The year 1958 would prove to be a monumental one in the life of Elvis Presley, one which would forever alter his very personality. Much has been written about the outside world's attempt to reshape The King into a commodity, an easily tamed showbiz pro whose sense of duty, country, and family could be turned against him, effectively neutralizing his natural (and completely unconscious) tendency to create sexual and social chaos with his music and movements. But although the stewardship of his career by Col. Tom Parker, his forced induction into the Army, and his acceptance by the Hollywood establishment helped make him safe, it was something else entirely which broke his spirit once and for all -- the death of his mother, Gladys.
It's impossible to stress their connection too much. For Elvis, she was his link to the outside world; though the "Memphis Mafia" of pre-fame friends was already assembled (and large enough to play football against itself), none of them ever interacted with Elvis as an equal, much less a mentor. But Gladys was more than just his mentor, she appeared to be his only real friend. Even his father, Vernon, could not guide Elvis, only be there for him.
As a result, her death unmoored the singer in a way that the removal of his lifestyle and his hated hair and his riches couldn't. Two years in the Army? Movie stars had done that before. And, as the timeline will show, Col. Parker was absolutely correct in assuming that, by playing himself off as a straight GI, the icon's popularity would be set forever in stone for the rest of his days. So Elvis was no Samson after all, but while the powers that be badly underestimated Elvis' depth and the broad base of his appeal, they got what they wanted anyway. Presley was now utterly lost, eager to cling to anything that would make him happy, including his fans. It was a dynamic that would inform the rest of his life. And it would directly influence his untimely demise.