Two new exciting exhibitions chronicling two key periods of Elvis’ life – “Private Presley” and “Elvis 68” – are scheduled to open at the Graceland visitor center in March 2008 and will feature many items from the Graceland archives that have never been on display to the general public. Also new this year is an expanded and enhanced VIP Tour.
“Private Presley” covers the time 50 years ago when, at the zenith of his early superstardom, Elvis Presley was inducted into the army. He performed his duties like any other soldier with none of the special treatment his celebrity status might have afforded him. After completing basic training and initial service in Texas, in October 1958 Elvis was sent to Germany where he served until March of 1960. It was during his time abroad that he met his future wife Priscilla Beaulieu.
The “Private Presley” exhibit will include Elvis’ fatigues, dress uniforms, army foot locker and suitcases. Other novel items include the jacket he wore in the 1960 press conference he hosted at Graceland upon returning home, as well as the blue army dress jacket he wore on the train ride home from New York to Memphis and then on the special "Welcome Home, Elvis" edition of Frank Sinatra's television variety program. Another key item never before on display is the cedar chest Elvis kept in the Graceland attic to store both his army clothes and some of his late mother’s belongings.
While in the army, Elvis’ fame continued to grow through the release of music recordings he had made prior to his army induction and on his first furlough, a film he had completed before entering the army, and the publicity and promotion master-minded by his infamous manager Colonel Tom Parker. Upon arriving home from his 18-month stint in Germany, Elvis returned to the recording studio and to his film career. After three benefit concerts in 1961, Elvis did not perform again live in front of an audience until 1968 during the taping of his first television special. This NBC special catapulted his career to new heights and secured his reputation as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Broadcast as “Singer Presents Elvis,” the program returned Elvis to his roots as a musician and performer after years of movie making and became the season’s top rated special, attracting 42 percent of the television viewing audience.
The “Elvis 68” exhibit will include the white suit Elvis wore for the “If I Can Dream” finale; a black suit he wore during the "club scenes" of the program's big production number; a wristband he wore with the famous black leather outfit (which is part of the permanent exhibitions at Graceland); a red vest worn for promotional photos; and documents relating to the special including tickets to the tapings, photographs and a script. Also included will be a timeline exhibit of events occurring in the United States in 1968 to give historical context to that year in Elvis' life.
The new and expanded VIP Tour will offer an exclusive exhibit featuring several never-before-seen artifacts. The new displays enhance the current VIP Tour allowing visitors the luxury of front of the line privileges, special shuttle service and an all day pass to tour Graceland mansion, the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, Lisa Marie Airplane Tour, Elvis Jumpsuits: All Access exhibit as well as the two new “Elvis 68” and “Private Presley” exhibits.
It will also feature the first-ever professional photos of Elvis. The Presleys could not afford professional photos of the family, but in 1955 Elvis posed for his first photo shoot with William Speers in Memphis. This portion of the VIP exhibit allows visitors to see the original proofs from that photo shoot including Elvis’ personal handwritten notes indicating his favorites.
Other new displays include a first hand look at a young Elvis during his days at Humes High School through a display of artifacts including his high school diploma, Class of 1953 tassel and high school yearbooks.
Also new to the VIP Tour are artifacts that relate to the personal side of Elvis including the deed to Graceland, a gift from Elvis to his parents, and items from Elvis' personal wardrobe. A fascinating variety of off stage clothing including custom outfits for family dinners and lounging around the house will be displayed in a replica of Elvis' upstairs dressing room. And for the first time ever, the living room furniture from Elvis and Priscilla's honeymoon hideaway in Palm Springs will be on display in the VIP Tour exclusive exhibit.
The working barn behind Graceland is one area that is rarely seen by visitors. The new VIP exhibit will feature items from that space including Elvis' personal saddle, chaps and other artifacts relating to the Presley's equestrian activities, as well as information on the horses that still live at Graceland.