How Elvis Inspired Bye Bye Birde

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The Broadway smash musical Bye Bye Birdie was actually inspired by Elvis Presley being drafted. The King of Rock and Roll received his draft notice on December 20, 1957 while in Tennessee. Fans flooded the Army with requests to spare their idol, but Elvis took up the call at the height of his career.

He later said, “People were expecting me to mess up, to goof up in one way or another. They thought I couldn’t take it and so forth, and I was determined to go to any limits to prove otherwise. Not only to the people who were wondering but to myself.”

While away, his manager continued to release Presley’s music, so the public didn’t forget the crooner. Of course, his fans didn’t forget him (some women even followed him and tried to get onto the base), and the mail for Presley’s company went from one bag to fifteen.

When the film adaption of Bye Bye Birdie was being cast, the producers approached the King to play the part. By some accounts, Presley was interested, but his manager Colonel Tom Parker nixed the idea because he felt the parody wouldn’t be flattering.

The role instead went to Jesse Pearson who played the role when the musical went on a national tour.

While Elvis didn’t get a chance to work with Ann-Margret this time, he did eventually team up with her the next year for Viva Las Vegas (read about that here).