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John Lennon’s lifelong obsession with Elvis Presley

lennon-elvispin-color75It’s no secret that John Lennon was a huge fan of Elvis Presley when he was a teenager. Lennon formed his first band, The Quarrymen, which would later become The Beatles, as a result of his love for Elvis Presley and rock and roll.

“Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles,” John Lennon stated matter-of-factly in a 1980 interview.

But Lennon’s teenage love for Elvis didn’t stop when he became an adult. In fact, throughout his life, even though he criticized Presley in his later years, Lennon never stopped being a fan. Just like any other passionate music fan, Lennon had a lifelong obsession for The King of Rock and Roll.

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The Five Beatles songs that Elvis Presley sang

elvis-beatlesMost people think that The Beatles and Elvis Presley were rivals in the music business. However, it was quite the opposite. The Beatles, of course, looked up to Elvis as their biggest musical idol. But as soon as Beatlemania hit the States in 1964, it was rumored that Elvis Presley, The King of Rock and Roll, felt threatened by The Beatles and their success.
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My new book, ELVIS AND THE BEATLES: Love and Rivalry Between the Two Biggest Acts of the 20th Century, proves otherwise detailing how Presley and his manager, Colonel Parker, were quite welcoming to The Beatles during the 1960s.

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New book, ELVIS AND THE BEATLES, reveals surprising relationship between The Fab Four and The King of Rock and Roll

ELVIS AND THE BEATLES bookRock and roll fans know about the historic meeting in 1965 between Elvis Presley and The Beatles. However, most mistakenly believe that was the only connection between the two biggest rock and roll acts of all time.

After that meeting (and even before), there were many positive ways that The Beatles and Elvis Presley connected personally and professionally, and at the very least, had empathy for each other. However, on the surface, it looked like The Beatles and Elvis couldn’t be farther apart.

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Why Elvis Presley dissed The Beatles to President Nixon

Don’t believe what you hear in the recent Elvis & Nixon film regarding The Beatles. This “comedy” about the infamous meeting between The King of Rock and Roll and President Nixon at the White House unfortunately  enforces false stereotypes about how Elvis felt about The Fab Four.

elvis meets nixon

“What do we have on this guy?” Nixon asks his aide in the Elvis & Nixon trailer.

“He’s one of the most famous men on this planet,” the aide explains. “Loves guns, hates The Beatles.”

While it’s true that Elvis did say some disparaging remarks about The Beatles to Nixon, it wasn’t all cut and dried as to what motivated him to say it.
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Elvis had a spontaneous impulse while flying to Washington DC to try to meet President Nixon. It was December 1970 and Elvis was still troubled by the traumatic experience a few months earlier of receiving a specific threat to end his life by an anonymous person during one of his concerts in Las Vegas.
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Fueled by his passion for guns and police badges, he thought that a trip to DC could help him get an official Federal Agent Narcotics Badge. During the plane ride, Presley wrote an impassioned letter to the President requesting a meeting. Written on American Airlines stationery, the five-page letter also expressed Elvis’ desire to help with the war on drugs.
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Here’s an excerpt: “The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do not consider me as their enemy or as they call it the establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out. …I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way through my communications with people of all ages.”

As Jerry Schilling, long-time friend of Elvis who accompanied him on the trip, explained: “He had lived the American dream and wanted desperately to be able to give something back to the land that had made his wonderful life possible. He didn’t consider his years of army duty to have settled the debt. He was going straight to the highest authority in the country to try to find a way to use some of his power in a constructive way.”

The letter, which Presley personally delivered to White House security guards after arriving on a red-eye flight, set off a chain of events that hours later had the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” shaking hands with the most powerful man in the world. Security prevented Presley from presenting the President with his unique gift, a World War II-era Colt 45 pistol, but Nixon’s aides accepted it on his behalf.

At 12:30 pm on December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley was welcomed into the Oval Office of the White House. According to Egil Bud Krogh, Deputy Counsel to the President, who was present at the meeting, Presley quickly began trying to convince Nixon that he was “on his side, that he wanted to be helpful and that he wanted to restore some respect for the flag which was being lost.”

To justify his position, Presley specifically named The Beatles as a threat to America’s youth. The White House meeting notes describe this exchange:

“Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit. He said that the Beatles came to this country, made their money, and then returned to England where they promoted an anti-American theme.

The President nodded in agreement and expressed some surprise. The President then indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the vanguard of anti-American protest. Violence, drug usage, dissent, protest all seem to merge in generally the same group of young people.”

