After a couple of days in New York, where we spent some wonderful time with a famous author, we arrived in Memphis just ahead of the crowd that was expected for Elvis week. Of course we headed for Graceland immediately. After a 20 minutes walk (we stayed at the Ramada) we didn't have a dry thread on our body because of the humid heat, but there we were… a dream came true finally. It was around 6 P.M., so the tour was closed already, but we had more important things to do anyway.
Indeed, writing our names on the wall. After taking pictures and hanging around a bit we headed back to the hotel, which was still pretty boring, because we were the only fans and had to settle for a hillbilly party, which we couldn't endure for much more than an hour. Even the beer didn't really help to ease the pain. After picking up the rented car the next morning we headed for… Graceland, again. This time to do the full tour, which turned out to be a pretty time consuming job. After seeing the DVD, CD-rom and many pictures the Mansion didn't have real surprises, but still a strange excitement came over us. Especially the achievement-parts of the house were very impressing. The "been there, done that" we wrote on the postcards home sounds tough, but doesn't describe the special feeling at all. The automobile thing, "Sincerely Elvis" and the planes were fun too, but compared to the mansion itself hardly worth to mention. Still the most impressing thing of the trip had yet to come.
The next day we went to 706 Union Avenue, indeed the Sun studio. Not often we are reduced to silence, but here it happened. Hearing those first steps of real music in the place were it was made caused quite some goosebumps. Not only the Elvis-songs did so, but also "Rocket 88", "Bear Cat", the early Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. Without any doubt this place should be preserved until eternity. That evening was reserved for another world-famous webmaster and his mother, after several years of virtual contact we finally met them "live". We had a great meal at B.B. King's, where we enjoyed some southern specialties, like fried pickles. After being driven out of Elvis Presley's Memphis by a very annoying hardrock band, we enjoyed some real music (blues) at Beale Street, a fitting closing of one of the best days of our trip.
On Friday more fans entered the building of our hotel and soon we were engaged in sharing opinions, memories and experiences. Almost anyone turned out to be great to be around, it was one big party. The Brits, the Dutch people that were traveling with them, most fans that were in the hotel on their own and even some locals enjoyed the "Elvis-Today"-party. We had a great time chatting with people from all over the globe, and a reunion with some people we met earlier in New York.
Elvis Con 2001 started on Saturday. We did enjoy wandering around, but the prices were ridiculous in general. Some photographs made our mouths water, but $65 for a single picture? No way! Later that day our chaperone from New York (yes, the famous author) arrived and introduced us to some interesting people. Andrew Hearn (editor of Essential Elvis from the UK) was a good excuse to be around his wife Polly and during the next week we did so often. The lobby of the Ramada turned out to be a good place to hang around anyway, since Al Dvorin, Ed Bonja, Sonny West, Jim Curtin and lots of other less famous, but very nice people had great stories to share. It was not surprising that in this place a lot of people gathered.
Against all expectations from our side, the Gospel brunch at EP's turned out to be great. The Jordanaires still hit the notes, and Terry Mike Jeffrey did a fine job on the songs we know so well by Elvis and Millie Kirkham joined the stage for a couple of songs.
Of course we had to do some sightings too, and during our days in Memphis we saw Humes, Lauderdale Courts and of course Audubon drive. Especially this last one was really great and we'd like to thank Mike and Cindy for sharing their home with the fans. A 2 hour drive to Tupelo seemed a bit exaggerated for the time we spent there, but it had to be done.
Being an official fanclub now, we were able to attend the President's Luncheon. Well, what can we say? The most interesting of that long sit, Omansky's speech, has already been spread on the internet. Hearing Boots Randolph doing "Amazing Grace", dedicated to Elvis and "Benny Hill's Tune" live, before a very strange audience we must admit, was the next best thing. We guess a lot of you might have seen the vigil on the internet, but really being there is something special. We didn't line up ourselves, but we have to admit it was a wonderful sight. It makes you think of Christmas, not only the candles but also the way a lot of the (female American) fans were decorated, lightning buttons all over the bodies. Once again our impressions from the internet were confirmed.
The highlight of Elvis week followed on August 16. In the Mid-South Coliseum we were a bit disappointed about the empty seats (way too many), but the show turned out to be great, as usual. Our backstage passes gave us the ability to have a look behind the scenes and let us tell you, those guys behind the stage have a lot of equipment to keep an eye on. Before the show they were not too busy yet to illustrate things and they satisfied our curiosity completely. As said before the show itself was great, but there is a real big difference in experiencing the show in Europe or the US. It looks like European fans are looser and having more fun with dancing and singing along than US-fans who stay in their seats and are much more reserved.
Well, all funny things come to an end and the last Friday of our trip was mainly used for waving (new) friends goodbye and wishing them a safe trip home. This last evening was used to say goodbye to Beale Street, where we were frightened to death by somebody who was raping "It's Midnight". That somebody turned out to be one of the "best" impersonators, Doug Church. Boy, are we glad we didn't hear the lesser ones. Some beers helped us to fall asleep without nightmares, before we had to head for a long and tiring trip home. The end of a fantastic journey and we thank everybody who helped to make this trip so wonderful. The sightings are good anyway, but you need some good people around to make it this great.