Although famous people in the entertainment business receive certain perks that your average Joe citizen doesn’t, there are some things that fame and fortune must abide by as well. While it has not been an issue in today’s society, there was a time when everyone (and I mean everyone) had to participate in if he received a notice to do so; I am referring to a draft notice.
Roughly sixty years ago, receiving a draft notice was not limited to non-famous individuals and being called to duty was on everyone’s mind. One such performer happened to be at Graceland to enjoy the Christmas holiday on December 20th, 1957. He was enjoying his Tennessee mansion that was newly purchased when a draft notice is received to officially become a soldier in the United States Army; the rock-and-roll star is none other than Elvis Presley.
Elvis became the original rock-and-roll star as 1956 came to a close. One journalist dubbed him as “Elvis the Pelvis” because of his suggestive style. Elvis’s claim to fame included the hit film Love Me Tender while recording many records that became gold such as “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” Hound Dog” and “Blue Suede Shoes;” Presley morphed into a national icon. Even Beatles’ John Lennon commented on his greatness by remarking famously, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” Unfortunately for his fans, the year that followed not only had Presley reaching the peak of his career but this was the year that Elvis is given his draft notice to report to the army for two years.
His fans implored the army written in tens of thousands of letters to cancel his draft notice but Elvis would not partake in these requests. Instead, he was allowed one deferment so he could complete work on his film King Creole in which he was officially sworn in on March 24th, 1958 in Memphis as an army private. Elvis would eventually serve on the USS General Randall that traveled to Europe after participating in basic training that lasted six months which included one leave for emergency; this is when he rushed home to his beloved mother, Gladys before passing away in August of 1958. During the following 18 months, Presley would be given the new rank of sergeant while serving in Company D of the 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Corps stationed in Friedberg, Germany. Elvis shared a residence that was off-base with some of his friends from Memphis, his father and grandmother during the rest of his service.
His day was spent working while his evening hours was spent at home both hosting frequent impromptu jam sessions and parties. One of his army friends during a party introduced him to a young 14-year-old named Priscilla Beaulieu; Presley would years later marry her. Elsewhere, his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was releasing recorded singles made before going into the army to have the public continuing to wanting to hear more of his singing as well as to keep money continuing to flow in. Elvis became a role model for young Americans by not refusing to support the draft and to serve elsewhere instead of domestically. Also, Elvis was seen on national TV when an army doctor gave him his polio shot and this resulted in an increase in vaccine rates in the American population that, by the time of Presley’s discharge on March 2nd, 1960, went from 2% to 85%.