Elvis Presley's Graceland: 10 Things You Didn't Know About the Birthday Boy's Legendary Home
GRACELAND: WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Eager to find a rural refuge away from wild fans and the pressure of fame, 22-year-old Elvis Presley purchased his Graceland estate on March 19, 1959 for $102,500—or nearly $900,000 in today’s money. The property came with its famous moniker already in place. When Dr. Thomas Moore and his wife Ruth built the Colonial Revival style mansion in 1939, they named it after Ruth’s aunt, Grace Toof, whose father had owned the land previously used for farming.
A SERIOUS SHOPPING LIST
Presley was famed for his love of peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches, but sometimes his Southern palate demanded other delicacies. Graceland contained an extensive list of goods that the King required on hand “at all times, every day.” Such items on his shopping list (which run approximately $500 a week) included:
—One case regular Pepsi
—One case orange drink
—At least six cans of biscuits
—Cans of sauerkraut
—Banana pudding (cooked fresh nightly)
—Ingredients for meatloaf and sauce
—Ice cream (vanilla and chocolate)
—Gum (Spearmint, Doublemint, Juicy Fruit--three each)
If he was craving anything in particular while in the midst of dinner, a buzzer connected to the kitchen was installed under his place at the table.
HE LIKED TO MONKEY AROUND WITH HIS PET CHIMP
A large barn was built on the grounds of Graceland, which eventually contained an entire stable of horses, but the most unusual pet to roam the estate was Scatter, Presley’s chimpanzee. By most accounts, the King’s pet was a royal pain. The simian announced his presence with an ear-splitting “Woooo! Woooo! Woooo!” and apparently delighted in pulling down women’s skirts. Somehow, Scatter’s ill behavior endeared him to Presley, who dressed him up in elaborate costumes. A favorite joke was to drive around Memphis with Scatter in the front seat. At traffic lights, Presley would duck down, giving the appearance that the monkey was driving the car. Eventually Scatter’s mischief became too much even for Presley, and he was sent to live in a climate-controlled room at Graceland.
A GAME ROOM FIT FOR A KING
Presley borrowed the décor for his basement game room from a painting of an 18th century billboards room. Designer Bill Eubanks ran with the idea, purchasing 350 yards of 100 percent cotton fabric from a local custom furniture store. Workers labored for 10 days to bolt and pleat the material.
HE WATCHED THREE TV SETS AT ONCE!
After reading that President Lyndon Johnson had three television sets to allow him to watch all three major network news programs at once, Presley took the idea for his downstairs media room. He spent a great deal of time happily watching TV—unless Robert Goulet came on. For reasons best known to him, Presley had an intense dislike of the musically inclined actor. Prior to the invention of remote controls, Presley found that shooting the television set with a pistol was the quickest way to get Goulet off the screen. "That jerk's got no heart!" he was heard to exclaim. "That will be enough of that s—!"
THE BOSS VISITS THE KING
Graceland hosted more than its fair share of guests during Presley’s tenure, but one 1976 visitor was unannounced. A young Bruce Springsteen, on the cusp of worldwide superstardom, took a cab to the gates of the estate late one April night with his E Street Band guitarist, Steven Van Zandt. Despite the hour, they noticed lights on in the main house and hopped the fence in hopes of saying hello to the King. Unfortunately, security guards stopped the pair before they reached the door. It was just as well, because Presley was in Lake Tahoe at the time.
HE TURNED THE JUNGLE ROOM INTO A RECORDING STUDIO
In the mid-'60s, Presley added an enclosed den off the home’s kitchen, which he would later fill with garish Tiki furniture and plants. The flagstone waterfall contributed to the tropical atmosphere, which led to it being dubbed “the Jungle Room” by many fans—though Presley himself never used the name.
In February 1976, RCA dispatched a mobile recording unit to Graceland and transformed the large room into a temporary recording studio (the shag carpeting acted as natural sound absorbers). The songs would be released on From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee. Another session would be held that October—which would prove to be the last before his death less than a year later. Four tracks from these dates would see release on the posthumous album Moody Blue.
HIS BODY WAS MOVED TO GRACELAND AFTER THIEVES TRIED TO STEAL IT
Among the many alterations Presley had made to Graceland over the years, perhaps the most meaningful was the so-called Meditation Garden—a secluded patch of plants and fountains cordoned off by white columns and a pergola that he had installed in 1964. In life, it was where he loved to sit and reflect and in death, it serves as his final resting place—although that wasn’t originally the plan.
On Aug. 18, two days after his death, Presley was buried next to his late mother, Gladys, at Memphis’ Forest Hill Cemetery. However, an attempt was apparently made to steal his 900-pound, steel-lined, copper-plated coffin and hold the remains for ransom. Three men were arrested, though the scheme was so flimsy that they could only be charged with trespassing in the cemetery. Fearing copycat criminals, Presley’s body, as well as Gladys', was moved back to Graceland. Today they are joined by father Vernon and a monument for the singer’s stillborn twin brother, Jessie.
THE UPSTAIRS IS OFF LIMITS
Presley’s master suite on the second floor of Graceland was his most private refuge, where only his closest confidants were allowed to enter. It was there, in his bathroom, that Presley’s body was found on Aug. 16, 1977. After the home was opened to the public in 1982, the second floor was sealed shut out of respect to the family—and also to avoid any macabre attention at the scene of his death.
Over the years, the upstairs at Graceland has taken on something of a mythical aura, with rumors that his suite remains untouched, just as the King left it. No authenticated quality photos have ever been released, and no one is allowed in—aside from former wife Priscilla, daughter Lisa Marie, and the Graceland curator. Presidents and foreign dignitaries have all been turned away, but ironically one celebrity has made it inside: actor and noted Presley superfan Nicolas Cage, during his marriage to Lisa Marie in the early 2000s.
IT'S THE SECOND MOST VISITED HOME IN AMERICA
Guests keep flocking to Graceland, with no sign of letting up! The estate welcomes an average of over 650,000 visitors a year, making it second only to the White House as the most-visited home in the United States.