Secret to Elvis Presley’s closest relationships traces back to a strong bond

Elvis and his mother Gladys Presley (Texas Elvis Fan Club archives)

Elvis called only three women “Satnin”

“…so protective and almost clingy to Elvis.”–First cousin Harold Loyd, 1976

 

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The secret to Elvis Presley’s closest relationships with the women in his life might be traced back to the strong bond with his mother.

Elvis was home in early May, 1976 when this writer first met with the King of Rock n’ Roll and some of his family members. His first cousin, Harold Loyd, was pointing to the grass beyond the curb on the opposite side of the driveway from the guard shack–just inside the famous musical gates of Presley’s home, Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

“She used to come down here and set in a lawn chair over there and talk to the fans,” Loyd, the on-duty security guard for Graceland that evening, reminisced. “Many times the fans didn’t even know who she was and they’d be talking to her for a good while thinking she was a fan like them. Sometimes they’d find out she was his mother and they just wouldn’t believe it.”

Loyd was sharing some memories of his Aunt Gladys Presley and the sister of his own mother Rhetha. The two sisters were extremely close from the Smith family of eight siblings. Their brother, Travis Smith, was one of the first security guards at the gate. Gladys would walk down from Graceland, sometimes alone or with others, to sit and visit with Travis near the guardhouse.

Elvis and his mother Gladys in 1956 (Texas Elvis Fan Club archives)

“Our grandparents, the father and mother of our mothers, were Bob and Doll Smith,” Loyd explained.  “We were about as poor as you’ve ever seen and Grandma was sick with TB (tuberculous) most of the time. Grandpa Smith sold moonshine to make ends meet because there were no jobs and Grandma needed help to be cared for, especially with all those eight kids.”

“She used to sing him that song ‘Mama’s little baby loves shortin’ bread, but she would change it up sometimes for him and sing ‘Mama’s little baby has satnin skin,” Loyd laughed. “He would sing it back to her and that became about all he would call her was ‘Satnin.’”

“When my momma died, it was like Aunt Gladys was as lost and alone as any of us,” Loyd said. “I think she would have died from a broken heart, but when Elvis was born, she was suddenly herself again.”

Loyd supposed the loss of Elvis’s twin brother, Jesse Garon, and the death of her sister Rhetha, is what made her “so protective and almost clingy to Elvis.”

“He couldn’t go nowhere without her being there with him,” Loyd continued. “It was something like most people have ever seen, but it was natural to see Aunt Gladys and little Elvis petting each other and calling each other nicknames.”

Gladys and Elvis, 1956 (Texas Elvis Fan Club archives)

“She used to sing him that song ‘Mama’s little baby loves shortin’ bread, but she would change it up sometimes for him and sing ‘Mama’s little baby has satnin skin,” Loyd laughed. “He would sing it back to her and that became about all he would call her was ‘Satnin.’”

Elvis lost the love of his life when his mother Gladys died on Aug. 14, 1958. “Satnin’s gone,” he cried.

It was his 1956 girlfriend, Biloxi, Mississippi’s own June Juanico, that Elvis gave the nickname “Satnin” the same as he called his mother. Juanico said that while on a Memphis date in May 1956, Elvis first called her “My beautiful little Satnin.”

Only one other woman in Elvis’ life was called Satnin, and it was the lady he would eventually marry and have a child with, Priscilla Beaulieu. He also called her “Nungen,” his baby-talk for “young one.” Memphis Mafia member Alan Fortas once said that “Fire Eyes” was one of Priscilla’s pet names for Elvis. He also called her ‘Cilla’ and ‘Little One.’

 

Graceland

Sun Studio, Memphis, TN

Memphis Zoo

 

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