While Beatles fans may see that as an outright attack on The Fab Four, it is not likely that Elvis had it out for The Beatles. According to Jerry Schilling, Elvis “loved The Beatles.” Schilling explained that Elvis was just trying to look more patriotic to the President and, in effect, used The Beatles as a scapegoat.

In an interview in 1969, Elvis praised The Beatles to a British reporter: “They’re so interesting and so experimental,” Elvis said. “But I liked them particularly when they used to sing ‘She was just seventeen. You know what I mean.'”

Presley gave The Beatles the most flattering compliment of all when he sang several of their songs during his live shows in later years, including “Something” during his 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert.

Whatever Elvis’ real motive for calling out The Beatles in this historic meeting, the end result was in his favor. He received a Federal Agent Narcotics badge from President Nixon.

As The Washington Post reported: “‘See that he gets it,’ the President directed his top enforcement adviser, Egil (Bud) Krogh. Unable to suppress his excitement, Elvis hugged the startled Nixon.”

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Note: But the story doesn’t end there.

The book, ELVIS: Behind The Legend: Startling Truths About The King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music, reveals the real reason why Elvis wanted to fly to Washington DC in the first place.

New in 2018: Read more about the surprising behind-the-scenes relationship between The King and The Fab Four in the new book, ELVIS AND THE BEATLES

ELVIS AND THE BEATLES BOOK

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‘Elvis: Behind the Legend’ reveals behind-the-scenes Beatles stories

Editor’s note: In honor of the anniversary this month of “When Elvis met The Beatles” we are posting this review of the book (written by the editor of Daytrippin’) that was released last year which contains many Elvis/Beatles stories.

Book review
by Shelley Germeaux,
The John Lennon Examiner

The new book, Elvis, Behind the Legend: Startling Truths About the King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music by Trina Young, reveals many surprising new stories and viewpoints about Elvis Presley’s life, including several about his association with the Beatles. Young does not attempt to re-write Elvis’ biography, but instead focuses on several behind-the-scenes revelations that few know about, even seasoned experts. The stories are sure to alter the reader’s perception of the man behind the title, “The King of Rock and Roll.”

Elvis: Behind The LegendThe John Lennon Examiner has received a digital copy of the book from the author, and found it to be incredibly enlightening, enjoyable, and as the subtitle suggests, “startling.” The author wrote, “Often taking a back seat with historians to The Beatles in terms of rock and roll influence, Presley’s legacy has been marred by misconceptions of the man as an entertainer and human being.” As most Beatles fans are aware, Elvis was John Lennon’s biggest hero, the one he emulated, the one he idolized—until Lennon was bemused with Elvis’ career after spending two years in the Army.

At 145 pages, each of the thirty-two chapters brings to life a different story, written chronologically throughout his life. To name just a few, the book begins with a revelation concerning his speech impediment, a fact that is not well-known. The identity of the mystery woman behind the famous 1956 photo called “The Kiss” is revealed, and how Elvis is responsible for making the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor a reality. Readers will learn about the secret girlfriend he was going to see in Washington, when he inevitably met with President Nixon.

Young points out that Elvis developed a private spiritual life, and connected with gurus long before the Beatles made their association with the Maharishi so public. His association with the Beatles is addressed in several chapters, shedding light on various aspects, such as: the difference in earnings from their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, the day The Beatles met Elvis in 1965 at his home in L.A., and the truth behind his “grudge” against the band. The disparaging statements he made to President Nixon about the Beatles—something fans have been angered by for years– are explained from a different vantage point.

In addition, included in the appendix is a comparison of record sales between Elvis and the Beatles, which may surprise fans of both. The book is well-researched, with a sizable bibliography, and a great read. The John Lennon Examiner recommends this book for Beatles and Elvis fans alike. It is an enjoyable and fun read that will shift readers’ perceptions about “The King of Rock and Roll” for the better.

See the official website for Elvis: Behind the Legend. The paperback and kindle editions can be purchased on Amazon.

Follow Shelley Germeaux on Twitter and Facebook


When Elvis met The Beatles, was there a secret reporter present?

Journalists Chris Hutchins and Ivor Davis battle over Beatles history

By Trina Yannicos

The most legendary meeting in rock and roll history between Elvis Presley and The Beatles took place on August 27, 1965 with one caveat – absolutely no photos or recordings allowed! But did that also mean that there were not any reporters or journalists present?

It is well known that there were no official photos taken of the meeting or any recordings made during the alleged “jam” session. However, music fans may be surprised to learn that there was one British journalist present inside the house when The Beatles met Elvis.

