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Elvis Presley and his entourage were on a road trip to Las Vegas when the singer realized he didn’t have one of his bags with him. Rather than reacting to it as a minor frustration, Elvis lashed out at his entourage for forgetting it. The pills he took were in the bag. Elvis turned the car around and spent the drive back making his entourage regret forgetting the bag.

Elvis was not happy with his entourage on a car trip

In 1960, Elvis and his entourage decided to drive to Las Vegas shortly after the singer wrapped filming for G.I. Blues.

“Well, we take off in high spirits, and halfway there we stop at Barstow,” bodyguard Sonny West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy. “Elvis asks [his cousin Gene Smith] to give him his kit bag. It was Gene’s responsibility to look after Elvis’s kit bag. Elvis said that he wanted to brush his teeth or something. Well, we really knew what he wanted. He kept his uppers in his kit bag.”

The anticipatory mood immediately shifted when Smith realized he had forgotten the bag in Los Angeles. Elvis did not handle the discovery well.

A black and white picture of Elvis sitting in a chair surrounded by his entourage. (L-R, standing) Billy Smith, former sheriff 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.
Elvis and his entourage | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“Instead of shrugging it off, Elvis really got mad, so mad that he said for us to get back in the car. We were not going to Vegas now. We were going back to L.A.,” West said, adding, “We were all down. So after being halfway there, he decides to drive back because he hadn’t got his little kit bag with his pills in it. Elvis decides to do the driving, and he is cussing and yelling at us.”

Elvis blamed everyone for the mistake and wouldn’t let them doze off as he drove.

“We’re down and we’re tired and Gene starts to doze off,” West recalled. “Every time he does, Elvis hits him on the chest with the back of his hand and yells at him, ‘There will be no goddamn sleep, do you hear?’ Old Gene jerks awake. ‘No, boss.’ Joe in the back is dozing off and chewing gum at the same time. ‘Joe, goddamn it, I said no sleeping.’”

West said Elvis behaved this way for the entirety of the drive.

Elvis and his entourage hardly slept on the trip

When the group arrived at their hotel in LA, everyone collapsed into bed. Just as they were falling asleep, though, they received word that Elvis had changed his mind. They would be traveling to Las Vegas after all. 

According to West, Elvis passed out stimulants to everyone and they piled back in the car. They arrived in the city that morning and spent the rest of the weekend gambling and playing cards. They slept just a few hours over the course of the weekend. 

Sonny West said Elvis had extensive knowledge of the medication he took

West and the rest of the entourage would eventually develop deep concern over Elvis’ drug use. At this point in their lives, though, they all saw it as harmless. Elvis and the entourage felt they needed them to keep up with their busy schedules. He also had extensive knowledge about everything he took.

A black and white picture of Elvis from the chest up. Half his face is in shadow.
Elvis Presley | RB/Redferns

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“I have seen him with literally dozens of bottles of every different kind of pill,” West said. “Now, he knows a lot about them. He knows what pill to mix with another pill. He knows the dosages and the exact result.”

Priscilla Presley said Elvis used his knowledge as a way to deflect people’s concerns. 

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.