the balmy dusk and reveled in the pretty architecture from another era, old white wooden houses, with swing seats on their verandahs. I imagined myself on one of those, sipping on a long tall glass of ice cold tea.
I turned in for an early night, a happy girl.
The next day I headed to Graceland. My fondest childhood memories are of my mum teaching me how to rumba and samba to a bunch of Elvis tunes.
We would watch these dreadful films, which i think i knew were dreadful even as a little girl. But it didnt matter coz the hero was so handsome and he could sing, and dance, and fight, and he drove really cool cars really fast. What more could a girl want?
The mansion is a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Elvis bought this place for just over $100k when he was just 22 years old. He’d only cut his record at Sun Studios 4 years earlier.
Elvis’ taste in interior decorating sent a shudder down my spine and made me squeal with delight all at once. Offensive color combinations, faux animal fur and green carpeted ceilings, animal skulls and stained glass windows, awful paintings, interior waterfalls, indigenous artifacts. Clash clash clash! Loved!
The rest of the grounds is dotted with exhibits, such as the car museum – my favorite was the purple convertible cadillac with fins. But what nearly pushed me over the edge were the ELEVEN gift stores. I was in Elvia merchandising heaven! Thongs, oven mits, shoe shaped handbags, a Mr Potato Head version of Elvis (why?), and pretty much anything you could think of, they had it. I had wanted to get a wobbly figurine for my dashboard, and was stoked to find a suitable alternative. Dangly legs swinging from an Elvis torso, complete with suction cup for my car’s rear window. Perfect.
Later that afternoon, I poked around the hallowed grounds of Sun Studios and heard original recordings of everyone from Roy Orbison through to a very young and handsome Johnny Cash *sighs*. I was most definitely born 25 years too late.
I bought an album from a cool lil record store on Beale Street. I cooled off with a beer inside BB Kings House of Blues and listened to a cool local band doing their bit to keep the dream alive. I flicked through a local rag, diggin on the names of the acts who would play lat that week…King Beez, Blind Mississippi Morris, Juke Joint All Stars and my favorite- The Black Dahlia Murder with Beast in the Field. How could they not be good?
So here i was in a seminal place where country and rockabilly and blues and soul all came together to give birth to rock.
I loved it.