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George Harrison once said listening to Elvis Presley was like having a spiritual experience. One of the first rock ‘n’ roll songs George heard was an Elvis song. The Beatles idolized The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

However, the music Elvis started making in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t impress George much. He didn’t know why his idol didn’t go back to making music like he used to.

George Harrison at a press conference in 1965.
George Harrison | Donaldson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

George Harrison said Elvis Presley met his expectations and more when they first met

During a 1965 radio interview with DJ Larry Kane (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), George talked about The Beatles’ meeting with Elvis.

George said meeting his idol was “great actually, I liked it a lot because I didn’t expect him to be half as nice as he was.” Kane asked George if Elvis lived up to his expectations. George replied, “He was more … he was a bit more than I anticipated.

“I expected him to be quieter and for him to not have such an amount of noise in his house. In fact when we walked into his house it was exactly like going into ours. It was great—it was the record player, TV, and electric guitar, all playing all at once, you know …

“We had drinks, some played pool, some were playing roulette, we were playing electric guitars and playing records and watching TV—everything, you know.”

Later, in an interview with Creem Magazine, George couldn’t remember if The Beatles jammed with Elvis. However, Elvis’ stylist, Larry Geller, insists they did. Geller also claims that George spent most of the time outside in Elvis’ backyard because he wasn’t impressed with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

George Harrison didn’t know why Elvis Presley didn’t make music like he used to

Elvis might have met all of George’s expectations, but one thing about his idol was bothering him during their meeting. In his interview with Kane, George added that he asked Elvis why he didn’t play the kind of music he used to.

“We talked a little about, asking him why he didn’t record some of the older stuff or something in the old style, because we thought that was much better,” George said. “And he seemed to want to do something like that himself.

“But we didn’t really talk that much about business things, because it’s quite hard meeting people like that—hard for him or for us—it’s a bit embarrassing. But you know, so we laid off and talked about different things altogether—like about other people and other records.”


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The Beatle wanted the King to play his older music when he saw him perform in 1972

Another time, George wanted to tell Elvis about playing his older music. When George saw Elvis perform at Madison Square Garden in 1972, he wanted the King to play the older music he’d fallen in love with as a kid.

“They took me back in the intermission to meet Elvis again and he was in the back of the dress­ing room­–the big rooms with the show­ers for the footballers and stuff–and I was in the front part just talking to some of the guys,” George told Creem. “And I’m sitting there, think­ing ‘Well, where’s Elvis, then?’ And fin­ally he came out of the back and he was … immaculate.

“I felt like this real grubby little slug and he looked like Lord Siva or something. He seemed to be about eight feet tall and his hair was black and his tan was perfect and he had this big white suit, a gold belt about four feet wide and he was towering above me and I just put a hand out (cowers) and said ‘Hello, Elvis, how are you?’–­just cower­ing like this little rag­man.”

Elvis looked amazing. However, George thought his performance was anything but glamorous.

“I wanted to say to him, ‘Why don’t you just come out in your jeans and your black shirt–­get rid of all them horrible women singers in your band, all them horrible trumpet players and just have James Burton and the drummer and the bass player and the piano player? Just come out and do ‘That’s All Right, Mama.’

“But instead he came out and did (sings) ‘I did it myyy wayyyy.’ Oh, Jesus. But we all loved El­vis and it was sad to see what happened to him. We still love him and he’s still there in his spirit and in his music and best of luck to him, that’s what I say.”

George became disenchanted with most of his idols, including Elvis, when he became spiritual anyway. There was nothing that Elvis could teach George.