“I’ve got those hup, two, three, four occupation G.I. Blues”
-Lyrics from G.I. Blues, 1960
With Elvis’s draft notice coming in on December 19th, 1957, The Colonel rushes to find ways to continue to make money and brand him while he is away on duty. They have about 2 months to record songs and finish a film.
Elvis goes into the recording studio to cut the songs for King Creole and produces: As Long As I Have You, Crawfish, Dixieland Rock, Don’t Ask Me Why, Hard Headed Woman, King Creole, Lover Doll, New Orleans, Steadfast Loyal and True, Trouble and Young Dreams. On January 7th, RCA released, Don’t/I Beg Of You.
They began shooting for King Creole January 20th and that gave them less than two months to complete the film, which left little room for error.
I Beg Of You
Both sides of Don’t/I Beg Of You have entered Billboard’s Top 100. February continues to be busy as Elvis records Doncha’ Think It’s Time, Your Cheating Heart, and Wear My Ring Around Your Neck. With filming on location in New Orleans, Elvis leaves with the crew on February 6th. They finish filming March 10th, and Elvis is released from Paramount and heads straight to Memphis for his induction into the Army.
Doncha’ Think It’s Time
On March 24th at 6:30am, Elvis reports to the local draft board. Just after 7:00am, he boards a bus with the other recruits to Kennedy Veteran’s Hospital for his final physical. At 4:00pm, Elvis is returned to the draft board where he is sworn in and Private Elvis Aron Presley #55310761, is put in charge of at least fourteen other recruits. By 5:00, or should I say 17:00, Elvis boards the Army bus heading to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas for basic training.Elvis’s first day in the Army consists of being woken up at 5:30am by Colonel Tom Parker and a crowd of media who follow him around and document his transition into the Army. Hereceives his first paycheck from the military: $7.00. Quite different from the income he was receiving. The media even waits while he takes an aptitude test. The media go into a frenzy when Elvis receives his haircut. Elvis heads to Fort Hood, Texas where he will go through eight weeks of basic training and then advanced tank training. Once he arrives, he is assigned to Company 2nd Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor, 2nd Armored Division. During his basic training, Elvis becomes fascinated with martial arts and this will remain with his for the rest of his life.
Elvis gets his Army haircut
Though in the Army, The Colonel manages to released songs that have been recorded before Elvis entered the military. April 1st Wear My Ring Around Your Neck/Donch’a Think It’s Time is released and reaches #3 on the charts.
Elvis completed basic training June 1st and is granted a two weeks leave before starting school in tanks. During the leave, RCA releases Hard Headed Woman/Don’t Ask Me Why and Elvis goes into the studio to record more hits while he continues his duty. June 13th, The Colonel receives a phone call from Ed Sullivan wanting to book a show the moment Elvis is discharged.
Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
Elvis reports back to Fort Hood on June 14th and begins eight weeks of armor crewman school. Since he is out of basic training, he no longer has to live in the barracks. He finds a home in Killeen, Texas where he, his father, mother and grandmother will stay.
July 1st, King Creole opens nationally and the critics love the film. Elvis’s career continues to grow thanks to The Colonel making sure the timing of releases are just right so he stays in the spotlight and does not become forgotten.
“Oh, mama liked the roses, but most of all she cared about the way we learned to live and if we said our prayers”
-Lyrics from Mama Liked the Roses, 1969
By August, Elvis’s mother Gladys becomes ill and a local doctor suggests she go home to Memphis to see a specialist. Gladys is taken to Methodist Hospital and diagnosed with acute hepatitis. Her health is continuing to fail and with fear that she will not make it through the night, the doctors contact the Army to request an emergency leave for Elvis. The first request is denied, but the doctors do not give up.Elvis finally arrives is Memphis on August 12 and does not leave her side. Elvis had returned to Graceland around midnight on August 13th, while Vernon stays with Gladys. At 3:15am on August 14th, Gladys passes away with her husband Vernon by her side. Elvis rushes to the hospital the moment he finds out. Thousands of fans went to the funeral home to mourn with Elvis.
With grief heavy on his heart, Elvis returns to Fort Hood August 25th.September 12th, Elvis finishes his training and is assigned to the 3rd Armored Division in West Germany as a tank gunner. Elvis holds a press conference September 22nd on the USS General Randall before heading to Germany. Once making it to Bremerhaven, the dock is swarming with screaming fans.
The group get to base and a few females sneak in and try to find Elvis, they are quickly removed. On October 2nd, Elvis is assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor, 3rd Armored Division of the 7th Army. His first assignment is to drive a jeep for Lieutenant Colonel Henry Grimm.
I Got Stung
Vernon and a few others arrive in Germany and live off base with Elvis. RCA releases One Night/I Got Stung. November 27th Elvis is promoted to Private First Class. By December, there is a drop in sales since Elvis joined the Army. Elvis fears he will return and will have been forgotten by his fans. Elvis is rewarded a 3-day pass once he finishes maneuvers and buys himself a BMW.
On January 1st, Vernon and Elvis’s personal secretary Elizabeth Stefaniak are in a horrible accident completely destroying the BMW. Because of this accident, rumors begin to spread that Elvis had been killed in the crash and forces Elvis to make a public appearance at a charity event to prove he is still alive and well.
His father and secretary are injured, but alright. By January 7th, Love Me Tender has grossed over $4.5 million to date. On Elvis’s 24th birthday, he is interview by Dick Clark over a transatlantic hookup on American Bandstand.
Elvis Presley on the phone with Dick Clark – American Bandstand
Records are continuing to be released and has another gold record with (Now And Then) There’s A Fool Such As I/I Need Your Love Tonight. Word is beginning to spread that Elvis will be on a television special on ABC, but The Colonel says Elvis will not be doing any network shows. Elvis will be doing a concert on closed-circuit television. June 1st, Elvis is promoted to Specialist 4th Class and has a ten-dollar increase in salary a month. Elvis discovers he has tonsillitis and ends up in the 97th General Hospital on June 3rd. He is not released until June 9th.
Sales are doing much better as Big Hunk O’ Love is released on July 6th, and reaches #1 while being on the chart for two weeks. The song goes gold making this Elvis’s fourteenth in a row. Paramount pictures announced G.I. Blues on August 15th.
Elvis continues to have issues with his tonsils in October and with testing, leaves him in the hospital for almost a week. November comes and Elvis is introduced to fourteen-year-old Priscilla Ann Beaulieu. Elvis is quite taken with the young girl and wants to get to know her.
Big Hunk O’ Love
Elvis is ranked 12th as “Most Played Artist” in a poll created by Billboard in December. Though the Presley’s are used to laid back Christmas’s, Elvis decides to throw a huge party in order to invite Priscilla. He gives her a gold watch completed with diamonds. Dee Stanley is also at this party and is currently very good friends with Vernon, thought Elvis does not seem to be too fond of the relationship. By January 20th, 1960, Elvis is promoted to Sergeant. During his stint in the Army, Elvis never once asked for special treatment and just wanted to be treated as any other person. His officers thought he was a good soldier. By February 1960, the Army begins Elvis’s discharge paperwork.
His Army years were definitely life changing for Elvis. Elvis faced many challenges while in the Army. He feared his career would fail and lost his mother. But he did meet Priscilla, and this was going to be very good for Elvis. Elvis was returning home and 1960 was just the beginning of his welcome.
Until we meet again,
TCB and TCE,