It's difficult to explain the phenomenon that is Elvis Presley, but in Memphis, you can't help but become a fan of "the King," especially in August.Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion, site of the annual candlelight vigil that marks his death — Photo courtesy of Elvis Presley Enterprises
The hip-shaking, ground-breaking musician who shot to fame with the recording of "That's Alright" in 1954 - and launched an entirely new genre of uniquely American music - died at his home in Memphis on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42. But somehow, decades after his death and 60 years following the recording of his first single, the "King of Rock 'n' Roll" looms as large as ever.
So what can you expect for the 10 days of celebratory events known as Elvis Week, as fans new and old gather in Memphis Aug. 8 through 17, 2014?
The Meditation Garden at Graceland is open twice daily - at no charge - during Elvis Week — Photo courtesy of Betsy Weber
There are dozens of events at Graceland and other venues; the grandaddy of which, the Candlelight Vigil (Aug. 15), is not to be missed. Tens of thousands of fans will light candles and walk through Graceland's grounds to his grave in the Meditation Garden, no matter the weather or the size of the crowd. The vigil is a must-hit, but for a better look at Elvis' grave, take advantage of the free daily walk-ups, mornings from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., with the exception of Aug. 15, when walk-ups may not be offered.
One of our favorite Elvis Week events is the last-chance Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest, with three rounds held on the evenings of Aug. 8, 9, and 10 at the Hard Rock Cafe. Tickets are required. During these evenings, the Elvis who did not make the cut in earlier rounds of the competition has one last shot for a spot in the finals.
Backbeat Tours is offering a handful of special Elvis-themed Hound Dog Tours throughout Elvis Week, with stops at the lesser-known Elvis-centric sites, including Humes High School, and an optional tour of the Presley's apartment at Lauderdale Courts.
Pick up an Elvis-themed subway sign at Me & Mrs. Jones in Cooper-Young — Photo courtesy of Stephanie Jones / Me & Mrs. Jones
You can eat in the booth the King preferred when he dined at the Arcade, one of the city's oldest restaurants and one of his favorites. The booth - toward the kitchen area of the restaurant - allowed Elvis to keep his back to other diners, but be a part of the crowd, thanks to a mirror on the opposite wall.
If you're with your friends, then you can channel Elvis and the Memphis Mafia with a stop at Coletta's for a barbecue pizza in the - what else? - Elvis Room.
Wrap up your homage to the King with some items you won't find at Graceland. Memphis is full of Elvis-themed gifts - and some of the best are at Lansky's, the store where the King honed his fashion sense. In the summer of 2014, Lansky's re-opened a small shop - Clothier to the King - when the Hard Rock Cafe relocated there; this store is Elvis-centric, with vintage-inspired clothing like the King wore. The main store is still located in the Peabody Hotel. Lansky's offers a line of clothing that captures the spirit, if not quite the flash, of Elvis – including blue suede shoes.
If you're looking for something a little more in the home decor line, then a hand-stenciled subway sign from Me & Mrs. Jones in Cooper Young is the perfect gift.