“I’m going to Graceland,” those famous words from the Paul Simon song, were excitedly sung randomly here and there as we ate breakfast on our last day in Memphis. Yes, indeed, we were going to Graceland where, it is said, Elvis lives. A beautiful estate that would have been relatively private during his twenty years there would not have been as restful in this day of paparazzi and social media, however Elvis crafted a home that had all of the components he needed to work and play without having to leave the grounds. From the carpeted ceiling in one of the main floor living spaces to a racquetball court and stables, Elvis lived the life with his family and closest friends. These days the estate is a mecca to young and old alike who come to walk in his shoes.
Our trip mascot was a mini-Elvis knitted for us by Sandy Robilliard. He went everywhere and was photographed here and there throughout the trip, but what better place for him to shine than at Graceland!
Next on our agenda was lunch at what has become a mecca for our band. The Four Way Grill was recommended to us by the people at Stax when we were here five years ago and the memories of the food cooked with love by Willie Earl Bates and his family have stayed with us so, of course, we had to make sure we visited this time. Southern Fried Chicken, Turkey, Burgers and the best Mac & Cheese you’ll ever eat were topped off by cobblers, cake and pie that none of us had room for but ate nonetheless because it just couldn’t be left behind. It’s no wonder this restaurant was a favourite of Dr. Martin Luther King and has been visited by famous people from far and wide. Their pictures decorate the walls along with memorabilia from another time making any visit an experience.
Last but certainly not least was a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum. Tying together several important components of music history as the world changed with the Civil Rights Movement, this visit was poignant and overwhelming in many ways. It’s difficult for our generation to understand a world so close to home that was so divided but going on the journey as we saw the story graphically displayed in articles, statues, posters, film and recordings beginning in the 17th century was a thought-provoking experience. The tour ends in the two rooms of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King spent his last hours on April 4, 1968.
Back on the bus, we set up camp for the long ride home. One more band trip in the history books with memories of several recording studios from Detroit to Memphis, a music exchange at the Stax Academy, meeting Wayne and Amy Jackson, Boo Mitchell and Jody Stephens, the Jazz Combo’s once in a lifetime recording session with Boo, Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum along with some of the best food ever. It’s a lot to take in but along with the large memories, the little details will come out over time as we remember a truly terrific band trip!
We’ve safely delivered our band kids home to their parents, tired but loaded with stories to tell. Enjoy your Mother’s Day together and catching up on some well-deserved sleep!