Elvis never would have left Graceland say The Kings family It was meant to be
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Sixty five years ago, a young man made true a wild promise he had made to his parents as a little boy in a two-room shack. Aged just 22, Elvis Aaron Presley bought a colonial-style mansion that cemented his arrival as a major star and would become a lifelong symbol of his fame and fortune. It remains one of the most famous homes on the planet. As his cousin says in a new video: “Elvis was Graceland and Graceland was Elvis.”
The King’s family had started in poverty, living in a prefabricated two-room “shotgun shack” in Tupelo, Mississippi, before moving to live in rented community tenement housing in Memphis. As soon as the star’s career took off in early 1956, he bought his family a smart detached house at 1034 Audubon Drive, with the royalties from his debut million-seller hit, Heartbreak Hotel.
Within a year, his career had exploded to such an extent that he was already looking for something far grander. In March 1957, Elvis was finishing his second film, Loving You, and had already released a staggering 48 singles and two studio albums.
He asked his parents to look for a suitable new house. He wanted something substantial and impressive with considerable land around it. The singer and budding movie star was already aware of the need for privacy as his fame and fanbase exploded.
The estate agent, Virginia Grant, showed Vernon and Gladys two properties, saving Graceland for last.
It was a family home at 3764 Highway 51 South. Styled as a “ranch”, it sat in a semi-rural area roughly ten miles outside downtown Memphis. The city would eventually expand out to the house, but at that time it stood alone, surrounded by its own grounds and countryside.
The King’s parents made a $1000 down-payment that same day.
Elvis visited the property on the morning of March 19. At the time it was just two-story house with a barn, set in almost 14 acres.
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Graceland’s open-planned ground floor and sweeping staircase had been designed for the Moore family so it could be opened out to seat up to 500 people for recitals by their harpist daughter Ruth Marie. The house itself had been named for a family aunt, Grace.
There was also a piano, and Elvis headed straight for it when he viewed the property and played some rock and roll to celebrate finding his future home.
Although the local YMCA had already put a bid in for the property, Elvis significantly upped the amount and signed papers on the same day. According to the official Graceland website, Elvis’ parents signed the contract and paid the final sale price of $102,500 on March 25, 1957. That’s around $968,250 in today’s money.
The house was 10,266 square feet when Elvis bought it and he immediately started remodelling. That process over the years has taken the property to 17,552 square feet.
One of the most important and instantly recognisable changes was made straight away. On April 22, the famous ‘Music Gates’, designed by Abe Saucer and custom-built by John Dillars Jr of Memphis Doors Inc, were installed.
On May 16, Gladys, Vernon and his mother Minnie Mae moved in.
Elvis was away filming and wouldn’t take up residence himself until June 26, the same month he had the kidney-shaped swimming pool installed. A beautiful piano sat in the main living room.
He would live there for the next 20 years. More than simply a symbol of all he had achieved, it was also his home and his sanctuary.
On the Memphis Mafia Kid channel, his cousin Danny Smith was asked whether Elvis would have left or even sold Graceland. Danny is the son of Billy Smith who grew up in Tupelo and then at Graceland with the star. As an adult, he worked with him as part of the Memphis Mafia.
He said on the Memphis Mafia Kid channel: “My opinion, I think without a doubt (he would have stayed). I think Elvis would, had he lived, sure, just like he did, he might have had other places in different states. His home, I feel would always have been Graceland. The way I feel when I see it is it was a meant-to-be thing.
“Elvis was Graceland and Graceland was Elvis, and he loved Graceland.”
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