Back to Work: How Elvis Made His First Comeback


On March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was drafted into the US Army. The Pentagon had presented Presley with the opportunity to join 'Special Services' whereby, after rudimentary training, his talents would be employed to entertain the troops; but he declined the offer. Prior to being enlisted, Elvis, his music, and his gyrating hips, had caused outrage amongst senior public figures. His recruitment as a regular soldier (rather than an entertainer) saw attitudes change, and although Elvis was concerned about his career being put on hold for two years, his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was reportedly pleased that his star would not be performing (or recording) free of charge during his period of service.


Elvis at Ray Barracks, Germany (September 1958)

Shortly before completing his basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, Elvis' mother became seriously ill, and on August 12th, 1958, he was granted emergency leave to visit her. Gladys Presley, aged 46, died two days later and was buried the following day. Elvis returned to Fort Hood on August 25th, and on September 19th, the 23 year old soldier was transferred to Germany to join the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32nd Armor, 3rd Armored Division. He spent only a few nights in the barracks before moving off-base, renting hotel rooms for himself, his family and friends. Elvis diligently fulfilled his duties, traveling to and from the base in his BMW 507. During his time in Germany, he was introduced to the world of martial arts, amphetamines, and his wife-to-be, Priscilla.


Nancy Sinatra welcomes Elvis home. McGuire Air Force Base (3rd March, 1960)

Elvis received his discharge from the army in March 1960, and waved goodbye to Priscilla and his German fans. His flight back to the United States stopped to re-fuel at Prestwick Airport in Scotland, and he spent time signing autographs in the terminal building... this was his one and only visit to the United Kingdom. When Elvis finally landed in New Jersey on March 3rd, he was greeted by Frank Sinatra's 19 year old daughter, Nancy, who presented him with a boxed gift from her father, containing two silk dress shirts. Later that month, Elvis changed out of his uniform into a tux, to record his first television performance in three years, singing on the 'Frank Sinatra Timex Show', in a special that became commonly known as 'Welcome Home Elvis'. The show introduced Elvis to a new audience, and his career was reignited. The King was back.


Excerpts from The Frank Sinatra Timex Show featured in This Is Elvis (1981)


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