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In 1957, Elvis Presley’s career was soaring, but his undeniable success did little to lift his spirits, as he told his minister. Though he was now both a singer, actor, and proud owner of Graceland, everything Elvis had worked hard to achieve seemed on the verge of slipping through his fingers. Here’s what led him to describe himself as completely miserable.

Elvis Presley confided in his minister about success

In 1956, Elvis’ rising career took off in earnest. His music sales were setting records, he had starred in his debut film, and he sparked hysteria wherever he went.

“[1956 was the year] when everything took off,” his bodyguard Red West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy. “Everything he touched turned to gold, he couldn’t do a thing wrong.”

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

Elvis had an enviable career, but it quickly became a stressor.

“[Success] just scares me,” he told reporters, per the book The Colonel by Alanna Nash. He added that the hysteria surrounding him “makes me want to cry. How does all this happen to me?”

His career did not slow in 1957, though his personal life became more challenging to navigate. His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, did not approve of his new girlfriend, Dottie Harmony. The prospect of military service loomed. And, worst of all, his mother was in ill health. All of this dampened his excitement about his career.

“I am the most miserable young man you have ever seen,” Elvis told his minister, Reverend James Hamill.

It’s no surprise that Elvis turned to his minister

Elvis’ decision to confide in his minister comes as little surprise. He grew up attending church with his family and continued to practice his religion as an adult. He reportedly prayed before each performance. 

“When we saw him bow his head, then we knew,” Elvis associate Billy Stanley said, per The Guardian. “It was probably about 15 seconds long. I asked him once, ‘Why do you say the prayer before?’ He said: ‘It kind of settles my nerves but also I want God to help bless this concert, so make it a good one.’ He always turned to God whenever he needed help.”

Elvis’ faith was such an important part of his life that he turned to a religious leader to guide him through his struggles. 

He never felt comfortable with fame

Fame placed a strain on Elvis early in his career. This feeling never fully went away. According to Priscilla Presley, Elvis never warmed to his fame. He tried to keep his private life separate from his public one.

“He just never got into the fame thing,” she said, per Express. “He performed, but if you look back he hardly did any interviews.”

Elvis Presley wears a white shirt and stands in front of a map in the film 'Girls! Girls! Girls!'
Elvis Presley | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

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Privacy was a rare luxury for Elvis. Even when he was home, fans and photographers gathered outside his gates, hoping to catch sight of him.

“He did what he was supposed to do, but he wasn’t into it,” Priscilla said. “He was a very private person.”