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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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Q & A: Journalist Ivor Davis talks about touring with the Beatles in the summer of 1964

By Marshall Terrill

The Beatles and Me on TourIn the summer of 1964, The Beatles embarked on a record-breaking pandemonium-inducing tour of America and Canada. Ivor Davis’ new book, The Beatles and Me On Tour, presents an insider’s chronicle of that tour and a peek into a beloved era with the world’s most famous band. Davis, who was then a young reporter for the London Daily Express, traveled with The Beatles as the only British writer on the entire tour.

Through 34 days and 24 cities, Davis traveled with The Beatles watching them make rock and roll history. He enjoyed unrestricted access to the Fab Four – from their hotel suites to backstage concert areas to their private jet. He fended off excited girls, played all night games of Monopoly with John Lennon, became the ghostwriter of a newspaper column for George Harrison and witnessed the night Bob Dylan turned The Beatles onto marijuana.

In The Beatles and Me On Tour, Davis recounts in frank and amusing fashion, the rip-roaring adventures of The Beatles at a critical moment in rock history.

 

Q: Your book, The Beatles and Me On Tour marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first tour of the U.S. What took you so long to sit down and write this book?

Davis: I was getting on with my life. Newspaper reporters do a story and then move onto the next and seldom look back. I got married, had a family and covered some terrific stories in half a century – but I finally decided to look back. I’m glad I did.

Q: Tell us briefly where you were in your career at this point, who you were working for, and how you got the assignment to cover the Beatles first U.S. Tour?

George Harrison and Ivor Davis

George Harrison and his newspaper column ghostwriter, Ivor Davis, in 1964; Credit: Express Newspapers

Davis: I was newly appointed West Coast correspondent for the London Daily Express, circulation four million daily. My editor called and said, “The Beatles are coming to America and I want you to fly to San Francisco where they’ve just arrived. Cover them, eat, drink and hang out with them – and, oh yes, we have signed George Harrison to write a column. He’s a musician and can’t write so you’ll have to make what he has to say palatable reading.”

Q: You did a great job of covering a day in the life of Beatlemania experienced from the inside of the fishbowl, but it didn’t always sound so wonderful or cute. Looking back, can you talk about the stress and strain of that tour and how they handled everything?

Davis: Strangely enough The Beatles were like kids in the candy story; the prisoner effect was a strain. They were unable to leave their hotel rooms for fear of being torn from limb to limb by ecstatic fans. And they were upset about the lousy sound systems in nearly all of the venues. I couldn’t hear what they were singing. We were all drowned out by the screeching, wailing fans and so were The Beatles. Ringo often didn’t know what song they were singing and told me he had to lip-read to catch up!!!

Q: You came from an era of journalists where they flipped their notebook shut on the personal indiscretions of celebrities and politicians, and certainly, there’s still an element of that with this book. What was the informal agreement, or not-stated but implicitly-understood agreement with The Beatles in this particular case?

No one ever said, “Don’t write negative stories” … but we knew being allowed into The Beatles inner sanctum came with unwritten rules.

Davis: No one ever said, “Don’t write negative stories” … but we knew being allowed into The Beatles inner sanctum came with unwritten rules. The Beatles co-opted us onto their team, their entourage. We sympathized with their prisoner status. We could go anywhere and so we treated them kindly.

Q: Given what you just said, you don’t seem to defend John Lennon regarding an incident with a teen in Las Vegas.

Davis: The Vegas incident was a harsh wake-up call. We knew that when girls were ushered into meet The Beatles, they didn’t ask for their birth certificates. But as Paul said, “We were aware of underage girls hanging around, but there were lots of over-age girls – and this was at the start of birth control pills. And we were healthy young lads.” With, of course, lively libidos.

The Beatles at Hollywood Garden Party, September 1964;  Credit: Express Newspapers

The Beatles at Hollywood Garden Party, September 1964;
Credit: Express Newspapers

Q: Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley never experienced the kind of frenzy and mania The Beatles did. Can you give a perspective on why The Beatles seemed to evoke such feelings from the teens of that era?

