Bob Harris says Richard Nixon asked Elvis Presley to spy on John Lennon

Harris also claims that it was “it was hate at first sight” when Lennon discovered Presley was "a right-wing southern bigot"

Elvis Presley was once tasked with spying on John Lennon by then-US president Richard Nixon, according to legendary music presenter and DJ ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris.

In a new interview on the Rockonteurs podcast, Harris spoke of how Nixon “loathed” the Beatles star due to his public and vicious criticism of the Vietnam War.

During the interview with hosts Gary Kemp and Guy Pratt, Harris claimed that Nixon recruited Presley, who was a “great friend” of the late President, to spy on Lennon, adding that if Lennon ever left the United States during Nixon’s tenure, he wouldn’t be allowed back in.


“It sounded like it was almost a figment of [Lennon’s] imagination when he was saying, ‘My phone was tapped, I get followed everywhere’ — but it was true; he really did,” Harris said.

“Nixon was out to get him and that’s why John was stuck in New York, or stuck in the States: he knew, were he to come back to the UK, he’d never get back into America again. Not while Nixon was in the White House.”

Harris added: “Nixon was a great friend of Elvis and vice versa. Nixon had [instructed] Elvis to gather as much information about John Lennon as he possibly could.”

Nixon regarded Lennon as a “counter-culture enemy” and, during his time as President between 1969-1974, tried to have Lennon deported from the United States.

Harris added that “it was hate at first sight” when Lennon and Presley met in the mid-1960s, and that they then struck up a “resentful” rivalry.


“For John it was a very disillusioning moment because he loved Elvis’s records, so… to discover he was a right-wing southern bigot was a big shock,” Harris told the podcast hosts.

“Equally, Elvis saw Lennon as being this upstart Liverpudlian know-it-all who’d taken his crown. He usurped Elvis and he was resentful as hell.”

In other news, an Elvis Presley biographer recently claimed that the rock’n’roll legend died not because he was a drug abuser, but because he had bad genes.

According to author Sally Hoedel’s new book, Elvis: Destined To Die Young, the singer’s long-documented health problems – which were often written off as the consequences of addiction – could have been caused by Presley’s maternal grandparents, who were first cousins.

Elsewhere, John Lennon is set to be celebrated in a forthcoming tribute show called ‘Dear John’, which is set to be livestreamed next month (October 9).

The online event will follow on from the release earlier this year of the ‘Dear John’ tribute album, which featured Lennon covers by a range of artists and raised money for War Child.

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