“Drew Pearson on Elvis”


     Drew Pearson was one of the best-known American newspaper columnists of his day, noted for his muckraking stories that appeared in his “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column.  In that column, he frequently attacked public officials and politicians for alleged malfeasance and other improprities, sometimes with little real proof.  He also had a program on NBC Radio entitled Drew Pearson Comments.  A favorite Pearson tactic was to reveal the details of a subject’s sexual activities for the purpose of public embarrassment or intimidation.

Drew Pearson and his “Merry-Go-Round” on Time cover, 13 Dec 1948.
Drew Pearson and his “Merry-Go-Round” on Time cover, 13 Dec 1948.
     Although he became known mostly for his political and foreign affairs stories, occasionally he ventured into other realms as well.  Here above, in a 12-minute news-style TV version of his “Washington Merry-Go-Round,” Pearson takes on the topic of Elvis Presley.  He mentions the nation’s concern at the time for “juvenile delinquency” and frequently uses the term “vulgar” to describe Presley’s activities.  In his commentary, Pearson also mentions that a local judge in Jacksonville, Florida had threatened to put Presley in jail for his stage act. ( See “Elvis Riles Florida” at this website for that story).

     The Pearson commentary is instructive, however, in that it provides a pretty good overview of Elvis’ career at that time, with Pearson offering some predictions and advice to Elvis on the order of “clean up your act kid, and maybe you’ll make it.”  But interestingly, Pearson also describes a bit of the media and TV competition then going on between Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen.  Pearson, in fact, blames the media, for what he suggests, but does not say, is “the Elvis problem.”  Says Pearson in the video: “…It’s not exactly Elvis’ fault that he has suddenly shot to fame and fortune and influence over girls.  But rather, it’s the fault of the big music companies, the TV MCs, and the business managers who are looking for profits and high ratings…”

     Drew Pearson remained a controversial figure throughout his news career; a columnist who infuriated all manner of politicians, from President Dwight D. Eisenhower to then California Governor Ronald Reagan.  At the time of Pearson’s death in 1969 his written column was syndicated in more than 650 newspapers, more than twice as many as any other columnist, with an estimated 60 million readers.  A Harris Poll by Time magazine in 1969 indicated Pearson was America’s best-known newspaper columnist.  See “Sources” below for links to more history on Pearson’s career. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank You. – Jack Doyle


Related Stories

See also at this website, three other stories related to Elvis Presley – “Elvis on the Road, 1955-1956” (the travels, concerts and music of early Elvis Presley), and “Elvis Riles Florida, 1955-1956” (Elvis & band come to Jacksonville to perform at the Florida Theater, but face arrest warrants there if he “gyrates” too suggestively on stage). Another Elvis-related story – “They Go To Graceland: Elvis Home a Big Draw” – explores the history and some recent notable visitors to Presley’s Graceland estate in Tennessee.


Video Source

The original source for this video is found at YouTube.com.

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Date Posted: 1 February 2013
Last Update: 4 February 2019
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Drew Pearson on Elvis, 1956,”
PopHistoryDig.com, February 1, 2013.




Sources, Links & Additional Information

“Drew Pearson (journalist),” Wikipedia.org.

Cover Story, “The Press: Querulous Quaker,” Time, Monday, December 13, 1948.

Jim Heintze, “Biography of Drew Pearson,” American University Library, February 9, 2006.

“Columnists: The Tenacious Muckraker,” Time, September 12, 1969.

Frank L Kluckhohn and Jay Franklin, The Drew Pearson Story, Chas. Hallberg & Co., 1967.

Herman Klurfeld, Behind The Lines: The World of Drew Pearson, Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Oliver Pilat, Drew Pearson: The Sensational Life of a Headline-Making Columnist, An Unauthorized Biography, Paperback, Pocket Books, October 1, 1973.

Tyler Abell (ed.), Drew Pearson Diaries:1949-1959, New York: Holt, Rinehart &Winston, Inc., 1974.

Jack Doyle, “Elvis Riles Florida, 1955-1956,” PopHistoryDig.com, February 29, 2012.