Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley: When the Chairman met the King

music news 03/04/2019

When the rock 'n' roll phenomenon, led by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and Chuck Berry, exploded onto the music scene in the mid-1950s, the music business's already established artists met it with both alarm and suspicion - Frank Sinatra among them.

Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board, invited Presley, the King of Rock'n'Roll to be a special guest on the last of four TV shows sponsored by watchmakers Timex, broadcast in the US. The famous photo of the pair together, above, was taken at Miami's Fontainebleau Hotel on the 26th March 1960 when they appeared in 'The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis'. 

The show brought two of America's most famous singing superstars together in public for the first time. It was devised as a homecoming celebration, marking Presley's return to the US after two years in Germany serving with the US military.

Sinatra changed his tune on rock'n'roll in general, which very much bridged the generation gap, while simultaneously boosting his TV show ratings significantly. Sinatra’s invitation also provided an ambitious step up for Elvis, who was looking for an endorsement from Sinatra in order to help widen his audience - he eventually became a frequent performer at Sinatra’s stomping ground of Las Vegas.

Despite looking a tad awkward in his tuxedo, Elvis presented a picture of stylish sophistication, without his signature wild hip-gyrations. Even so, the toned-down nature of his performance – where humorous shoulder-hunches were his only body movement – still elicited wild screams from some female fans in the audience. 

Elvis sang 'Stuck on You', which was his first hit after the army, and also duetted with Sinatra on an ingenius medley in which the show’s host intoned the chorus from 'Love Me Tender' and was answered by Presley crooning lines from Sinatra’s 1957 hit 'Witchcraft'. 

"We’re working the same way, only in different areas," quipped Sinatra during the performance.

Despite the 20-year age gap, Sinatra and Presley became good friends following their meeting. Upon hearing about Elvis's death in 1977, Sinatra was genuinely saddened, making a heartfelt statement saying: "There have been many accolades uttered about Elvis’ talent and performances through the years, all of which I agree with wholeheartedly. I shall miss him dearly as a friend. He was a warm, considerate and generous man."