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Elvis Presley spent most of his adult life surrounded by his Memphis Mafia, a group of friends and employees who did everything with him. They followed Elvis on tour, lived at Graceland, and took vacations with him. While these men were all dedicated to the musician, they could still find him frustrating. One of his close friends, Jerry Schilling, recalled leaving a trip early after Elvis pushed him too far. 

Elvis Presley made nonsensical demands of a friend

After performing an exhausting series of concerts, Elvis took an 18-person group to Colorado for a ski trip. He celebrated his 41st birthday and rode around on a snowmobile while everyone skied. Though the group was tired and frustrated, Elvis announced he wanted to extend the trip at the end of the rental period.

Schilling got to work finding them new accommodations at the last minute. When he finally did and got everyone settled in, Elvis called him at three in the morning. He wanted to switch houses with Schilling and wouldn’t offer a reason why.

A black and white picture of Billy Smith, Bill Morris, Lamar Fike, Jerry Schilling, Sheriff Roy Nixon, Vernon Presley, Charlie Hodge, Sonny West, George Klein, Marty Lacker, Dr. George Nichopoulos, and Red West gathered around Elvis Presley.
(L-R, standing) Billy Smith, Bill Morris, Lamar Fike, Jerry Schilling, Sheriff Roy Nixon, Vernon Presley, Charlie Hodge, Sonny West, George Klein, Marty Lacker. (L-R, front) Dr. George Nichopoulos, Red West | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“He said he was coming over, so I moved into the small bedroom to give him the master bedroom,” Schilling said in the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick. “When he showed up with Billy and Red, he was just totally wired. He said, ‘I thought I told you I wanted to move back into the house.’ I said, ‘Jesus, I’ve been working to find a place for three days straight. I need to get some sleep.’ He said, ‘You do?’ I was really getting mad now, but he was like someone I didn’t know.”

Elvis eventually stormed out of the room, frustrated that Schilling wasn’t bending to his whim. 

He realized he had pushed Jerry Schilling too far

Later, Elvis told Schilling that he could stay in the house if he wanted. Furious that Elvis was permitting him to remain in the rental home that had already been his, Schilling decided to leave.

“I said, ‘You know what, Elvis? I don’t want to stay here. In fact, I’m leaving.'”

With this, Elvis seemed to recognize that he had gone too far. The realization rattled him.

“He said, ‘Well, I said you could stay,'” Schilling recalled. “His voice was shaking. He knew he had pushed me too far. I said, ‘No, I’m leaving. I’m going home.'”

The next day, Elvis said he couldn’t remember their tense conversation. Still, Schilling did not want to be there anymore.

“There was no reason for me to stay,” Schilling said. “He was tired, everybody was tired — he just didn’t want a lot of resistance. All I would have been was a pain in the neck. I said to him, ‘You know, I’ve always said, “Friendship is more important to me than the job.”‘ He said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I swear to God, I think he meant it.”

Elvis Presley’s friends were used to doing what he asked them to do

Elvis’ behavior was likely especially frustrating because Schilling had already shaped so much of his life to fit the musician’s. Everyone in his life knew that they had to do this

Jerry Schilling and Priscilla Presley wear black and stand on the carpet at the Met Gala.
Jerry Schilling and Priscilla Presley | Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

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“You had to adapt to survive,” Priscilla Presley said on Loose Women, adding, “You lived his life and honestly did not have your own life. You watched the movies he wanted to see. Listened to the music he listened to. You really kind of lost yourself.”