ELVIS DIED 40 YEARS AGO

OH MAN!!

I do not believe.

By Duncan

August 16, 2017

Picture this: It’s Sunday morning and my father, George, wants to go to church. He found a Methodist Church in North Fort Myers called The Good Shepherd United Methodist Church he likes. So, each Sunday I wheel Dad into the church and park him on the front row on the center aisle. I nod good morning to a few people already in their seats as I head back to the kitchen. I grab a small white styrofoam cup and reach for the coffee pot on the corner cabinet. I’m careful about pouring my coffee. I’m being closely observed by Chuck Goode.  Chuck is in charge of the kitchen and doesn’t want a mess. Especially mine.

I place the cup to my lips and slowly turn around.  Standing before me is Elvis! Who in the world knew Elvis would be in the building?  In a church building, none the less. Did he rise from the dead? Oh, wait, it’s only “Wild Bill,” William Boden.

“Hold on Bill, let me get a photograph.” Bill strikes a pose.

ELVIS

WILLIAM “BILL” BODEN

“Bill, why are you dressed like Elvis?”

“August the 16th is the day Elvis died. It will be 40 years this week.“

I finished my cup of coffee while others were smiling and making over Bill in his Elvis costume. I placed my empty coffee cup very carefully in the trash can, looked back at Chuck, walked back into the sanctuary and sat down next to Dad. My mind began to wonder. Has Elvis been dead 40 years? Has it been that long?

I remember years ago I had an enjoyable experience regarding Elvis, “The King.”

I have a friend and motorcycle buddy, Mike Chesher. He previously lived in Indianapolis and we rode our bikes on little trips. Mostly, we would plan a trip to a restaurant a few miles outside of Indianapolis. It was normal to pick any restaurant, and a group of riders would head out on Saturday or Sunday, enjoy each others company and lunch.

Then, Mike’s wife, Pam, received a job offer she just couldn’t pass up. So, they packed up and moved to Texas. I think that’s where they went if I remember. We kept in touch with e-mail, text and an occasional phone call. But, as time passed, Mike and I lost contact. Then, one day, I received an email from Mike. This company with the job that Pam just couldn’t pass up decided they needed her expertise in Saltillo, Mississippi. So, they moved again.

I get an email from Mike out of the clear blue sky, and he says, “We have moved, and we are living in Saltillo, Mississippi. We are close to you; we need to get together. Let’s figure it out!“ I have no idea where Saltillo is located, so I Googled Saltillo. Google maps indicate it’s an 8-hour drive and about 500 miles south. Leaving Indianapolis, I would drive to Lousiville, then Bowling Green, Kentucky and finally through Nashville, Tennessee. From there drive west and south to Mississippi. Huh, eight hours and 500 miles. Well, that’s sort of close.

I zoomed in on the map and noticed the Natchez Trace was a straight shot out of Nashville to Saltillo. No going west and no super slab south; the perfect scenic road in America. It looks like it cuts out a lot of driving time. Plus, I’ve been on the Natchez Trace before with another motorcycle buddy, Jim Tsareff.

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DUNCAN

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JIM “SHOOTER” TSAREFF

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DUNCAN – JIM “SHOOTER” TSAREFF

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DUNCAN

Jim is a big National Parks kind of guy and introduced me to the Natchez Trace many years ago. Get this.  The Natchez Trace is a very pristine two lane Parkway (road) 444 miles long that starts in Nashville, Tennessee, ending in Natchez, Mississippi. The Trace is maintained by the National Parks Service. There are no commercial advertisements, no stores, no gas stations.  Nothing for you to look at except the beautiful green country side. If you have not driven the Natchez Trace, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.

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DUNCAN – JIM “SHOOTER” TSAREFF

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DUNCAN

THE HOT ROD – AND THE NATCHEZ TRACE.

