A Blue Christmas Without Elvis
By Mary Miller Cullins
On December 20, 1957, at the peak of his career, Elvis Presley received his draft notice for a two year stint in the army.
Presley was spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, when the United States Army came a knockin’! Elvis had a string of of gold records including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” he had already become a national icon, and the world’s first bona fide rock-and-roll star.
Fans sent tens of thousands of letters to the army asking for him to be spared, but Elvis would have none of it. He received one deferment, during which he finished the movie King Creole. Once his work on the set was completed he was sworn in as an army private in Memphis on March 24, 1958.
After six months of basic training, (including an emergency leave to visit his mother, Gladys, before she died in August of ’58), Presley sailed to Europe on the USS General Randall. For the next eighteen months he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Corps in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained rank of sergeant. For the rest of his service, he shared an off-base residence with his father, grandmother and some Memphis friends.
After working during the day, Elvis returned home at night to host frequent jam sessions and parties. It was at one of these get togethers that he met 14-year old Priscilla Beaulieu. Some years later, Elvis would marry Priscilla.
Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to release singles recorded before his departure, keeping the money rolling in and Elvis’ name fresh in the public’s mind. Elvis was widely praised for not seeking to avoid the draft or serve domestically. He was seen as a model for all young Americans.
Blue Christmas Sung By Elvis Presley
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