Elvis Meets the Beatles

On August 27th of 1965 the Beatles met Elvis Presley at his home at 525 Perugia Way in Los Angeles (Bel Air) around the end of their second American tour. The story has come up more than a few times since I've been doing Scotty's site and did so also several times in a newsgroup I used to frequent that also included Marty Lacker and Larry Geller, two of Elvis' Memphis Mafia. The focus usually revolves around the question of whether an actual jam took place or not. It came up in April of 2001 and I copied the text out for posterity. I've reposted it several times in addition to quotes from members of the Beatles regarding the event and though its probably been covered in greater detail since I've decided to finally include it here. It gives good first hand accounts of the meeting by several that were present including Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans that accompanied the Beatles.

Larry wrote: Perhaps this might help clarify the issue, from my own experience. Before the Beatles arrived that night, Elvis and I were in his bathroom while I was doing his hair. Elvis was unusually quiet, even pensive, as he drummed his fingers on the marble ledge. He looked exceptionally great that night; wearing a blue shirt with "bolero" sleeves (he had one in every color except for brown or tan shades, that the guys would get for him at Fred Segal's, a specialty clothing store in Los Angeles).

All of a sudden his mood changed, and he went on about how he knew what the Beatles were going through...being in front of a live audience, and how he missed that experience. He also lamented about the "teeny bopper" movies he was making, and that he needed to get back in front of an audience again. 

Elvis and I joined the rest of the group in the den. Suddenly the roaring crowd outside told us that the Beatles had finally arrived, the Beatles came in, along with their manager Brian Epstein and a few of their entourage. Once they were introduced to Elvis, Elvis sat down in a chair and the four Beatles sat down cross-legged in a semi-circle on the floor in front of him, just staring up at him. After an uncomfortable period of silence in the room, Elvis started to get up from his chair, teasing "Hey, if you guys aren't going to talk to me, I'm going up to my bedroom and call it a night." That broke the ice, everyone started laughing and talking.


Elvis' pool table that the Beatles (Ringo at least) played on displayed at Elvis Presley's Memphis (formerly Lanskys) on Beale St. - Aug. 2003
Photo James V. Roy

After a short period of time, I remember Ringo went into the livingroom to play pool with Billy, Richard and a couple of other guys. George wandered off, and Brian Epstein and Col. Parker were together in the livingroom by the roulette wheel the Colonel had set up, apparently "talking shop." I stayed in the den with Elvis, Paul, John - I'm pretty sure Marty and one other guy also stayed there. Paul asked Elvis if he could play one of Elvis' guitars - of course Elvis said yes. Then John picked up another guitar, and then Elvis did the same. They jammed for a good twenty minutes - no singing - and absolutely no one recorded it. The control freak Col. Parker wouldn't even allow pictures to be taken.

Other things happened that night, but I wanted to give you a small portion of the events, to answer questions and rumors that have been floating around for years. I'll tell you one more thing for now. After the Beatles left, Elvis asked me to come talk to him back in his bedroom. What really blew his mind was the state of their teeth. He couldn't understand why, with all their money, they didn't have them fixed. As many people know, during the war when they were growing up milk was hard to come by, and many English people of that generation shared the problem with their teeth because of the lack of calcium.

I'll never forget when I left Elvis' bedroom and said goodnight - he looked at me, with that impish grin of his, "Hey Larry, don't forget...there's four of them...there's only one of me." 

Marty replied: "Larry, Hate to correct you but they did sing. They sang a couple of Chuck Berry songs and then they sang one of Elvis', John started it off and then Elvis started to sing one of theirs. I was standing right next to Elvis at the side of the piano, Paul played the piano and John was standing next to Paul looking straight at Elvis and I and the guys next to me. 

Because there were no drums, Ringo went to play pool with Red & Sonny. George was busy toking down by the pool. However, I don't recall if George left before they jammed to go to the pool or came back up during the time they were jamming.

