A special trip through 'The King's' palace

James Phillips
Posted 11/20/16

Millions of people from across the globe trek through the stairwells and halls of Elvis Presley’s Graceland each year.

While I have toured Graceland in the past, I had the incredible experience a couple of weeks ago to visit the King of Rock …

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A special trip through 'The King's' palace

Posted

Millions of people from across the globe trek through the stairwells and halls of Elvis Presley’s Graceland each year.

While I have toured Graceland in the past, I had the incredible experience a couple of weeks ago to visit the King of Rock and Roll’s palace with two ladies who spent a lot of time with Elvis.

Edie Hand has been a friend for some time, and through the years, we have talked many times about touring Graceland together as a way to share some of her memories from the mansion. Earlier this month, that’s exactly what we did, and we were joined by Gigi Ballester, a former marketing representative from RCA who was friends with Elvis and spent a lot of time at Graceland. A few other friends of Edie joined us for a tour that no one else has ever been able to take.

Walking through the mansion and listening to the stories of days and nights at Graceland through the memories of those two ladies is something that I will treasure for a lifetime.

While Graceland sounded like a fun place, it was the stories of Elvis’ charitable nature that struck me. Presley gave cars away like most people give change to panhandlers. Several stories shared were about how Elvis would watch the local news and make sure to give to people in need. His giving nature was a side of the entertainer that you don’t see by watching his concerts and movies.

Watching Edie and Gigi talking about their time at Graceland was interesting. Their emotions were evident with a couple of their stories even moving themselves and others in our group to tears.

After our tour, I was able to spend a good amount of time with Edie in the green room of the theater at the new Guest House at Graceland hotel. We had a great conversation about how her time spent at Graceland has affected her life. She said, “It’s from Graceland to God’s amazing grace to have a better tomorrow.” She talked about how faith, family, friends and fans have been special to her throughout the years.

Before taking the stage to present awards to Graceland officials, Edie was excited. I could tell this was a proud moment for her, and it meant a lot to me that I was able to share that with her.

For our trip to Graceland, we stayed at the new Guest House hotel. It is an incredible place that is designed throughout with Elvis in mind. Any Elvis fan should stay there at least one night.

My wife and I shared the trip with her parents, Bill and Teresia Morrow. They are big Elvis fans, and I knew they would enjoy the time at Graceland. Their anniversary is coming up, so I thought that trip would be a great way to celebrate their 40-plus years together.

On top of the trip through Graceland, we also visited a few other sites in Memphis, including Beale Street and the Bass Pro Shops in The Pyramid. My in-laws had never crossed the Mississippi River, so we also did that, going a few miles into Arkansas. I’m pretty sure I’m their favorite son-in-law at this point. Of course, I am their only son-in-law, but this trip certainly bought me some brownie points with them.

I appreciate Edie including us in this trip, and I hope our readers enjoy the feature story on the front page today.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.