Elvis’ Circle G Ranch — Part 2

In the ElvisBlog article two weeks ago, I stated “spring 1967 may well have been the happiest period of his (Elvis’) life.”  Last week, I ended the article by saying it could be argued that his three straight weeks at the Circle G Ranch that April was the happiest time of his life.

Elvis riding in front of lake

Elvis wearing cowboy gear

 

To see how a true Elvis historian might judge the happiest times in Elvis’ life, I contacted Alan Hanson, the man behind the Elvis-History-BlogHe agreed that Elvis’ early Circle G experience was right up there, but he offered one other very happy time as well.

“As for an equally happy time in Elvis’ life, my first thought was the summer of 1969, when he returned to live shows in Las Vegas. The challenge of rehearsals, followed by his triumphant shows, which were acclaimed by his fans, his fellow celebrities, and critics, by all accounts made him extremely happy.”

Alan makes some good points.  Now, it’s time to present the argument for the Circle G Ranch.

Elvis’ two long interrupted periods at the ranch were in February (including the first four days of March) and April, 1967.  He probably also spent two other short periods at Circle G in March, interrupted by time in Hollywood for the filming of Clambake.  February was fun for Elvis because he bought horses for himself, Priscilla, Vernon, and most of the Memphis Mafia.  He also bought pick-up trucks for everybody, tractors and other farm equipment, those nine house trailers, and made repairs to the stables and had a bridge built over the lake.

 

Circle G stables in decline -- decades after Elvis’ time at the ranch

Circle G stables in decline — decades after Elvis’ time at the ranch

 

It has been estimated that all this, plus the cost of the ranch, came to almost a million dollars.  Elvis’ father Vernon, who looked over his son’s finances, was afraid Elvis’ spending on the ranch would bankrupt him.  Vernon went to Col. Parker for advice, and he received a very prophetic answer that Elvis would soon tire of his new plaything.

Vernon and his stepsons David and Billy Stanley at the Circle G stables

Vernon and his stepsons David and Billy Stanley at the Circle G stables

 

As George Klein said in his book Elvis – My Best Man, “In becoming a ranch owner and turning the Memphis Mafia into a bunch of ranch hands, Elvis had given himself a tremendous challenge, which he threw himself into fully.  Making plans for the ranch, Elvis seemed more energetic and in charge than he had in a long time.”

And Joe Esposito said on his TCB Joe website, “So Elvis cast himself in the role of ranch foreman. He no longer looked like a famous singer and movie star. Wearing a cowboy hat and sheepskin jacket and sitting tall in the saddle, he was a dead ringer for the Marlboro man. Every morning he saddled Rising Sun and rode out to issue instructions to the contractor on how to do things and where everything should go.”

Elvis planned and oversaw the placement of the house trailers down by the lake, as well as the work to bring electricity, water and sewage to the site.  So, February 1967 was a time of buying and giving and planning and building.  Of course, Elvis combined that with riding horses, so he was certainly a happy man.

When Elvis arrived back from Hollywood in early April, the Circle G ranch was now set up and operating the way he wanted.  So, April 1967 was when Elvis got to live his dream and share it with his buddies, especially those who received house trailers from him.  Let’s take a look at some quotations by people who were there during this special time.

Priscilla:

“What seemed like a new life had begun. I look back at those weeks as a remarkable lull in the middle of a storm. Elvis was between pictures. I’ve never seen him so ‘free’.  He was having fun… He liked it when everyone was together, and he got upset when they wanted to leave… It wasn’t unusual to see him walking around the property, knocking on doors, waking everyone up, or checking on the horses in the early morning hours.  He was having a ball, and there were days he didn’t even want to take time out to eat… On Sundays we had picnics, and all the girls chipped in on potluck.  We rode horses, held skeet shooting contests, and combed the lake for turtles and snakes.  There was fun, laughter, and a lot of camaraderie…  It was almost like a commune effect.”

