Take a Tour of Graceland Before It Was Open to the Public

by Josh Lanier

Graceland, Elvis Presley’s massive compound in Memphis, Tenn., has always been a destination for his fans. They would line up outside the gates hoping to catch a glimpse of the megastar. But until 1982, none were permitted inside. What was behind the fence was a mystery.

But there was one time before Graceland was a museum, where TV cameras were permitted inside. ABC’s Nightline toured the home in 1981 and gave people a peek inside.

Presley died in 1977. On the day of his funeral, the home was sealed off. Much of it was untouched from how it was when Elvis was still alive, the report says.

It includes looks at the massive collection of jumpsuits he wore on stage, his collection of cars, his fan-gifted souvenirs and industry awards, and some of the more personal spaces of the home. The executors of his estate would eventually open up the location to tourists in 1982. But this glimpse makes Graceland feel much more like a home and less a museum to Presley’s life.

It’s also interesting to see what plans they had for the house and the grounds in the years just after Presley died. His friends and family weren’t planning on turning it into a museum, though the home was already generating nearly a million dollars in revenue a year from fans.

Elvis Superfan Has Been to Graceland 400 Times

Visiting Graceland is a requirement for any Elvis super fan, but few have gone to the home as often as Dennis Miller.

Miller, not the comedian, recently made his 400th visit to Graceland since it opened to the public. And he actually got a chance to go behind the gates while Elvis Presley was still alive.

Miller was only 16 and visiting Memphis with his parents, the Express said. Already a big fan, Miller said his parents planned a quick stop at Graceland before going to lunch. As luck would have it, Elvis Presley’s uncle Vester Presley happened to spot them as they pulled up. He offered Miller the chance to hang out at the guard shack with him while his parents went to eat.

Vernon let Miller tag along as he went to take photos of the house for fans. But as they went up the long driveway, Miller noticed a golf cart coming the other way. It was Elvis. And Miller wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass him by. He lept from the Jeep and rushed over. Vernon called him back but still introduced him to The King.

Miller has been coming back to Graceland ever since. He even worked in the area for a year so he could take the tour as often as six days a week.

“Elvis’ spirit is in the house,” Miller said. “That started in ’82 and to this day I still feel his spirit.”