In my new book, "Baby, Let's Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him" (It Books), I trace the rock king's insatiable quest for love. The leading male sex symbol of the 20th century, Elvis was at heart a true romantic, always gallant and generous, as five of his many girlfriends attest.
1. Magdalene Morgan (1945-1948): Ten-year old Elvis fell hard for Maggie Morgan at the Assembly of God church in his native Tupelo, Ms. Dark haired, and three inches taller than her suitor, Maggie was a stand-in for Elvis's biggest love. "He always said [the girl] he would marry would have to be a lot like his mother," she remembers. To prove his ardor, Elvis carved a heart into the side of a tree, cutting out their initials and the words "Love Forever" beneath. He later doctored his parents' marriage license with the names "Magdline" and "Elvis," just before his family moved to Memphis, TN, in 1948.
2. Anita Wood (1957-1962): While stationed in the army in Germany in the late 1950s, Elvis wrote Anita, his Memphis girlfriend, three remarkable letters. In his last, from November 1959, he passionately related his hopes for their reunion in March 1960: "If you still feel the same and if you love me and me alone, we will have a great life together...I can't explain to you how I crave you and desire your lips and your body under me, darling. I can feel it now...Remember... 'True love holds its laurels through the ages no matter how loud the clamor of denial.' That which deserves to live--lives. Yours alone, EP."
3. Sheila Ryan (1974-5): Sheila would later go on to briefly marry James Caan (and date Warren Beatty), but Elvis was crazy about the former Playboy model. In an outtake of his March 1975 recording of Don McLean's poignant ballad, "And I Love You So," a smitten Elvis can be heard speaking to her in the studio: "Step up here, Sheila. Let me sing to you, baby."
4. JoCathy Brownlee (1975): Soon after Sheila departed, Elvis began seeing JoCathy, a junior high teacher and hostess at Memphis's Mid-South Coliseum. At four a.m. on their first night together, he gave her a new Grand Prix. The sun was coming up as JoCathy snaked the car down Graceland's winding drive. She had only one thought: "How am I going to explain this to my mother?"
5. Ann-Margaret (1963-Infinity): "It was a very strong relationship, very intense," Elvis's "Viva, Las Vegas" co-star has said of their love affair. He was so captivated by their nights together that he had a round, pink bed made for her. He also sent "Thumper"--the code name she used when she called Graceland--flowers in the shape of a guitar on each of her opening nights. She knew something was wrong on August 16, 1977, when she played the Las Vegas Hilton and the floral guitar didn't show up. Elvis had died earlier that morning at his beloved Graceland.