By Dan Wooding —
After Elvis Presley returned to the United States from Germany in 1960 following his time as a G.I., he moved to Los Angeles and began dating Sandy Ferra, then the 14-year-old daughter of a nightclub owner. At the same time, his girlfriend Priscilla, whom he would later marry, was pining for him in Germany.
This was revealed at the Media Fellowship International (MFI) Praise Brunch held in Beverly Hills, when American radio and television personality, Wink Martindale, said that his wife, Sandy Ferra Martindale, had once dated Elvis Presley.
I interviewed Sandy after the event, and discovered that, because of her young age, she was initially chaperoned everywhere by her mother Mary Lou, and that 25-year-old Presley got no further than kissing Sandy, but apparently he had other intentions.
Media reports said that one night Presley asked Mary Lou if she and her daughter would consider moving to his new mansion, the soon-to-be-legendary Graceland, where he would “raise” Sandy as his future wife, but Sandy’s parents refused.
Sandy offered some insights about Presley’s faith. “He knew the Bible from cover to cover and was a very religious person,” Sandy says. “Elvis once told me about the time, when he was younger, that he was driving across the desert in Texas — because [at that time] he wouldn’t fly — and that’s when he said he saw a vision of Christ.”
“He told me that he had stopped the Winnebago [an RV vehicle that he was traveling in], and got out and it was then that he saw this vision of Christ. He told me that he then got back into the vehicle and said that he didn’t know what it meant.”
“You know, I believe that God has something big for me to do, but I don’t know what it is,” Elvis told Sandy in response to the unusual incident.
Elvis didn’t realize what was going to take place after his death, for that is when they released much of his Gospel music, she noted. “He had no idea at the time, as he was kind of like my husband [Wink Martindale] — a Tennessee boy, who was very shy and who didn’t know how talented and valuable he was.”
Sandy went on to say Elvis loved to sing hymns and added, “In fact, during a lot of our dates, he’d just be at the piano in the den of our home, and begin singing gospel songs.”
Wink said that “How Great Thou Art” was Elvis’s favorite hymn, adding, “Of course that whole album of hymns under that same title won a Grammy for him.” [This was his eighth studio album released by RCA Victor in mono and later stereo, in February 1967]
He went on to say that Elvis’s love of hymns began when he was a child and learned them in the Assemblies of God church he attended with his family.
“So his popularity, his songs that he recorded over the years, were an amalgam of country, rock and roll, spiritual and pop,” said Wink.
Sandy then revealed that, despite the fact that Elvis was, in his later years, fighting many demons in his life, he held on to a great love for the Bible.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that he could quote the Bible from cover to cover. He believed deeply,” she said.
So I asked her, what went so wrong?
“It started with an innocent series of events,” said Sandy. “He’d come out here [Southern California] to do a movie and he wanted to look good and they’d give him diet pills, speed, so to speak. Then he’d take a diet pill and also a sleeping pill to go to sleep, because he’d have to be on the set at six o’clock in the morning, so therefore he needed to come down from the high.
“So he started with diet and sleeping pills and then his body would build up an immunity. Soon, it became two diet pills and two sleeping pills. And then from that it went onto when he was doing karate and he got arthritis in his hands, and so he needed pain medication to go with the others.
“He didn’t think that he was a drug addict as everything was prescribed for him by a doctor, and he thought it was, therefore, safe and healthy, and it eventually spiraled out of control without him really knowing it was happening, and then it was just too late.”
Sandy told me that she first met the King of Rock and Roll when he visited the Cross Bow, her father’s night club in Panorama City, California, which is located in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. He was in town to make “G.I. Blues,” his first film after his discharge from the army.
“Elvis had just got out of the army and one day he came into my dad’s club and saw my picture in the office, and said, ‘I’d like to meet your daughter,'” Sandy recalled.
“So Elvis called me, and because it was a school night and my mother wouldn’t drive me up to the nightclub, he said he could come back the next week and he asked me if I could meet him there. In the meantime, my dad came home and told me that he [Elvis] was a ‘gorgeous guy’ because at the time, I didn’t know who Elvis Presley was.”
Sandy explained that Elvis didn’t visit the club to sing, but just for recreation.
“So, the next week my mother said she would drive me to the club,” recalled Sandy. “Elvis had a date with a beautiful actress and I just sat there with my little ponytail and frilly dress. He kissed me on the cheek and then later he called and told my mother he wanted to date me and my mother said, ‘I don’t care if you’re King Farouk; my daughter’s only 14 and she can’t go out with you.’ So Elvis said to my mother, ‘Well, you can come on the date,’ so she came on our first three dates.”
“Elvis was living at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, so we’d go there and have pizza, hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, as well as watch television and also talk and dance. That was our dates.”
“And then, after the first three dates, he then promised my mother that he’d be a ‘gentleman’ and ‘take good care’ of me and then my mom then said that it was OK for me to go out with him without her being there. He stuck to his word and was a perfect gentleman. He loved and respected my parents and was a wonderful part of my life.”
“We talked about marriage and I knew I was the kind of a girl he wanted to marry, but he had actually met Priscilla two months before me while he was in Germany and then, after she moved over to the States with her parents still living in Germany, she moved to Memphis and he felt responsible for her.
“By the way, my mother would never let me go over and spend the night with Elvis so they [Priscilla and Elvis] forged a much stronger bond than was possible between the two of us. So he felt responsible for her and fell deeply in love with her of course married her.”
“After his mother Gladys died [in 1958], Elvis kind of lost his way. But then when Pricilla left him, he just wanted to forget reality because he had chosen her for his queen, and he believed in marriage as an institution; that it was meant to be ’till death do us part’ and that kind of broke his heart.”
“God had a plan and this was the plan God had for me. If I had stayed with Elvis, I may have been able to save him, but you know, I’m not God, so maybe, also I may not have been able to save him.”
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