I’m usually thankful when something shows up in the news that inspires an ElvisBlog article. The exception is when the news is about the death of another Elvis buddy or bandmate or anyone else from Elvis’ world. In the past few years, this blog has remembered John Wilkinson, Jerry Leiber, Lamar Fike, Boots Randolph, and Charlie Hodge. There were other losses as well, like Myrna Smith of the Sweet Inspirations
But none of these deaths saddened me the way it did this week when I learned Gordon Stoker had passed away at age 88. I had personal contact with this wonderful stalwart of the Jordanaires, and he gave me some memories I will never forget. So, my salute to Gordon Stoker will be to tell some of them here.
Okay, the stories. I spent a lot of time around Gordon Stoker during Elvis Week 2004, at the 50th Anniversary Legends Concert. EPE had deemed it the 50th anniversary of rock & roll, dating back to July 5, 1954, when Elvis recorded his first song.
At that time, I was a contributing editor for Elvis International magazine, published by Darwin Lamm. Darwin has promoted some great Elvis Week concerts, and he did it again for the 50th anniversary show. This Legends Concert featured Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, the Jordanaires, Boots Randolph, Ronnie McDowell, and lots more. They were followed by the TCB Band Concert. Great double-bill.
I had backstage-access passes for both concerts. I functioned mostly as a go-fer, but if somebody wanted a cold bottle of water, I was happy to get it for them. Plus I was scoring autographs like crazy from everybody backstage.
I was around Gordon at the afternoon practice session, and all the hanging-out beforehand. My contact with him was minimal, but I became a familiar face. It was the same thing with the concert, but when it ended, I got a new job. All the performers signed autographs after the show. I was part of a four man group that escorted the performers to the autograph tables out in the lobby. Then we positioned ourselves strategically behind the signers to make sure nobody got pushy in the lines or tried to come behind the tables. At that point, I had gone from go-fer to bodyguard.
I was stationed near Gordon Stoker. After a half-hour or so, I was told Gordon needed to leave. After an active day, this eighty-year-old diabetic was having a little trouble. All the Jordanaires decided to leave together, so we escorted them out of the lobby and to the service elevator. I ended up with Gordon, and some stupid fool came up and wanted Gordon to stop and pose for a photo with him. I had to tell the guy, “Hey, get back and let us pass. Gordon needs to get some food.”
When the Jordanaires got to the elevator, they took off for the nearest restaurant. So, after saying hardly anything to Gordon all day, I was now a favorably familiar face.
All this occurred on August 13, so there was lots more of Elvis Week to go. Gordon and the Jordanaires were there for a few more days, and so was I. The next night I walked past the open restaurant area out in the hotel lobby and saw Gordon Stoker eating at a table alone. I entered the restaurant, went up to him, and asked how he was doing. He was fine, and we had a nice little conversation. To my surprise, he asked me to join him. You bet I did.
When the waitress came by, Gordon ordered for me. He was eating meatloaf and raving about it, so he wanted me to have it, too. He was right. It was great meatloaf. We chatted through the whole meal, and he was charming. He gave me his business card, and wrote my e-mail and phone number on the back of another. Said he would put it in his book. I didn’t think we’d actually do any messaging, but he sure made me feel good.
Then, Gordon picked up the whole tab. I had gone from go-fer to bodyguard to friend. It was just a perfect night.
Sadly, we now say goodbye to Gordon Stoker. Another member of Elvis’ world has left us. We’ll miss you, Gordon. Say hi to Elvis for us.
And, thanks for the meatloaf.
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