DID ELVIS EVER TRY ACID? Apparently, yes. Elvis and LSD pop up in questions and conversations on the Internet, so I am publishing this short piece addressing the topic. While his name is probably forever linked with the misuse of prescription drugs—many of us heard the word ‘polypharmacy’ for the first time in relation to Presley’s death—Elvis also experimented briefly with the marijuana and LSD, both illegal at the time of the experimentation.
This little “experiment” has received very little attention from his biographers. According to Elvis News, it happened on December 26, 1966. Elvis tried some pharmaceutical grade LSD-25 acid with Priscilla, Larry Geller, and Jerry Schilling:
“Elvis had a small party at Graceland with food provided by Monty’s Catering. Sometime over this period of Christmas time, Elvis tried LSD. He had read about it for almost a year and wanted to try it himself. Afterwards, they watched [the movie The Time Machine] and ordered pizza.
Later Elvis, Larry, Priscilla, and Jerry walked out behind Graceland and talked about having such good friends and how much they all cared about each other. As for anybody knows this was the only time Elvis experienced with LSD.”
Priscilla devoted a few discreet paragraphs to the event in her 1985 book Elvis And Me (page 213):
“During this period when he was still seeking ‘a higher state of consciousness,’ we experimented with mind-expanding drugs. We tried marijuana a few times and neither of us especially liked it. We felt tired and groggy and we’d become ravenously hungry. After a few raids on the refrigerator—and carrying the resulting extra poundage—we decided to stay away from the stuff.
Although he abhorred street drugs he was curious enough to try LSD once. When he initiated our experiment, he made sure Sonny West was on hand at all times to supervise. The night we tried it Lamar, Jerry, Larry, Elvis, and I took seats around the conference table in Elvis’ office upstairs at Graceland.
“We gathered around the large aquarium—there were only two or three, but I saw an ocean of brightly colored fish.”
Elvis and I took half a tab. At first, nothing happened. Then we started staring at each other and laughing—our faces were becoming distorted. I became engrossed in Elvis’ multicolored shirt. It started to grow, getting larger and larger until I thought he was going to burst. It was captivating, but I did not like the feeling. I thought: This isn’t real, be careful, you’re losing it. I tried to hang on to sanity.
We gathered around the large aquarium outside the master bedroom, fascinated by the tropical fish. Funny—there were only two or three, but suddenly I saw an ocean of brightly colored fish. I strolled off and found myself in Elvis’ huge walk-in closet, purring like a kitten.
It was early morning when Elvis and I went downstairs and walked outside. Dew came down, creating rainbows in the mist, glistening on the trees and the lawn. We studied the leaves, trying to count each dewdrop. The veins in the grass became visible, breathing slowly, rhythmically. We went from tree to tree, observing nature in detail.
It was an extraordinary experience. However, realizing it was too dangerous a drug to fool around with, we never tried LSD again.”
First hardcover edition of Elvis And Me (David Bruce Smith Publications, 1985).
That focused third eye
Like many celebrities who tried acid, it wasn’t talked about by Elvis or his buddies, although some people remember Elvis as being very enthusiastic about his experience and recommending it to friends. Jerry Schilling recalled:
“Elvis and I started having an entire conversation just by laughing. I stared at Elvis, and he seemed to morph into a child. He was this plump little boy, at times insecure. The more I stared, the more he changed. Eventually, I saw him as a baby smiling back at me, contented as could be.”
It apparently had no immediate effect on his career, and the closest he ever came to making music that sounded remotely psychedelic was Edge Of Reality. It was used in a trippy dream sequence in the movie Live A Little, Love A Little (1968), which today looks more like ’60s kitsch than ’60s psychedelia.
But that can be said about many (if not most) attempts by rock artists to put the LSD experience into visual form—a viewing of the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour movie of 1967 is a perfect example. Or give Mick Jagger singing Memo From Turner in the movie Performance (produced in 1968 but not released until 1970), which is not only psychedelic kitsch but homoerotic kitsch to boot!
As a big fan of both Elvis and LSD, I’d like to see some creative people conceive a few plays or even a movie about the possibilities of Elvis on acid in the ’60s. I won’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen, but if these lines inspire you to do such a thing, throwing a little credit my way would be nice. Finally, if you don’t get the reference in the title, click HERE.Elvis walked outside. The veins in the grass became visible, breathing slowly, rhythmically. Click To Tweet
FEATURED IMAGE: There are very few examples of Elvis ar that I consider psychedelic, but this painting by Ron English titled “Elvis Elvis #3” works just fine, especially with that focused third eye.