The Beatles:
PAUL McCARTNEY: We met Elvis Presley at the end of our stay in L.A. We'd tried for years to, but we could never get to him. He was our greatest idol, but the styles were changing in favor of us. He was a pretty powerful image to British people. You'd look at photos of him doing American concerts, and the audience would not even be jumping up and down. We used to be amazed, seeing them sitting in the front row - not even dancing.

JOHN LENNON: When I first heard "Heartbreak Hotel," I could hardly make out what was being said. It was just the experience of hearing it and having my hair stand on end. We'd never heard American voices singing like that. They'd always sung like Sinatra or enunciated very well. Suddenly, there's this hillbilly hiccuping on tape echo and all this bluesy background going on. And we didn't know what the hell Presley was singing about, or Little Richard or Chuck Berry. It took a long time to work out what was going on. To us, it just sounded like a noise that was great.


Fan photo of the Beatles leaving Elvis' house at 525 Perugia Way in Bel Air, CA - Aug. 27, 1965
Photo courtesy Frank Caiazzo

PAUL: So although we tried many times [to meet Elvis], Colonel Tom [Parker, his manager] would just show up with a few souvenirs, and that would have to do us for a while. We didn't feel brushed off we felt we deserved to be brushed off After, all, he was Elvis, and who were we to dare to want to meet him? But we finally received an invitation to go round and see him when he was making a film in Hollywood.

JOHN: We were always in the wrong place at the wrong time to meet him, and we would have just gone round or something, but there was a whole lot of palaver about where we were going and how many people should go and everything, with the managers, Colonel Tom and Brian [Epstein], working everything out. 

GEORGE HARRISON: Meeting Elvis was one of the high- lights of the tour. It was funny, because by the time we got near his house we'd forgotten where we were going. We were in a Cadillac limousine, going round and round along Mulholland, and we'd had a couple of "cups of tea" in the back of the car. It didn't really matter where we were going - it's like the comedian Lord Buckley says, "We go into a native village and take a couple of peyote buds, we might not find out where we is, but we'll sure find out who we is."

Anyway, we were just having fun, we were all in hysterics. (We laughed a lot. That's one thing we forgot about for a few years - laughing. When we went through all the lawsuits, it looked as if everything was bleak, but when I think hack to before that, I remember we used to laugh all the time.) We pulled up at some big gates and some- one said, "Oh yeah, we're going to see Elvis," and we all fell out of the car laughing, trying to pretend we weren't silly: just like a Beatles cartoon.


JOHN: It was very exciting, we were all nervous as hell, and we met him in his big house in L.A. - probably as big as the one we were staying in, hut it still felt like "big house, big Elvis." He had lots of guys around him, all these guys that used to live near him (like we did from Liverpool; we always had thousands of Liverpool people around us, so I guess he was the same). And he had pool tables! Maybe a lot of American houses are like that, but it seemed amazing to us. It was like a nightclub.

NEIL ASPINALL (road manager and future manager of Apple Records): The Colonel was there and all of Elvis's buddies, the so- called Memphis Mafia, and Priscilla. The first thing they did was show us their pool table that swiveled and became a craps tahle. 

We went into this other room with a television set that seemed to he twenty feet by twenty feet. Then Brian walked in and the Colonel said, "A chair for Mr. Epstein," and about fifteen people came with chairs. 

I remember that when Brian told the Colonel that he managed bands other than the Beatles, the Colonel was suite shocked. He said he didn't understand how Brian could handle more than the Beatles, because it took him all his time to handle Elvis.

Everybody was sitting around talking. Elvis was drinking water, and I think a couple of the Beatles played guitar with him. I was up the other end of the room with [ Beatles bodyguard] Mal [Evans], talking to a couple of the other guys.


Fan photo of the Beatles leaving Elvis' house at 525 Perugia Way in Bel Air, CA - Aug. 27, 1965
Photo courtesy Beatles '65 by JAT ?

