Graceland posted this two weeks prior to the actual anniversary date of March 24, 1958, and I’ll be a little early here as well. Their blog post is a good one, and I recommend that you read it. There are nine big photos and a short video. I had never seen the picture of Elvis sitting in front of the Christmas tree looking at his draft notice.
Other highlights include Elvis’ famous quote that the Army was “a duty I’ve got to fill and I’m going to do it.” I also got a kick out of learning that Col. Parker handed out “King Creole” balloons to the fans outside the induction center. Leave it to Parker to turn it into an opportunity to promote the movie Elvis had just finished filming.
I’ve been collecting Elvis Army photos for about twelve years and now have hundreds of them. So, I’ve culled through them and tried to find the most interesting. How do you like him doing his signature lip curl while in Army uniform and carrying a duffel bag on his shoulder?
You’ve probably seen this photo before, but do you know what “Armor” means?
It means tanks.
So far, we have seen Elvis in three different Army hats. Here are some more.
Elvis was photographed with a lot of fans while he was stationed in Germany, but this one takes the prize.
Speaking of fans, check out this letter from three young Elvis Presley lovers. They actually sent it to President Eisenhower imploring him exempt Elvis from a G.I. haircut – “If you cut his sideburns off, we will just die.”
And here is Elvis with his Army haircut and no sideburns.
Now, take a look at one of the lesser known photos of Elvis getting that haircut at Ft. Chaffee in Arkansas.
Have you ever had some guy sweeping up your hair clippings the minute they hit the floor? This was arranged by Col. Parker who saw yet another promotional opportunity. He ordered that all of Elvis’ hair clippings from his Army induction haircut be gathered up and sent to his fan clubs. One lock ended up at the Tulsa World newspaper, and they used it in a contest. Winner Sybil Coughman completed this sentence “I think the US Army can make the best use of Elvis by…
“…letting him give hip exercises to the soldiers to keep them trim and in good shape like he is.”
Hip exercises. Yeah, the Army will surely go for that.
Here’s one last rare haircut photo. It appeared in a six-page pictorial spread in a magazine called Cool Hep Cats.
This may be the only magazine in history to superimpose text over Elvis’ face.
Okay, that was going off on a tangent. Let’s get back to Elvis in the Army.
You probably know that Elvis’ Memphis friends Red West and Lamar Fike travelled to Germany to continue their roles as buddies in residence. Elvis also made friends with two future Memphis Mafia members while in the Army – Joe Esposito and Charlie Hodge. Here is a shot of Elvis and Charlie in uniform.
They originally connected at Ft. Chaffee during Elvis’ four-day stay there. They shipped off to Ft. Hood, Texas together and also on the USS Randall troop ship to Germany.
Look at the white box below Elvis’ left hand. It was another Col. Parker idea, and guess what it contained? Dozens of playing-card-sized autographed photos of Elvis. As the tug boats began pushing the USS Randall out into New York Harbor. Elvis flipped the cards, a hand-full at a time, over the railing and they fluttered down to lucky fans standing on the dock four decks below. Parker must have had advance knowledge that the US Army Band would be present on the dock the day Elvis shipped out. So, he printed up copies of the music to several Elvis songs and delivered them to the band leader who in turn passed them out to all the musicians. Songs they played that day included “That’s All Right,” “Hound Dog,” “Don’t be Cruel,” “Tutti Fruitti” and others.
There were no John Philip Sousa marches to mark this occasion. Col. Parker really could pull off some good schemes to promote Elvis.
I have four different photos of Elvis in his Army uniforms playing guitar. I suppose he entertained the guys during off hours.
Elvis (plus Red West and Lamar Fike) were entertained by Bill Haley while on leave in Stuttgart, West Germany in October 1959.
Do you remember Marion Keisker, the studio manager for Sam Phillips at Sun Records who is credited as being first to recognize Elvis’ potential? She left Sun Records in 1957 and joined the Air Force. While she was in Germany as assistant manager of the Armed Forces Television Network in 1960, Marion Keisker and Elvis held a reunion
And one last look at Elvis, the soldier.
There have been two other ElvisBlog articles about Elvis in the Army. If you would like to learn more, click on these:
And next week we will look at Elvis’ discharge from the Army and his trip home to Memphis. It’s only the 58th anniversary, so the Graceland Blog probably won’t cover it for two more years.
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