Blue Christmas: The Letter of '76

On contrary to popular belief, Elvis Presley wrote and co-wrote a few songs. One he helped co-write, but never did sing.

Elvis Presley is known to be the most noted, sung about, wrote about singer the world has ever known. We know so much of the man who we have come to call the "King of Rock and Roll." But no matter how many books, articles, biographies, interviews you have heard and read Elvis himself would be heard telling his closest friends and confidants. "They know me, but they don't know me."

What you are about to read is one of the most devastating, heartbreaking milestones in Elvis Presley's life other than his untimely death that hot, humid Memphis afternoon. 

Let's rewind to almost a year before that. When Elvis' health, failing friendships and ineffectual relationships started to take a toll on him. All that Elvis had grown accustom to was starting to deteriorate before his eyes. Three of Elvis' body guards (one of which was his high school buddy Red West) were fired by Elvis' father, Vernon Presley. 

Linda Thompson, the 20-year-old beauty queen, had just split up with him after being with him for five months. Elvis' drug use was too much for Linda to handle. Ginger Alden was Elvis' new fling and as many records show that relationship was a rocky one as well, even in light of the rumor of the two being engaged to be married.

On top of all this clutter in his life Elvis was feeling the effects of both his drugs, his sadness and the extensive concert engagements he was being forced to perform at the time by his manager Colonel Tom Parker.

The almost fairy tale-like pages that filled the book of the life of Elvis Presley started to dim toward the end of his life. We see a young man go from the rags of poverty to the riches of international stardom and than start to fall back into a lonely world again.

Elvis was an entertainer, he was beloved by many and adored by many, but you could tell there was a wind in Elvis' life from the beginning of 1976 that was forcefully trying to extinguish his light. The reviews of both celebrities and regular audience members all echoed that same tune. All bashing the physical and mental state of a man who was on the verge of self-destruction. 

The following by my own account is a devastating, heart-crushing cry for help from the man who couldn't see the future. The man who would be forever immortalized by his fans. The man who lost sight of who he was by surrounding himself with things he was not.

December 1976, the air was frigid, the crowds had scattered and were headed home and/or returning to trying their luck in the City of Sin. It was that special time of year, the time of year that more people smile at each other and the feeling of giving is at hand. That biggest year end holiday was just around the corner and to win a giant jackpot would make anyone have a holly, jolly Christmas. Anyone that is, but the man down the road.

The Vegas lights lit up the outside of some of the most iconic landmarks on the Vegas Strip. One of those landmarks being the Hilton Hotel. Shadows danced on the walls of a closed room, within that room sitting on a bed, possibly with his head in the palms of his hands sat one of the greatest entertainers in the music industry.

In the dark, with just the outside noise to keep him company. This man had a dream for his mother and father, he had dream for his high school and army buddies, his dream came true and he was able to give them what they deserved, at least that is what he believed. He took care of those around him. His dreams had come true and then some. What he was dreaming of now was privacy. As much as he loved his fans, as much as his friends and family could make him laugh. He wanted to be left alone.

Breaking barriers in his younger years, taking on the world just a few years before, you would and could believe this man had access to anything he wanted. This was true to a point. If this was true, he would have his family back together. Just the three of them. Laughing and goofing around in the backyard of their famous house. He would be lying on the warm Hawaiian sand with the love of his life in his arms. Instead, he had lost her. The court documents proved that the only woman that he would ever love to full extent was no longer bonded to him. Divorce divided his spirit and he was forced to find the pieces of his life he long ago threw away.

His iconic rhinestone jumpsuits closed up with just a sliver of air from the outside and tiny view of light, like the spirit of the man who helped them shine. 

In the months past March 17, 1976 to December 31, 1976, he played 126 shows in 80 different cities without a break in between. He was worn out, ready to be himself, to get away and breathe break away from the image  that the fans the world had seen for the past 19 years. Vacation, time to have breathing room. Get in touch with himself again. The Elvis that sat next to his mama in church, the Elvis who sang "Old Shep" at the county fair. He wanted to recharge, get in better shape and get back to the movie scene. This time take on more dramatic roles. A dream that sadly never came true.

What was going through his mind that night we can only speculate by what we know mentioned above. There was insomnia within him, not only physically, but mentally as well. What else can you do in a city that never sleeps? What can you possibly want when you already have it all?  This would be questions from the bystanders, the listeners, the men and women, young and old who admired the King of Rock n' Roll. Elvis was everyone's dream. Women wanted him and men wanted to be like him. 

Like a sitting, wounded duck floating in stagnate water, Elvis sat there, no where to go, all he could do now was stay still in that room sobbing, in pain and hurting in every way a human being could hurt. There seemed to be nothing but loss every time he would try and get out of the environment he was in. It's all he knew. Music was his lively hood, it was the only real recharge he could get.

The fans gave him a high that no drugs could ever do. His days were filled with excitement, at least they were at one time in his life, but not on  this day though, this day it was different. The electricity of the crowd charged him, but only for a few hours. The excitement left the building with the last audience member and as like Elvis didn't come back for an encore. All that was left now was the trash that was left on the ground, a ghost of joy and entertainment.

The shows from the summer were a disaster. In July, Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker had gotten into an argument when the Colonel had criticized Elvis' performances. This was still weighing on his mind. He had suffered through a flu in the beginning of the month and his performances just kept falling in showmanship from there. 

What Elvis decided to do that night was not out of the ordinary for him. Being a deep thinker it was second nature, like craving peanut butter, banana sandwiches. He picked up a notepad that lay dormant on his nightstand and began to write:

"I will be glad when this engagement is over. I need some rest from all of this. But I can't stop. Won't stop. Maybe I'll take everyone to Hawaii for awhile.
I don't know who I can talk to anymore. Nor to turn to. I only have myself and the Lord. Help me Lord to know the right thing.
I wish there was someone I could trust and talk to. Prayer is my only salvation now. I feel lost sometimes. Be still and know I am God. Feel me within, before you know it I am there.
Help me Lord to get through all of this. I am so tired of it. I think_ I would like to stop forever but rest has not come easy for me. Show me a way out from the problems I want..." 

On those Hilton stationary pages bled the heart of the greatest entertainer in history. The tears from his eyes probably dropping upon the pages. What dried faster, the ink of the pen or the tears on the face of The King?

Crumpling them up and throwing them in the wastebasket he thought nothing of it. It would go out with tomorrow's trash. A private moment between Elvis Presley and God, because written down became the saddest story of his career until almost a year later.

A friend found the letter and kept it for years. In the 90s Wayne Newton bought the letter from an auction and wrote a song based on the letter.

The very existence of this letter can bring anyone down, but especially his fans. It was as if Elvis Presley died while trying to give us the greatest performance he could possibly give.

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Blue Christmas: The Letter of '76