Elvis Presley’s Backup Singers Walked Out During a Concert After He Embarrassed Them Onstage

Elvis Presley made several rude remarks about his backup singers during a concert. His words drove them offstage given his past comments.

In the 1970s, Elvis Presley’s backup singers understood that he frequently made off-the-cuff comments during performances. It became a problem when he started making pointed and, eventually, outright rude comments about them. His remarks were so bad during one concert that many of his backup singers walked off the stage.

Elvis Presley’s backup singers walked offstage after a comment he made about them

During concerts in the mid-1970s, Elvis made a number of derogatory comments about one of his backup singers, Kathy Westmoreland. During one show, he took shots at all his backup singers. Per the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, Elvis told the audience he “smelled green peppers and onions and that his backup singers, the Sweet Inspirations, had probably been eating catfish.”

Given the comments Elvis had already been making about Westmoreland, the Sweet Inspirations worried his words would grow more insulting. Singer Estelle Brown even hung her head in embarrassment, which stoked Elvis’ ire.

“Estelle, Sweet Inspirations, Stamps, if you don’t look up, I’m going to kick your a**,” he said.

Brown left the stage, prompting Elvis to say, “Sorry for any embarrassment I might have caused, but if you can’t take it, get off the pot.”

With this, Westmoreland and Sylvia Shemwell walked offstage, leaving just Myrna Smith to sing with him for the rest of the performance.

Elvis Presley had been specifically targeting one of his backup singers during concerts

Given Elvis’ past treatment of Westmoreland, it’s not surprising that she didn’t want to be onstage with him. He had an on-and-off again relationship with her and began making crude jokes about her to the audience during their “off” period.

“She will take affection from anybody, any place, any time,” he told the audience in several concerts. “In fact, she gets it from the whole band.”

After the second show, during which Elvis added, “I mean affection, you fool,” Westmoreland demanded that he stop.

“After the show in Nassau I grabbed the nearest bodyguard … and said, ‘Get the word to him, tell Elvis to stop doing this to me,” she recalled. “‘Tell him I’ve had it.’”

While someone did mention this to Elvis, it only seemed to further incense him.

He didn’t want to apologize for his behavior

After the performance in which Elvis told the audience that his backup singers stunk, Brown, Westmoreland, and Shemwell wanted to quit. Jerry Schilling, who was in Elvis’ Memphis Mafia, tried to reason with the musician. Unfortunately, he was furious with the singers for walking off during the concert.

“He wouldn’t apologize,” Schilling said. “He wanted me to be his emissary, but I said, ‘No, Elvis, I think this one is yours.’ He said, ‘To hell with them. Myrna can just come out with me. Who needs the Sweets in the show anyway?’”

Eventually, though, Elvis did apologize, and the Sweet Temptations agreed to continue performing with him.

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