WWhile his fans worshiped him as a rock ‘n’ roll god, Elvis Presley said a prayer before stepping on stage, read the Bible, and, his stepbrother recalls, sought God’s guidance in everything he did.
“When we saw him put his head down, we knew it,” said Billy Stanley, who also worked for the singer observer, noting that Presley did not recite the prayer aloud. “It was probably about 15 seconds long. I once asked him, ‘Why do you pray beforehand?’ He said: “It kind of calms my nerves, but I also want God to help bless this concert, so make it a good one.” He always turned to God when he needed help.”
Presley once told him that a show is like a first date: “You never really know how the date will turn out, but you always hope it will be good.”
Although Presley’s love of gospel music is well known, Stanley believes the depth of his Christian faith is unrealized. “He relied on God for everything,” he said. “This is where he drew his strength. Elvis was so thankful for what the Lord had given him. He thanked God every day and constantly sought God’s guidance through prayer and Bible reading.”
He added: “Everyone was looking at the glitz and glamour [of Presley]. They did not look at the man and did not try to understand his beliefs. After spending 17 years with someone, you get to know them pretty well.”
Stanley’s glimpses of life with his famous stepbrother will be outlined in a forthcoming book. The Faith of Elvisappears in October.
The king of rock ‘n’ roll modernized blues, country and bluegrass, sparking musical revolution and mass hysteria with his extraordinary voice, stage presence, matinee idol looks and hip movements. He died suddenly in 1977 at the age of 42, but his popularity endured and inspired Baz Luhrmann’s latest film. elvis.
Stanley was seven when he and his two younger brothers, Ricky and David, moved into Presley’s Memphis mansion, Graceland, in 1960, the year their mother, Dee, married Presley’s father, Vernon.
Presley was 25 and had already found fame with hits like Heartbreak Hotel and Love Me Tender. Stanley recalls, “He took me and my brothers in his arms and said, ‘Daddy, I always wanted a little brother. Now I have three!’ ”
As their big brother and mentor, he taught them “the value of laughter,” offering advice on relationships — “Be protective of women… make ’em laugh.” If you can do that, they will love you forever”—and boosted their confidence by telling them, “With God all things are possible.”
He would take them to bedtime prayers and read the Bible with them, sometimes acting out their characters. “It was quite an experience having Elvis as a Sunday school teacher,” Stanley said.
When they first arrived at Graceland, he and his brothers were too young to know who Presley was. They were confused by fans waiting at the gates and in the trees outside Graceland. Presley told his stepbrothers, “I’m just an entertainer.”
In 1961, at the age of eight, Stanley attended his first Presley concert: “All of a sudden the lights went out and people started screaming. That scared us, so we looked back at Mom and Vernon. They gave us a look that said everyone was fine.”
Afterwards, Stanley Presley asked why everyone was screaming: “He was smiling. “Some people do that when they like something.” ”
He recalls that Presley was such a perfectionist that he would never listen to his own recordings: “One time I asked him, ‘Elvis, how come you don’t listen to your own stuff?’ He said: “Billy, I know I can always do better. When I hear my own music I just want to fix it. But I can’t because it’s already been done.’ ”
Stanley would hear Presley singing, usually gospel songs, all around the house: “This is how he would relax after a concert. He sang gospel songs until the sun came up.”
He added that while Presley enjoyed playing rock ‘n’ roll songs like Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock, his “heart and soul was always with gospel music,” which he likened to “singing the Bible.” .
Presley struggled with addiction and his playboy image, and whenever he faced self-doubt or anything negative, he prayed, Stanley said. But Presley never went to church with his brothers, telling Stanley, “I’m afraid if I go in, people will pay more attention to me than to the preacher.”