For 364 days a year, Elvis Presley is the undisputed king of rock ‘n roll. On Veterans Day — and that’s today — he’s known as solider in the U.S. Army.
The Presley estate posted a vintage Elvis photo on Twitter, Wednesday, to celebrate Veterans Day. The post said “Today, we honor all the men and women who have served this country, past and present. #VeteransDay.”
In the photo, Presley is young and fresh faced. He was 22 and one of the most well-known entertainers in the country when he was drafted into the Army.
Presley was quite popular when he was drafted. According to the Washington Post, the Navy wanted to create an “Elvis Presley Company.” The group would be composed of his Memphis friends. The Air Force wanted him to be a star recruiter — who wouldn’t want to be like Elvis? The Army offered him a Special Services slot. In that role, he would’ve played concerts for the troops.
But Presley, who had shot to fame thanks to hits like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Blue Suede Shoes” decided to be a regular soldier.
Meanwhile, a U.S. senator tried to intervene to keep the Army from shaving Presley’s pompadour. But Presley’s hair was shaved anyway.
“Well, hair today, gone tomorrow,” Elvis said as his hair fell to the floor, according to a 1958 Washington Post article.
Military Had Huge Impact On Elvis Presley
The six years Presley served, including four in the Army Reserves, greatly impacted Presley’s life.
His beloved mother, Gladys, died of a heart attack when he was stationed in Germany. He met his first wife, Priscilla, when she was 14 and living with her family — her father was in the Air Force — in Wiesbaden, Germany.
“People were expecting me to mess up, to goof up in one way or another. They thought I couldn’t take it and so forth, and I was determined to go to any limits to prove otherwise. Not only to the people who were wondering but to myself,” he later said of his decision.
Presley officially joined the Army in March 1958. He never was an anonymous soldier, although he worked as a truck driver, the same job that paid the bills before he hit it big.
The BBC reported that German girls trailed Presley everywhere, even if they had to climb a fence to see him. The company’s mail swelled to 15 bags a day as young women peppered him with fan mail.
The Army eventually transferred Presley to a scout platoon to keep him out of sight. He left the Army as a sergeant.
He served in two different armored divisions Life wasn’t the same for him after his return to civilian life.
Life Wasn’t Same, Post-Military
“Soon after he left the Army, he became increasingly wary of the public and would often rent whole movie theaters and amusement parks to visit at night,” Rolling Stone wrote in Presley’s obituary. “By the late Sixties he was nearly a total recluse.”
After Presley left active service, he later starred in the movie “G.I. Blues.”