The request for no photos was made by Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, when finalizing the details of the meeting with The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. The Beatles were happy to comply with this. They didn’t want a media circus surrounding the precious moment when they would get to meet one of their biggest music idols, The King of Rock and Roll.

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However, The Beatles had to include one reporter from the UK music magazine, NME, or New Musical Express, in their entourage. His name was Chris Hutchins and he played an integral part in setting up the meeting. He had contacts with both The Beatles and Colonel Parker, and he was the one who initiated communication between the two camps.

Hutchins had been covering The Beatles during their U.S. tours and he frequently reported his firsthand accounts with The Beatles in the NME. On August 28, 1964, Hutchins reported in an NME article that Presley had invited The Beatles to meet with him at Graceland in Memphis, because he missed them in Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, The Beatles would not be able to stop in Memphis at that point in their schedule. So, instead, according to Hutchins, Brian Epstein and Colonel Parker had their own meeting in Los Angeles. The next day, The Beatles met Colonel Parker and he gave them gifts including leather belts with western holsters. Meanwhile, Hutchins helped put Paul McCartney in touch with Elvis and they spoke briefly on the phone.

The following year, on May 28, 1965, Hutchins reported in the NME that the Beatles were hoping to meet Elvis in August when they were back in Los Angeles for their U.S. tour. At that point, they were told that Elvis was scheduled to be in Hawaii filming Paradise Hawaiian Style, and they were out of luck.

But things changed in August, when Elvis returned early from filming. On August 27, 1965, the day the actual meeting took place, a story ran in the NME by Hutchins with the headline “NME is arranging a meeting between Elvis and Beatles!”

Finally, on September 3, 1965, the NME ran their exclusive story on the meeting. The headline stated: “NME has only reporter present when Elvis meets Beatles.”

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sept31965-headline

In the article, Hutchins states that there was an informal jam session which started with Elvis playing the bass along to records playing on his jukebox. John, Paul and George were reportedly provided with guitars. However, there was no drum set for Ringo. “They used language of music!” a callout in the article read.

This inevitably formed the basis for the never-ending stories provided by friends of Elvis who were there that night as well as members of The Beatles’ entourage. While some of the eyewitness accounts that have come out over the years may be embellished or dispute what actually happened that night, one thing that should be clear is who was actually there.
The Beatles’ publicist, Tony Barrow, confirmed in his 2006 book, John, Paul, George, Ringo and Me, that Hutchins was present:

“Having acted as a catalyst to get the whole shindig off the ground, of course Chris Hutchins had to be invited. And if even a single journalist was to be involved, The Beatles wanted to bring me along. Presley would have his army of minders, the self-styled Memphis Mafia, on hand, so The Beatles’ roadies, Neil and Mal, made it onto the swelling list of guests, along with their driver, Alf Bicknell.  John said: ‘Let’s stop there or it’ll get out of control.’”

Hutchins also appears in two of the four rare photos that were taken that night by a fan as The Beatles were leaving and getting into their limos. In the photo below, Elvis, in a red shirt and black jacket, stands behind Hutchins who is wearing dark sunglasses.

1965photo-hutchins

However, in 2014, British journalist Ivor Davis claimed in his book, The Beatles and Me on Tour, that he was also present at the meeting. He had traveled with The Beatles on their 1964 U.S. tour reporting for the London Daily Express.

From the chapter in his book titled “Elvis, We Hardly Knew Ye”, Davis says: “Shortly before six o’clock on the evening of August 27, 1965, I got a call at home from Mal. ‘Ivor, get over to the house in an hour – we’re all going to see Elvis.'”

The fact that a second journalist would be invited to the secret meeting seems highly unlikely. There were already strict orders from Colonel Parker that no press, except for Hutchins, were to be permitted. And Mal Evans was even a bigger Elvis fan than John, Paul, George and Ringo. The fact that Mal would jeopardize the plans for the meeting seems suspect. But, unfortunately, since Mal died in 1976, it is not possible to get his response.

“The deal with Hutchins was that there would be no pictures, no taping, no leaking of details in advance,” Tony Barrow explained in a 1994 essay. “Keeping the time and place confidential was in his interests because Hutchins would have the story exclusively to himself. The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, was nervous about a leak and warned me, ‘The boys will pull out if the rest of the press find out.'”

But there is a chance that Davis may have been present OUTSIDE the house with other reporters and fans who found out about the meeting.

As Tony Barrow explains, “I was not surprised to find that news of the Presley-Fab Four party did reach some of our media entourage despite our great efforts to keep all of the details to ourselves… Several of the most enterprising guys, including Daily Express West Coast correspondent Ivor Davis and the intrepid Larry Kane, joined forces to tail our limousines as we left The Beatles’ villa.”