Native Americans (The Chickasaw Indians) first followed the “traces” of bison and other game, ultimately making a walking trail for foot-borne commercial traffic between villages and towns in central Mississippi all the way up to middle Tennessee. In the early post-Revolutionary War period the “Trace” was the return route for flat-boat owners carrying goods and supplies down the Mississippi river. They would load their boats with supplies, float down the Mississippi, sometimes all the way to New Orleans. They sold everything they had in the vessel, including the wood that made the flat-boat. Left with nothing except a wad of money in their pocket, they walked back to their homes. This is where the “Trace” becomes the only way back. It’s the north bound interstate highway of its time. They had to be very careful when walking back home. Highway men lurked at almost every bend in the path to steal their money. Once they were home, a new flat-boat was purchased or made, and they made the trip all over again. A heck of a way to make a living, aye?

So, I now know time and distance to Saltillo, Mississippi, and thought what the heck.  I haven’t seen Mike in years.  It will be fun to see my old riding partner again. Plus, I could drive the Natchez Trace in the hot rod and do two things at the same time. I decided, go for it. I have a straightforward rule when visiting people. It’s called the “Three Day Rule.” Over time, riding the country for 8 years with a bunch of motorcycle friends I find my riding partners start to wear a little thin after three days.  So, I say this, “Motorcycle guys on a long road trip, a family who comes to visit at holiday and fish laying on the kitchen counter start to stink after three days.” Now, let’s be fair about this Three Day Rule.  I’m sure my flamboyant personality wears thin on others, too. So, if I want to be invited back, get out after three days. Leave, even if you have nowhere to go!

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So, Mike and I have a plan. If I come all the way from my home to his home, he will provide me with a bedroom, bathroom and a few glasses of the good stuff, plus a home cooked steak dinner. This sounds like a plan. By the way, if you are reading this, and thinking of inviting me to your home, I like my steak medium rare and The Famous Grouse scotch whiskey in an expensive tumbler over ice. Just in case you are thinking of entertaining a house guest from Southwest Florida. As Paladin used to say on his television show, “Have Hot Rod – Will Travel.”

In the beginning, my trip to Mississippi was a simple a three-day visit to a friend I hadn’t seen in nine years. I was adding the drive on the beautiful Natchez Trace, but other than that, this was the sum total of my expectations. However, it turned out to also become a search for unanswered questions about none other than Elvis Aaron Presley.

My friend, Mike, and his wife, Pam, live in a bedroom community called Saltillo close to Tupelo, Mississippi. When I pulled off the Natchez Trace, I found myself almost immediately in downtown Saltillo. I was surprised at the way it looked.

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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DOWNTOWN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

The city looks like it is living in a time warp and hadn’t progressed to the 20th century. It crossed my mind: I wonder if things are okay with Pam and Mike? I got out of the hot rod and took some pictures of downtown. Surely, Mike and Pam don’t live here? I must not have entered the data in my GPS correctly. I recalibrated and realized I was way off from the address I had been given.

I pulled in front of a very nice looking brick home. Now, this place looks more like a home Mike and Pam might be living in. I called Mike on my cell phone.

“Duncan, my man, where are you?”

“Look out your front door and tell me if you see a Mean Yellow Pontiac Soltice GXP Hot Rod in your drive way.”

Mike opened the front door with a big grin on his face. This is the place. I have a home for the next couple of days.

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MIKE AND PAM’S HOME.

I unloaded my luggage and found my room upstairs. I came back downstairs and asked Mike, “I am hungry. Is there a place we can go get a bite to eat?”

There was, but first, we have to walk the dog and look at his motorcycle.

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MIKE AND HIS HONDA GOLD WING

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I DON’T REMEMBER THE PUPPIES NAME.

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WITH A BLACK CAT, THIS IS NEVER IS A GOOD THING.

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WANT TO PLAY?

He drove to a very nice looking modern mall with an Applebee’s.

DUNCAN – MIKE

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REX – OUR WAITER

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JEN – COULDN’T TAKE HER EYES OFF OF ME.  –  I TOLD HER I WAS A MOVIE PRODUCER.

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APPLEBEE’S BAR IN THE AFTERNOON IN SALTILLO, MISSISSIPPI

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PAM IS HOME FROM WORK

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A COCKTAIL BEFORE DINNER

Then it was off to O’Charley’s.

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MIKE – CHECKING FOR GOLD

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PAM

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PAM – MIKE

The manager of the restaurant was most welcoming.

