Episode # 8 … Rockin’ From the Rail with Chele Drappel and Friends. Tesla with Bad Marriage 2/25/20 Graceland Sound-stage


I can’t over emphasize how much my friends and I have been looking forward to this show. Tesla and Bad Marriage playing on the stage at Graceland? The home of the “King?” C’mon what more could this Elvis freak ask for? The concert alone was what made us plan this trip but with the history of Memphis at our feet, this was going to be an epic few days. I started this adventure on Monday at 4:30am when an Uber rolled up my driveway to pick me up. You never know what might crawl up your driveway in the wee hours of the morning especially in New York. Her name was Rosie and outside of her hacking smokers cough she was pretty cool. We arrived at LaGuardia Airport in NY at 5:30am. As I approached the security lines, it looked like a scene from the night of the living dead. The TSA agents are notably cranky asses in NY. Not to mention a lot of passengers were wearing masks in fear of the Coronavirus. God I needed coffee. Finally boarded with a 2 and a half hour flight to Charlotte. Landed, quick plane change, another cup of coffee and it was wheels up to Memphis where I was to meet my friends. The first of my “crazies” as they are affectionately known as that I would meet up with would be Bernice. Our planes landed minutes apart. We headed for the car rental. Loaded our suitcases into the SUV and headed for the exit. Of course as we approached it the dashboard lit up like a damn Christmas tree. Check Engine! Crap! We were on a tight schedule to meet the others as we had a tour of Graceland booked for 12:30pm. So we unloaded and reloaded our bags into a new upgraded SUV. Off to Beale Street to pick up crazy #2, Tammy and her son who joined us on this adventure. Now there were four of us, we were on our way to meet Lisa and Tonya at the beautiful Guesthouse at Graceland. 

I had stayed there before but this was everyone else’s first time at this hotel. It’s stunning. Hotel lobby, lounges and rooms are beautifully appointed. All Elvis 24 hours a day in your room between movies and music of your choice. What could go wrong? Well…. one thing you don’t want to hear when checking into your hotel is “Oh….. it looks like your reservations were canceled!” WTF? Our reservations were booked through another party called “Iprefer.” Instead of modifying the reservations, they canceled them! At this point a bit of panic was setting in as the hotel was swarming with attendees for the upcoming rockabilly awards show that was taking place at the hotel. I thought they might be sold out. Luckily, the staff were great and assured us they would have our rooms ready once we returned from our Graceland Mansion tour.

So off we went in the Graceland provided shuttle down the road to 3734 Elvis Presley Blvd, the home and final resting place of the King. This was my second visit to Graceland and the first for the others. From the moment you walk through the front door it hits you….. Elvis stood here, Elvis walked through here in his pajamas, Elvis freaking recorded in that jungle room! Goosebumps to say the least. Graceland is a bucket list destination for all music fans. We decided to forgo the John Stamos (Yes, Uncle Jesse) iPad guided tour and went off on our own. Well all of us except maybe for Tammy……

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Since February is considered “off peak” at the mansion we had plenty of time to oooh and ahhh at each room and it’s artifacts. The mansion’s 70’s decor is still maintained throughout. Upon entering you visit the Peacock stained glass in his white living room where Elvis entertained his guests. The infamous jungle room and it’s funky furniture are pretty eccentric. There are many cool rooms to visit each holding their own story. The only part of the mansion that is closed off to the public is the upstairs where Elvis passed away in 1977. Upon exiting the home, you can visit Elvis’s private racquetball club. As you walk to the final destination of the mansion tour the meditation garden, you’ll notice stables where Elvis would ride his horses. Today it’s home for several rescue horses procured by Priscilla herself. Once in the meditation garden you are at the King’s grave as well as his other family members. It’s an emotional experience for many and one we soon won’t forget. We also took a quick trip across the street to the entertainment complex to see the king’s rides. Check out the photos below.

Back at the hotel for some fried green tomatoes and then we were off to Beale Street for an evening of Blues. Well, that didn’t turn out so great. For whatever reason the Uber app kept canceling and adding an hour to the pick up time. We said “the hell with it” and decided to take up in the hotel lounge. Much to our surprise the support act for Tesla “Bad Marriage” was already there. With a provided house band playing all the great Elvis hits and a drink menu containing “jungle room juice” (see below) and late night peanut butter and banana sandwiches why the hell would we leave? Exactly, we didn’t. Great music, great friends and tons of laughs and this was only day one.

The next morning we ventured out for a tour of the famous Sun Studios. Known to many as “the birthplace of rock n roll” icons such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and the King Elvis Presley recorded there. Standing on the spot where Elvis recorded “That’s Alright Mama” and posing with his microphone was a thrill for this Elvis freak. Tons of history can be found at this place. Something did piss me off however. I noticed that a guitar that belonged to original Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore had been autographed but by someone else. You may know who he is. Gene Simmons from Kiss. Apparently he was recording his now defunct tv show “family jewels” and while visiting Sun Studios he decided to autograph a guitar for the staff. Imagine the gasps when he picked it up! I feel sometimes things should be left as is, especially Scotty’s guitar. Mr. Moore passed away in 2016. 

Now that I was disgusted, it was time to leave and get ready for the Tesla meet n greet. The Sound stage at Graceland is located across the street from the Guesthouse in the Elvis Presley Entertainment Complex and a shuttle is provided by the hotel. The 6 of us crazies decided since we planned this trip together we’d all jump in one photo with the band. We had our Elvis/Sun Studios shirts on but that didn’t seem enough. Hmmmmm we needed to incorporate a bit more of Elvis into the photo. What better than giving the band replica Elvis sunglasses with fake sideburns! Some in our group didn’t think the band would wear them but Bernice and I did and wouldn’t you know…..they loved them and ran with it. (See below) 

After another “jungle room juice” it was almost show time. We secured our spots, front row, center rail. Did I mention we take this seriously? The Soundstage at Graceland had great acoustics and was sold out this evening. This was not a general admission show (thank god), there were seating assignments. Non general admission shows can be tough for supporting acts as sometimes it’s hard to get people out of their seats if they aren’t familiar with their music. That however wasn’t an issue for Bad Marriage. The Boston hard rock quintet opened with their song “Gateway Drug ” which isn’t about what you’re thinking. It’s actually about discovering rock’ n’ roll for the first time and the song kicks ass! The band continued on with 6 more songs which included “Ready, Aim, Fire” and the anthem like “Nay-Sayin’ Blues.” These Bostonites are also known for their killer cover tunes. This show included rousing versions of Petty’s “Honey Bee” and “Toys in the Attic ” from the original Boston bad boys Aerosmith. They concluded their set with “Old School Stereo ” which has a fantastic addictive catchy chorus. The band consists of flamboyant lead singer Jon Paquin who packs a powerful vocal range and definitely has the moves like Jagger. His boundless energy built up a sweat to which Bernice pulled out a fan to cool the fiery singer off. Much to his liking. Lead guitarist Mike “Fitz ” Fitzmaurice always looking the rock’ n’ roll part, appeared in a stylish fuschia suede fringed jacket and provided some blistering riffs on his honey burst Gibson Les Paul. Always smiling, leather clad rhythm guitarist Ian Haggerty is the perfect compliment to Fitz. The backbeat of the band consists of the ferocious drumming of Michael Delaney and and groove master bassist Todd Boisvert who makes keeping the time and tone look easy. These fellas are the real deal. They are a great cohesive fit and if you enjoy good old school in your face rock roll then this band is for you. Keep an eye out for them and have a look at some photos from their set posted below.

