BOTH of Elvis Presley’s parents played a big role during his time in the Army — for very different reasons.
One of Private E.A. Presley’s instructors recalls letting him use his phone to call home, and says the new recruit would often break down in tears.
Later, while he was completing basic training at Fort Hood in Texas in August 1958, his mother, who’d been living with him off-base with his father, grandmother and childhood friend Lamar Fike, took ill.
Always a drinker, she’d increased her alcohol intake to cope with her son’s fame and Army commitments, and had also begun using diet pills to help her lose weight.
This, coupled with a terrible diet, badly damaged her liver.
Gladys collapsed after an argument with her husband, Vernon, and after Elvis arranged for them both to return to Memphis, she was rushed to hospital.
On August 11, after several phone calls from his mother’s doctor, Elvis requested leave to visit her but was turned down.
When he threatened to go AWOL — Absent Without Leave — the officer who’d refused him emergency leave was disciplined.
Three days later, Gladys died of cirrhosis though the official cause was listed as a heart attack.
She was just 46.
But that was four years older than Elvis would be when he reached his own premature end.
Presley’s mother had always been the most important person in his life. Remember, when he walked into Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in August, 1953 to buy a few minutes of studio time to cut a two-sided acetate disc — singing My Happiness and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin — he claimed he intended to give the recording to his mother as a gift.
Their relationship was extremely close and even into adulthood, they used baby talk with each other and he addressed her by pet names.
When she died, he was devastated, collapsing several times before, during and after the funeral service. He felt everything he’d worked for had been for nothing, and when he finally returned to Fort Hood, he instructed that nothing in his mother’s room was to be altered.
Early the following year, over in West Germany, Vernon started getting close to Dee Stanley, wife of Army sergeant Bill Stanley.
She’d written to Elvis, inviting him to dinner having seen one of his earliest performances, but he wasn’t interested in meeting someone considerably older so had sent his father instead.
Some say she was already getting divorced but others claim Vernon got to know her and Bill, and that Bill actually asked him to help save his marriage.
When Elvis heard of the relationship he flew into a rage.
In his opinion, his father had no business getting together with another woman so soon after Gladys had died.
Vernon and Dee flew back to the States, then returned to West Germany together. It’s long been rumoured that Bill received a handsome pay-off for signing the divorce papers without fuss.
The couple married in 1960 and though Elvis never liked Dee, he became very close to his stepbrothers, welcoming them into his house and employing them as bodyguards and drivers.