5 Bizarre Elvis Presley Concert Appearances

Elvis Presley in concert in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 27, 1977.
Elvis Presley in concert in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 27, 1977.
Ronald C. Modra, Getty Images

In the world of entertainment, they don’t come much bigger than Elvis Presley. The singer, who was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, had dozens of hit songs like 1969's "Suspicious Minds," starred in several movies like 1957's Jailhouse Rock, and engendered a loyal fan base that flocked to his concerts even as his purported drug use began to have an adverse effect on his health—and possibly his behavior—in the years leading up to his death from heart failure at age 42 on August 16, 1977. Several of Presley’s live appearances have become notorious for his off-the-cuff commentary. Take a look at a few times the King puzzled audiences as much as he entertained them.

1. Airing Dirty Laundry

Fans of Presley who showed up for a concert in Richfield, Ohio, on July 18, 1975 were greeted by a singer who apparently had an ax—or an ex—to grind. Presley had been feuding with Kathy Westmoreland, a soprano back-up singer who once dated Presley but had since moved on to another member of the band. That night, a jilted Presley introduced her and then offered his personal thoughts. “She will take affection from anybody, any place, any time,” he told the audience. “In fact, she gets it from the whole band.” Presley repeated the insult the following night in Uniondale, New York. The third night, in Norfolk, Virginia, he continued his verbal assault, this time making more graphic sexual remarks in a lowered voice. Westmoreland walked off the stage but eventually stayed on the tour.

2. The Catfish Incident

The same night Presley belittled Kathy Westmoreland in Norfolk, Virginia, he also turned his sights on the Sweet Inspirations, a quartet of gospel singers who performed with him. Presley told the audience he smelled green peppers and onions and that the Sweet Inspirations had probably been eating catfish. While some people believed Presley intended it as a racial slur, the Sweets thought it was something else. "Neither Kathy nor the Sweets knew exactly what he meant by the 'catfish' remark," Peter Guralnick, Presley's biographer, wrote. "None of them thought it was racial—they just knew it was hostile, and there was an ugly undertone not just to that comment but to his whole demeanor."

When one of the Sweet Inspirations, Estelle Brown, grew visibly distraught, Presley lashed out. “Estelle, Sweet Inspirations, [all-male quintet back-up group] Stamps, if you don’t look up, I’m going to kick your ass,” he said. Brown then walked out, prompting Presley to issue a non-apology. “Sorry for any embarrassment I might have caused, but if you can’t take it, get off the pot.” More singers walked out, though the Sweet Temptations did wind up continuing with the tour.

3. Armed and Dangerous

It was no secret that Elvis Presley enjoyed owning and handling guns. He reportedly liked to shoot television sets if he saw something he didn’t like and often carried weapons on stage with him after receiving a death threat in 1970. During one 1977 concert, Presley was gyrating when a .22 caliber derringer pistol popped out of his boot and landed directly in front of guitarist John Wilkinson. The gun remained on stage for 20 minutes before being retrieved.

4. Rambling Elvis

While appearing in College Park, Maryland, on September 28, 1974, Presley’s banter with the audience took on new and even more peculiar twists. Addressing a newspaper reviewer who had complained about Presley's large midsection at the previous night’s concert, Presley explained it was from a bulletproof vest and called the writer “a son of a bitch.” When requests from the audience grew annoying, Presley cautioned them. “If you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to walk offstage and go back to my dressing room and play with my foot,” he said.

5. Viva Las Vegas

In 1973, Presley was winding down the end of a lengthy residency at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Toward the end of his stint, he had become ornery for a number of reasons. The Hilton was about to fire a waiter named Mario, whom Presley had grown fond of. And as he was about to become a free agent, the King was also dissatisfied with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and wanted to get out of the Vegas scene. All of this made for a temperamental Presley when he arrived onstage on September 3, 1973. After complaining that “the sound system of this hotel ain’t worth a damn,” Presley modified the lyrics to “Love Me Tender.” Rather than stick to the original song, Presley sang: “Adios you motha, bye bye poppa, too. To hell with the Hilton Hotel and screw the showroom, too.”

Before finishing, Presley made a plea for Mario to remain employed. He was off the road for five months. When he came back, it was for another season at the Hilton.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

7 People Killed by Musical Instruments

On occasion, a piano has been a literal instrument of death.
On occasion, a piano has been a literal instrument of death.
Pixabay, Pexels // Public Domain

We’re used to taking it figuratively. One “slays” on guitar, is a “killer” pianist, or wants to “die” listening to a miraculous piece of music. History, though, is surprisingly rich with examples of people actually killed by musical instruments. Some were bludgeoned and some crushed; others were snuffed out by the sheer effort of performing or while an instrument was devilishly played to cover up the crime. Below are seven people who met their end thanks to a musical instrument.

1. Elizabeth Jackson // Struck with a Flute

A German flute.The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments (1889), Metropolitan Museum of Art // Public Domain

David Mills was practicing his flute the night of March 25, 1751, when he got into a heated argument with fellow servant Elizabeth Jackson. A woman “given to passion,” she threw a candlestick at Mills after he said something rude. He retaliated by striking her left temple with his flute before the porter and the footman pulled them apart. Jackson lived for another four hours, able to walk but not make sensible speech. Her fellow servants decided to bleed her, a sadly ineffective treatment for skull fractures. “Her s[k]ull was remarkably thin,” the surgeon testified at Mills’s trial.

