In the early ‘90s, I am proud to say, I was at one point ranked third in the list of lifetime members of Graceland, Too, who had logged the most visits.
Many of the people we took to Holly Springs considered Graceland, Too, worthy of mockery. We, however, applauded the McLeods. My friends Josh Cooker and Kirk White and I even came up with a Canned Heat-esque, up-tempo blues song about G2, recorded it, created a cassette cover, with liner notes, and took it to Paul and Elvis during the holidays as a Christmas gift. Most people went in drunken late-night groups to G2; I once dropped by alone in the middle of a weekday afternoon and ended up carrying Elvis to Wal-Mart to make a layaway payment on a TV for his grandmother’s bedroom (aka, the Blue Christmas room).
The King and His Prince
It was perhaps the heyday of the place, when Paul McLeod and his son Elvis Aron Presley McLeod reigned over their bizarre, beautiful kingdom of everything Elvis in Holly Springs. Paul was the instigator, but his son Elvis was the star of the tour of the house. Elvis’s staggering photographic memory was part and parcel of the G2 experience.
Sure, the place was his father Paul’s grand, all-consuming, burning vision (he oft told visitors that his ex-wife, Elvis’s mom, gave Paul an ultimatum, “It’s either me or the collection,” and Paul told her, “Nice knowin’ ya.”). Visitors were floored by the notion, for example, that Paul archived issues of TV Guide and earmarked every listing of any show that ever mentioned Elvis Presley. For example, if Jay Leno made a joke referencing Elvis, a colored paper clip marked that episode. He purported to have all such known references on video.
In fact, one night around midnight, my friend Poe mentioned that he wished he could see the episode of Quantum Leap in which Scott Bakula’s character “leaps” into Elvis. So, Poe and another buddy, Brian Wilson (surprisingly not named after the Beach Boy; nor did his father build a shrine) and I jumped in the car and went to Graceland, Too, where, sure enough, Paul cued up the episode for us. The three of us and Paul all racked out on the shag carpet, our heads on white bean bags, and watched it, at about two in the morning. Everyone except Paul and I immediately passed out.
But Elvis McLeod was the reason you came back. He’d remember the exact date you last came and the names of the 10 people you came with. He’d remember trivial things you discussed and verbatim throwaway comments you’d made. I have a theory about it. From birth—literally from when he was named Elvis Aron Presley McLeod—he was groomed as heir to Paul’s vast empire of Elvis lore. The Graceland, Too, operation was 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Someone had to be on duty at all times. It was my understanding that he had to forego many of the activities a regular teenager would enjoy, sacrificing to keep Paul’s obsession alive. So, I speculate that Elvis absorbed every visit from the outside world like a sponge. A sponge with his hair died jet black.
All Shook Up
At some point, it was time for him to go and experience life outside of the obsession. I don’t recall exactly when it was, but I think it was in the mid- to late-‘90s. Some said he moved to Chicago and was working in a car wash. I heard somewhere else he’d gone to Baltimore. Some recent casual research turned up no leads. Googling his name only comes up with standard online articles about Graceland, Too, which never mention that he’s not there anymore. If I were to guess, I’d bet he changed his name to try to start over.
I think I only visited Graceland, Too, once after Elvis left, and—no offense, Paul—it just wasn’t the same. And that was many years ago. Barbara’s been back recently and tells me I must go back. I suppose the only way to find out what’s up with Elvis these days is to ask Paul. Maybe it’s time for a trip to Holly Springs.
Elvis, if you’re reading this, email me. We need you back, if only for a weekend, to give us one more tour.
— Tad Wilkes, firstname.lastname@example.org