The Guest House at Graceland: An Elvis tribute that — thank you, very much — isn’t tacky
MEMPHIS — Like most Americans of a certain age, I grew up with Elvis Presley.
Not the actual man from Tupelo, but the image of him as filtered through my big sisters’ obsession, the endless air play his hits received, and the surreal Las Vegas Elvis whose jumpsuits were as gaudy as the Strip itself. Not to mention the legion of Elvis “tribute” copycats who crooned “Heartbreak Hotel” for anyone willing to listen.
Last week on a business trip to Memphis, I met an Elvis tribute of another kind after pulling up to the entrance to the impressive Guesthouse at Graceland. It’s adjacent to the Graceland mansion, which opened in 1982 and continues to attract throngs of tourists — a majority of them gray-haired, to be sure — from all points of the map.
After opening last October with 430 rooms and 20 themed suites, some designed with help from Priscilla Presley, the Guest House is touted as the largest hotel to premiere in Memphis in more than 90 years. ( For those who can’t get enough of the Vegas Elvis, the second King’s Suite is inspired by Presley’s Strip showroom days.) It’s Southern colonial in architectural theme with the white pillars and rock skirting you’d expect in a region where folks take their antebellum heritage pretty seriously.
The Guest House is the creation of Memphis-based DreamCatcher Hotels. It’s managed by Boston’s Pyramid Hotel Group, and is surely one of the pearls on its strand. Elvis Presley Enterprises managed Graceland itself.
Admittedly, I didn’t know exactly what to expect — hey, I was raised in a town that touts the Graceland Wedding Chapel — but what I didn’t anticipate was the attention to detail, the use and celebration of the King without lapsing into corn. The grounds are verdant and relaxing, the rooms spacious and tastefully modern, the acoustic guitar player in the lobby bar was jamming without drowning out conversation.
The hotel features a 464-seat theater with family friendly performances, and two restaurants. I checked out EP’s Bar & Grill. Among the highlights: A great cheeseburger and fried green tomatoes, better than average catfish bites, and a fresh cobb salad. A quick search of the menu found a great local IPA from Ghost River Brewing Co. For those seeking a culinary tribute to the King, there is indeed a peanut butter and banana sandwich available.
Of course, those seeking to party in the bluesy neon heart of Memphis, Beale Street remains the place to start. The Guest House is definitely subdued by comparison. But, frankly, there’s something to be said for that.
The Guest House lacks the Peabody’s polished antiquity and daily parade of ducks, but its location and immaculate presentation make it a prohibitive favorite for success.
Elvis’s presence has long been a cliche in Las Vegas, and that’s a missed opportunity. The Guest House is splendid proof that the artist’s legacy can be celebrated without being turned into a carnival ride or a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.
Elvis Presley Boulevard near Graceland has mostly seen better decades. That, I suspect, is another reason it’s important for the Guest House to prosper.
It changed the way I think of Elvis.
It’s no haunted mansion, no Heartbreak Hotel, no swivel-hipped Chuck E. Cheese. In short, it’s not a corny cliche, but a genuine tribute.
The Guest House at Graceland is not only an appealing place to stay, but it’s a reminder of an incredible American talent who changed music and Las Vegas forever.
John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>. On Twitter: jlnevadasmith.
Reposted from CDCGamingReports.com
Written by: John L. Smith