It was a reasonably early start to walk down to Sun Studios for the free shuttle bus to Graceland. According to the internet this is the best way to get there with Elvis residing in what is nowadays considered to be a rough part of town. There’s no point in coming to Memphis and not visiting Graceland. This section of Elvis Presley Boulevard is a tourist industry in its own right. There are hotels, shops selling tat, cafes, and so on, all along Elvis Presley Boulevard that make a living from Elvis.
At Graceland there are all sorts of tour options available. I’m not a big fan of cars and you can see the planes over the fence so I opted for the bog-standard tour of the Graceland mansion. Referring to it as a bog-standard tour is a bit harsh though as it was great. The whole experience was really well done and is something I’ll remember for a long time. You’re given an iPad that narrates an interactive tour where you walk through the house and grounds at your own pace. The authentic interior has been retained from the 1970s and that includes the pool room, complete with upholstery decorated walls. In the kitchen is one of the first microwaves available which cost $700 back in the day. All sorts of amazing memorabilia is displayed including clothing, gold discs and posters. Outside are the graves of Elvis and his family. Despite plenty of people taking selfies, it didn’t feel right to take a photo of this shrine.
Back at Sun Studios, I took the tour. Also there was a Scottish bloke who I’d noticed at Graceland. He was fairly recognisable on account of having a huge Elvis tattoo on his arm. This lad was a similar age to me and was on a pilgrimage, a trip of a lifetime to Memphis. As much as I was enjoying being there, he looked genuinely excited (and even somewhat emotional at some points) about following in the footsteps of his hero. The Sun Studios tour guide was Nina. She was that nice that I’ll even forgive the pretentious pronunciation of her name. It’s Ney-nah, as in the German singer of 99 Red Balloons. This is allegedly the southern pronunciation but I’ll take her word for that! Anyway, Nina was genuinely enthusiastic about her job. She came across as a music fan and that working here was something of a labour of love. There was no need for the shouty and faux enthusiasm displayed at the Motown Studio tour. Nina still did a little singing and dancing but it seemed spontaneous and sincere. The Sun Studios building is quite small and you only get to see a memorabilia room and the studio itself, which still remains a working recording studio today. We heard plenty of stories about the legends who’ve recorded there. It has a genuine claim to being the birthplace of rock n roll. The early Elvis material was made here along with music by Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and many more. Roy Orbison, one of my favourites, was briefly here for a short period, although none of his big hits were made at Sun Studios.
I’ve been in two minds about using Uber. One side of the argument is that they will undercut taxis, put them out of business and gradually raise their prices. However Uber is very handy in my circumstances. I can easily order a ride on their app, see where the driver is on a GPS map and they are usually cheaper. I didn’t really fancy a late night bus to the airport so would have been looking at $30 for a taxi. Uber however was free, due to a $20 first-ride voucher covering the $19.80 fare. And I remember Mr Hildich telling us in the first Economics A-Level class that there’s no such thing as a free ride!
Memphis Airport wasn’t exactly a hub of activity at 9pm. There were no more departures leaving tonight and hardly a soul was about. Even the Irish Bar was shut. This surely would be a contender for the world’s earliest closing Irish Bar! On the plus side they did have some excellent background music playing over the speakers in the terminal.