Although there is certainly no shortage of upcoming musicians clawing their way to the top and eager to claim the title for themselves, Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977) remains the undisputed “King of Rock & Roll™”. Most people remember Elvis® the entertainer, Elvis the performer, and for good reason – he could light up a stage like no one else. He crooned his way into the hearts of millions not just in America, but well beyond our national borders.
Perhaps our long-held infatuation with Elvis is a result of his unique style. Everything including his singing, dancing, clothing, manner of speaking, and hairstyle were exclusively his own. He was also a musician who pushed the limits; he boldly challenged the constraints of the industry with every lip snarl and hip gyration.
Elvis is world renowned for his iconic sideburns and velvety smooth vocals, but many of the people who knew him best say that under all the glitz and glamour, Elvis was a man with simple tastes. In many ways, he was always a southern boy at heart who loved home-style, traditional southern cooking and firearms.
Elvis and the .45 in the Military
Elvis’ time in the armed forces helped solidify his lifelong love and respect for firearms. December 20, 1957 was a black day for Elvis fans around the globe – it was the day Elvis was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army. By that time, he had already wowed audiences with many hit songs and even lit up the big screen as a budding actor in feature films like Jailhouse Rock and Love Me Tender. Fans wept bitterly at the thought of being deprived of their idol, but Elvis was determined to serve his country.
He completed his military training on September 17, 1958 and dutifully served for 18 months in the Army until he was honorably discharged from active duty in 1960, then spent 4 years in the Army Reserves. His official discharge from duty was 1964. During his days in the U.S. Army, Elvis certainly would have been familiar with the trusty Colt .45 pistol, the handgun relied on by many in the Armored Division. The .45 was designated as the official sidearm of the U.S. military in 1911 due to its unparalleled reliability and durability.
A Presidential Gift
On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley® met with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office. At Elvis’s written request, the President agreed to the visit. This meeting turned out to be fruitful for both of these powerful men because each walked away with a gift. Although Elvis was known to have owned many guns – at the time of his death it’s reported he had a collection of 37 handguns, several rifles, a machine gun, and .45 pistols, it was a Colt .45 pistol he selected for a very special presentation. President Nixon presented Presley with an official Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) badge and Elvis gave the President a commemorative Colt .45 pistol that he had proudly selected from his own personal collection. Clearly, Elvis must have thought very highly of the .45 in order to choose it as his offering to the Commander in Chief.
The Legacy Lives On
For all of Elvis’s fame and fortune, it seems he never really lost his desire for the simpler things in life. And for him, the .45 pistol which he admired during his stint in the U.S. Army and which was included in his firearm collection was one of those simple joys.
And although Elvis has long since “left the building”, he remains in the hearts and minds of his adoring fans in all his hip swiveling glory.
Written by Melissa Harter, an American memorabilia collector and Elivs Presley fan.