How much of an influence can one man have?
Elvis Presley died 42 years ago. His life was a spectacular blur from the time of his first hit recording of “That’s All Right Mama” in 1954 until his untimely death in 1977.
This past weekend, my wife, Angie, and I toured Graceland, the home of the King of Rock and Roll in Memphis, Tenn.
People from all over the world come to the Birthplace of Rock and Roll each year, which is on Beale Street – a hopping few blocks in downtown Memphis packed with ribs and blues joints.
Tour guides at Graceland told us that 600,000 people a year will walk through the door of the “mansion” to get a look at where Elvis lived for two decades.
The place was magnificent. We walked through the famous “Jungle Room” and got a glimpse of the “media room” that featured three televisions for Elvis to view at one time. We strolled by the “pool room” and saw the piano where he played and sang “Unchained Melody” the day he died after a game of racquetball on his private court on the peaceful grounds behind the home.
Just across the street, appropriately named Elvis Presley Boulevard, is Elvis Presley’s Memphis, an enormous entertainment and exhibit complex which is impressive. The campus maintains the largest and most comprehensive collection of Elvis memorabilia in the world. The 200,000-square-foot expansion opened in 2017.
We relived his childhood and how he first broke onto the scene with Sam Phillips at the legendary Sun Studio, home of the Million Dollar Quartet. We saw items on exhibit from his early days on stage and got a feel for the craze he caused among many teenagers whose parents often disapproved of his style of music and his wild dance moves.
Then we strolled through Elvis Presley Motors and saw many of the automobiles, motorcycles, and other gadgets he owned. One of his quotes at the display appears in huge letters: “Life is too short to drive boring cars.”
A massive wall larger than my home displayed all of his awards, and then we sat in a movie theater and watched a replay of his famous 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert which was broadcast live all over the world — the first one ever. I felt like we were sitting in the audience.
We also saw where he is buried, in the Meditation Garden on the historic grounds of Graceland, along with his mother, father and grandmother.
I could go on and on to discuss the many things we saw and experienced, but I’ll try to go ahead and get to my point.
Elvis loved music and enjoyed making others happy.
There are countless stories of his generosity and impromptu giving to people.
His performances were different than what we see today from many of our high-profile entertainers.
The downtown area of Memphis is also packed full of Elvis nostalgia, and his legacy is alive and well.
How can the existence of one man attract millions of people, like Angie and me, to walk through his home for a couple of hours, or visit Beale Street?
We stayed at the Guesthouse of Graceland, two blocks from the mansion, and from the time we were picked up at the airport to the time we were dropped off, we heard nothing but Elvis music. When we entered our hotel room, the television was already on with some of his greatest hits playing. There is a movie theater there that plays one of his movies every night at 7 p.m.
Elvis was brought up to respect God and be humble and give back. He did all these things, and that is why people loved him. His image is what attracted people to do ridiculous things to see him, including the story of when two women mailed themselves to his residence in hopes he would open the large package.
There will never be another Elvis Presley. Like him or not, he had an amazing influence on American culture, and he changed music forever. He sang Rock n Roll, Pop, Rockabilly, Country, and Blues and Gospel.
Among the hundreds of awards he received, one of the most prestigious came posthumously in November 2018 when President Trump presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland.
Elvis won three Grammy Awards – all for Gospel music.
He had an impact. For me, it was a positive one. I am aware of the circumstances surrounding his death and the fact that some perceived him as a negative influence on teenagers.
But he made a difference.
You don’t have to be a famous singer with a huge entourage and two private airplanes to make a difference.
You can visit hospitals and give to charities just like he did.
You can bring a smile to someone’s face who is discouraged.
You can be humble and honor your parents and be kind. This doesn’t take much effort.
People flock to Graceland because they not only loved his music, but they adored the man. From all I’ve read and studied, he had a giving heart and made sure those around him felt important.
He gave back to help others, and this is why people come from all over the world to walk through the gates of Graceland. Along one of the hallways during our tour, we saw a check made out to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, dated very early in his career, for several thousands of dollars.
Although he’s been gone since 1977, I think even he would be overwhelmed with the outpouring of love he has received all these years since his death.
Your legacy doesn’t have to be enshrined behind ropes or glass, but it can be encased in the special memories of your loved ones.
Elvis started life out driving a truck, and he made it big just because he chased a dream and caught the attention of Marion Keisker, an assistant to Sam Phillips, the man who is also credited with launching the careers of Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison.
He made the most of his opportunity, and he never looked back.
Never give up on your dreams, but more importantly, stay humble and take care of those who have supported you throughout the tough times.
Never try to live up to an image, but make sure you leave a positive legacy.
Most likely 600,000 people will not visit your home each year after you die, but that’s not important.
What matters most is that when it’s your time to go, you have left a testimony of commitment, service, and dedication to God. Treat others with love, respect, and kindness, and they will be ready to honor you with their own special tribute someday.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. (I Timothy 6: 6 KJV)
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
His latest book, First Down Devotions: Inspirations from NFL’s Best, can be purchased from New Hope Publishers or on Amazon.