When the King became a private... Elvis Presley joins the army

On this day, March 24, in 1958 Elvis Presley reported for duty at the Memphis Draft Board. Having been drafted in January that year, Presley had declined to use his celebrity status to avoid military service and boarded the bus to Kennedy Veterans Memorial Hospital along with 12 other recruits en route to their U.S Army physical exams at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas.

As one newsreel put it, "Elvis Presley no longer has that rock 'n' roll beat. The tempo is now hup, two, three, four..."

The news earlier that year of Elvis's forthcoming induction had sparked competition between the armed forces for his services; the Air Force wanted him to tour their recruitment centres, and the Navy even offered to create a specially trained 'Elvis Presley company'.

But Presley wanted no special treatment, and was happy to serve as a regular G.I. in the Army. The King of rock and roll was about to become Private Presley. But first there was the small matter of a haircut....

In what would become the most famous trip to the barbers of all time, Presley paid 65c from his own pocket to have his celebrated hair trimmed as the world looked on. Col Tom Parker had arranged for the press to be present, and before the last lock had hit the floor thousands of female fans had already started their letters requesting a piece of the legendary quiff.

The world's most famous buzz-cut.

The images of Presley's haircut are some of his most iconic, and in front of the gathered reporters he cheerfully coined the phrase "Hair today, gone tomorrow". And so it was, as the cuttings were passed to close friend and fan club President Gary Pepper to share with fans around the world.

Some of these cutting are still available today, and the King's fans can pick up a famous follicle or two from Pepper's personal collection at the website asmallpieceofhistory.com, where samples from the world's most famous haircut are available for under £50.

It's no surprise that samples of Elvis's hair are now some of the most sought after items of his memorabilia. In 2002 a bag of cuttings was sold by Homer "Gill" Gilleland (Presley's personal barber) for $115,000 during an online auction, and in 2009 a single hair from Elvis' head made $1,750 at a British auction.

Presley joining the army was a huge turning point in his career, and when he returned from military service in Germany in 1960 he discovered that an invasion had taken place in his absence; the Beatles has conquered America, and rock 'n' roll had changed forever. But that's a different story altogether...


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