Elvis Was Afraid to Be Around His Grandfather as a Child, Said a Graceland Maid

Elvis Presley had a close relationship with his grandmother, Dodger, both as a child and an adult. He spent many days at her home when he was growing up, and she moved into Graceland with him after fame. He did not have the same type of relationship with his grandfather. Elvis used to avoid his grandfather throughout his childhood.

Elvis felt uncomfortable around his grandfather when he was a child

When Elvis was a child in Tupelo, Mississippi, he and his parents lived close to his grandparents. Any time he felt angry with his mother, he stormed over to his grandparents’ house.

“He was so cute,” Dodger said, per the book Inside Graceland: Elvis’ Maid Remembers by Graceland maid Nancy Rooks. “He used to get mad at Gladys for whatever reason and would walk over to my house. I always knew he was upset because he would be carrying some of his clothes in a paper bag. He’d tell me he was ‘running away.’”

A black and white picture of a three-year-old Elvis Presley wearing a hat.
Elvis Presley as a child | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

Though he sought comfort at his grandparents’ home, he also tried to avoid his grandfather. He did not like to be around him when he was drunk.

“She told us that Elvis had been afraid of his grandfather, Jessie Presley, because he drank so much,” Rooks wrote, adding, “She explained that he would come home late at night after he’d been drinking and Elvis would always try and hide to stay away from him. She said that was probably why Elvis never liked being around drunk people. (It didn’t matter if you were family or not, Elvis felt very uncomfortable around them).”

Elvis had a close relationship with his grandmother 

While Elvis avoided his grandfather, he spent a great deal of time with Dodger. They grew so close that Dodger felt terrible when she disciplined him.

“One day, Elvis, on a dare, sat in the ditch and got his clothes soaking wet,” Dodger said. “I was looking after him that day and I paddled him pretty good when he came inside. He cried, and promised not to ever do it again. Because he looked so pitiful, I ended up crying myself.”

She even tried to stop Gladys Presley, Elvis’ mother, from disciplining him.

“Another time I saw Gladys spanking him,” Dodger told Rooks. “When I asked what he’d done to deserve the spanking, she told me he’d called his daddy ‘Vernon,’ instead of ‘daddy.’ I couldn’t stand to see him being whipped, so I begged Gladys not to spank him anymore.”

Elvis was excited to make his father a grandfather with the birth of his first child

Elvis didn’t have the most positive relationship with his grandfather, but he hoped to see his father, Vernon, have a better relationship with his own child. 

“You’re going to be a gray-headed granddaddy,” he told Vernon when Priscilla Presley realized she was pregnant, per the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Priscilla Presley by Peter Guralnick.

Vernon Presley wears a brown jacket and talks to Elvis Presley, who wears a red shirt and black jacket. There are several other people in the room.
Elvis and Vernon Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Vernon and his granddaughter, Lisa Marie, did have a good relationship.

“That affection also carried through to Vernon, who she called ‘papaw,’” Rooks wrote. “They had a very warm and close relationship as well. Vernon would always take time out to share a warm smile and a hug whenever she came around.”

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