RINGO STAR: I was pretty excited about it all, and we were lucky because it was the four of us and we had each other to be with. The house was very big and dark. We walked in, and Elvis was sitting down on a settee in front of the TV. He was playing a bass guitar, which even to this day I find very strange. He had all his guys around him, and we said, "Hi, Elvis." He was pretty shy, and we were a little shy, but between the five of us we kept it rolling. I felt I was more thrilled to meet him than he was to meet me. 

PAUL: He showed us in, and he was great. I mean it was Elvis. He just looked like Elvis-we were all major fans, so it was hero worship of a high degree. He said, "Hello, lads - do you want a drink?" We sat down, and we were watching telly, and he had the first remote switcher any of us had ever seen. You just aimed it at the telly and - wow! That's Elvis! He was playing [Charlie Rich's] "Mohair Sam" all evening - he had it on a jukebox.

JOHN: He had his TV going all the time, which is what I do; we always have TV on. We never watch it - it's just there with no sound on, and we listen to records. In front of the TV, he had a massive amplifier with a bass plugged into it, and he was up playing bass all the time with the picture up on the TV. So we just got in there and played with him. We all plugged in whatever was around, and we played and sang. He had a jukebox, like I do, but I think he had all his hits on it. But if I'd made as many as him, maybe I'd have all mine on. 

PAUL: That was the great thing for me, that he was into the bass, So there I was: "Well, let me show you a thing or two, El..." Suddenly he was a mate. It was a great conversation piece for me. I could actually talk about the bass, and we sat around and just enjoyed ourselves. He was great - talkative and friendly and a little bit shy. But that was his image. We expected that; we hoped for that.

MAL EVANS: Charlie Rich was there. I loved Charlie Rich, and so did Elvis. They had a record - player with the arm up the middle, and Muddy Waters just seemed to be playing all night. And there was Elvis playing bass, Paul and John on guitars - I was just sitting there with my mouth open all night. 

It was a thrill, but it was the biggest disappointment of my life in one way. I really am a big Elvis fan - at six foot three, I'm one of the biggest. So I prepare my outfit to go and meet Elvis - send the suit to the cleaners, nice white shirt and tie - really ponce myself up. But when the suit came back from the cleaners, they'd sewn the pockets up. Now, I always carry plectrums - picks they call them in the States, It's just a habit.

So when we get there, Elvis asks, "Has anybody got a pick?" and Paul turns round, says, "Yeah, Mal's got a pick. He's always got a pick. He carries them on holiday with him!" I went to go in my pocket for one-and there they were, all sewn up.

I ended up in the kitchen breaking plastic spoons, making picks for Elvis! That was a disappointment. I'd have loved to have given Elvis a pick, had him play it, then got it back and had it framed.

JOHN: At first we couldn't make him out. I asked him if he was preparing new ideas for his next film and he drawled, "Ah sure am. Ah play a country boy with a guitar who meets a few gals along the way, and ah sing a few songs." We all looked at one another. Finally Presley and Colonel Parker laughed and explained that the only time they departed from that formula - for Wild in the Country - they lost money.

PAUL: We played a bit of pool with a few of his motorcycle mates, and at about ten o'clock, Priscilla was brought in. To demonstrate the respect that country-and-western people have for their wives? Sometimes it's a bit on the surface - as maybe their situation was shown to be later. It was like, "Here's Priscilla." 

NEIL ASPINALL: I thought Priscilla had a long dress on and a tiara. 

RINGO: I don't remember seeing Priscilla there at all. think it wouldn't have mattered to me if she was there, because it was him I came to see. I don't really remember the boys he had with him, either.

PAUL: She came in, and I got this picture of her as a sort of a Barbie doll - with a purple gingham dress and a gingham bow in her very beehive hair, with lots of makeup. We all said hello, and then it was, "Right, lads, hands off - she's going." She didn't stay long.

I can't blame him, although I don't think any of us would have made a pass at her. That was definitely not on - Elvis's wife, you know! That was unthinkable - she didn't need to be put away quite so quickly, we thought.


