The most infamous rock and roll meeting of all time occurred when Elvis Presley met The Beatles. On August 27, 1965, John, Paul, George and Ringo along with their manager, publicist and assistants came to Presley’s house on Perugia Way in Los Angeles to meet their rock and roll idol.
The Beatles were the ones who pushed for the meeting. After all, it was Elvis who was one of the main influences for John Lennon to start the band. “Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles,” Lennon famously remarked in later years.
A British journalist who also attended the infamous meeting was Chris Hutchins, a reporter for the New Musical Express (NME) at the time. He had been documenting the anticipation of The Beatles’ possibly meeting Elvis since Paul McCartney called and spoke to Presley on the phone a year earlier.
During their concert tour in the summer of 1964, The Beatles tried to arrange a meeting with Elvis, but they could never coordinate their schedules. Instead, Colonel Parker visited with The Beatles and gave them gifts of Elvis souvenirs.
Finally, in August 1965, the stars seemed to align since The Beatles were in L.A. for their concert at The Hollywood Bowl and Elvis was in L.A. having just returned from Hawaii where he was filming Paradise Hawaiian Style.
It was a typical night at Presley’s home with members of Elvis’ entourage on hand as well as a few of their female companions including Presley’s live-in girlfriend and future wife, Priscilla Presley. Also added to the mix was Colonel Parker who was there on this special occasion to make sure things ran smoothly.
John Lennon was probably the most nervous about the meeting since Elvis was literally John’s hero. When John was in high school, he had grown sideburns just to be like Elvis. “If it hadn’t been for him, I would have been nothing,” Lennon told Presley’s friend, Jerry Schilling.
Elvis was in the den when The Beatles arrived. As The Beatles walked into the den, John Lennon launched into an imitation of Peter Sellers’ character, Inspector Clouseau, by saying “Oh, zere you are, Elvis!” Everyone laughed.
After all the introductions, The Beatles sat down on the couch next to Elvis who was watching a muted TV, while music was playing in the background on a jukebox. Initially, there was an awkward moment of silence as The Beatles appeared star-struck and just stared at Elvis.
Finally, Elvis broke the silence: “If you guys are just gonna sit there and stare at me, I’m goin’ to bed.” The Beatles laughed.
“I just thought we’d sit and talk about music and maybe jam a little,” Elvis proposed. He then called for guitars to be brought into the room for John, Paul and George.
Elvis started playing a Fender bass which excited Paul McCartney: “It was a great conversation piece for me. I could actually talk about the bass, and we sat around and just enjoyed ourselves,” McCartney said.
Since there was no drum kit, Ringo went into the other room to play pool, and George supposedly went outside to smoke a joint.
“We just got in there and played with him,” John Lennon recalled. “We all plugged in whatever was around and we played and sang…”
The Beatles’ roadie, Mal Evans, remembered Elvis asking for a guitar pick. Evans, who happened to be a huge Presley fan, said: “There was Elvis playing bass, Paul and John on guitars – and I just sat there with my mouth open all night.”
The Beatles’ chauffeur, Alf Bicknell, described the impromptu jam session: “There was no singing, it was more a case of showing each other different guitar licks. Little blues riffs, a bit of 12-bar and so on.”
However, George Harrison and Ringo Starr claimed in The Beatles Anthology documentary that they never jammed with Elvis.
In truth, it was more like a “Lennon-McCartney-Presley” jam session. The jam session of mostly rhythm and blues songs lasted about 45 minutes.
Later, The Beatles started talking to Elvis about music and touring.
Unfortunately, Colonel Parker, with the agreement of The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, insisted that no pictures or video be taken of the infamous meeting. Therefore, this historic event is recounted solely through eyewitness accounts from the people who were there. It became an exclusive story for NME reporter, Chris Hutchins.
On August 27, 1965, the day the actual meeting took place, a story ran in the NME by Hutchins with the headline “NME is arranging a meeting between Elvis and Beatles!”
Finally, on September 3, 1965, the NME ran their exclusive story on the meeting. The headline stated: “NME has only reporter present when Elvis meets Beatles.”
In the article, Hutchins states that there was an informal jam session which started with Elvis playing the bass along to records playing on his jukebox. John, Paul and George were reportedly provided with guitars. However, there was no drum set for Ringo. “They used language of music!” a callout in the article read.
While many stories circulated in later years that the meeting was a flop or that either The Beatles or Elvis were disappointed, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Elvis appeared to have enjoyed himself. He told Sonny West: “[That was] a lot better than I thought it would be. That’s some good times there.”
Later that year, Paul and John called Graceland to speak to Elvis. They wanted to thank him for the visit in Los Angeles…
But what else happened during the Elvis and Beatles meeting?
In truth, there are a lot more details to the story about the day Elvis met The Beatles as well as the relationship that continued over the years between The King of Rock and Roll and The Fab Four.
The full story of the lifelong behind-the-scenes relationship between The Beatles and Elvis Presley can be found in this new book – click to read a free excerpt:
ELVIS AND THE BEATLES: Love and Rivalry Between the Two Biggest Acts of the 20th Century
Click here to take the Elvis Vs. The Beatles QUIZ