“I think I heard it on Atlanta TV,” he said.
Elvis died on Aug. 16, 1977 at his Graceland home in Memphis. He was 42 years old at the time. Elvis would now be 77 years old if he had lived.
However, Blackmon, 77, does remember a lot about Elvis from the time he served with him in the U.S. Army, from 1958-1960 in Friedberg, Germany. He described Elvis as “just another one of the guys.”
He recalled Wednesday that the news of Elvis being drafted into the Army and word that the famous entertainer was headed to their German base was well known before “The King of Rock and Roll” stepped off the ship.
“Our outfit got there a little before his did,” Blackmon said. “I was in artillery, and he was in the tank division.”
He recalled that Elvis lived in a hotel in Bad Nauheim, a small town a few miles down the road from their base. Elvis also brought over his father, Vernon, to live in the motel, and other members of his family.
“He’d come driving in every morning in a white MG convertible they let him have,” Blackmon said. “His barracks was next to ours and he’d park his car right near the door where we came out every morning. That’s where we’d often see him and talk with him.”
Blackmon said he only heard Elvis singing one time during his tour.
“He was driving in his convertible and singing, ‘Look Down That Lonesome Road,’” he said.
Elvis did like to play touch football with the other troops, and Blackmon remembered one day when they laid him down with a block.
“I got a friend with me and I said, ‘Let’s put him on the ground,’” he said. “We did it, but on the next play, Elvis brought two of his buddies with him and they took us down. Elvis wasn’t mad. He just said he’d get us back.”
Blackmon still has a posed photograph of himself with Elvis and several autographed items. He said Elvis was very generous in letting people take pictures and signing autographs.
“He had his picture made with anybody and everybody,” he said. “He was more friendly than many of the other soldiers. He knew everybody knew him, and he’d talk with you like he knew you, even when he didn’t.”
Blackmon remembered seeing Elvis buy huge stacks of shirts at the PX.
“We’d go to the PX on payday, and I’d get maybe two pairs of socks, a T-shirt and a fatigue shirt,” he said. “Elvis would come in, get a whole stack of shirts, take them up to the cash register and then go back for more.”
Blackmon said he realized later that Elvis was probably giving shirts with his name on them to the friends in his troop. He also remembered Elvis being a joke teller, always having a new one when they gathered around.
“One night we were going to the movies and one of Elvis’ movies was at the club,” he said. “We asked Elvis if he wanted to go, and he said, ‘No, I think I’ve seen that one.’”
He said Elvis was a gentleman and a friend to everybody he met.
“He took his whole outfit, everybody who could get off, on a vacation to Paris one time,” he said. “I guess they rented a bus.”
Blackmon said Elvis’ job in the Army was driving a captain in a Jeep around the base.
“I saw him one day, his Jeep sitting on the side of the road,” he recalled. “It was snowing like everything, and he was sitting there puffing on a cigar. That fire on his cigar was the only light you could see for miles.”
Blackmon said he never had any contact with Elvis after leaving the Army. However, a friend of Blackmon did meet Elvis in Las Vegas.
“My friend, Neal Butterworth, from Atlanta, ran into Elvis at a Las Vegas show,” he said. “Somebody told Elvis that an Army buddy was attending and he sent word out to bring him in. He sat Neal and his wife in the front row, didn’t charge them anything and recognized them during the show.”
Blackmon said Elvis was always thoughtful and polite to his superiors. He remembered that Elvis was especially good to his captain.
“He took his pink Cadillac with him over to Germany,” Blackmon said. “After he got that white MG to drive, he gave the Cadillac to his captain.”