2. Louis Vierne // Exhausted by an Organ Recital

Louis Vierne plays the organ of St.-Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris, France.Source: gallica.bnf.fr, Bibliothèque nationale de France // Public Domain

Reputed to be the king of instruments, the organ requires a performer with an athletic endurance—more than 67-year-old Louis Vierne had to give during a recital at Notre Dame cathedral on June 2, 1937. He collapsed (likely of a heart attack) after playing the last chord of a piece. With a Gallic appreciation for tragedy, one concertgoer noted the piece “bears a title which, given the circumstance, seems like fate and takes on an oddly disturbing meaning: ‘Tombstone for a dead child’!” As Vierne’s lifeless feet fell upon the pedalboard “a low whimper was heard from the admirable instrument, which seemed to weep for its master,” the concertgoer wrote.

3. James “Jimmy the Beard” Ferrozzo // Crushed by a Piano

The exterior of the Condor Club in 1973.Michael Holley, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Getting crushed by a piano is usually the stuff of cartoons, but what happened to James Ferrozzo is somehow even stranger than a cartoon. “A nude, screaming dancer found trapped under a man’s crushed body on a trick piano pinned against a nightclub ceiling was too drunk to remember how she got there,” the AP reported the day after the 1983 incident. The dancer was a new employee at San Francisco’s Condor Club (said to be one of the first, if not the first, topless bar). The man was her boyfriend, the club’s bouncer. And the trick piano was part of topless-dancing pioneer Carol Doda’s act—a white baby grand that lowered her from the second floor. During Ferrozzo’s assignation with the dancer, the piano’s switch was somehow activated, lifting him partway to heaven before deadly contact with the ceiling sent him the rest of the way.

4. Linos // Killed with a Lyre

A student and his music teacher, holding a lyre—potentially Herakles and Linos.Petit Palais, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

One of the greatest music teachers of mythic Ancient Greece, Linos took on Herakles as a pupil. According to the historian Diodorus Siculus, the demi-god “was unable to appreciate what was taught him because of his sluggishness of soul,” and so after a harsh reprimand he flew into a rage and beat Linos to death with his lyre. Herakles dubiously used a sort of ancient stand-your-ground law as a defense during trial and was exonerated. Poor Linos: an honest man beaten by a lyre.

5. Sophia Rasch // Suffocated While a Piano Muffled her Screams

Pixabay, Pexels

No one better proves George Bernard Shaw’s quip that “hell is full of musical amateurs” than Susannah Koczula. “I have seen Susannah trying to play the piano several times—she could not play,” 10-year-old Carl Rasch testified at Koczula’s 1894 trial. Susannah, the Rasch’s caregiver, distracted little Carl, sister Clara, and their neighborhood friend Woolf with an impromptu performance while a gruesome scene unfolded upstairs: Koczula’s husband tied and suffocated Carl and Clara’s mother, Sophia Rasch, before making off with her jewelry. “She banged the piano,” explained Woolf. “I heard no halloaing.”

6. Marianne Kirchgessner // A Nervous Disorder Acquired Playing the Glass Armonica

According to one doctor, Ben Franklin's instrument caused "a great degree of nervous weakness."Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Benjamin Franklin invented the glass harmonica, or armonica, in 1761, unleashing a deadly scourge upon the musical world. “It was forbidden in several countries by the police,” wrote music historian Karl Pohl in 1862, while Karl Leopold Röllig warned in 1787 that “It’s not just the gentle waves of air that fill the ear, but the charming vibrations and constant strain of the bowls upon the already delicate nerves of the fingers that combine to produce diseases which are terrible, maybe even fatal.” In 1808, when Marianne Kirchgessner, Europe’s premiere glass armonica virtuoso, died at the age of 39, many suspected nervousness brought on by playing the instrument.

7. Charles Ratherbee // Lung Disease Possibly Caused by Playing the Trumpet

A valve trumpet made by Elbridge G. Wright, circa 1845.Purchase, Robert Alonzo Lehman Bequest (2002), Metropolitan Museum of Art // Public Domain

One summer day in 1845, Charles Ratherbee, a trumpeter, got into a fight with Joseph Harvey, who rented space in a garden from Ratherbee and was sowing seeds where the trumpeter had planned to plant potatoes. When confronted, Harvey became upset and knocked Ratherbee to the ground with his elbow. Two weeks and five days later, Ratherbee was dead.

Harvey was arrested for Ratherbee’s death, but a doctor pinpointed another killer: An undiagnosed lung disease made worse by his musical career. “The blowing of a trumpet would decidedly increase [the disease],” the surgeon testified at Harvey’s manslaughter trial. When asked if he was “in a fit state to blow a trumpet” the surgeon replied bluntly, “No.” Harvey was acquitted and given a suspended sentence for assault. The trumpet was never charged.