Review of American Melody Cruise: Elvis’ Home Featured in ‘Christmas at Graceland’ TV Special

Visitors usually walk quickly past the swimming pool at Graceland on their way to Meditation Garden where Elvis is buried. But on this chilly morning, 21-year-old Anthony Miller of Cincinnati has stopped with his buddies to take a special look at the outdoor pool.

“That’s where Post Malone jumped in after he sang his Elvis song,” Anthony says. “He jumped in with his guitar and all his clothes on. And the pool wasn’t even heated. Wow!”

The Graceland pool where Post Malone jumped in after singing on the TV special.

As his buddies wowed in agreement, Anthony says that he has also heard that Post’s outfit and guitar that went into the pool for the NBC special “Christmas at Graceland” are now displayed at Elvis Presley’s Memphis exhibit complex across the street from Graceland.

Indeed, they are. Post’s leopard leather suit and custom Gibson guitar for his version of Elvis’ 1963 hit song “Devil in Disguise” is featured in the Icons exhibit.

Also displayed is Lainey Wilson’s bell-bottomed jumpsuit adorned with rhinestones, sequins and a cape that she wore to open the Christmas show with “Santa Claus is Back in Town.”

Outfits worn by Lainey Wilson and Post Malone in the Christmas special are displayed at the Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex.

Originally aired Nov. 29, the one-hour special hosted inside the Graceland estate by Elvis’ granddaughter Riley Keough is now on Peacock and other streaming services. Other performers who paid tribute to Elvis during the Christmas special were Alanis Morissette, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Kane Brown, Lana Del Rey and The War and Treaty.

Iconic Memphis Property

Elvis purchased the iconic Memphis property in the spring of 1957 when he was 22 years old for $102,500. It is where he died on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42. He is buried in Meditation Garden along with his father Vernon, mother Gladys and grandmother Minnie Mae. A plaque marks a grave for Elvis’ twin, Jesse Garon Presley, who was stillborn 35 minutes before Elvis was born. Jesse was buried in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, died Jan. 12 of cardiac arrest at age 54. Her son, Benjamin Keough, died by shotgun suicide on July 12, 2020, at age 27. Both are buried at Graceland’s Meditation Garden across from the graves of Elvis and other family members.

Graves of Elvis’ daughter and his grandson

Graceland opened to the public as a museum in 1982 and now welcomes more than 600,000 visitors each year. After the death of Lisa Marie – Elvis’s only child –  her eldest daughter Riley Keough was named sole trustee of her mother’s estate and granted ownership of Graceland.

Now Graceland glows with Christmas finery including decorations once used by Elvis himself. Remember that the last time Elvis walked through Graceland doors, it was 1977. Times have changed. Fashions have changed. Graceland hasn’t.

Entrance to Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex

Graceland is a blend of the ‘50s, ‘60s and 70’s. It is a poor boy’s idea of luxury, a gift he promised his parent they would have one day.

Fulfilling a Promise

Legend goes that when Elvis Presley was a youngster, he told his parents he would grow up to make a lot of money and buy them the finest house in town. He would take care of them and end his parents’ years of poverty and struggle, Elvis vowed.

Graceland living room

Elvis did just that. Built in 1939 and named for its former owner’s great-aunt, Grace Toof, Graceland was the American Dream come true for Elvis and his family. Although he hired an interior decorator, Elvis used his own tastes instead. What you see is what he was.

Elvis created the Polynesian-style Jungle Room with its Tiki statues and furry walls. He set up three television sets in his rec room after learning that President Lyndon Johnson used three so he could watch all three networks at once.

The tour itself is almost ghostly quiet. Visitors with individual headsets listen to tapes of what they are seeing. Narrated by John Stamos, the tapes feature music and commentary with the voices of Elvis and Lisa Marie seeming to echo strangely from the past.

Graceland dining room

As the tapes roll, expressions on visitors’ faces register astonishment, laughter and sometimes grief. It’s not unusual to see tears trickling down some listeners’ faces.

Although it’s a major tourism mecca, the Graceland company allows nothing to be sold or advertised on the grounds of the mansion. All tickets, souvenirs, photos, food and other items are sold only in the visitor center across the street. Once you cross Elvis Presley Boulevard and enter the mansion grounds, you see Elvis’ home the way he enjoyed it.

A Nativity scene used by Elvis is displayed at Graceland.

New Enesco Gift Shop and Department 56 Gallery

Across the street from Graceland is a new attraction. Opened Nov. 16 in the old Graceland Crossing shopping center, the world’s largest display of Department 56 villages is featured along with Enesco gifts and accessories for happy shoppers.

