March 19

This Day in History

Music

Mar 19, 1957:

Elvis Presley puts a down payment on Graceland

In the spring of 1957, Elvis Presley was completing his second Hollywood movie, Loving You, and his first movie soundtrack album. He had two studio albums and 48 singles already under his belt and two years of nearly nonstop live appearances behind him. If his life had taken a different path, the spring of 1957 might have seen Elvis Presley filling out law school applications or interviewing for his first job as college graduation approached. But the hardworking son of Gladys and Vernon Presley was already his family's primary breadwinner in the spring of 1957, and already looking, at the tender age of 22, to purchase them a new home for the second time. He found that home on the outskirts of Memphis—a southern Colonial mansion on a 13.8-acre wooded estate. With a $1,000 cash deposit against a sale price of $102,500, Elvis Presley agreed to purchase the home called Graceland on March 19, 1957.

It's a special enough thing for any young man to be able to buy a house for his family, but for a young man who was as devoted to his family as Elvis was, it must have been particularly special. Elvis had already bought one house for his parents on Audubon Avenue in East Memphis, but that residential neighborhood had become overrun with gawkers and worshipers as Elvis became a megastar. There was also the matter of the growing entourage of extended family and friends around Elvis driving the need for a larger home base. Officially, Graceland was where Elvis, his parents and his grandmother Minnie Mae lived, but unofficially, it was also the home/hotel/clubhouse for the entire "Memphis Mafia"—the ever-changing cast of childhood and newfound friends who surrounded and often drew salaries from Elvis throughout his post-stardom life.

Many girlfriends and one wife (the former Priscilla Beaulieu, who wed Elvis at age 21 in 1967 but moved in quietly several years earlier) also came and went at Graceland during its 20 years as Elvis's base of operations. Today it is preserved precisely as Elvis left it when he passed away in the upstairs master bathroom in 1977. His daughter Lisa Marie inherited Graceland on Elvis's death, and in the years since then, it has become one of the nation's most popular tourist attractions—the second-most-visited house in America after the big white one on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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