MAYBE ELVIS FINALLY LEFT MEMPHIS
By Rich Wilson
Years before the doors of Graceland would open for the entire world to experience, Elvis fans would gather in Memphis, Tennessee to remember their fallen idol and to share their memories of him with each other. It
was a “special” time for the fans. A time to gather from all over the world, in one place, and be with Elvis.
In 1986, Graceland would be open to the public for tours and Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. would be formed. The little shops that once lined Elvis Presley Boulevard, opposite of Graceland would soon become the places to
purchase everything from Elvis music to tacky Elvis Presley ash trays. Most of these stores where independently owned but that would eventually change too.
Fans would continue to gather in Memphis, usually in August for the newly created “Tribute Week” and candlelight vigil. It was common at that time to see private gatherings or even parties where long-time Presley followers would
meet. “You seemed to be close to everyone back then” said one fan. “We cared for each other because Elvis cared for all of us.” Hotel and motel rooms were transformed into mini convention halls as one fan after another would file
in, look at collectibles, maybe watch an Elvis movie and always talk about their favorite subject…Elvis! “It was quite common to see one group of fans stopping to chat with another group of fans anywhere and everywhere in Memphis,”
according to Presley fan Betty Stokes. “You just don’t see that sort of thing anymore and it’s kind of sad.”
Today, there is a whole new generation of Presley fans that take to the streets of Memphis. Although they are no less of an Elvis fan than those who came before them, they are indeed different. Today in Memphis, the closeness of
the fans isn’t there. Most pass by one another without so much as a simple smile or “hello.” The tourist attraction level has overridden the basic reasons why fans gathered in Memphis each year. Now it is common for fans to come to
Memphis, buy as much as they can from the record shops and from the novelty stores, visit Graceland, take pictures with EP impersonators and then it’s back home to pay off the charge cards. Nothing like the “coming home” feeling
that once kept Elvis fans feeling like they were a family. A family who got together for a common reason. To be with each other, there in Memphis, to remember Elvis. It was a time to laugh, cry, and share memories.
Many of the original fans who once traveled from around the world to see Elvis in concert have since passed away or have become too old or ill to travel. One woman from Japan saved all of the cash she could for several years
just to make the journey to Graceland. While she was there in Memphis on Beale street, she asked some younger people about Elvis and they ridiculed her and mocked Elvis. She was sad and once told me that she could not understand
this because in her country, if they would have been fortunate enough to bring Elvis Presley to the world, they would honor him. Perhaps she is right. Maybe, the fans have all gone home and maybe, just maybe, Elvis finally left