In fact, we shared some tricks of the trade! She seemed to catch on quick.

The next morning, I was chatting with Mike over a cup of coffee, and I remembered Tupelo (Just down the road) was the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Yes, I guess I knew that before I left Indianapolis, but didn’t give Elvis much thought before leaving on the trip.

“Mike, have you visited the “Birth Place of Elvis since you have lived here?”

Of course not!

Mike, like all of us, rarely visit historical places close to our own homes. I asked Mike if he knew anything about the museum, or is it a tourist trap? Mike said he thinks it has a museum of some kind.  Elvis’s home is there, the church he grew up in as a child that influenced his gospel singing is also there.

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It was raining, and we decided to leave the hot rod behind and take Mike’s car to the museum.

I, like almost everyone, know something about Elvis Presley. However, I must admit I never bought his records and didn’t go to any of his movies. I was not an Elvis fan. But I didn’t hate or dislike Elvis, either. I guess the fairest way to say it is Elvis just wasn’t on my radar screen in the middle 50’s. I was 12-14 years old. I had other pressing matters on my mind.

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THIS WAY

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ARE WE THERE YET?

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THIS LOOKS LIKE THE PLACE

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WHAT A GUY

GOODNESS HE COULDN’T HAVE BEEN NICER.

We were greeted at the front steps of the museum by a man with a yellow Tupelo, Mississippi, t-shirt. I must say, he was one of the friendliest greeters I ever met. Why he even offered me his personal business card with his personal phone number.

“This number right here, (on the business card) is my personal phone number. You can call me at this number anytime.” The greeter said as he stroked my back.

As Mike and I visited the museum, we were looking at various photographs. The people in charge were not excited I had a camera and asked that I not take any more pictures. So, inside the museum, I have a limited number of photographs to share with you before they shut me down.

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ELVIS BUST

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A PAINTING OF THE ICONIC PHOTOGRAPH

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I WANT TO PLAY IN THE BAND

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I’M JUST  HUNK OF BURNING LOVE.

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GLADYS – ELVIS – VERNON – 1937

This is the earliest photograph of Elvis. The photograph was most likely taken by a friend or a relative who had driven Gladys and Elvis a couple of miles over to the jail from their home in East Tupelo. It was a defining moment in the lives of Elvis, Gladys, and Vernon Presley, individually and collectively. The very fact of the visit, the camera, and the one photograph that has been preserved indicates they understood they were at a critical place in their lives. Vernon was seconds away from going to prison for three years. It was a petty and foolish crime that Vernon committed in the fall of 1937.  Vernon was twenty-one, Gladys twenty-five, and Elvis less than three.

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ELVIS – 1939

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VERNON – ELVIS – GLADYS  –  1945

You know it’s interesting, how does a kid growing up in dirt poor poverty, become as successful as Elvis Presley? Elvis went from nothing to the top by himself. You have got to give him his due.

ELVIS PRESLEY’S HOME FOR THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF HIS LIFE.

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THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS THE BACK OF THE HOME.

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THE BACK DOOR OF THE HOME.

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BIRTH PLACE JANUARY 8, 1935

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DUNCAN

This two room frame house was built by Elvis’s father, Vernon Presley, for $180.00 on the Old Saltillo Road in East Tupelo. Elvis was born in this two room home January 8, 1935, not long before dawn. Gladys Love Presley (nee’Smith) delivered a second son, Jessie Garon, earlier that morning. He was stillborn.  Elvis Aaron Presley would be the Presley’s only child. The family lived in this home for only two years when Vernon Presley lost the home he had built with his own hands. Why? Vernon Presley sold a hog to his employer and landlord, Orville Bean. Bean was a hog and dairy farmer. Vernon received a check for $4.00. He was furious about the small amount of the check. Vernon forged the check with a different dollar amount. He was charged with forgery November 16, 1937. On May 25, 1938, Vernon was sentenced to three years of hard labor in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Without Vernon’s income, Gladys couldn’t make payments on the home.  She had to let the house go and moved in with relatives.

