Remembering the King: When Nixon met Elvis
August 16th, 2012
02:32 PM ET
2 years ago

Remembering the King: When Nixon met Elvis

Washington (CNN) – When Elvis Presley wrote Richard Nixon a few days before December 21, 1970, he had an explicit goal in mind.

"Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out," wrote Presley. "I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way though my communications with people of all ages."

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It was a direct request from the king of rock-and-roll. He wanted the sitting President of the United States to, in effect, deputize him – badge and all.

On this day in 1977, Elvis Presley was found dead in his house. Presley died of an apparent heart attack, reportedly because of his addiction to barbiturates and an unhealthy lifestyle. But long after his death, his meeting with Nixon has been etched in pop culture lore.

When the Presley letter reached the White House, it crossed the desk of Egil "Bud" Krogh, a Nixon aide who would later go to jail for his role in the Watergate scandal. Krogh, himself a Presley fan, convinced his bosses that a meeting with Elvis would be good for the president.

"I have talked to Bud Krogh about this whole matter and we think that it would be wrong to push Presley off on the Vice President…" reads a White House memorandum about the event. "If the President wants to meet with some bright young people outside Government, Presley might be a perfect one to start with."

The documents in this article can all be found in a treasure trove of information presented on the National Security Archives' site hosted by George Washington University.

On that same memo, Bob Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff and the person who approved of who could meet with the president during "Open Hour," wrote "You must be kidding," in the margin. Even still, Haldeman approved the meeting.

Looking back on the historic meeting, Krogh remembered it as a unique scene in the White House, Nixon in suit and tie, Presley with an open, high collared shirt, purple velvet pants and matching velvet cape. At one point, the rock icon even had his iconic amber sunglasses on.

Years after the event, Krogh has described it as "a rare point of intersection between two great forces of the time."

During the visit, Presley presented Nixon with family photos and spoke extensively about his love for America.

Though the event was not recorded, Krogh took extensive notes.

"Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit," Krogh wrote. "The president nodded in agreement and expressed some surprise."

According to the notes, Presley was adamant that he "wanted to be helpful" and that he wanted to "restore some respect for the flag which was being lost."

Then, the king popped the question – could Nixon make Presley a "Federal Agent At-Large" from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs?

Nixon turned to Krogh, the aide who set up the event, and asked, "Bud, can we get him a badge?" Krogh indicated that he thought the White House could make it happen and the president then nodded his head in affirmation. "Then," wrote Krogh, "in a surprising, spontaneous gesture, [Presley] put his left arm around the President and hugged [Nixon]."

This meeting, though, was not just a one-way transaction. Presley, who had an affinity for historic guns, brought Nixon a chrome-plated WWII commemorative Colt .45 in a wooden case. Included in the gift were seven silver bullets.

Not surprisingly, the Secret Service did not let the gun in the Oval Office and Nixon was only later told of the gift.

"I hope you understand why your gift can't be taken into the Oval Office," Krogh wrote that he told Presley. "No guns in the Oval Office it standard policy around her."

Ten days after the meeting, Nixon wrote Presley to thank him for the gun.

"You are particularly kind to remember me with this impressive gift, as well as your family photographs and I am delighted to have them for my collection of special mementos," Nixon wrote.


Filed under: Richard Nixon
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. 83 Days until Obama is RE-ELECTED

    I hear Elvis wrote Mitt the Twit's budget plan....

    August 16, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    Elvis is hiding in a trailer in Area 51 with Obama's Kenyan birf surtifikate, and he keeps Mittens' compassion for the middle-class safely in a jar on his nightstand next to a picture of a small Mongolian child of indeterminate gender hugging McDonald's Grimace during a birthday party for Joseph McCarthy.

    August 16, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. myviewis

    I like this part because 2012 and we are still having this problem with the flag loosing respect and the country....Presley was adamant that he "wanted to be helpful" and that he wanted to "restore some respect for the flag which was being lost."

    August 16, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  4. bb

    Even The Secret Service thinks oblunder & bozo stink!!!!!!!!!!!!! Biden isnt allowed at private bakery read the story its great

    August 16, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  5. bb

    McMurray said the Vice President's entourage got to the point and made its pitch.

    "She said they have selected 'Crumb and Get It" to be his stop on his way to Blacksburg and was wondering if that was ok."

    Here's the part that might make other business owners crazy.

    "This is an opportunity of a lifetime but essentially I said 'No offense to you or the campaign but I just decline you guys coming in here. At that time she said 'Are you sure? There's going to be a lot of press, a lot of activity,’" McMurray said.

    Why in the world would a new business owner say "no" to a photo op with the Vice President of the United States?

    McMurray said it was President Obama's recent remarks about small business and who built what.

