Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibition kicks off in Bendigo

Elvis Direct From Graceland

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted March 21, 2022

All Shook Up about the Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibit? Priscilla Presley gives her insights for the ‘deeply sentimental’ Australian exhibition.

Put on your blue suede shoes, hound dogs – Elvis has come to Bendigo. 

The new exhibition exploring the iconic life of Elvis Presley has opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery. Elvis: Direct from Graceland features over 300 artifacts showcasing the music and screen legend’s impact on entertainment, style and popular culture.

The items come ‘Direct from Graceland’ Memphis, Tennessee, to the exclusive exhibit at the Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria’s Goldfields region, opened by the late icon’s former wife and first lady of rock-n-roll, Priscilla Presley. 

Although the music legend never made it Down Under, Elvis made his mark on the Australian entertainment scene. In his time, he had 48 Top 10 singles and 14 No. 1 hits on the Aussie charts, and remains the best-selling artist of all time on our shores. 

When asked what made her consider Bendigo for Elvis’s first and only Australian debut of his extensive collection, Priscilla, the Chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises, said she was impressed with the gallery’s pitch, former exhibitions, and how, in some ways, this meant Elvis was finally able to make it to Australia.

In fact, bringing Elvis to our shores at one point had Priscilla quite emotional. “He thought he would be forgotten,” she said tearfully.

“I get a bit teary because this is everything he ever wanted. He never thought he would be remembered. He always thought that all of this was going to go away someday. So [coming to Australia], this is just a dream come true.” 


Elvis Presley during his U.S. Army Service, 1958-1960. © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved. Elvis Presley™ © 2022 ABG EPE IP LLC.
Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, 1970. Photo by Frank Carroll/Sygma © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved. Elvis Presley™ © 2022 ABG EPE IP LLC.
Elvis and Priscilla Presley cutting their wedding cake, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, 1 May 1967. © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved. Elvis Presley™ © 2022 ABG EPE IP LLC.
Elvis Presley in the 1968 NBC television special, Singer Presents… Elvis, later known as the ‘Comeback Special’. Photograph: Fathom Events/CinEvents © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved. Elvis Presley™ © 2022 ABG EPE IP LLC.
Elvis Presley strolls the grounds of his Graceland estate, 1957. Photo by Michael Ochs © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved. Elvis Presley™ © 2022 ABG EPE IP LLC.

From Graceland to the Goldfields 

While now the second-most visited home in the United States after the White House with over half a million annual visitors, the home of Elvis Presley wasn’t always so iconic. Purchased for his parents in 1957, Graceland became a refuge for Elvis and his family as his fame grew. 

“Graceland was our private world,” Priscilla smiles. “It was a sacred place for him.”

When she moved into the home in 1962, she was still at high school. “We would sneak off to the movies when no one would see us,” she laughs, “I would get home at three, four in the morning, and then have to be up at seven to go to school, straight from Graceland!”  

After Elvis’s death in 1977 at the property, Priscilla was informed it would be best to sell. However, this went against the wishes Elvis had for the family home, and all the memories they had built there together. Priscilla knew there had to be another way, stating “We’ll never sell Graceland.”

And so, an idea was born.  

After visits to see the plans of what is now Disneyworld, noting the 1.5 million artifacts held in storage by Elvis' parents who always worried that the fame and fortune would all “go away,” Graceland: The Home of Elvis Presley became a home not just for the family, but the fans.

Graceland has now welcomed 23 million visitors and counting.

Now, with extensive parts of the crooner’s life on the road, both Priscilla and Angie Marchese, Vice President Archives and Exhibits at Elvis Presley Enterprises, seem truly touched that the legacy has lived on Down Under. “This exhibit has been three years in the making,” said Angie. “We’ve always wanted to bring it to Australia, and we just can’t wait to see the peoples’ reactions!” 

Everybody, let’s rock 

Elvis: Direct from Graceland is sure to delight fans new and old, featuring film scripts, costumes, books and jewellery; clothing displaying his dedication to style, including military uniforms, daughter Lisa Marie’s baby clothes and an amazing array of his famous jumpsuits. His 1976 Red Bicentennial Custom Harley Davidson also makes an appearance, alongside his bright red convertible 1960 MG from the movie Blue Hawaii.

When asked about her favourite item, Priscilla mentioned their wedding outfits (which are on display with her tiara and his bejewelled cufflinks), as well as video footage of them riding their prized horses together, which she still finds both “sentimental and difficult” to look at.  

For those who may think they’ve got their Elvis knowledge covered for their next pub quiz night, the Bendigo exhibition also covers elements from Elvis’ life that are not in the public eye. Angie, who also flew in especially for the opening, noted that there would be items on display at the Bendigo exhibit that had never been seen before, even at Graceland, including letters from Australian promoters asking the icon to visit.


The prized 1960 MG MGA 1600 MKI owned by Elvis and used in his film 'Blue Hawaii' in 1961 is on display at Bendigo Art Gallery.
Never-seen-before-items on display, not even in the USA, include his checkered boots and letters with Australian correspondence.
A replica of Graceland features a record player spinning with the final track Elvis was playing before he died.
The exhibit pays homage to the legion of fans Elvis had throughout his career, and the respect and admiration that went both ways.

You were always on my mind

The exhibit is a musical biographical journey following his life story, from humble beginnings in a two-bedroom house in Mississippi singing gospel at church, to heading the way for a new sound and becoming a global star of song and screen. There’s even a replica Graceland frontage inspired by the Memphis homeland. 

While it is up for debate as to which item is the pièce de résistance of the collection, the Jumpsuit Room is certainly a sight to behold for those who loved the icon’s impressive sense of style.  

Interestingly, Angie mentioned that when Elvis started performing in Vegas in 1969, he cemented the very idea of a “star-studded residency” – with a bejewelled jumpsuit worn for every occasion.

While celebrated now, Priscilla noted it had not always been that way. “There’s one recent book which makes fun of his jumpsuits, calling them Liberace suits,” she says.

“I got a bit angry because this person didn’t know Elvis and why he had those suits. He wanted to please his audience, he wanted to give the fans something to talk about. It was always about them.” 

Angie added that while they were nice to have, possessions weren’t important – he would give away items to fans easily, and on one occasion, “he bought 32 cars in one day and just gave them away.” 

The final room of the exhibit presents an homage to his fans, from a suitcase holding scarves he intended to give out at his show, to a quote on the wall that reads, “The fans want my shirt. They can have my shirt. They put it on my back.”


The jumpsuit room, featuring an array of outfits worn during Elvis Presley's Vegas residency.
The cufflinks worn by Elvis Presley worn on his wedding day.
Memorabilia from the icon's heyday.
The exhibit also features Elvis memorabilia and paraphernalia.

Viva Bendigo

In 2022, the Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibit coincides with what looks to be like a year of Elvis sightings in Australia, from the opening of his iconic exhibition to the upcoming biographical musical film about his life, Elvis, directed by Baz Luhrmann and filmed on the Gold Coast. Luhrmann was even invited to stay at Graceland, where he lived for months, researching the archives, costumes, and props in preparation for the film extravaganza. 

For Australians who have dreamed of travelling to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley and now an entertainment and exhibition complex dedicated to the icon, the idea that Graceland can come to them is a dream come true. 

And don’t just stop at the exhibition. In Bendigo, it’s one for the money, two for the show, with the whole town getting into the Jailhouse Rock spirit. There are more than 30 Elvis-inspired experiences across food, drink, cinema, interactive activities, and more across Bendigo, culminating in a replica Viva Las Vegas-style light-up sign in the town’s piazza.