Elvis on horseback kissing Priscilla

Elvis on horseback kissing Priscilla

 

George Klein:

“Elvis may have been having trouble steering his career the way he wanted it to go, but now he had a place where he could live the way he wanted to, surrounded by the people he wanted around him, far from the call of Hollywood or the influence of the Colonel, or even the needs of the fans at the Graceland gates.”

Mike McGregor:

“One of the fun times on the ranch was when it snowed, and they took the tractors and sleds and drove around and tore them up.  One night one of the cows had a calf, and they were so excited and everyone had to go see the calf.  When one of the horses had a colt, you would have thought [it was] royalty.”

Charlie Hodge:

“That was where we had an awful lot of fun.  And Elvis loved to get out. He’d wear a big old jacket, a western jacket and his cowboy hat, you know.  They would ride horses all over the property.  Picnics were frequent.  The girls all got along pretty good.

Jerry Schilling:

“It was really beautiful at first.  Sandy and I had a little trailer in front of the lake… You’d wake up in the morning, the horses would be drinking out of the lake; Elvis and Priscilla would ride over, and we’d go for a ride, then have breakfast.

“It was like we were all just friends.  They spent a lot of time by themselves, and when they came over it was just like neighbors dropping by.  We’d go out riding and maybe have a little picnic, and it was as if things had kind of calmed down for a little while.”

Joe Esposito:

“On weekends, we threw giant barbecues. The wives prepared all the food, except for the meat, which I cooked on an open grill. We had great times.  Elvis felt very comfortable in his own little ranch world and usually hated being torn from it.”

View of trailer area from bridge

Obviously, views like this helped Elvis feel comfortable in his own little ranch world.  The land beyond the edge of the lake is where Elvis had the house trailers installed.  In the bottom left of the picture is a small part of the bridge Elvis had built over the lake.  You can see the bridge on this aerial view.

Aerial shot showing bridge and cross

 

Another arrow marks a seventy-five foot lighted cross erected by the previous owner of the ranch, Jack Adams.  He was one of the biggest used-aircraft salesmen in the world, and he installed the cross to be a highly visible landmark when he flew over the ranch at night.  (An alternate story says the cross was honor his daughter who drowned in the lake.)  Elvis noticed the cross from the main road while on a horse buying trip, and within twenty-four hours he had purchased the ranch, including a herd of Gertrudis cattle and all the furnishings in the ranch house.  That house is barely visible at the top left, the second structure in from the corner.  Much more visible are the red roofs of the stables and storage building.

There is some confusion about which Elvis buddies had trailers along the lake.  They were primarily for married couples.  There is no doubt this included Jerry Schilling and his wife Sandy, and Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith and his wife Jo.  Both wives were nearly the same age as Priscilla, and they all spent a lot of time together.  Richard Davis, Red West, Joe Esposito, and Mike McGregor were probably beneficiaries of Elvis’ trailer generosity.  Some reports even say that one trailer was for Elvis’ grandmother Minnie Mae, but no references about her actually staying in it have surfaced. No matter who occupied the trailers, here are three photos showing what the views out their front windows looked like.

View from part of the trailer area shows the 75 ft cross

View from part of the trailer area showing the cross

View from another part the trailer area.

View from another part the trailer area.

Maybe the best view of the lake from the trailer area.  The bridge was lit at night.

Maybe the best view of the lake from the trailer area. The bridge was lit at night.

 

Let’s close with another quote from Priscilla.  “I loved cooking his eggs and frying his bacon. I even loved doing laundry. We shared a new intimacy. After breakfast we’d saddle up our horses and ride them through the hills. Sometimes he’d ride alone. I remember one day I happened to look out of the window. It was twilight. The sky was aglow in misty blue and radiant pink. There was Elvis walking Rising Sun, his Golden Palomino.”

Elvis on Rising Sun

Elvis on Rising Sun

 

“I saw them as silhouettes against the darkening sky. Elvis was walking slowly; I could practically hear him breathe. His breath was easy, his body relaxed. At that moment I was convinced my husband had actually found peace.”

