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Elvis Presley played shows in Las Vegas for years, and it didn’t take long for him to tire of playing the same songs each night. By the early 1970s, Elvis was restless and distracted during his residencies in the city. He spent increasing amounts of time chatting with his audience as a way to shake up the monotony. According to his friend, Elvis didn’t even bother to learn the lyrics to many of the songs he performed.

Elvis wasn’t interested in learning his songs later in his career

After a sweepingly successful return to live performances in Las Vegas, Elvis signed on to play five years of shows at the International Hotel. It revitalized his career and made him excited about music again. This feeling lasted over a year, but the monotony of his schedule began to muddy his contentment. He lost his interest in his performances and the songs he played. Before long, he hardly even bothered to memorize lyrics.

“There were times when he had a guy named Kenny Hicks actually lying under the plexiglass stage of the hotel in Las Vegas with idiot cards with the words to the songs,” bodyguard Sonny West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy.

His bodyguard Red West explained that Elvis sometimes even read lyrics from a piece of paper as he performed. He found it shocking that audiences put up with the lack of professionalism.

A black and white picture of Elvis Presley tossing a scarf to his audience during a concert. He holds a microphone.
Elvis Presley | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

“There were even times, I heard him announce to the audience that this was a new song he was singing and he didn’t know the words so he would actually read them off a piece of paper,” Red West said. “I was amazed the audience stood for it. I’m also amazed that it never got into the newspapers. But he would just get up there and read the lyrics to a song. It was the same old thing.”

West said Elvis had grown so bored with his career that he couldn’t focus on anything but erasing this feeling.

“He was getting bored again and when he got bored that was when he was impossible to be around,” Red West said. “He would be taking all his stuff and be wired all the time and he would have us going where we wouldn’t get three hours’ sleep in three days.”

Elvis tried to avoid making one album

Elvis’ waning interest in his career did not just impact his live performances. By the mid-1970s, his bodyguards said he hardly wanted to record music. He even avoided the home recording sessions for From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee

“Toward the end, when we were doing Elvis at Home in 1976, he couldn’t give a damn,” Red West said. “He would use any excuse to hold up recording or just goof off.”

Did Elvis write any of his songs?

Part of the reason Elvis likely struggled with remembering the lyrics to his songs was because he didn’t write them

A black and white picture of Elvis playing guitar in the recording studio. He sits next to other musicians and in front of two audio technicians.
Elvis Presley | John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Elvis’ Entourage Had to ‘Con Him’ Into Bathing

“It’s all a big hoax,” he once said, per Billboard. “I get one-third of the [writing] credit just for recording [a song]. It makes me look smarter than I am!

While he didn’t write, he did play several instruments and exercised creative control over the way his songs sounded.