On December 20, 1957, Presley received his draft notice. Hal Wallis and Paramount Pictures had already spent $350,000 on the film King Creole, and did not want to suspend or cancel the project. The Memphis Draft Board granted Presley a deferment to finish it. On March 24, 1958, he was inducted as US Army private #53310761 and completed basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, before being posted to Friedberg, Germany with the 3rd Armored Division.
Presley had chosen not to join 'Special Services', which would have allowed him to avoid certain duties and maintain his public profile. He continued to receive massive media coverage, with much speculation echoing Presley's own concerns about his enforced absence damaging his career. However, early in 1958, RCA Victor producer Steve Sholes and Hill and Range "song searcher" Freddy Bienstock had both pushed for recording sessions and strong song material, the aim being to release regular hit singles during Presley's two-year hiatus. The hit singles—and six albums—duly followed during that period.
In Germany, "[a] sergeant had introduced [Presley] to amphetamines when they were on maneuvers at Grafenwöhr... it seemed like half the guys in the company were taking them." Friends around Presley also began taking them, "if only to keep up with Elvis, who was practically evangelical about their benefits."
The army also introduced Presley to karate—something which he studied seriously, even including it in his later live performances.
As Presley's fame grew, his mother continued to drink excessively and began to gain weight. She had wanted her son to succeed, "but... [the] hysteria of the crowd frightened her." In early August 1958, doctors had diagnosed hepatitis and her condition worsened. Presley was granted emergency leave to visit her, arriving in Memphis on August 12. Two days later, Gladys Presley died of heart failure, aged forty-six. Presley was distraught, "grieving almost constantly" for days.
Presley returned to the U.S. on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant on March 5. Recording sessions in March and April yielded some of his best-selling songs—including "It's Now or Never". Although some tracks were uptempo, none could be described as "rock and roll". Most found their way on to an album—Elvis is Back!—described by one critic as "a triumph on every level... It was as if Elvis had... broken down the barriers of genre and prejudice to express everything he heard in all the kinds of music he loved". The album was also notable because of Homer Boots Randolph's acclaimed saxophone solo during the blues standard "Reconsider Baby".