How Elvis Presley’s Back-Up Singers Got Fed Up And Walked Out During His Concert

via Elvis Presley / Youtube

In the 1970s, Elvis Presley was a legendary performer, known for his charismatic stage presence and off-the-cuff remarks during concerts. However, there came a time when his spontaneous comments took a sharp turn, becoming pointed and even rude towards his backup singers. Things reached a breaking point during one unforgettable concert when many of his backup singers decided they had had enough and walked off the stage.

During concerts in the mid-1970s, Elvis made several derogatory comments about one of his backup singers, Kathy Westmoreland.

On one occasion, he extended his criticism to all his backup singers, the Sweet Inspirations. According to Peter Guralnick’s book “Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley,” Elvis told the audience that he “smelled green peppers and onions and that his backup singers, the Sweet Inspirations, had probably been eating catfish.”

These comments, already hurtful, were particularly distressing given Elvis’s past treatment of Kathy Westmoreland. Their on-and-off relationship had led Elvis to make crude jokes about her in front of the audience during their “off” periods.

However, during one fateful show, things escalated. Estelle Brown, a member of the Sweet Inspirations, hung her head in embarrassment due to Elvis’s remarks.

This seemed to infuriate him further. Elvis threatened, “Estelle, Sweet Inspirations, Stamps, if you don’t look up, I’m going to kick your a**.” Brown promptly left the stage, prompting Elvis to add, “Sorry for any embarrassment I might have caused, but if you can’t take it, get off the pot.”

In response to Elvis’s harsh words, Kathy Westmoreland and Sylvia Shemwell, also from Sweet Inspirations, decided to walk offstage, leaving Myrna Smith as the sole backup singer to perform with Elvis for the rest of the concert.

Kathy Westmoreland had already endured Elvis’s crude jokes about her for some time, and she was determined not to tolerate it any longer. After a particularly demeaning comment, she demanded that something be done to stop Elvis from embarrassing her further.

Despite attempts by Jerry Schilling, a member of Elvis’s Memphis Mafia, to mediate the situation, Elvis refused to apologize initially.

He was furious that his backup singers had walked off during the concert. He even suggested that Myrna Smith could perform alone with him, questioning the necessity of having the Sweet Inspirations in the show.

However, in time, Elvis did come to his senses and extended an apology to his backup singers. Fortunately, the Sweet Inspirations agreed to continue performing with him.

Elvis Presley’s backup singers made a powerful statement that day, standing up for their dignity and demanding respect in the industry that they all contributed to in their own unique ways.