What is the future of Graceland?

Under the ownership of Elvis's grandaughter Riley Keough, will Graceland take on a new direction?

Riley Keough’s first Christmas as the sole owner of Graceland has proved to be a great success. Riley, who is the granddaughter of rock n’ roll legend, Elvis Presley, kicked off her inaugural Christmas at Graceland with an unforgettable event.

The Christmas at Graceland special featured Alanis Morissette, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Kane Brown, Lainey Wilson, Lana Del Rey, Post Malone, and The War And Treaty – each singing a rendition of an Elvis song.

The Christmas special was directed by Riley, it is the first televised concert from the estate and featured never-before-seen footage of Elvis.

Riley Keough (left) has made her first big move as the new owner of Graceland, launching an Elvis-inspired Christmas special which takes place at the Memphis mansion.

Whilst the event was spectacular, the move gives fans an insight into how Riley will continue to uphold and shape the cultural legacy of Elvis. By inviting celebrity guests who typically appeal to a Gen Z and Millennial audience, we can see that the future of Graceland will be heavily focused on preserving the magic of Elvis for new generations to discover.

Riley was thrust into ownership of Graceland in light of her mother, Lisa Marie Presley’s tragic death in early 2023. Following Lisa Marie’s passing, Riley found herself in a lengthy legal battle with her grandmother, Priscilla Presley, over the fate of Graceland.

Whilst Riley ultimately won the legal dispute and was named the sole trustee of Graceland, it’s important not to forget that Elvis’ Memphis manor, and arguably his existence as a pop culture facet, would not exist without Priscilla Presley.

.Priscilla Presley saved Graceland from disappearing into obscurity.

In 1957, at just 22 years old, Elvis Presley purchased Graceland for $100,000 as a respite from his new-found stardom. 

Spanning an impressive 185,000 square metres and with a rich, deep history beyond Elvis, today, Graceland is the second most visited house in America – next to the White House. And whilst people flock all over the world to Memphis to see the home of Elvis, back in 1979, Graceland and the Elvis estate was a sinking ship.

Upon the death of his father Vernon Presley and grandmother Minnie Mae Presley, the entire Elvis fortune was left to the then 11-year-old Lisa Marie – who couldn’t access her trust until she turned 25. 

Elvis at Graceland

Priscilla stepped in to manage Elvis’ estate when quickly learned that everything – including Graceland – could be lost. Elvis’ financials were in complete disarray and though Priscilla had never been involved in the rocker’s financials during their six-year marriage, she was faced with the impossible task of saving the Elvis legacy.

“I worried about my daughter’s future and about Graceland and the people who had worked for us for 20 years. I couldn’t comprehend them not having jobs or a place to stay. The question I kept asking myself over and over was, ‘What are we ever going to do?’,” Priscilla recalled in an interview with the LA Times.

With more bills than money coming in, those around Priscilla were keen to sell Graceland. Priscilla was horrified by the thought of this. Much of the legend that was Elvis was built within the walls of the Memphis mansion. 

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 4:  Priscilla Presley gives a press conference to announce Elvis Presley's home, Graceland Mansion, will open to the public on June 7, 1982 as a memorial museum on May 4, 1982 at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

This is where Priscilla had the idea to turn Graceland into a tourist attraction. Within just 10 years, the mansion-turned-tourist attraction was bringing in over US$37 million per year (adjusted for inflation).

Now, 46 years on, Elvis’ former home is a mammoth tourist attraction featuring tours of the mansion, interactive exhibits and an entertainment complex with museums, restaurants, gift shops. It is now thought that Graceland contributes some US$150 million to Memphis’ economy each year thanks to the continued dedication of Priscilla, the late Lisa Marie and other trustees.

Now, at the helm of her grandfather’s legacy, Riley Keough is tasked with preserving Graceland and the legend of Elvis for future generations to come as her mother and grandmother have done.

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