 

Well, are you convinced that spring 1967, and especially that three week period in April, was the happiest time of Elvis’ life?  I am.

©  2013    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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11 Responses to Elvis’ Circle G Ranch — Part 2

  1. I love the article that you have written and find it pretty close to things that others have written who were there; or at least said they were. Time has changed history for sure…. You keep mentioning March and April of 1957 as being the happiest time in Elvis’s life. I am rather sure that he and Priscilla were not married until May 1, 1957 and she turned 22 at end of May. I have also read they *P and E* decided to move to a mobile and let the care takers have the house. She does talk about cooking and washing for Elvis but most books say she really just let the cooks and maids do it. But apparently she did try at some point just to have an ordinary life, which could not work.

  2. (Merry Christmas Elvis Song)
    As you know there are still a lot of people that think Elvis is still alive living on some island. I ran into a guy while filling my gas tank the other day. I had a ring on both of my hands a watch and bracelet on and this guy walked up and said “Why are you waring all that jewlry?” I didn’t know what to say or think so I said ” well I guess it’s the Indian blood in me”. Then he said ” do you think Elvis is really dead?” I said” yes I gues he is”. Then he said,”I don’t think he’s really dead, I think hes on some island some where” Then this guy said “were you in the service?” I said “yes I was stationed in Panama to guard the Panama Canal” He said I want to shake your hand so I shook hands with the guy and he just walked away and left. What I’m trying to say is some people think Elvis is still alive. I have written a song in memory of Elvis and it’s believed to be the first and only Christmas Song ever written in memory of Elvis. The song kind’a relates to the fact that Elvis is still alive at least in Spirit and always will be. I’m looking for a singer that loved Elvis and would like to record the song for all the Elvis fans to hear. All the song needs is to be sung from the heart with a good Christmas Sound and it would be a big hit. If you are a singer and think you might like to record it please contact me, I’ll send you the words and a tape with me singing it. Please do this for Elvis and all his fans. I’m not a singer and need help. my phone number is 731- 614-5527 –Email is mcnell@netease,net. Thank You Very Much. James McQueen (Mac)

    • David Metevier

      Mac, I am very interested in your song. Have you ever thought about going to Nashville and cut a demo. It would cost about $200 but if the song is as good as you say it is maybe you are a star in the making. My friend sings Blue Grass Music. Would that work for you? Let me know. If I can help then I am willing. I also have connections with Amy Grant, Vince Gill and Blake Shelton.

  3. I also wonder if the basic interior is the way it was when Elvis lived there/owned it. I know a floral shop was there for a while.

  4. It’s a shame the way the house has been allowed to deteriorate. I’d love to go in there and fix it back up and make it usable again. Looking through the windows you can imagine what it was like for Elvis to live in this little house compared to Graceland. What an interesting time to think about!

  5. my name is Jamie and i found you on the internet.
    A family member of mine recently passed at 72 or so
    and she was a fan of elvis. Actually allmost met him once
    at a party but her parents wouldnt allow her to go,imagine that !
    I have two photographs of Elvis both are snapshots, one is of him in his karate suit at a class or something and one is of him on horseback,it appears to be the same moments of the photo ive seen here of him kissing Priscilla on the horse
    I wish to sell them
    Jamie Calton
    jtcalton1@cox.net

    • Hi Jamie: I get a lot of requests like this, so I have created a standard reply. Please contact Jerry Osborne, famous Elvis collector, author and historian. His website is jerryosborne.com, his phone number is 360-385-1200, and his e-mail address is JPO@olympus.net.

      Thanks for reading ElvisBlog. Hope you enjoy it.

      Phil Arnold, ElvisBlogmeister

  6. Doc Livingston

    Charlie told me many stories about the fun they had while they were at The Circle G.
    Richard also had alot of stories of many memorable moments there.It seemed Elvis really loved this escape hatch he had created………….I was in Vietnam when they were all enjoying this time in Elvis’ Life. Wish I could have been there then……

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