Davis: Lots of older women I spoke to in the last couple of years told me that honestly they were in love with John, Paul, George and Ringo. In their own (fantasizing) minds, when they looked at each individual member, they winked, waved and smiled back … and it was true love.

Q: The Beatles’ side trip to Alton, Missouri for a few days of relaxation seemed unnecessary and dangerous. What do you recall of that stay?

Davis: It was a great break. What was dangerous was the late night flight in a rinky-dink plane with the owner of the charter jet company in the cockpit. And their landings in Missouri were runways with virtually no lights. It wasn’t until they were well into this flight that The Beatles realized danger threatened. Once on the ground they had a wonderful break – celebrating Brian’s birthday and getting nicely inebriated.

Q: Can you give me a brief thumbnail sketch of each Beatle, starting with John Lennon, who seemed to be a real pisser.

Davis: JOHN: wickedly funny, who spoke his mind and it often came back to bite him. Witness that Jesus statement that landed him in hot water. But brilliant and like Robin Williams a bit of a genius.

PAUL: Very PR-oriented. The most approachable of The Beatles, who knew the value of hobnobbing with the media and being nice.

GEORGE: Really uncomfortable with strangers at first. He was a bit sullen at first and the kind of guy who warmed to you later – once he felt more relaxed and got used to you.

RINGO: The newbie in The Beatles pack. Definitely the fourth banana. But as Brian Epstein said later, America made Ringo. By the time they flew home in September 1964, Ringo had become the most popular Beatle.

By the time they flew home in September 1964, Ringo had become the most popular Beatle.

Q: The Brian Epstein you painted was a man who seemed a harsh taskmaster who was volatile, vulnerable and emotionally fragile at times.

Davis: Brian lived a secret life. He was a closet gay, who took terrible risks in his personal life and had terrible experiences as a result. He tried to give off the cool, imperious front but beneath he was terrified that his sexual preferences would come out and destroy The Beatles who he had worked so hard to build up.

Q: John Lennon’s fascination with President Kennedy assassination and insisting on a tour of the book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald made the deadly shots seems almost fateful or ironic?

Davis: It was. But John was always pushing and prodding more than any of the other Beatles and at an early age was more concerned about politics and events outside the music biz. He was the political/social conscience of The Beatles.

Q: Lennon specifically commented to you about America being the Wild West when it came to guns. What would he have thought of today’s America with random shootings at malls, colleges and military bases on such a regular basis?

Davis: John would still be campaigning, using his fame to right terrible wrongs – in Iraq, Afghanistan and the plight of the have-nots in third-world countries.

Q: You were covering the Watts riots in Los Angeles when you received a phone call that The Beatles and Elvis were about to meet at his home on Perugia Way. Given that no photos or recordings were made of that night, why were you, a journalist, invited to come in the first place and what was your take on if they got along or not?

Davis: Elvis did not have a great time. It’s funny, everyone there, including the Memphis Mafia and those in The Beatles’ inner circle, said the ice thawed eventually and they began to communicate. That’s what I saw. Awkward beginning and a lightening of the atmosphere and mood once they started jamming. Don’t forget Elvis was the King of his castle and The Beatles had invaded his home terrain and taken over the No. 1 spot. Elvis was not a happy camper making those repeat movies (three a year!) and The Beatles’ first movie was a home run!

Q: You write at the end of the tour, it was fun, but that you didn’t expect it to be historical or the Beatles to become legends. What’s your outlook today?

Davis: Back then I was around the same age as The Beatles and none of us had the vision. Who in their early twenties has great vision … that comes with age. Today I am still astonished that people come up to me as if I’ve been sprinkled with invisible Beatle magic dust. I was just a lucky guy at the right place and right time – and who could have predicted it? No one. I was just doing a nice job when by happenstance The Beatles rode into town…

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The Beatles and Me On Tour is available in hardback and Kindle on www.amazon.com

Ivor Davis will be signing copies of The Beatles and Me On Tour at the Los Angeles Fest for Beatles Fans Oct. 10-12. For more information about Ivor Davis, visit https://www.facebook.com/ivor.davis.395

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