Elvis in Memphis: Following the King

From a small apartment to glorious Graceland, the King's Memphis awaits

Memphis Local Expert

Elvis Presley wasn’t born in Memphis, but the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll moved here with his family when he was a teenager – and continued to call Memphis home despite becoming a huge international star. Even today, in the obituaries of many Memphians, their connection to Elvis will be noted, and even decades after his death, he remains an enigma, and fans from around the world flock to Memphis every year to explore the life of Elvis.Some people swear they see the ghost of Elvis in the meditationgarden at Graceland, where he is buried alongside his parents. — Photo courtesy of Memphis Paranormal Investigations

While Graceland is the biggest Elvis attraction, the tiny two-bedroom apartment at Lauderdale Courts is one of the places the Presley family called home before Elvis became a star. Unit #328, the actual apartment where he and his parents lived, has been refurbished with a vintage flair, and is available for overnight stays – except during Elvis week, when tours are given.

A great glimpse into teenage Elvis’ life can be found at Humes High School, where Elvis was said to have played guitar before school or in the school’s talent show. Tours of Humes High are available by appointment only, at the discretion of the school administration – so call ahead and be charming if you want to get in the door.

Graceland is where Elvis and his parents moved following his rise to stardom, and more than 600,000 people visit the estate every year. It opened its doors in 1982 – five years after Elvis died – and is decorated as it was when he died, in 1970’s chic.

Two recording studios – the small, soulful  Stax Records and Sun Studio, where his first record, and first hit – “That’s Alright Mama” – was recorded in 1954. Most folks don’t know that Elvis also recorded at Stax, producing three albums: Good Times, Raised on Rock and Promised Land. A visit to Stax includes some time in church - a place where Elvis first heard the gospel music that inspired him to sing. — Photo courtesy of Stax Museum of American Soul Music

 Elvis was known for his flamboyant clothing – and the clothing store where he shopped in still in business, albeit in a different location. Originally on Beale Street, Lansky Brothers is where Elvis bought virtually all of his clothing, and Lansky's became known as the ‘Clothier to the King’.  Now located in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, Lansky’s carries a variety of designer brands for men, including a line of Elvis-inspired fashions and even blue suede shoes.

While you won’t find a photo – or even a reference – to ‘Fat Elvis’ at Graceland, everyone knows that the King found a lot of comfort in food. A few of his favorite restaurants still exist in Memphis. Coletta’s was a favorite hangout of Elvis and his buddies – known as the Memphis Mafia, who held court at a large table in the center room, now known as the Elvis Room. And the Arcade – a diner that’s been around forever, at the corner of South Main and G. E. Patterson streets – was another Elvis favorite.

If you’ve got time and want to explore Elvis’ earliest days, Tupelo, MS is about a 90-minute drive from Memphis, and features the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum, as well as Tupelo Hardware, where he famously bought his first guitar.  

About Sally Walker Davies

Sally Walker Davies is the co-author of the Elvis travel app King Me: The Elvis Tour, available on iTunes and Google Play. She's also the Memphis Local Expert for 10Best, and author of Tennessee: An Explorer's Guide.

Read more about Sally Walker Davies here.

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