Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Elvis Presley's backup singers walked out on a concert after he remarked that their breath "smelled like catfish."
Origins: The infamous "catfish" incident that resulted in several of Elvis Presley's backup singers walking off stage in the middle of a concert was not merely a matter of their taking offense at a racist remark, but a reaction to the singer's increasingly bizarre behavior.
The tragic pattern of Elvis' final years are familiar to nearly everyone. His ongoing misuse of an astonishing variety and volume of prescription drugs turned his concert appearances into parodies staged by a sloppy, bloated performer who slurred lyrics rather than singing them, changed his character, caused him to act in an increasingly incomprehensible and erratic manner, and destroyed his health (ultimately killing him). Presley's behavior during a July 1975 performance in Norfolk, Virginia, was one of the low points in his long decline from superb entertainer to drug-sodden corpse.
Elvis' retinue of backup singers in 1975 consisted of soprano Kathy Westmoreland, who had joined Presley's concert ensemble in 1969; the Sweet Inspirations, a quartet of black female gospel singers who had also been with Elvis' touring group since 1970; and
Matters came to a head during an evening performance in Norfolk. Early on in the show, according to a UPI report, Elvis told the
The departed Inspirations performed at the next night's show in Greensboro after Elvis apologized, but Kathy Westmoreland did not. "I thought it was funny," was the only explanation Elvis offered for his strange and insulting behavior the night before. Presley's
Although the whole incident was not so simply explained, "Black backup singers walked out after Elvis said they 'smelled like catfish'" is the memory the public has retained of an evening best forgotten.
Last updated: 26 April 2007
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.