It was long believed that soldier Elvis Presley refrained from public performances during the two years he served in the army from March 1958 to March 1960. However, years later, residents of a small town in Germany reveal they were eyewitnesses to a special secret concert by The King of Rock and Roll.
[The following is an excerpt from the new book, ELVIS: The Army Years Uncovered]
For someone so passionate about music like Elvis Presley, there was no way he could quit cold turkey and truly stop performing, especially at the height of his career.
There are several stories of those who knew Elvis while he served in the army in Germany who witnessed informal concerts by Private Presley usually playing the piano while singing. These impromptu performances were usually in front of his friends or fellow soldiers in a private setting.
However, a special show would occur during the six weeks Presley was stationed at the US Army training area in Grafenwoehr from November 3, 1958 to December 16, 1958. This concert would take place in secret in a nearby entertainment venue called The Micky Bar.
Six weeks was a long time for Elvis to be away from his family – not to mention it was a long time to be out on a training ground along with thousands of other soldiers. As a result, he was becoming a spectacle out in the field. Other officers were constantly trying to get access to him. As reported in the army magazine Stars & Stripes: “Most maneuvering took place around Elvis, than at any other place in the fields.”
As a result, it would not be surprising if Elvis was given undisclosed approval to find a way to escape during the last week of maneuvers. “When no one was watching, he [Elvis] was able to get some special treatments,” explained army buddy Rex Mansfield. “His special treatment was handled on a very discreet, low key basis and the people who knew really didn’t mind. If things were a little slow, he could slip out and go home for a while. There were no big favors handed to him, just a lot of small ones that nobody would really fuss about.”
According to local resident Raimund Rodler, Presley’s battalion commander contacted Rodler’s mother and stepfather, Margarete and Alter Feiner, the owners of the Micky Bar, whom he knew through their jukebox repair business. The army commander told them that Presley’s father, Vernon, was coming to Grafenwoehr, but since he was not allowed to stay with Elvis at the camp, they needed a place for Vernon to stay where he would not be disturbed. They offered Vernon the upstairs furnished apartment with a bedroom, a large living room and a winter garden.
As a result, Vernon Presley came up to Grafenwoehr for almost a week in December and stayed in the apartment above the Micky Bar. That allowed Elvis to secretly come there every night and stay with his father. He had a taxi driver take him back to Camp Algiers in the Grafenwoehr training area each morning. Surprisingly, Elvis got out of the house every day without the staff noticing since he was picked up at the back entrance, and then brought back to that same spot in the evening. The only ones that knew he was there were the owners.
While Elvis was at the camp during the day, Vernon accompanied Raimund to work fixing jukeboxes: “Twice he came with me to repair some jukeboxes,” explained Raimund. “It was great fun for him. Of course, I had him play his son’s songs then.”
Mrs. Feiner offered home-cooked meals for Elvis and Vernon. Her specialty was schnitzel sandwiches (pork fried in butter). Elvis loved her sandwiches and “wanted schnitzel with fried potatoes every day.” Mrs. Feiner would even pack some for Elvis to take with him to the camp for duty.
“We had breakfast together, we had dinner together, we played cards with each other,” explained Rodler. “Elvis was so casual, so uncomplicated – no star. He was a star, but he did not act like that.”
It is believed that Elvis performed the secret Micky Bar concert on one of the last few days that he was in Grafenwoehr, probably somewhere between December 12 and 15, 1958. The concert came about as a thank you from Presley to the Feiner family. Margarete refused to take any money from the Presleys for their visit, so Elvis said he would do a surprise private concert in the afternoon exclusively for the 30-person staff of the Micky Bar before the bar opened that day for business. However, he would perform on the condition that no photographs and no recordings would be permitted, and that no strangers be allowed in.
The Micky Bar, originally called the “Mönchshof”, was the perfect place for a secret Elvis concert. It was built in 1954 and would host live music every day. They had a house band of six or seven musicians, as well as various performers including magicians, singers and strip tease artists. It could hold up to 400 people and was popular with Germans as well as American soldiers, who gave the bar its adopted name.
On the day of Presley’s concert, the staff was told to come at half past two, but they did not know for what reason. Once all the staff had arrived, the management locked the door and Elvis came down the stairs to the stage. To the staff’s delight, he played the piano and sang for two and a half hours just for them.
Waitress Pauline Neubert was confused. She saw this soldier come in and start playing the piano and singing, but she did not know who he was. She went and asked Mrs. Feiner, “Who is the one playing so nicely?” Mrs. Feiner replied: “Elvis Presley – The Elvis Presley!”
When Elvis would sing spontaneously for the boys in the barracks, he would usually sing old folk songs like “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.” Either out of modesty or to avoid the possibility of someone recording him which might cause trouble with RCA, he would avoid singing his own records. However, at the secret Micky Bar concert, he played his own rock and roll songs. It truly was a memorable show for the exclusive German audience!
“Elvis sang without a microphone,” recalled Rodler decades later. “Almost all of his hits were there. I can remember ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Love Me Tender’ for nearly fifty years. These were nice hours. Between the songs, Elvis, the world star, talked to the staff.” Describing Elvis as “young and shy” during the performance, Rodler said the audience “enjoyed the two hours without screeching and fainting, because most were already around 30 years old.”
After the concert, Elvis left Grafenwoehr, but the news of the gig spread like wildfire. Many fans came to the Micky Bar in hopes of seeing Elvis, but he had already gone. Presley left knowing that he had fulfilled his desire to give back to his German hosts who had been so gracious to him and his father.
What happened to that famous piano and where is it today?
Find out in the new book,
ELVIS: The Army Years Uncovered:
Behind the Scenes of the Two Years that Changed The King of Rock and Roll’s Life.
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