Next Friday kicks off Elvis Week in Memphis, nine days of concerts, panel discussions and a candlelight vigil at Graceland commemorating the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death on Aug. 16, 1977. Elvis Presley Enterprises estimates 75,000 people will attend the events this year from Aug. 10-18.
Maybe you’re like me, a few years too young for Elvis, introduced to rock ‘n roll by the Beatles. But don’t underestimate the importance of Elvis Presley — or of Graceland, which was an important groundbreaker in establishing rock ‘n roll as an engine for tourism. When Graceland opened its doors to the public in 1982, it paved the way for Memphis’s other rock ‘n roll attractions like Sun Studio and the Stax Museum. Even Beale Street, once a rundown part of town, didn’t blossom as a music destination until after Graceland began drawing music fans to town. Today, Memphis is its own kind of rock ‘n roll hall of fame. And for that, we all should raise a toast to Elvis next week.