Elvis Lives

Officially, Elvis Presley died in 1977 at his Graceland estate here in Memphis, Tennessee. But did he really?

Many people don’t think so. The suspicion revolves around the secrecy of the King’s autopsy report. The document was sealed by his father and won’t be made public until 2027.

Some believe he faked his death and took on a new identity. A man named Jon Burrows, who looked a lot like Elvis, supposedly bought a plane ticket from Memphis to Buenos Aires the day after Elvis’s death. Since then, there have been many Elvis “sightings” around the US and even Canada. If he is still alive today, Elvis is 80 years old.

Regardless, he certainly lives on as an American legend, especially here in Memphis.

We got a sense of that when visiting Graceland, the home he bought in the 1950s, and where he died (supposedly) at age 42. There’s a huge complex across the street from the estate where visitors buy tickets, load up on Elvis memorabilia, and board an unecessary shuttle that ferries them across Elvis Presley Boulevard and through the gates. After the two-minute ride we were handed iPads and headphones and guided through the mansion by the dulcet voice of John Stamos.

I arrived expecting the ultimate in American kitch, but instead felt a sense of solemnity. The estate, still owned by Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie, carefully and respectfully preserves his memory. We can tour the “jungle room” on the first floor, where the floors, walls, and ceiling are all lined in green shag carpet, but his private upstairs rooms are off limits. His grave in on site, in a Meditation Garden beside the horse corral and swimming pool.

Despite his mega-star status, I get the impression that Elvis was a genuinely good-hearted person. We met a sweet antique shop owner in Missouri who told us Elvis used to visit family nearby and bum cigarettes off her grandfather. He was known for being a friendly guy who would go out of his way to help people. He came from a poor family, and always promised his parents he would provide for them one day. When he bought Graceland, he brought them there with him.

Memphis is also home to Sun Studio, where Elvis’s career started. Other greats, like BB King and Johnny Cash, recorded there as well, so its a huge part of music history. The small studio is open to tours, and artists still record there. An X marks the spot on the floor where Elvis stood when he sang. When Bob Dylan visited the studio, our guide told us, he simply came in, kissed the X, and left.

Is Elvis still alive? I could see him faking his death to escape the pressures of stardom, but I couldn’t see him putting his family through unnecessary pain.

I’m going to give this conspiracy a MAYBE and keep my eyes peeled for lookalikes…

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