Elvis Presley was massively successful in the 1950s, but he saw his first hints of career rot by the mid-1960s, according to Priscilla Presley. The musician grew increasingly frustrated with the direction of his career. At the helm of the ship was his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and Elvis didn’t agree with many of the decisions he made. Still, he rarely said anything in defense of his own opinions. Priscilla shared why.

Priscilla Presley said Elvis never wanted to stand up to Colonel Tom Parker

By the mid-1960s, Elvis hated most of the movies he made. He didn’t like the scripts and felt they were doing little to advance his career. Even with his music, his popularity wasn’t what it used to be.

“The sales of his records indicated that his massive popularity was slipping,” Priscilla wrote in her book Elvis and Me. “His singles were no longer automatically Top Ten hits, and he hadn’t enjoyed a Number One record since the spring of 1962.”

Colonel Tom Parker sits at a typewriter with a pipe in his mouth. Elvis sits next to him beneath a painting of two dogs.
Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley | GAB Archive/Redferns

Still, Elvis didn’t demand better scripts or an increased focus on putting out popular songs. According to Priscilla, he feared standing up to Colonel Parker.

“He could have demanded better, more substantial scripts but he didn’t,” Priscilla wrote. “Part of the reason was the lavish lifestyle he had established and become accustomed to. The main reason, however, was his inability to stand up to the Colonel. In Elvis’ personal life, there were no stops in letting anyone know how or what he felt. But when it came time to stand up to Colonel Parker, he backed off. Elvis detested the business side of his career. He would sign a contract without even reading it.”

While she could recall a handful of occasions where Elvis had pushed against his manager, she said he usually did whatever Colonel Parker wanted.

Priscilla Presley revealed the anguish Elvis’ declining career caused him

Elvis wanted to maintain the illusion of being “in control” around Priscilla. As a result, he didn’t want her advice and tried not to let his guard down around her. Still, she noticed his obvious anguish over his career.

“There were nights when he slept restlessly, beset by worries and fears,” she wrote. “I lay silently beside him, anxious about what he might be thinking and whether there was a place in his life for me.”

She explained that this began to take a toll on their relationship.

“Lost in our separate miseries, we were unable to give each other strength or support,” she wrote. “He was controlled by his inability to take responsibility for his own life and for compromising his own standards — and I was controlled by him, compromising mine.”

He refused to take advice from his girlfriend

Much of Priscilla’s frustration stemmed from the fact that Elvis did not want her advice. She was eager to help him, but he grew angry whenever she tried. 

A black and white picture of Elvis and Priscilla Presley sitting on a plane together. They look at the camera from between two seats.
Elvis and Priscilla Presley | Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

“I wanted desperately to help him, but I wasn’t sure how,” she wrote. “In my innocence, I kept trying to convince him to argue with the Colonel. But he would only get angry, saying I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

She explained that Elvis firmly believed that, as a woman, Priscilla should not attempt to advise him. Instead, he wanted her unwavering and unquestioning support, even when she could tell something was wrong.

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