Elvis Week 2013 Rocks Memphis with Concerts, Tours, & Free Fun
If it’s August in Memphis, three things are certain: It’s gonna be hot. (Iced tea or a shivery local beer – Ghost River, High Cotton – can help.) Kids are filing back to school (whether they want to or not). And…it’s Elvis Week, y’all!
Following tradition, the week will rock and roll with tours of Graceland (don’t miss this year’s new exhibits, Elvis’ Hawaii: Concerts, Movies and More! and Elvis: Live from Vegas); musical entertainment and talks from Graceland’s Elvis Week Main Stage; the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest and more. While tickets are required for many events, you can find freebies – check the free entertainment tent at Graceland Crossing and join a Meditation Garden walk-up (free 7:30-8:30 a.m. Aug. 10-18 and 7-9 p.m. Aug. 10-14, 16 and 17). Of course, the Candlelight Vigil is always free and requires no tickets or reservations.
While Graceland anchors much of the activity, Elvis Week is a tribute the whole city gets in on. If you haven’t before (or even if you have), take this week to tour Sun Studio or journey to other sites tied to the King – they’re everywhere in Memphis, and it’s remarkable to experience them in a multi-generational sea of fans. My best bets:
- Aug. 11, register for Backbeat Tours’ Hound Dog Tour, an Elvis Week exclusive that will have your tour guide performing Elvis hits between pointing out Sun Studio; Elvis’ high school (set to receive a historic marker during Elvis Week); the Levitt Shell (where, in 1954, Elvis performed his first professional gig); Lansky Bros. clothing store; and the Chisca Hotel (where Dewey Phillips famously broadcasted Presley for the first time). The basic tour runs 90 minutes, but I’d take the option to extend it an hour and walk inside the Presley apartment at Lauderdale Courts, restored to its 1950s charm when the family called it home.
- Aug. 12, get to the Elvis Week Main Stage at Graceland to hear my friend Memphis Jones with Brad Birkedahl salute Memphis music (7 p.m.). What makes Memphis Jones so darn likeable are the nuggets of local music history he shares between songs, and his ability to shift seamlessly between covering the King, Memphis soul standards and other formative Memphis sounds like The Box Tops. No doubt he’ll touch on all of it during this show.
- Speaking of soul, you must, must, must not miss the Elvis at Stax Listening Party on Aug. 13. In July and December 1973, Elvis recorded at Stax Records, now site of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. At 4 p.m., RCA/Legacy Recordings will host the listening party in honor of the Aug. 6 release of “Elvis at Stax,” a three-CD box set. Music industry execs and special guest Norbert Putnam, the legendary bassist who recorded with Elvis at Stax, will discuss the sessions. Bonus: Admission is free!
- Aug. 15 is a day of reflection, opening with a gospel celebration at 9 a.m. on Graceland’s Main Stage. Terry Mike Jeffrey, Andy Childs and former members of J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet (Elvis’ backing band) will perform Elvis’ beloved hymns – recall that Elvis’ only GRAMMYs, three in total, commemorated gospel recordings. Return to the gates of Graceland at 8:30 p.m. for a ceremony opening the Candlelight Vigil and join the procession to Elvis’ gravesite. The gates will remain open until everyone gathered has a chance to walk through (usually in the wee hours of Aug. 16, when Elvis actually passed). Free parking at the Graceland visitor center complex begins at 6 p.m. on Aug. 15.
- Aug. 16, venture to downtown Memphis’ historic Orpheum Theatre for a 7:30 p.m. screening of Aloha from Hawaii. Forty years after its original airing, it is still considered the most-watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in television history.
- Aug. 17, downtown’s Cannon Center for the Performing Arts will host the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest finals. What a show – the top 10 finalists, and 2012 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Ben Portsmouth, will perform.
Elvis Week Bonus: Tour the Memphian Theater
These half-hour tours are given by reservation only between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday of Elvis Week. Your professional guide will dish on Elvis’ visits to his “favorite” movie house, the Memphian Theater, what he liked to watch, and even point out his preferred chair (in case you need a photo). Tours are $7 per person ($5 for Graceland visitors). Call 901-937-6473 to make your reservation or arrange a group tour.
What’s your favorite Elvis-related story or site in Memphis? Tell us in the comments section below.