The Elvis Tour of Memphis

Elvis Presley statue on Beale Street

Richard I'Anson / Getty Images

Elvis Presley is arguably the most famous and successful celebrity to come out of Memphis. He had 114 Billboard Top 40 hits and appeared in 31 feature films. To date, more than one billion Elvis albums have been sold worldwide.

In spite of this international fame, Elvis managed to touch his hometown in a personal way. Ask any native Memphian about Elvis, and most will have a story to tell. It seems that everybody has crossed paths with the King of Rock and Roll in some way or another. A big reason for that is that Elvis truly lived in Memphis. He enjoyed the city and experienced much that it had to offer. Come with me on a virtual tour of Elvis' Memphis and see where the King lived, worked, and played.

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Lauderdale Courts

Behind this wrought iron fence is the entrance to the Presley's Lauderdale Courts apartment.

Teresa R. Simpson

185 Winchester Avenue
Memphis, TN 38105

After Elvis and his parents moved to Memphis from Tupelo, Mississippi in 1948, they lived in a series of boarding houses and apartments. Their apartment in Lauderdale Courts, a low-income housing project, was the third such residence for the family. It is reported that they paid $35.00 per month in rent. They moved into the apartment in 1949 and lived their until 1952 when their income exceeded the maximum amount allowed. This apartment can now be rented for the night for fans who want to sleep where Elvis did.

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Humes High School

Humes High School, located in downtown Memphis, was Elvis' alma mater.

Teresa R. Simpson

659 North Manassas StreetMemphis, TN 38107

Elvis attended Humes High School from 1948 until 1953 when he graduated. He was the first in his family to finish high school. While in attendance at Humes, Elvis gave his first performance in front of a crowd. He sang and played guitar at a talent show in the school's auditorium. To his surprise and delight, he won the competition. Today, the original school building still stands but Humes is now a middle school.

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Sun Studio

Photo by Jeremy Atherton

706 Union Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38103

In 1953, an 18 year old Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studio (it was called Memphis Recording Service at the time) with a cheap guitar and a dream. Nervously, he sang a demo song, failing to impress Sam Phillips. Elvis continued to hang around the studio, however, and in 1954, Sam Phillips asked him to sing again, backed by a band made up of Scotty Moore and Bill Black. After hours in the studio the small group had yet to record anything of any value. Just for fun, Elvis began playing around with an old blues song, "That's Alright, Mama." His rendition impressed Phillips and garnered him a recording contract.

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Audubon Drive

Audubon House

Teresa R. Simpson

1034 Audubon Drive
Memphis, TN 38117

Due to the success of his first #1 hit, Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis was able to purchase a home for his family. He bought this house in 1956 for just over $29,000. The three Presleys lived there for just one year when an increasing need for privacy prompted Elvis to buy Graceland. The Audubon Drive house still stands today and has had eight owners since the Presleys lived there.

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Coletta's Restaurant

Coletta's Italian Restaurant

Teresa R. Simpson

1063 South Parkway EastMemphis, TN 38106

Coletta's Restaurant is a Memphis institution that first opened its doors in 1923. This Italian eatery claims to be the originator of the barbecue pizza. By many accounts, it was this very pizza that was Elvis' favorite. This is an interesting tidbit of information, as the King reportedly was not fond of barbecue, itself.

There are now two Coletta's locations in the Memphis area. It is the one on South Parkway that Elvis frequented.

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Zippin Pippin

Photo Courtesy of Stephen M. Shutts

940 Early Maxwell BoulevardMemphis, TN 38104

The Zippin Pippin is one of the country's oldest wooden roller coasters. It was built in 1912 and was moved to its current location at the Mid-South Fairgrounds in 1923. In 1976, an amusement park called Libertyland was built around the coaster. Elvis, himself, loved the Zippin Pippin and would occasionally rent out the entire amusement park so that he could ride it without interruption. In fact, a sign posted at the coaster's entrance reads:

"The Zippin Pippin was Elvis Presley's favorite ride. The "King" rented Libertyland August 8, 1977 from 1:15 am to 7 am. to entertain a group of about 10 guests. Decked in a blue jumpsuit with black leather belt, huge belt buckle with turquoise studs and gold chains, the "King" rode the Zippin Pippin repeatedly during a two-hour period. He lost his belt buckle on the ride that morning, and it was found and returned the next day. Elvis's Libertyland rental became his last public appearance. He died August 16."

In 2005, Libertyland closed its gates, citing financial difficulties. The Zippin Pippin was finally sold to an amusement park in Wisconsin and is no longer in Memphis.

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Photo by Mike Brown/Getty Images

3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38186

Graceland was the last of Elvis' Memphis homes. It is where he died and it is where his body was laid to rest.

Elvis bought the home in 1957 for $102,000 from Ruth Brown Moore. In April of that year, he, his parents, and his grandmother all moved into the mansion. After his mother's death in 1958, his father and his new wife lived at Graceland for a while. Priscilla Presley also lived there for a ten year span before and during her marriage to Elvis.

On August 16, 1977, Elvis was found dead on a bathroom floor inside Graceland, apparently due to an overdose of prescription drugs. Elvis was originally buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis but after someone attempted to steal his remains, his body was moved to the Meditation Garden at Graceland.

Today, Graceland is the most popular tourist attraction in Memphis, drawing hundreds of thousands of fans each year. It is one of the most visited homes in the United States, second only to the White House.

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