The Department 56 Gallery tells the collectible company’s 47-year history through themed displays and vignettes featuring its popular hand-crafted lighted villages. The gallery shows the first six lighted buildings that were the start of The Original Snow Village created in 1976 for the company based in Minnesota.

A huge collection of Department 56 lighted buildings is displayed at the new gallery.

The Enesco Gift Shop offers a large variety of giftware and collectibles. Founded in 1958 and headquartered in Itasca, Illinois, Enesco is a leading designer and wholesaler of gifts, home accents and collectibles sold at large department store chains, home décor boutiques, and gift retailers in more than 50 countries.

A model of Graceland is in the new Enesco gift shop and Department 56 Gallery.

Of course, the new gift shop and gallery also has Elvis-related items, like a lighted Graceland mansion, the Lisa Marie airplane, famous musical gates leading into Graceland, Elvis figurines and much more.

A Charles Dickens exhibit with ‘A Christmas Carol’ collectibles at the new Enesco gift shop and Department 56 Gallery

Guest House at Graceland

Located only steps from Graceland, the AAA Four Diamond Guest House at Graceland is a handy place to stay while visiting Graceland. The Guest House offers 430 spacious guests and 20 luxury suites, an expansive outdoor swimming pool and fitness facilities, two restaurants, lobby bar, coffee shop, 464-seat theater, gift shop, meeting and banquet facilities, Chapel in the Woods and much more.

Having American Cruise Lines passengers stay at The Guest House the night before a Memphis departure cruise begins is a smart idea. With the way flights are cancelled and delayed, it is nice to arrive at The Guest House for a good night’s sleep and a delicious buffet breakfast before boarding the ship. If flight problems arrive, that extra day provides time to arrive for the cruise departure.

Passengers also can book an extra night at The Guest House to enjoy Memphis attractions including, of course, Graceland and other Elvis attractions.

Guest House at Graceland

Elegant Decor

The Guest House decor is elegant with the bold colors that Elvis loved and the mid-century furniture with which he had filled Graceland. Folks expecting to see numerous Elvis photos and memorabilia throughout The Guest House might be surprised.

The touches are far more subtle. For example, the large painting on a guestroom wall features the toe stance that Elvis used when singing “Jailhouse Rock” in the movie of the same name. Not his face or photo, just that distinctive dance move.

At the main entrance, the lobby has symbols of Elvis such as the large comfortable lobby chairs with the high backs and chair arms that mimic the way Elvis wore his upturned shirt and jacket collars. The lobby ceiling was inspired by the jewels in Elvis’ jumpsuit capes.

Lobby at Guest House at Graceland

The outdoor fire pit is in the shape of a heart, inspired by the song ‘Love Me Tender.’ Lighting scones in the hotel hallways carry the initials “EP.”

Down the hallway from the lobby is a staircase modeled after the one at Graceland that leads to Elvis’ private area of his home. The beautiful chandelier at The Guest House was designed for Graceland but was deemed too large so Elvis put in in storage. When The Guest House was built, it seemed the perfect place for the chandelier.

Complimentary Music Abounds

Guest House rooms showcase Elvis’ performances playing on the TV as well as free WiFi. Guests can choose to hear and see Elvis in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s. The theater also plays one of Elvis’ 31 movies or concerts on nights when other theater events are not taking place. A live band performs Elvis-era tunes in the lobby Wed. through Sat. evenings. The theater and lobby music are complimentary.

Another special touch at The Guest House at Graceland is the complimentary 9 p.m. snack, one of Elvis’ favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with cold milk, hot chocolate and coffee to drink. It’s fun to see adult guests waiting like little kids to eat what many consider a childhood favorite.

Also complimentary are the Graceland shuttles which leave The Guest House every half hour from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Graceland and the Elvis’ Memphis complex are both easily walkable but the shuttle is a nice option.

In addition, a Guest House shuttle offers free rides to and from Memphis International Airport about 10 minutes away. The shuttle is easy to identify. It is decorated with large images of Elvis.

Complimentary Guest House at Graceland shuttle is easy to recognize.

Although Anthony Miller says this is his first trip to Graceland, he adds that it won’t be his last. He and his young buddies are already planning to return for the annual Elvis Week 2024 on Aug. 9-17.

“We want to be in the candle pilgrimage up to Elvis’ grave,” Anthony says. “Even though he died long before I was born, there has never been a performer like Elvis and I don’t think there ever will be again.”

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Cover photo courtesy of Graceland

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1 thought on “Review of American Melody Cruise: Elvis’ Home Featured in ‘Christmas at Graceland’ TV Special”

  1. Thanks for your message, Leslie. I enjoyed seeing Graceland decorated for Christmas and hearing the Elvis songs. Always something new to see!

    Reply

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