THE FRONT PORCH

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THE SWING – ON THE FRONT PORCH

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THE FRONT PORCH

THE TWO ROOM HOME HAS A KITCHEN IN THE BACK. OF THE HOME

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THE KITCHEN

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THE KITCHEN

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THE KITCHEN

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THE KITCHEN

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THE BACK DOOR OFF THE KITCHEN

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BEDROOM

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BEDROOM

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BEDROOM

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BEDROOM

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LET’S GO TO CHURCH AND SING

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ELVIS LIKED THE STYLE OF PREACHING AT THIS CHURCH.

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THE PREACHER WOULD RUN BACK AND FORTH – ELVIS LIKED THAT STYLE.

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SIMPLE SEATING

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SIX ROWS OF SEATING

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ALWAYS MUSIC IN CHURCH.

The family attended an Assembly of God, where he found his initial musical inspiration. Although he was in conflict with the Pentecostal church in his later years, he never officially left. Rev. Rex Humbard officiated at his funeral, as Presley had been an admirer of Humbard’s ministry

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ELVIS AT 13 YEARS OF AGE.

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MIKE IS NOT 13 YEARS OLD.

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NEITHER AM I

Elvis lived in Tupelo the first 13 years of his life. He bought his first guitar at the local Tupelo hardware store; he was taught a few chords and started singing in the church. Elvis watched church leaders jump around the pulpit while they were giving a sermon. With the love and support of a mother, he was planting his foundation for the next step in his life, when the family moved to Memphis.

Mike, Pam and I had a terrific conversation about Tupelo”s life style and an excellent meal while I was a guest in their home. The steaks on the grill my last night “was on the money.”

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But, three days is three days. I believe very firmly in the three-day rule. It was time to head back home. I told Mike and Pam I would be leaving early in the morning.

HEADING HOME

I pulled into the Texaco station to fill the gas tank. I pulled out my trusty GPS and decided to program in Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. I had more questions rolling around in my head that needed answers. Memphis was only a couple of hours away.

When I arrived, I was taken-back by the location of the Mansion, Graceland. It sits in a commercial part of town, on a five lane street, not at all what I expected. The area looks a little tacky to be blunt. Across the street from Graceland is the parking area for visitors. The cost is ten dollars. I grabbed my Canon G10 Point and Shoot and walked to the ticket counter. The cost to visit Graceland has increased since I was there. The home tour was $34.00. Now it’s $38.75. The home and cars tour was $34.00. Now they want $57.50. The house, cars, and the plane tour were $69.00. Now they are asking for $93.75. I decided I would just look at the home.

After people purchase a ticket, they move you to a line to have your picture taken with the gates of Graceland behind you. I took my usual pose, The Duncan Tsareff arms full and open pose. (It’s copy write protected) I was then given a card with the number 103 written on the back. I have no idea what a photograph costs.

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If I had to guess, it’s not a busy day at Graceland today. Only 103 people ahead of me? As I waited to board a shuttle bus, I’m handed a set of ear phones and a preprogrammed electronic machine to guide me through the house.

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The shuttle bus holds about 30 people.

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The driver crosses five lanes of traffic to the entrance of Graceland. The driveway to the home appears to be about 100 yards long. At the top of the driveway is the front door to the home. We are encouraged to get out of the bus and wait at the front door to be allowed to enter the home.

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Inside the front door on the right is the living room.

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On the left side as you enter the front door is the dining room.

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Behind the living room is a guest bedroom.

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Behind the dining room area is the kitchen.

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The TV room in the basement is where Elvis often watched three television sets at once and was within reach of a wet bar. The TV room’s west wall is painted with Elvis’ 1970s logo of a lightning bolt and cloud with the initials TCB, for ‘Taking Care of Business in a flash.’

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And on the other side of the basement is the pool room.

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The pool room has 350 yards of fabric on the ceiling and walls.

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The pool room has 350 yards of fabric on the ceiling and walls.

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The pool room has 350 yards of fabric on the ceiling and walls.

Back up the stair, on the main level, beyond the kitchen, in the back of the house, the jungle room.

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The tour information in my head set remarks that the chair in the corner (with the teddy bear) was Pricilla’s favorite

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You and I might call this room our family room or a den.

The jungle room has long green shag carpet.

