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While Elvis Presley did not seem egotistical in the early years of his career, his bodyguards said he became big-headed as time passed. Their once polite, easygoing boss became demanding and prone to anger. By the 1970s, everyone had to be very careful with the way they behaved around the singer. They shared why this was so sad to see.

Elvis began to seem big-headed as the years went by

While Elvis always had a bit of a temper, Elvis’ bodyguards rarely saw it in their early years with the performer. By the 1970s, though, they were well acquainted with his fits of rage

“At first, man, we would only see flashes of those rages. But later on it was terrible,” his bodyguard Sonny West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy. “He would go into rages when things didn’t go his way. He would wreck a goddamn roof or fire his guns off like a madman.”

Elvis Presley wears a white jumpsuit and holds a microphone.
Elvis Presley | Fotos International/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Another bodyguard, Red West, said the drugs Elvis took greatly exacerbated his temper.

“You could talk to him quiet, sensibly, about something and maybe that night you would say something that didn’t quite go along with his way of thinking or doing things, but he would talk calmly about it and sort of see your way of looking at something,” he said. “Then he would go to bed and get out of it on his so-called medicine, and the next day, man, wow. He would stew on something all night and then it would work up inside of him and he would lose total reason and just explode. On those days you would try to keep out of his way.”

Red West believed these fits were ego-driven. Elvis wanted his entourage to treat him like a celebrity, not a friend. 

“Now, I don’t mean he was selfish and big-headed all the time,” Red said. “But he took to fits of anger that none of us had ever seen before. He wanted to be treated as something special. Of course, he was something special, but he had never demanded that special attention.”

Elvis’ entourage said he became so demanding that he seemed big-headed

One of the ways Elvis tried to display dominance over his entourage was by making constant demands of them.

“He got to smoking those stubby little cigars and if nobody didn’t light it for him straightaway, he would sit there and he would seethe,” Sonny said, “Then finally he would blow up and yell ‘Am I going to sit here all day with this dry motherf***** in my mouth with nobody lighting it for me? If I am, then you can all get your a**es out of here.’”

He did the same thing when he wanted something like a glass of water.

“It would be the same with a simple glass of water,” Sonny said. “The glass would be in front of him. He would stay quiet and then yell, ‘Am I going to die of thirst or is some sonofab**** going to pour some water for me?’”

He tried to make up for his angry outbursts

Elvis rarely verbally apologized for these outbursts. Still, he tried to make it up to the members of his entourage with gifts.

A black and white picture of Billy Smith, Bill Morris, Lamar Fike, Jerry Schilling, Roy Nixon, Vernon Presley, Charlie Hodge, Sonny West, George Klein, Marty Lacker, Dr. George Nichopoulos, Red West gathered around Elvis, who sits in the center.
(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 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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“After one of his wild temper fits, he will never say, ‘Hey, man, I was wrong, I’m sorry.’ But then one day you will be walking through an automobile showroom and he’ll say something like ‘Hey, man, that looks great, that car, don’t it?’” Red said. “And somebody will say back to him, ‘Sure does, Elvis.’ The next minute, he’ll tell you, ‘Look, you fix up the paperwork, it’s yours, you deserve it.’ That’s it. There is no argument, just ‘It’s yours, man.’”

Red said that people were quick to accept this method of apologizing.