By Jon Waterhouse
With the whirlwind of Elvis Week 2014 now at a close, the task of putting it all into words remains a challenge. Having another opportunity to be dropped in the eye of this event’s hurricane gives me the unique perspective of what an enormous impact Elvis has and continues to have on millions. Elvis Week is the embodiment of that impact and a celebration like no other.
Yet probably the most amazing result of Elvis Week is the overflowing feeling of camaraderie, generosity and love. It’s all because of Elvis. Those lines from “If I Can Dream” play out before our eyes at Elvis Week. Our respect for Elvis’s life’s work bulldozes the walls of diversity, creating a place where all of our brothers and sisters do “walk hand in hand.”
At Elvis Week, I’ve seen friendships fostered from around the world. I’ve seen unselfish acts of giving in an attempt to make the world a better place. I’ve seen dreams blossom to life and amazing people triumph over tragedy. Elvis Week isn’t simply an event honoring a man and his music. It glorifies the beauty found in humanity and a person who keeps allowing us to see it more clearly.
The heartfelt hard work by the staff of Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises certainly goes noticed, and it’s always an honor to work alongside such wonderful people. The passion and dedication coming out of the Elvis Radio studio and heard over the airwaves on SiriusXM is truly unrivaled. Having the chance to collaborate with that crew continues to be a career highlight for me.
A sincere thanks to all who took care of business as part of Elvis Week 2014, something I’m so grateful to have been a part of. Don’t forget you can always catch daily videos from Memphis Jones and see more blogs and photos by visiting ElvisWeek.com.
See you next year! TCB Elvis fans!
MY ELVIS WEEK 2014 TOP 10
So what amazing memories did I chalk up at Elvis Week? The list could take up volumes, but here’s a concise round up of my Top 10.
10. Elvis Night At The Ballpark With Memphis Redbirds
Gathering at AutoZone Park for an Elvis-themed ball game with approximately 10,000 fans proved amazing enough. But getting a mini dance lesson from 2013’s Ultimate ETA, Dean Z, took things over the top. Maybe a little bit of his mojo paid off as I somehow won the Elvis dance contest in the 8th inning.
9. Hound Dog Tour
Backbeat Tours invited me on board for this Elvis-centric jaunt around Memphis. Looking forward in our seats, we all got a terrific view of tour guide Brandon Cunning. He was perched in front of us with a mike and guitar in hand. Cunning served as our musical narrator for a visit to historic Elvis spots including Humes High School, Lauderdale Courts, and the former site of WHBQ, the first radio station to play Presley.
8. Spending The Day With ETAs
On Tuesday, I shadowed the semifinalists of the 2014 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. To be a fly on the wall for their biggest day of the year was fantastic. These guys inject so much heart, soul and dedication into their craft. Being backstage and witnessing it first hand definitely gave me a whole new appreciation.
7. The Auction At Graceland
I have to admit I had paddle envy, but watching the first ever Graceland Authenticated Auction added some unexpected thrills to my Elvis Week experience. I saw many bids climb to stratospheric heights, including those for that famed lion pendant. After a heated bidding war, the winner took it home for $66,000.
6. The Memphis Boys
Whenever I have the chance to watch these legendary studio musicians flex their musical muscles, I jump at the chance. The Memphis Boys Salute at Graceland’s Main Stage resembled the ultimate iPod playlist. The American Sound Studio house band — a group that played on countless chart busters— gave us a jaw-dropping greatest hits package. Not only did they serve up familiar cuts from Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett and others, but they replicated the trademark riffs they immortalized on Elvis songs. “Kentucky Rain,” “In the Ghetto” and “Wearing That Loved On Look” were highlights. But nothing topped the raucous rave-up of “Suspicious Minds,” including songwriter Mark James joining in on vocals.
5. Graceland and Elvis Week Additions and Enhancements
Elvis Week 2014 ushered in a new era for Graceland. The astounding new Tablet Tour of the mansion, hosted by actor John Stamos, made visiting Graceland a whole new experience. Stepping into the newly built Archives Studio gave us the opportunity to see rare Elvis artifacts up close and personal. The Elvis A Cappella concerts brought a brand new energy to the festivities. Watching Priscilla Presley, Jack Soden, Joel Weinshanker and others participate in The Guest House at Graceland ground breaking ceremony gave evidence that this is just the beginning.
4. “Elvis: That’s The Way It Is”
Saturday night’s screening of this 1970 concert documentary focusing on the king’s return to the stage, was literally larger than life. Looking and sounding better than ever, we were treated to the 2001 special edition version. During intermission, host Tom Brown introduced a special mini concert by Elvis’s Imperials. This was a monumental moment for fans as it was Joe Moscheo’s farewell performance.
3. Conversations On Elvis
At Elvis week, we not only have the Ultimate ETA, but we also have the ultimate Elvis emcee: Tom Brown. He never fails to do a bang-up job when hosting the Main Stage, and always rises to the occasion for his top tier guest list. This sold-out event featured Cynthia Pepper, Joe Guercio, Terry Blackwood and Joe Moscheo, and none other than Priscilla Presley.
2. Becca Harrison Running the Elvis Presley 5K
To me nothing exemplified the beauty of Elvis Week more than watching fan Becca Harrison participate in the Elvis Presley 5K. Elvis Week isn’t just the story of Elvis, but it’s the continuing stories of the legacy of his fans. And Becca’s story is nothing short of inspirational. Having had a brain tumor removed, Becca was unable to walk at Elvis Week 2013. This year she beat the odds and ran the Elvis Presley 5K alongside her husband, Tyke. I’ve said it before, but dreams do come true at Elvis Week.
1. The Candlelight Vigil
Elvis Week’s signature event goes way beyond description. Thousands of fans gather in reverent tribute to the man who changed the face of music and popular culture. Witnessing that many people in perfect silence is something to behold. The flickering candlelight weaving along Graceland’s driveway late into the night will always be breathtaking. There’s nothing else like this on the planet.