History

The Time a Fully Loaded Elvis Presley Showed up at the White House

By the time the 1970s rolled around, Elvis Presley had held a variety of public titles: Musical groundbreaker, rock star, crooner, icon. But one day the man with the neverending sideburns and a life-long infatuation with law enforcement decided he wanted to be known for something more, and only a trip to visit Richard Nixon with a Colt .45 pistol in his hand could make it happen. Join us now for a retrospective photo journey to the time Elvis Presley stopped by the White House with the oddest gift a president has ever received. More

Egil "Bud" Krogh loved Elvis Presley, and it was on his recommendation that Nixon and Presley meet face-to-face.

 

Elvis Presley, the Legend

He’s been dead for 40 years, but Elvis was still streamed 382 million times on Spotify in 2016.

Depending on which stage of Elvis Presley’s life you most admire goes a long way to how you remember the king of rock and roll. Skinny Elvis, or fat Elvis? Hip shaking Elvis with a guitar, or crooning Elvis in a jumpsuit?

Of course, not everyone is a fan, but worldwide Presley is estimated to have sold one billion records. He was a rich, famous and incredibly odd individual who had some extremely bizarre infatuations. Presley the celebrity is impossible to forget but was there another Elvis we didn’t know?

Source: Why Elvis Presley Isn’t the King to Millennials

Growing up Poor

A ten-year-old Elvis with his parents, Vernon and Gladys, outside of their Tupelo home in 1945. Image: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Elvis Aron Presley (his middle name spelling was changed later to Aaron) was born in the middle of America’s heartland in East Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8. 1935. His arrival came 35 minutes after his identical twin brother, Jesse, was stillborn.

Life as a child was never easy for Elvis. His father spent a year behind bars in 1938 for forging a check, and the Presley family lived a relatively meager lifestyle while Vernon Presley hopped from low-paying job to low-paying job.

Source: 7 Fascinating Facts About Elvis Presley

The Guitar Elvis Didn’t Want

His father went to jail for trying to forge a check for $4, so spending nearly $7 on young Elvis’ first guitar was a very big deal for the family.

In the Presley household, money was always an issue. Young Elvis grew up loving Captain Marvel Jr, the World’s Mightiest Boy. Like many neighborhood kids his age, he was always on the hunt for adventure. For his 11th birthday, he wanted a bicycle. And a .22 rifle.

Instead, he got a guitar. Bought at the Tupelo Hardware Store, Gladys Presley paid $6.95 (about $98 today) for the present that would change her son’s life forever. Stories vary, but some report Elvis not being thrilled with the purchase.

Source: Elvis Presley receives his first guitar

Music Was Cool, but Something Else Was on His Mind

As a teen, Elvis would spend hours at his neighborhood’s fire station.

It’s not that Elvis didn’t love music; it was everywhere around him during his formative years. He’d stand in front of the gospel choir in church as a toddler mimicking their gestures and singing along. He listened to blues, country — even opera.

In 1948 the Presley family picked up anchor and moved from Tupelo to Memphis, Tennessee. It was in Memphis that, along with the fashion style he’d soon be famous for, Elvis really started to become infatuated with the men in blue.

Hints of Things to Come

He could play guitar and sing, but Elvis always loved hanging around and talking with police officers.

While in high school, Presley worked odd jobs to keep fresh strings on his guitar. He had an infatuation with James Dean and Rebel Without a Cause. And he started to dye his blonde hair black.

The world knows Elvis as a superstar on stage, but the young Presley and his guitar actually failed high school music. Elvis wanted to do what his buddies were doing, and many of them were signing up to become police officers.

The Window of Fame Starts to Open

While working out songs in the studio, executives asked Presley and his band what it was they were playing. They couldn’t really give them an answer.

With high school over and his classmates off looking to earn a badge and a pistol, 18-year-old Elvis wandered down to the Memphis Recording Service (home of Sun Records) with $3.95 of his own money to put a song to tape in August of 1953. He did, and it went nowhere.

One year later, Elvis was called back to the studio to record “That’s Alright.” The year was 1954, Elvis was 19, and music was changed forever.

Source: Elvis Presley: The Early Years

The Money Starts Flying

Elvis, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black made their radio debut on the Saturday morning show “Louisiana Hayride.”

In the span of just over a year, Elvis Presley would go from being a fresh-faced high school graduate who was driving a delivery truck for Crown Electric to being the bane of every parent and the dream of teenage girls across America.

Elvis and his two-piece backing band made their live radio debut on October 16, 1954, and shortly after that RCA came calling on Presley with a contract worth $40,000 (just over $377,000 today). That’s the kind of money that can buy a lot of bikes. And guns.

America Gets Introduced to the Kid From Memphis

It was a big deal to be on television, but only Elvis was given the courtesy of a flight into New York. The rest of the band had to drive.

With that radio momentum and the hefty backing of RCA, Presley and the band made their way to New York City to appear on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. It was his television debut and his new manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was watching from the wings.

The studio had some empty seats that night, but the audience that was there was primarily made up of screaming teenage girls. Elvis followed that up with spots on Milton Berle and Steve Allen before finally hitting the “bigs.”

Source: Elvis Presleys National TV Appearances In The 1950s

Kids Loved Elvis. Parents? Not so Much

Ed Sullivan was not a fan of the young singer, and it was only because his competition were booking Elvis and crushing Sullivan’s show in the ratings that he decided to change his mind.

On September 9, 1956, Elvis made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was part of a three-show deal engineered by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and it paid the young star the astronomical amount of $50,000 (5,000 today).

The money was worth it for Sullivan, who had initially said he wanted nothing to do with Presley’s hip shaking, That first show brought in over 60 million viewers. Hyperventilating teenage girls were great, but there were other people Elvis really wanted to like him: police officers.

There Was Always a Connection to Home

Becoming a star was great but Elvis still did gigs back home, including the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, visiting police stations while he was at it.

Even as success and cross-country fame started to become part of everyday life for Elvis, he never hid the fact that he always admired anyone in uniform, especially the police.

In between stints in New York for television appearances he’d fly back to Memphis, always finding time to visit a precinct for some photo opportunities. Part of this was due to his buddies from school now being on the city’s force, so these stops also doubled as a reunion amongst friends.

Source: Elvis Presley and the Police