On this date in 1959, Elvis Presley was stricken with tonsillitis. He was serving in the U.S. army at the time, and he was taken to the base hospital, where he remained for about six days while Army personnel searched for a doctor to take his tonsils out.
But...um...operate on ELVIS Presley's THROAT? No doctor wanted risk operating on such a famous throat, so the infection just ran its course, and Elvis kept his tonsils. Probably for the best, I feel.
On this date in 1964, tonsillitis-for-musicians disaster struck again. This time, it was Ringo Starr, the drummer for the Beatles. The day before a big tour, Starr collapsed at an early-morning photo shoot. He had a high fever, and when he got to the hospital, the doctors ordered complete rest.
Now, did you know that touring with a rock-and-roll band isn't particularly restful? It certainly doesn't qualify as “complete rest.” So a session drummer named Jimmie Nicol stepped in and was part of the Beatles for 12 days, touring Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Australia. Finally, on June 11, Ringo was discharged from the hospital and rejoined the group in Australia on June 15.
(By the way, Ringo had his tonsils removed in December of that year, on a break from touring.)
What are tonsils?
Tonsils are part of the lymphatic system and presumably help fight off infections. However, when tonsils are inflamed, they can be enlarged so much that they make it hard to breathe or swallow. This is why tonsils are sometimes removed. Also, when people have frequent recurring tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils), their tonsils are often removed.
While recovering from a tonsillectomy, it's really painful to swallow, and patients often eat a whole lot of popsicles and ice cream to make their throats feel better.