After a quick set change, it was Tesla time! Fresh from the Monsters of Rock cruise this was Tesla’s 3rd show on this run. The multi platinum selling artists hit the stage and opened with “Tied to the Tracks” from their 2019 record “Shock.” Guitar master and co-founder Frank Hannon donning his Elvis shades, brought some slide action to this song with his new beautiful shiny cherry red Gibson SG with a Floyd Rose. The band forged into the next two songs to the thrill of the crowd with “Modern Day Cowboy” from their 1986 debut album “Mechanical Resonance” followed by “Lazy Days, Crazy Nights” from the “Great Radio Controversy.” The sold out crowd were on their feet from the get go. The always charismatic lead vocalist Jeff Keith sounded spot on as he danced his way across the stage. Guitarist Dave Rude shared his flare with solos on his signature Epiphone Flying V. The guitar duo of Hannon and Rude is unique. When they trade off solos it’s almost like their guitars are talking to each other. Then there’s co-founder bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta. Brian and Troy’s undeniable reliable sound is the heartbeat that gets us rocking! The band played on with some of their biggest hits including everyone’s favorite “Love Song” , “Little Suzi” and “Signs.” The highlight of the evening for me was 2 acoustic songs that were played. Frank Hannon and Dave Rude paying homage to two of music’s greats. They performed a stellar version of Johnny Cash’s “Mystery Train” which Elvis himself had recorded as well. The crowd clapped and sang along on that one as well as the band’s cover of the Beatles “We Can Work It Out” which was originally recorded on their 1990 “Five Man Acoustical Jam ” record. Tesla has since recorded a new version at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London along with a full acoustic record to be released later this month called the “Five Man London Jam.” The night closed out with a badass version of “Rock Me To The Top.” Oh what a show it was and I’m sure the King was smiling down on us all. The guitar riffs, songwriting and melodies are what make Tesla the mainstay they are in rock ‘n’ roll till this very day.

The next morning before we left to head off on our separate ways, Lisa, Tonya and I stopped by Graceland for one last visit to the meditation garden to say goodbye to the King. The three of us shared something in common. Our moms were huge Elvis fans who bestowed that love onto us. Tonya’s mom passed away 6 years ago and my mother passed a year and a half ago. Although Lisa’s mom is still with us, Lisa lost her best friend “Barbie” not long ago as well. Where am I going with this you ask? Well….., all you spiritual freaks listen up because you can’t make this shit up!!! 

It was a dreary, cloudy morning. It wound up being just the three of us sitting at Elvis’s grave. We shared our memories of him and of our loved ones. Laughter, tears… when a woman approached us. She began to introduce herself, “Hi girls. Are you here together?” We told her why we were there, about the show and our visit, and then about our loved ones we lost. This woman then introduced herself as “Barbara” and gave us all hugs! Not only was Lisa’s friend’s name Barbara but it was also Tonya’s mother’s name! A bit freaked out? No goosebumps yet? Did I mention to you what the woman who handed us our tickets for the Graceland mansion tour said to us???? She said “Welcome to Graceland, my name is Emma!” Might not mean much to you but my mother’s name was Emma! All I could think at that moment was “well of course your name is Emma.” I knew my Mom would be there with us somehow. Still not enough for ya? That’s ok, there’s more! Back to Barabara at Elvis’s grave. She was a flight attendant who only had a few minutes because she had to catch a flight. She was going to Chicago. No she wasn’t on my flight, she wasn’t on Tonya’s flight but she was on Lisa’s flight!!! Not only was she on Lisa’s flight but minutes before we met her Lisa’s husband messaged to say her flight had been canceled and she was now rebooked on another flight but had to change in Chicago. Naysayers? Need one more affirmation? We all tossed a coin into the fountain by the grave……then took a photo of the stained glass windows pictured below.

Look at this photo below of the stained glass window in the middle. That murky sky had opened up and a green orb appeared. We didn’t notice it until we got home and went through our photos. That last photo is of the stewardess “Barbara” on the left sitting next to Lisa on the same plane going home.

Just like that, the trip had come to an end. Thanks Elvis, Graceland, Tesla, 

Bad Marriage, Barbara and Emma. Memories to last a lifetime. Until next time, and there will ALWAYS be a next time! Stay tuned. 


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