It has been said many, many times that no one, and I mean NO ONE, not even the President of the United States, ever turned down a request from Elvis Presley!
Well, yours truly here is but one of many victims of Elvis’ demands!
After a weekend of fun and relaxation at our home in Waco with Elvis, his mother, Gladys, dad, Vernon, and grandmother, Minnie Mae. I decided, as I usually did during mid- week, to visit the Presley family in their rented home in nearby Killeen, Texas. I always took something with me for Elvis and/or the family . . . a gift, you know, as I never went over there empty handed.
I knew Elvis liked the delicious banana-cream pies we always had for him when he came to our home on weekends. En route to Killeen, I stopped by the southern-famed diner, The Toddle House, and purchased one banana-cream pie and one chocolate pie covered with real whipped cream, to take to the Presley family.
Upon arrival at the Presley-rented house in Killeen at about 2:30 pm, I was greeted at the door by Gladys, who incidentally was always glad to see me and was so gracious to me. She invited me inside, in true southern fashion with a welcome most traditional in Central Texas.
Elvis had not arrived home from the post (Fort Hood) at that time and Vernon was out running errands. Grandma (or as Elvis pronounced it “Gramma”) was in the kitchen preparing dinner for Elvis. Gladys was dressed casually, as usual at home, in cotton housecoat, a dainty small apron around her waist, and barefoot. She wore a net over her carefully combed black hair. She insisted, “Sit down, sit down, Eddie. Elvis ain’t come home yet but he’ll be home in a bit.” So, I accepted her generosity and sat down as she relaxed in her rocking chair and began rocking intently. We chatted about various current events and other small talk. She made it a point to tell me how much she and Vernon appreciated their “home away from home” which we had provided so generously for Elvis. “Elvis tells everybody how good you and Mrs. Fadal have been to him,” she continued.
After about an hour and a half of “just visiting’, Gladys heard Elvis pull up in the driveway. “That’s Elvis!” she cried and swiftly went to the door to welcome him home for the day. After hugging him and getting a loving kiss from Elvis, Gladys said to me, “Eddie, don’t you leave now. You’re gonna have to eat with us.” Of course, Elvis repeated the invitation.
It so happened, I had already had a filling lunch at home before leaving for Killeen and still felt stuffed. Elvis went into his room and changed from his military fatigues into civilian garb. He came back into the living room and we began to talk about this and that: his experiences at the post that day, what had I been doing since he left our house Sunday night?, etc. etc. Gladys retreated to the kitchen to help “Gramma”. Vernon returned home and joined the conversation. Then a call from the kitchen resounded throughout the house.
“Y’all come on! Hurry up y’all! It’s on the table and getting cold, so y’all come on!” It was Gladys and Gramma joining voices in unison summoning us to the table. I told Elvis I wasn’t hungry, that I had just eaten at home and for him and Vernon to go on to the kitchen and I’d stay there in the living room and watch television while they were eating. Elvis ordered, “Eddie, you come on and eat with us!” I said no repeatedly, but “I thank you, I’m still full.” Elvis went on to the kitchen table but his mind was still set that I should eat with them. “Come on, Eddie. I’ve got a chair for you right here next to me. Come, come ON!” I was just as determined that I wouldn’t join them as I wasn’t hungry. Elvis, Gladys, Vernon and Gramma continued in unison, “Now, Eddie, we’ve eaten at your house and you gotta come eat with us.” I remained stubbornly seated watching TV. Then Elvis said loudly “I’m sending Red in to bring you to the table. He’s gonna bring you in here if he has to carry you!” (Sorry, I forgot to mention that Red West was there visiting from Memphis.) Then, suddenly and without further notice, big Red West rushed in, boldly and bodily picked me up (like a baby) and delivered me to the table at a chair next to Elvis.
What was I to do now? Elvis said “Eat,” and began to fill my plate with something I had never eaten before and which I always imagined I didn’t like. Curious what it was? Well, it was sauerkraut and wieners of all things! I had never even tasted the stuff and always had cringed at the sight of it in my junior high school cafeteria. We had never had it at home and I thought I wouldn’t like it; wouldn’t touch it with a 16-foot pole!
Elvis continued to insist. “Eat. Eat, it’s good!” Hesitantly, I took a small bite. To my surprise, I liked it! I ended up eating two helpings! Then, after the meal, Elvis said, “I’m gonna eat this whole banana-cream pie Eddie brought me and y’all can have the chocolate one.” That’s what we did . . . and a merry time was had by all!
The moral to this little story is, as I said in the opening paragraph, “No one, and I mean NO ONE, not even the President of the United States (or yours truly) could turn down Elvis Presley!!!
But there’s more to this story. What happened after the “sauerkraut and weiners” dinner will lovingly amuse and tantalize you!
After finishing all of the sauerkraut which Elvis had piled on my plate, we all (Elvis, Vernon, Gladys, Minnie Mae, Red West and myself) retired to the living room. I still couldn’t believe I had eaten two large helpings of the “stuff” I had always cringed at in the cafeteria at my junior high school!
Elvis went straight to the piano which Elvis had rented for the duration of his stay in Killeen. He began to play some of the popular songs of the day . . . not any of his many million sellers! He belted out other artists songs such as Connie Francis’ “Who’s Sorry Now,” and Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill,” and of course, “Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby,” by the Tune Weavers.
I was seated on a very comfy lounge chair, close to Elvis and the piano. There were a couple of drum sticks on an end table next to my chair, and also a tambourine. I grabbed the drum sticks and began beating out the beat on the soles of my shoes! Occasionally, I would take the tambourine and “pretend” that I knew what I was doing! Elvis looked over and smiled his approval, so I continued “acting” like a professional musician. What fun we were having as Gladys and Vernon chimed in with harmony.
About that time, the doorbell sounded and in strolled beautiful Anita Wood. In her hand was a ukulele . . . and, needless to say . . . Anita joined our “ensemble”. Elvis was having a ‘ball’, stopping at times to laugh and chide our musicianship!
But it was great! What an evening of fun and fellowship in a home setting with the one and only, great ELVIS PRESLEY! I couldn’t believe it then and as I look back, it seems as though it was a dream!
There I was . . . a nobody . . . musically grooving with ELVIS, the brightest star on the horizon! What a memorable evening! He had put aside his problems of the day and was totally relaxed . . . and happy! Oh, that tape recorders and camcorders had been available then!
Red West eventually joined in with a pot-roast pan from the kitchen, upon which he “thumped” and accompanied me in the “rhythm section”.
MEMORIES . . . M-e-m-o-r-i-e-s . . . precious memories. Oh, that we could relive them once again!
P.S. This story brings to mind another one: A jam session at Graceland one night in 1958. A group of Elvis’ friends (all professional musicians), Johnny Cash, Boots Randolph, Floyd Cramer, and of course, Elvis, had “SUCH A NIGHT!!!!!!”, and I was there too! But we’ll save that story for another time.