To his own admission, Davis did not feel the need to report on the fact that The Beatles had finally met Elvis. No story on one of the biggest show business meetings of all time?

“We wrote very little about the meeting – bizarrely, in retrospect, none of us thought there was much to write about,” Davis stated in his book. “And without pictures (not even a pool photographer to record the meeting), my editor in London ruled that they wouldn’t need my story.”

In email correspondence with Daytrippin’ from 2015, Chris Hutchins absolutely refuted the possibility that there were any other reporters present:

“I can assure you that I was the only journalist present on the night I arranged for the Beatles to meet and spend some time with Elvis Presley in August 1965. As you will have read in my books it was almost three years after John Lennon asked me if I could ever arrange such a meeting up to the time it took place. During their summer tour of 1964 I took Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker (who became something of a mentor to me) to meet the Beatles at their rented home in Benedict Canyon and he promised them in front of me ‘that Chris here and I will do whatever we can to make sure you meet him.’

The following summer I had several meetings with the Colonel, then with Elvis himself to agree the meeting should take place. Next I set up and attended meetings with the Colonel and Brian Epstein to sort out the details. The Colonel insisted that (a) the meeting had go be at Elvis’s house (b) there were to be no photographs taken or recordings made and (c) there were to be ‘no journalists other than me present and no ‘hangers on’ in Elvis’s house.’

I am aware that others have claimed to be there and written accounts – largely using information I published later with the consent of the Beatles, the Colonel and Brian Epstein. Rest assured they were not there.”

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30 years ago, John Lennon’s sons help induct Elvis Presley into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

This month marks several Beatle-related anniversaries with The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the RRHOF Induction ceremony used to be held in January. In later years, the ceremony was moved to the Spring.

On January 20, 1988, The Beatles were inducted at the 3rd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony by Mick Jagger.

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On January 19, 1994, John Lennon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Paul McCartney. He was the first member of the Beatles to be inducted on his own.

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But on January 23, 1986, it was Julian Lennon and Sean Lennon who took part in the first annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. On behalf of their father, John Lennon, they helped induct Elvis Presley into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Jack Soden, President and Executive Director of Graceland, and Memphis DJ and close Elvis friend, George Klein.

 

Julian Lennon, aged 22, appeared in all black, while 10-year-old Sean Lennon was dressed in a handsome white tuxedo. Julian, with Sean standing at his side, was the first speaker in the presentation of Elvis Presley’s award, followed by Jack Soden. The award was then accepted on Elvis’ behalf by his close friend, George Klein.

John Lennon’s admiration for The King of Rock and Roll is now common knowledge among music fans. Lennon said his love for rock and roll was inspired first and foremost by Presley. He credits his motivation to form his first band, which evolved into The Beatles, as a result of wanting to be just like Elvis. Even after the group took shape, their goal of being “bigger than Elvis” helped them achieve worldwide success.

That night at the induction ceremony, Julian Lennon started out with a brief introduction: “Our father was a big fan of Elvis’s and, of course, Elvis was loved all over the world, and we are all influenced [by] him,” Julian said. “I think a lot of people in the world get a lot of pleasure from listening to him and love him greatly.”

Then he read a direct quote from John Lennon, which spoke volumes: “Elvis was the thing, whatever people say, he was it. I was not competing against Elvis, rock happened to be the media I was born into – it was the one, that’s all. Those people who picked up paintbrushes, like Van Gogh, probably wanted to be Renoir or whomever went before him. I wanted to be Elvis.”

Then, Jack Soden read a brief statement from Lisa Marie Presley. He then introduced George Klein, who gave a dramatic and celebratory speech about his friend and best man at his wedding, Elvis Presley. Here is just a brief part of the speech:

“On January 8, 1935, a star was born. You see a star is not made, a star is born… The real honest to goodness rags to riches rise of the most inspiring version of the American Dream to ever happen. In doing so, Elvis fulfilled the hopes and dreams of an entire generation. The world was never to be the same again. You see Elvis Presley wasn’t a star, he was a damn galaxy!”

Other inductees that night at the induction ceremony in New York City included Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Sam Phillips. Notably, Elvis Presley holds the record for being inducted into the greatest number of Music Hall of Fames – 16 to be exact.
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If you enjoyed this article, more fascinating stories about Elvis Presley and The Beatles can be found in the new book, ELVIS: Behind The Legend: Startling Truths About The King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music

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