Elvis Presley not only ate in Waco during his years at Fort Hood, but he slept here, too, and the house where he did is now open for others to do the same.
The children of Eddie Fadal, a Waco DJ and businessman who befriended Presley when the rock ‘n’ roll star was in Central Texas, have repurposed their family’s three-bedroom red-brick home at 2807 Lasker Ave. into a vacation rental with a ’50s and ’60s flavor and decorated with Elvis memorabilia.
It’s called, naturally, The Elvis House.
“It’s what it could have looked like back then . . . We’ve tried to make it sort of a time capsule,” explained Eddie’s daughter Janice, a 63-year-old Waco property manager.
Her brother Dana owns the house and, after several decades as a rental property, was considering this summer putting it up for sale. After some thought, Janice suggested remaking it into an Elvis-flavored vacation rental.
“I said, ‘Don’t sell it yet. Let’s keep it a little longer in the family,’ “ she said.
Though her father amassed a considerable collection of Elvis memorabilia over the years, the family sold much of it after his death in 1994, Janice recalled. When she and Dana made the decision to revamp their childhood home into an Elvis-era rental, she had some shopping to do.
“It was a lot of fun (to decorate). I really got into it,” she grinned.
The Fadals — Eddie, wife LaNelle, daughter Janice and son Dana — lived in the Lasker Avenue house from the 1950s into the 1970s. Presley first visited in 1956 when he performed at the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum, then more often when he was stationed at Fort Hood in 1958-59 for basic training during his military service. Waco and the Fadal home offered a convenient getaway whenever the Army private could land a weekend pass.
Eddie did his best to shield Presley from overzealous fans during his Waco visits by not announcing when the singer was in town — the Fadals had an unlisted phone number for several years — but Presley’s visits were frequent enough that the young Janice knew what the arrival of a black Cadillac meant. So did her mom, who often whipped up a home-cooked meal for the homesick soldier.
The famous entertainer spent many of his Waco hours chatting with Eddie Fadal, listening to records in Fadal’s pink-and-black music room, playing and singing at the family piano, eating and taking the occasional nap in the Fadals’ master bedroom, sometimes with Memphis girlfriend and actress Anita Wood.
Wood was, in Presley’s words at the time, his “No. 1 girl” from 1957 to 1962 and several photos of her and Presley during their Waco visits hang on the walls of the Elvis House. Photos and paintings on those walls tell plenty of stories.
Several have Presley with lighter hair and highlights than the jet black of his iconic image. The reason? After his hair was cut for boot camp, it grew back in its normal color, Janice Fadal said — most fans didn’t know he dyed his hair black even as a young man.
There are a few photos of actor Nick Adams, who sometimes hung out with Presley and who starred with James Dean, one of Presley’s acting idols, in “Rebel Without A Cause.” The Dean connection also is suggested by the movie poster for “Giant” that’s in the house.
Several photos show Eddie Fadal with ‘50s rock ‘n’ rollers Bill Haley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Clyde McPhatter of the Platters and actresses Donna Douglas (Elly May of “The Beverly Hillbillies”) and Sandra Dee.
While many of the photographs are Fadal family keepsakes, Janice Fadal said she shopped local thrift shops, Laverty’s, Riverside Relics, Spin Connection and craigslist to provide a mid-century vibe for the house. A “sputnik chandelier” hangs over the dining room table while a breakfast nook adjoining the kitchen has a formica-topped dinette table and curtains with a starburst pattern.
Dana Fadal’s boyhood bedroom has a ‘50s cowboys and western motif while Janice’s, dominated by a yellow chenille bedspread, references the Beatles and features a poster for the ‘60s musical “Hair.”
Her parents’ bedroom has an appropriately “King”-sized bed and imposing silver-and-gilt headboard.
Yes, Elvis slept here.
The house’s music room, an add-on to the original 1924 house and where Eddie Fadal and Presley listened to records, no longer is painted pink and black, as Presley knew it, but reflects the two men’s fondness for gadgets. It features two pieces of audiovisual high tech from the period, a three-television console built by Sony and an automated Seexx stereo record player, now loaded with Elvis Presley LPs, with a rotary dial for album selection.
Outside is a carport on which Presley reportedly modeled his much-larger one at Graceland and on a counter of the updated kitchen is a different Presley touch: a recipe for a banana and peanut butter sandwich, his favorite.
“I always have peanut butter and bananas in the kitchen,” Janice Fadal said.
The Elvis House joins a growing number of Airbnb and vacation rentals offered in Waco — 49 are listed on the Waco Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau website and more have applied for city permits. The considerable Waco-centric pull of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ home renovation series “Fixer Upper” and their Magnolia Market at the Silos has attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists in recent years and some Waco property owners, including some “Fixer Upper” home owners, hope to capitalize on the tourist wave.
Carla Pendergraft, marketing director for Waco and the Heart of Texas, said the homes and rooms offered as short-term rentals provide an important part of the lodging puzzle in Waco.
“We’re really glad for them. It eases a little bit of that pressure on our hotels,” she said.
Janice Fadal and her brother plan to give their Elvis House two years to see if it works financially. They hope Elvis fans will be drawn by the sentiment engraved on a granite headstone outside the house: “A Loving Home Away From Home 1956-58.”
For Janice, the sentiment goes beyond the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
“(Dad) loved this house. It’s kind of a tribute to him,” she said. “I know he’s happy about it, wherever he is.”