History of Europe

When Elvis came to Germany

On October 1, 1958, the King of Rock 'n' Roll came to Germany via Bremerhaven to do his military service. Elvis stayed for a year and a half - a turning point in many ways. And a still curious time.

by Ocke Bandixen

On this memorable and long-awaited Wednesday for his fans, the King assured three times how happy he was:finally in Germany. At 8.46 a.m. the troop transport, the "USS General Randall", docked at the Columbuskaje in Bremerhaven. A little later recruit Elvis Presley trudges down the gangway in uniform. School girls, by class, greet the king. A reporter from Radio Bremen wonders:"What's so good about Elvis?" Answer:"Everything! The way he moves, so back and forth", "He sings it the way young people want it to be", "That just brings you into ecstasy!"

The Elvis fans wait in vain for a song performance

In 1958 Elvis Presley began his military service in Germany.

Elvis looks, waves. And don't sing. "I don't think they want that right now," he murmurs to the reporter. never mind He's happy to be here. He says. And then we continue by train in the direction of Hesse, destination Friedberg. Someone painted "Welcome to Germany, Elvis Presley" on the train. Welcome - awkward, with two l. Well.

Elvis becomes patriotic, humble and well-behaved

In Germany, Presley served in a tank battalion.

A year earlier, Elvis Presley received his draft notice. Actually a catastrophe for the rising star:Two years of military service? And the career? His manager Thomas Andrew "Colonel Tom" Parker declines the offer to place his protégé like other entertainers somewhere in a subordinate special unit in the USA. On the contrary:He wants to use military service to make a good boy out of the wild man, Elvis who spoils youth for conservative America - patriotic, modest, well-behaved. Even the quiff has to go.

Rock 'n' roll is near death at this time, it seems:the time of turmoil, of departure - over. Chuck Berry is in jail, Little Richard is being ordained a priest. Jerry Lee Lewis was dumped for marrying his underage cousin. Buddy Holly crashes his plane a year later. And Elvis... serves with a tank battalion.

Elvis staging for the public

But the clever "Colonel" Parker rocks the thing already:He feeds a hungry public with ever new stories, photos, encounters of the young GI Elvis. Much is embellished and staged. In fact, Elvis lives first in a hotel, then in a villa in Bad Nauheim, together with friends, his father and grandmother. At the weekend, he bangs his head off, as the Kessler twins, for example, who were dancing at the Lido in Paris at the time, remember later.

Amphetamines and Priscilla change everything

On May 1, 1967, Priscilla and Elvis Presley were married in Las Vegas.

And two more things come into Elvis' life that change it forever:amphetamines, which he gets from the military. And Priscilla, his future wife, who was only 14 at the time and whose stepfather is also stationed in Germany.

Descent or Beginning?

In the spring of 1960, the King returned to the USA - and played in cinema tearjerkers for years. Wild are now others. So does his decline begin with his time in Germany?

For the girls on the quay in Bremerhaven, it all just started back then:Elvis, the King of Rock 'n' Roll. In Germany. Hard to believe. "But you can't really see him from here!" the reporter says on that first Wednesday in October. "Oh, just seeing his right arm makes me happy!"