For Veterans Day: Private Presley

Presley didn’t stay a “private”, he was promoted to Sergeant in January, 1960. I just liked the alliteration of “Private Presley”.

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?

Long pause.

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 ….

Long pause.

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.

In the racquet ball court at Graceland, taken by me on Elvis’ birthday, Jan. 8, 2012

Happy Veterans Day to all who serve, to all who have served. Off to my local Veterans Day parade. My nieces are marching with their color guard team and my nephews are marching with their Cub Scout troop. Small town life.

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13 Responses to For Veterans Day: Private Presley

  1. Jennchez says:

    Love all the photos esp the second one, something in his eyes that is very come hither, sensual but ready to battle too.

    I found an old box of CD’s and their was an Elvis one, forget the title maybe the #1’s, but when I pick my daughter up from school she asks for Elvis every time even knows the track #’s. But our morning drive to school “wake up” song she calls it is Bossa Nova Baby, its the 9 year old version of coffee :)

  2. Jennchez says:

    The first drive home song is Angel in Disguise. Ive shown her some of your posts because she has my obsessive gene and she said he was some serious man candy.

  3. sheila says:

    Jennchez – ha! Bossa Nova Baby! I love that one! And I love that your daughter is requesting Elvis!

    I love the picture of him shaving out on maneuvers in Germany.

    • Jennchez says:

      I also love the pic of him with his guitar, maybe he was playing for himself, perhaps others. My guess would be himself though, he seems in his own head, his own world playing for himself if others were around fine but his focus seems on his own creation or comfort.

      On a side note you mentioned that you loved my daughter requests Elvis, better than that though (IMHO) my husband was working late and I asked her if she wanted to watch a movie she said yes as long as it was “My Favorite Wife” or “The Awful Truth”. I had to wipe the tear from my eye :) I can hardly wait to show her “Only Angels Have Wings”. I just think its to over her head yet and when she watches a Cary Grant movie I want her to enjoy it. Though she does like Notorious. Sorry Im rambling I just get so proud when SHE requests Cary Grant :)

  4. sheila says:

    Yup he was promoted to Sergeant in January, 1960.

  5. Colin says:

    Hi Sheila,

    I was hoping that with your encyclopaedic Elvis knowledge, you might help me quell this curiosity: for a while now, I’ve been bugged by a memory of some Elvis movie where he sang a song in a “conventional” way, and his studio manager told him to sing it in his way, and he promptly demonstrated how he made a song truly “Elvis.” Is this a total figment of my imagination, or would you be able to point me to what movie this might be?


    • sheila says:

      Colin – There’s a moment sort of like that in Jailhouse Rock. Not sure if that’s what you’re thinking of, though! He sings a gospel-ish number while in the clink, and it’s kind of stilted and awkward. Then he sings it in a recording studio – and it’s still a little bit stilted. And finally he nails it. But it’s not exactly the situation you describe.

      Maybe there’s something along those lines in Loving You too – but I don’t think so. In that, his manager tries to turn him into something he’s not – a glittery campy cowboy – wearing tight red jackets, etc. – and he does what she asks, but feels kind of awkward about it.

      Two possibilities??

  6. KathyB says:

    I was six when this interview occurred. Only saw what came up on television and in magazines then. Loved Elvis from Ed Sullivan show appearance. They tell me I walked up and kissed the screen (4 yrs old).

    But, my very first album (not single) was given to me at the ripe age of nine. It was Elvis is Back. I was allowed to play it on my Dad’s hi-fi in the basement. Allowed because I did it without asking permission and didn’t mess anything up.

  7. gina in alabama says:

    Yesterday at my local Hallmark store in Birmingham, I saw an Elvis Presley cookbook. He’s (Still) Everywhere! Maybe more so in the south, but he’s in our cultural DNA and thank goodness for it.

  8. melissa says:

    My daughter (mid twenties now, gasp) just discovered Elvis. Its hilarious.

  9. Ray Neinstein says:

    That great first photo — are you aware of its transformation into this book cover?

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