Don’t forget to view the long halls to see all the records and awards.

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We walk out of the house into the back yard and look at the car port area.

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Next, we enter a small building that was the working area for Elvis Presley.

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THE OFFICE – FAN MAIL HANDLED HERE.

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The racquet ball court has been turned into more memories and awards.

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We then stand in line as people quietly pay respect and view the memorial garden and grave sites.

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The rock and roll legend was just 42 years old when he died August 16, 1977. Elvis was in one of the bathrooms of his Graceland mansion when he suffered a heart attack and collapsed on the floor at approximately 2 p.m. He was later found face down in front of the toilet and rushed to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where doctors tried to resuscitate him. After several failed attempts, Elvis was pronounced dead an hour later and his body was shipped to the morgue where an autopsy was conducted that same afternoon.

Just three days later, a coroner’s report was released, revealing that Elvis’s cause of death was “hypertensive cardiovascular disease with atherosclerotic heart disease,” also known as a heart attack. However, two months later, a toxicology report found 14 drugs in Elvis’s system, including morphine, methaqualone, and codeine at 10 times the therapeutic drug level. Elvis’s personal doctor, Dr. George Nichopoulos, remained adamant that Elvis died from natural causes and not a drug overdose, but because of the toxicology report results, the Tennessee Board of Health began an investigation into Elvis’s death and Dr. Nichopoulos.

Once the investigation was complete, evidence showed that Dr. Nichopoulos wrote Elvis prescriptions for at least 8,805 pills, tablets, vials, and injectables from January 1977 to August 1977. Dr. Nichopoulos claimed he only did so because Elvis was hooked on painkillers, and therefore this was the only way to keep him away from other dangerous drugs. In 1980, he was charged with prescribing excessive amounts of drugs to Elvis and other patients. He was later acquitted of all charges, but in 1995 the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners revoked his medical license. He died at age 88 in February 2016.

While Elvis’s cause of death was ruled a heart attack, there are still several theories surrounding his death. One of them is that he’s not actually dead and that he faked his own death in order to live a private life. In fact, some people claim to have spotted him at his 82nd birthday celebration in Graceland earlier this year, and there’s even a Facebook page to keeping track of all of his reported sightings.

The path leads us back to the shuttle buses. The tour is over.

Elvis Presley is one of the most recognized American icons in the world.  His images generate millions of dollars in revenue.  Graceland, his home in the Whitehaven area on Memphis’ south side, is one of the leading tourist destinations in Tennessee.

Since opening to the public, Graceland has hosted millions of visitors from every state in the union and nearly every country in the world. Graceland welcomes over 650,000 visitors each year.  It is one of the five most visited home tours in the United States and is the most famous home in America.

The peak season for visitors is Memorial Day through Labor Day. Attendance ranges from a few hundred visitors on a weekday in the dead of winter to 2,000 – 3,500 visitors per day in the spring and early summer, to over 4,000 per day in July at the height of the travel season.

Elvis Presley could have left one of the great fortunes of entertainment history, had he been one to worry about financial planning, rather than freely enjoying and sharing his wealth as he did. His daughter was forced to open Graceland to the general public for tours on June 7, 1982.

Elvis Presley Enterprises runs a worldwide merchandising and licensing business that keeps Elvis’ legend strong. In 2015, the licensing business generated about $55 million a year in revenue.  Elvis Presley may have left the building 40 years ago, but the King of Rock and Roll is still making more money than most living stars today, thanks in large part to Graceland ticket sales.

Elvis, a major American icon, won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at the age of 36 and has sold over one billion records. His death at age 42 in Memphis on August 16, 1977, prompted numerous conspiracy theories, and some diehard fans continue to insist the star is alive. I need to report that I personally didn’t see him. Management of the Elvis Presley brand changed hands in November of 2013, so look for much higher ticket prices to tour Graceland in the future.

HAVE YOU SEEN ELVIS LATELY?

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About the author

Stephen A and Scott Duncan publish “ByDuncan.com”
Scott photographs (Duncan Photography) and is the guy who keeps this site running.
Steve (left) is a photographer (Duncan Photography) and writes to “ByDuncan.com”