    "Very simply, ‘you didn't build that’” McMurray said. “Speaking of small businesses and entrepreneurs all across this country and actually last night my wife was up all night. No sleep, she's worked a full 24 hours."

    When "Crumb and Get It" said 'no', “River City Grill,” just around the corner, said 'yes' and has the pictures to prove it, and didn't care about the politics.

    "If you want to throw in some libertarians as well that's fine too. Stop in as well,” Chris Bell said. “Just bring your money. Sure, right!

    Back at the bakery, a couple of guys said they'd hoped to see Biden and didn't care that the VP had been turned away.

    "I mean it really doesn't matter to me. Everyone has their own views so I love the food here anyway. I agree. Everybody's different so I could care less," said Spenser Critterton of Radford.

    Here's the back story, we’re told that shortly after Crumb and Get It told Biden’s advance people 'no' - the secret service walked in and told Chris McMurray "Thanks for standing up and saying 'no' - then they bought a whole bunch of cookies and cupcakes.

    McMurray said he's hoping folks will understand he just didn't want to be part of a photo op for an administration whose policies he doesn’t agree with.

    August 16, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "Ryan: China treats Obama like a 'doormat'"

    I'm adding that to my list of similarities between China and the GOP/Teatrolls.

    August 16, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    ""Very simply, ‘you didn't build that’” McMurray said. “Speaking of small businesses and entrepreneurs all across this country and actually last night my wife was up all night. No sleep, she's worked a full 24 hours.""

    So the GOP/Teatrolls are banking on small business owners being too stupid to see through their lying manipulation of out-of-context quotes? Hoping that small business owners are gullible and easily mislead? That sure shows a lot of respect for small businesspeople, lemme tell ya.

    August 16, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. Obama - Ending the American Dream as We Know It

    I hear Karl Marx wrote Obama's budget plan.... let us know when he has somebody that will vote for it. hasn't happened in 4 years.

    August 16, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "I hear Karl Marx wrote Obama's budget plan.... let us know when he has somebody that will vote for it. hasn't happened in 4 years."

    And please, do let us all know when you've found the last time in the country's history when the POTUS's budget proposal was forced by the opposition party to be voted on AS WRITTEN and then actually passed AS WRITTEN. The only reason that vote occurred was because the GOP wanted to manufacture the talking point you just vomitted.

    August 16, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. myviewis

    Sniffit
    So the GOP/Teatrolls are banking on small business owners being too stupid to see through their lying manipulation of out-of-context quotes? Hoping that small business owners are gullible and easily mislead? That sure shows a lot of respect for small businesspeople, lemme tell ya.
    ---------------------

    So Obama never means anything he says and neither does Biden, that I can believe.

    August 16, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    ""Very simply, ‘you didn't build that’” McMurray said. “Speaking of small businesses and entrepreneurs all across this country and actually last night my wife was up all night. No sleep, she's worked a full 24 hours.""
    -------------------------
    Bakery? Did they build or invent their custom ovens? Do they grow all of their ingredients? No, and no. A robust economy is a team effort. Their business wouldn't amount to anything if they did have public utilities bring them power and gas, or public roads bringing their ingredients in a timely fashion, crossing bridges that don't fall down.

    August 16, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  12. 83 Days until Obama is RE-ELECTED

    ""Very simply, ‘you didn't build that’” McMurray said. “Speaking of small businesses and entrepreneurs all across this country and actually last night my wife was up all night. No sleep, she's worked a full 24 hours.""

    Mine was up too, but she couldn't have done that without the internet, getting her stuff uploaded, the network back-bones and so on. It's hilarious to see the Teapugs believe small business owners will suck up their manipulation of mis-quoted sound bites. For sure shows a lot of respect for small business owner doesn't it. Do the Teatrolls think these people are as gullible as the red state lemmings that gobble up the propaganda from Faux Noise ???

    August 16, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  13. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I heard that Nero wrote the plutocrat's guide to Mittens' economic plan.

    August 16, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  14. The REAL Truth...

    I most certainly have no issues with someone standing up for their beliefs, including refusal to accept a visit from the VP of the country that gives them the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness – because they don't agree with the administrations policies.
    Respect for the office of the President of the United States should be all that is required. Oh yeah, the Repuklican/Teatrolls have shown us the respect they have for that office...
    – Evaporation of $1/2 trillion surplus, -8.9% GDP, $11 TRILLION national debt, $1.47 TRILLION deficit, $2.8 TRILLION in tax cuts (unpaid for), TWO Wars (unpaid for), Medicare prescription plan (unpaid for), $3 TRILLION borrowed from China, BILLION dollar no-bid contracts award to the military-industrial complex, a Wall Street, Banking, Auto, Mortgage crisis, losing over 700,000 jobs monthly and a economy heading into Depression when President Obama took office!
    And all of that in just 8 years !!!

    August 16, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |