Elvis Presley met The Beatles during their 1965 US tour. As Beatlemania kicked up a gear, the Fab Four took time out of their wild schedule to sit down with their idol, the great King of Rock ’n’ Roll at his home. In an article titled Ze King and I, John Lennon revealed an incredible fact about Paul McCartney: that he had actually offered the Blue Suede Shoes hitmaker bass guitar tips during their meeting.
Lennon noted how many of the greats wanted to come and meet them when they toured the US in 1965.
He said, however, that they weren’t too bothered about seeing the likes of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra because they didn’t think they “really like[d] us or our music”.
It was different with Presley, though, of whom Lennon was a lifelong fan.
“It was a real thrill to get to meet Elvis,” he enthused. “Especially to play with him.”
Recalling something he said to the King upon that first — and only — meeting, Lennon added: “Because we were both Peter Sellers fans, I remember saying to him, ‘Zis is ze way it should be. Ze small homey gathering wiz a few friends and a leetle music!’”
The Beatle said he knew his bandmates McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison were all feeling as nervous as he was when they arrived at Graceland and were greeted by their idol.
“He was a legend in his own lifetime, and it’s never easy meeting a legend in his own lifetime,” he explained. “However, Elvis tried to make us feel at home.”
According to the Imagine hitmaker, the room remained silence when the group had got settled, with Presley eventually breaking the ice by joking: “Look, guys, if you’re just going to sit there an stare at me, I’m going to bed.”
He then proposed they jam a little, instructing one of his staff to bring some guitars into the room.
John revealed how Presley had ended up with a bass guitar, while he took a rhythm guitar.
“Elvis obviously wasn’t that familiar with his instrument,” he said.
At this point, the star recalled his bandmate McCartney stepping in to give the King some quick tips. “So Paul gave him some instructions,” he said.
“‘Here’s how I play the bass,’” he said, strumming a few chords. ‘It’s not too good, but I’m practising.’”
Elsewhere, other accounts of Presley’s meeting with The Beatles don’t shine such a jovial light on the day.
According to writer Chris Hutchins, who was friends with both parties, Lennon actually angered their host within moments of arriving at Graceland by voicing his anti-war sentiments.
The author told the Daily Mail in 2011 how Presley had later tried to get The Beatles thrown out of the US, saying Lennon “should’ve been kicked out long ago”.
At a Beatles exhibition that year, their former press officer Tony Barrow also revealed an awkward jibe Lennon had made at the expense of Presley.
“John asked what had happened to the old rock ’n’ roll Elvis, who at that point was mainly singing the soundtracks to his films.
“He was joking but he meant it,” he added.
Though Presley reportedly laughed off the comment, the atmosphere was somewhat cold after that.