10 Reasons Why This Year’s Elvis Week Was The BestPosted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on Aug 18, 2016 | 14 comments
By Jon Waterhouse
During my Elvis Week 2014 blogging stint, the folks at Elvis Radio asked if I had a song that might encapsulate the event as it wrapped. My choice: “The Fair is Moving On.”
Leaving Memphis after Elvis Week 2016, the bittersweet emotions return. Yeah, the fair moves on, but what a ride. I can honestly say, the 39th edition of Elvis Week ranks as one of my favorites, if not my all-time best. Why, you say? Below you’ll find 10 reasons in no particular rank or order.
Now, keep in mind I didn’t have a chance to experience everything and see everyone. I always leave Elvis Week wishing I had a little more conversation and a little more action. Yet, out of everything I lived, these remain the memories pressing between the pages of my mind.
This ultra-talented artist not only took time to talk with me over the phone the week before the festivities, we hung out together at the Heartbreak Hotel during her exhibit. The cavalcade of colors nearly popped right off of her artwork, encapsulating the image and personality of Elvis Presley in a such a way I believe remains incomparable. And the Nashville resident is a true sweetheart and rocks one heckuva cowboy hat.
We all need a soundtrack to Elvis Week, and thank God for these guys. T.Y., Doc Walker, Argo, Big Jim Sykes and the legendary George Klein deliver the audio goods. It’s an honor to be a correspondent and pop culture editor for these fellas, who take great care in keeping the sound and legacy of Elvis alive and well.
The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition
Regardless of how you may feel about ETAs, the love these men have for Elvis just can’t be denied. Neither can the talent the ETAs display on stage. Many carry on the triple threat Elvis so deftly displayed with the ability to sing, dance and act. Perhaps one of the more obvious embodiments of this would be Dean Z, the 2013 Ultimate ETA winner and the 2016 correspondent for ElvisWeek.com and Graceland.com. What a guy! And hats off to 2016 winner Dwight Icenhower. After participating in eight Ultimates, he snagged this year’s title. Way to go, Dwight!
Jeff Lewis and Friends After-Parties at Hard Rock Cafe
You have to hand it to former Ultimate ETA competitor Jeff Lewis for this often sold-out DIY event that has been hulking into something beyond his imagination. On select nights after official Elvis Week events, Lewis and company took the Hard Rock stage for freeform jam sessions lasting into the wee hours. Like Gump’s box of chocolates, you never knew what you were going to get. With Lewis at the helm, guest musicians and singers ran the gamut from Tom Brown and Tim Hendry to Ben Thompson and Dean Z to yours truly and a laundry list of others. Kids, celebs and everyone in between had a home on the Lewis After-Party stage. The common bond for all involved beamed apparent: A true love for Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll.
The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley Concert
Arguably one of my favorite shows of the week, the Gospel Concert pumped with gleeful inspiration. Terry Blackwood and the Imperials began sailing “The Old Gospel Ship” through a sea of sold-out fans. Former members of J.D. Sumner & The Stamps Quartet (Donnie Sumner, Bill Baize, Larry Strickland and Ed Hill) performed the second half of the show, complete with Donnie’s recollections. Both acts teamed for an explosive “Bosom of Abraham” with Estelle Brown of the Sweet Inspirations joining in. Magical.
I never miss the opportunity to hear Fontana, Elvis’ original drummer, speak or perform. Elvis Week emcee Tom Brown chatted with the famed cymbal smasher during the Official Graceland Insiders Conference. His snappy wit and unbridled humor firing on all cylinders, D.J. had the crowd enthralled. To quote the Rev. Jimmie Snow, it’s all about “the beat, the beat, the beat!”
The Main Stage at Graceland
My preferred venue during Elvis Week featured the above-mentioned event and countless others. Its backstage bustling with a who’s-who of the Elvis world, from special guests to famous visitors including Naomi and Ashley Judd, the Main Stage has it all. This includes live music, thought-provoking Q&As and great hosts such as Tom Brown, DJ Argo, Joey Sulipeck, Andy Childs and others holding court.
The Unveiling of Elvis Presley’s Memphis
The announcement of this 200,000-square-foot, $45 million expansion, coming to life across the street from Graceland, had Elvis Week fans, including this one, percolating with excitement. The state-of-the-art complex teeming with museums, a performance soundstage, eateries and retail opens spring 2017. Among the attractions will be a permanent exhibition on Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. Organizers promise the “Elvis: The Entertainer” museum will be the biggest and most comprehensive Presley museum on the planet.
After taking an exclusive hard hat tour of the 450-room resort, which opens in late October, I simply couldn’t imagine anything better. With enough real estate to handle convention business in tandem with hordes of dedicated fans, The Guest House at Graceland will prove to be the manifestation of a dream Elvis originally had way back when. Themed restaurants, a gargantuan theater, lush grounds and more are sure to make this a top destination for king lovers and Memphis tourists alike.
As I wrote in an earlier blog, the U.S. Postal Service can’t hold a candle to Elvis fans, literally. A torrential downpour didn’t keep the faithful away from this annual procession to the king’s gravesite. Handled masterfully by Elvis Presley Enterprises and everyone on the Graceland staff, I cherished the evening. Even though my blue suede shoes may have gotten ruined by the storm, it was worth it.
Looking back on Elvis Week 2016, I return to those lyrics from “The Fair is Moving On.”
“Yes the fair’s moving on/But I won’t leave you long/It’s the last time you’ll be on your own.”
With the music and legacy of Elvis in our lives, and the wonderful relationships we forge at Elvis Week, we’ll never be on our own.