A rare artifact tying legendary singer Elvis Presley to Texas will soon be sold in an online auction. Elvis had written a heartfelt, two-page letter while serving in the Army in Germany. The letter, signed, "your friend, PFC Elvis Presley," was written by the King of Rock 'n' Roll at a pivotal time in his life, less than three months after his mother died, to a Fort Hood sergeant who mentored the young private and helped him deal with his grief.
"Well I am writing a letter for the first time in years," Presley began the message, postmarked Nov. 11, 1958, to Master Sgt. Bill Norwood, who lived on the sprawling post. The letter, one of just a handful Presley ever wrote, reveals human insight and fleeting flashes of innocence for Presley, said Bobby Livingston, vice president of sales and marketing with RR Auction, the Amherst, N.H., auction house managing the sale. By then, Presley had purchased Graceland, his home in Memphis.
"In spite of all of his stardom and sex appeal, he comes across as a big-hearted American boy," Livingston said. Elvis's letter is one of more than 700 pieces of rock memorabilia up for sale online in the Modern Music Auction Jan. 19-26. Items include Bob Dylan's harmonicas, Jimi Hendrix's guitar picks, a postcard penned by Lubbock native Buddy Holly, and an eight-page letter that Janis Joplin sent to her fiancé from her hometown of Port Arthur.
In the letter, Presley, already a music icon and movie star at 23 when he began two years of active duty under a peacetime draft, wrote of missing his girlfriend, Anita Wood - "along with 50 million others ha," he added in an unpunctuated aside. "I can hardly wait to get back home and entertain folks and make movies and everything," he wrote. Presley wrote of being "miserable" serving with a scout platoon, and pined for "the good ole U.S." "I am with a good bunch of boys and (sergeants) although I would have given anything to stay at Ft. Hood with you guys," he stated.
Presley reportedly turned down opportunities to tour as a military entertainer or serve as a recruiting pitchman when he was drafted, and generally wanted to be treated as an ordinary soldier. His entry into the Army created a media circus. But officials at Fort Hood, where Presley was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division and underwent basic and advanced training, ordered the media not to interfere with his training, since he was to be treated as any other recruit. Stories abound of the summer of '58, when Presley, tanned by the Texas sun, would be seen around town. His family rental house on Oak Hill Drive has been a novelty for longtime Killeen residents who drive by to see "the house where Elvis lived."
Teri Hospers, a pediatric cardiologist in San Antonio who attended Nolan Middle School in Killeen in the 1970s, remembers a story one of the teachers there often told about a dog he had as a boy who once bit Elvis. After Presley left Killeen, the dog appeared in a local parade with a sign around its neck, proclaiming "I bit Elvis Presley."
"To avoid fans gathered at his house, Elvis would run through the neighbors' backyards. That's how he got bitten," Hospers said. "We all thought it was a funny story. In a town like Killeen, it was exciting to have a connection to someone that famous." RR Auction is seeking a minimum of $2,500 for the Presley letter. In 2008, a similar dispatch he wrote from Germany to one of his cousins sold for $30,185, Livingston said. In that letter, sent the same month as to the one to Norwood, Presley wrote of his sadness over the loss of his mother, who had died of a heart attack at age 46.
He even mentioned longing for the "last few wonderful days at Fort Hood" that he spent with her, Livingston said.