Fan photo of the Beatles leaving Elvis' house at 525 Perugia Way in Bel Air, CA - Aug. 1965
Photo courtesy Beatles '65 by JAT ?

GEORGE: I don't remember even seeing Priscilla. I spent most of the party trying to suss out from the gang if anybody had any reefers. But they were uppers and whiskey" people. They weren't really into reefer smoking in the South.

JOHN: It was nice meeting Elvis. He was just Elvis, you know? He seemed normal to us, and we were asking about his making movies and not doing any personal appearances or TV. I think he enjoys making movies so much, We couldn't stand not doing personal appearances, we'd get bored - we get bored quickly. He says he misses it a bit.

We never talked about anything [else] - we just played music. He wasn't bigger than us, but he was "the thing." He just wasn't articulate, that's all. 


PAUL: It was one of the great meetings of my life. I think he liked us. I think at that time, he may have felt a little bit threatened, but he didn't say anything. We certainly didn't feel any antagonism.

I only met him that once, and then I think the success of our career started to push him out a little, which we were very sad about, because we wanted to coexist with him.


RINGO: The saddest part is that years and years later, we found out that he tried to have us banished from America, because he was very big with the FBI. That's very sad to me, that he felt so threatened that he thought, like a lot of people, that we were bad for Ameri- can youth. This is Mr. Hips, the man, and he felt we were a danger. I think that the danger was mainly to him and his career.

I saw him again. I remember one time I got really angry with him because he just wasn't making any music. He'd stopped everything and was just playing football with his guys. So I said, "Why don't you go into a studio and give us some music here? What are you doing?" I can't remember what he said-he probably just walked away and started playing football again.


PAUL: I've seen those famous Nixon transcripts where Elvis actually starts to try to stop us - the Beatles! He's in the transcript saying - to Richard Nixon, of all people - "Well, sir, these Beatles, they're very un-American and they take drugs."

I felt a bit betrayed by that, I must say. The great joke was that we were taking drugs, and look what happened to him. He was caught on the toilet full of them! It was sad, but I still love him, particularly in his early period. He was very influential on me.


JOHN: Up until Elvis joined the army, I thought it was beautiful music and Elvis was for me and my generation what the Beatles were to the '60s. But after he went into the army, I think they cut "les bollocks" off. They not only shaved his hair off but I think they shaved between his legs, too. He played some good stuff after the army, but it was never quite the same, It was like something happened to him psychologically.

Elvis really died the day he joined the army. That's when they killed him, and the rest was a living death.


PAUL: These were great times, so even if you didn't enjoy all of the events that much, you could still go home to Liverpool and say, "Well, you know who I met?" I mean, to meet Elvis, or anybody like that, or to say you've been to Sunset Strip - it was very impressive." 

Courtesy The Beatles Anthology: This excerpt is based on interviews, conducted over six years, with the then three living Beatles and their staff. The quotes from John Lennon were taken from a variety of interviews before his death in 1980.

The meeting was not publicized and there were no recordings and unfortunately no professional photos taken. It has been speculated that the Colonel let it be known to some though because there were fans outside the gates. I'm told that the black and white photo in the driveway posted here is one that the Associated Press ran over the newswire on August 28-29, 1965. Like the others it is said to have been taken by a fan from an adjacent tree somewhere between 2:30 and 3:30 AM.  The first time it was seen in "color" was said to be in Beatles '65 (JAT, Chicago, 2002), along with a few other images that were taken in actual color.


Photos autographed to Billy (Smith) and Marty (Lacker), "Best Wishes from the Beatles"
courtesy Frank Caiazzo and Marty Lacker

Marty said that they were all invited to visit with the Beatles the next day. Elvis did not attend but several of his Mafia did.  At the time each of them received a photo autographed by the group.  Scotty and DJ would eventually meet three of the Beatles, albeit not all at the same time.

added April 9, 2014

 

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