Sept. 23, 1958: Interview with Elvis Presley in the library of the U.S.S. Randall just before sailing to Europe
Elvis had had a chaotic couple of days prior, taking the train up from Texas with his fellow soldiers to Brooklyn Army Terminal. He then gave a giant press conference and then boarded the ship. His mother had died just a month before, and Elvis was still in a whirlwind of grief. He cracked jokes through the Press Conference, though, and eagerly talked about his mother when he was asked a question about her. Then, he slung on his duffel bag and walked up the gangplank. He was made to repeat his walk about 10 times so that all the photographers could get the shots they wanted. It was a madhouse. Once on board, he checked in, and then went to the ship library to give his final interview State-side. The feel of the interview is very different from the Press Conference. The interview here is one-on-one. In the audio of the interview, he sounds exhausted, serious, thoughtful (he takes a while to answer questions, thinking it through) and unmistakably worried. Although he was not shipping out during wartime, there were other worries on his mind. What would life be like when he returned to America and his mother wasn’t there waiting? Would his fans remember him? Would he return a has-been?
Pat Hernon conducted the on-ship interview. You can hear voices in the background, doors opening and closing. Elvis is quiet and exhausted, somber. Hernon appears to be sensitive to the mood in the room in the recording.
PAT HERNON: We’ve now moved down into the library of the USS Randall and we are now only minutes away from sailing time, and Elvis Presley will shortly be on his way to Germany and a return to the United States – well, who knows. It will be some time anyway. Elvis, we have just a small group and a few moments to talk about things. I know you’re a pretty tired fella. You’ve had a busy couple of days getting here to the Brooklyn Port and getting ready to leave, haven’t you?
ELVIS PRESLEY: Yes, sir, that’s right.
PAT HERNON: How long has it been, for example, since you’ve had a chance to eat today?
ELVIS PRESLEY: Well, I ate breakfast this morning. I haven’t eaten since.
PAT HERNON: Now it’s almost 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
ELVIS PRESLEY: I don’t feel like I could eat anything right now.
PAT HERNON: Elvis, since we’re so close to sailing time and we’re getting pretty close to the last thoughts you have here in the country before you go overseas to your stint of duty, what do you think about? How do you feel?
ELVIS PRESLEY: Well, uh, I’m going to be very honest about it. I’m looking forward to Germany. I’m looking forward to seeing the country and meeting a lot of the people. But at the same time I’m looking forward to coming back here.
PAT HERNON: As I say we’re getting closer and closer to the time that they’re going to pull that gangplank away and you’ll be on your way. Since this is probably the last chance that you’ll have to say something to your fans, do you have any particular message that you’d like to pass on to them?
ELVIS PRESLEY: Yes, I would. I’d like to say that in spite of the fact that I am going away and that I’ll be …. out of their eyes for some time, I hope that I’m not out of their minds, and I’ll be looking forward to the time that I can come back and entertain again like I did and ….
PAT HERNON: All we can do is wish you a wonderful trip and all the best luck in the world and come home soon.
ELVIS PRESLEY: Thank you very much. I’ll do my very best.
Happy Veterans Day to all who serve, to all who have served. My gratitude for your sacrifices and service.