Elvis Presley’s visits to Nashville through the years

Music City was all shook up when Elvis came to town.

A black-and-white historical photo from March 8, 1961 with Elvis Presley sitting with members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Elvis Presley and Gov. Buford Ellington at a joint convention of the Tennessee General Assembly. | Photo via the Tennessee State Library and Archives

Nashville has its fair share of iconic landmarks, but Graceland is not one of them. The late Elvis Presley’s Memphis estate is ~4 hours away, but the King of Rock and Roll made the trip to Music City several times.

Hop in this shiny gold Cadillac as we travel back in time to explore the music legend’s local ties.

The King’s Opry debut

On Oct. 2, 1954, a 19-year-old Elvis stepped onto the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first (and only) time, where he performed a high-energy, rockabilly rendition of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” As legend has it, the performance was not well received. Still, Presley would later return to the Ryman to mingle with friends like Johnny Cash, and his contributions to the genre led to his Country Music Hall of Fame induction in 1998.

Elvis with the Tennessee General Assembly

Nearly seven years later, Presley paid a visit to a much different venue in Nashville — the Tennessee State Capitol. On March 8, 1961, he appeared before a full room of state lawmakers to accept the title of “honorary colonel,” one of the state’s highest honors, according to The Tennessean’s archives. The resolution also praised his 75 million record sales and Army service.

“I thought it was exciting when I got my first gold record, and it was exciting... but this is one of the nicest things that’s ever happened to me,” Presley said during the session. After banging the gavel and signing autographs, he joined Gov. Buford Ellington to tour the governor’s mansion before traveling back to Memphis in his black Rolls-Royce.

Marathon sessions at RCA Studio B

Elvis called Graceland home, but he was a familiar face at Nashville’s Studio B when it was time to record new music. Between 1958-1971, the singer reportedly recorded over 200 songs in the studio — including a “marathon session” of 30+ songs in five days in the summer of 1970. In 2020 and 2021, RCA/Legacy Recordings released two compilation albums: “From Elvis in Nashville” and “Elvis in Nashville.”

Presley’s Murfreesboro concerts

If you wanted to see the King live in his later years — at least in the Nashville region — your best chance was a 35-minute drive down to Murfreesboro. He performed five sold-out shows on MTSU’s campus, twice in 1974 and three times in spring of 1975. Fans could score tickets for as little as $5 at the time to hear classics like “All Shook Up,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

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