Lisa Marie Presley performs in Graceland's Jungle Room
Sitting in a chair, lights and cameras pointed at her, Lisa Marie Presley involuntarily twitches when a soundman's boom microphone accidentally hits the ornate chandelier hanging overhead, just outside camera range.
She is sitting dead center, smack in the heart of Graceland — and however controlled, is giving off the vibe of a teenager whose parents went away for the weekend and now an unexpected mob of party guests are clumsily, but methodically, wrecking her house.
And what on earth will she tell her parents?
"I'm very protective over it," she says. "I feel really comfortable here, very happy and comfortable."
Maybe two rooms over, past Graceland’s dining room and kitchen, a herd of camera-crew types is setting equipment up in the Jungle Room, where Lisa’s father famously recorded in 1976, and where she'll soon be performing for the very first time, for all eyes to see.
"But this is working inside of where I grew up, which is very strange. I feel like I'm watching, making sure that everything doesn't get trampled over. That people are being careful while it’s happening."
History is in the making as Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley — on the premises this very day, no less — gives her first-ever performance, with full band, in Graceland's fabulously atmospheric Jungle Room. To the rest of the world, it is part of a national historic landmark. For Lisa Marie? "It was best known for being a TV room when I was growing up," says she, "a television with projection screens. I would watch TV in there a lot, to be honest — that was my little room. I had the big round chair that I would just jump around and sleep in. And my father watched TV in there as well."
It's a family affair today at Graceland, as Lisa Marie and her husband, Michael Lockwood — guitarist in her band, and father of her rambunctious twin girls, also there — as well as Priscilla and a smallish crew of friends and related family gather for today’s Ram Country shoot. Earlier they prowled their premises in golf carts, much to the delight of the twins, but now duty calls.
It is fine, it is fun, and — considering the people and the place — about as surrealistic as these things get.
As she sits in her chair, cameras pointed at her, one sees a plush, formal room behind her, officially designated the Peacock Room. Her major memories of that room? "It wasn't used as often as the kitchen and dining room," she says. “It was a formal sort of family room. A lot of funerals were all in this room as well. So I think of those things — most of them. Actually, my grandfather and my father, they were right in here. So."
So today Lisa Marie and band are giving a sampling of her most recent album, "Storm & Grace" — her third set, produced by acclaimed Grammy and Oscar winner T Bone Burnett, and by far the best and most natural sounding of her career. Not a pop play, and not a retro-rock nostalgia-fest, the album offers up tasteful arrangements, some surprisingly subtle songs, and Lisa's compellingly husky, sensual vocals: Sort of what genetics dictates you'd get when you cross her mom and pop.
As for the Jungle Room itself, it is where Elvis recorded tracks in 1976 for the "From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee" and "Moody Blue" albums — and it was given its name based on the furnishings, Polynesian-style and selected by Elvis in the summer of 1974 largely because it reminded him of Hawaii. And for this day’s music shoot, while some furniture was temporarily relocated for logistical reasons, you're seeing Lisa Marie and crew perform in the same room in which she enjoyed watching "Sesame Street" and "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood" many, many years earlier.
Additionally — and this could probably only happen in Graceland — you may notice the fancy acoustic guitar that Lockwood is playing in the band's performance of "Weary." It is Elvis's own 1956 J200 Gibson — the same one he used in such films as "Loving You," "King Creole," and "Jailhouse Rock," the oldest guitar in Elvis Presley Enterprises's collection, and one of the most famous musical instruments in pop history.
One might be forgiven for watching Lisa Marie Presley perform today and being reminded — whether by facial expression, hand gesture or vocal intonation — of her famous father, but actually in Graceland, in Memphis, that sensation comes close to hitting you directly on the head. The previous night, she and her band had given their first "big" concert at Memphis's Levitt Shell, where Elvis himself had performed on July 30, 1954, and it was not a small thing for her. "My mom was there, my whole family was there. It was kind of like a homecoming," She says. "There's a warmth here, and a love that I feel. There's something about it. As soon as I get here, I'm just happy."
That happiness was evidenced in Lisa Marie's exuberant performances, as you'll see here, the crisp tightness of her band, and the sense that of all the places in the world to give a concert performance, nothing beats your very own living room.
And that it just might happen to be directly in the heart of Graceland means then everybody wins.