This image is too small for reading, so don’t try. In this post we will dissect and expand it to show the individual responsibilities of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia circa January 1965. As you know, the men making up this unique group varied as some left (or left and came back) or were added as the years went by. But in late 1964 and early 1965, the guys who took care of Elvis’ every need were:
And there was a specific order of responsibilities as shown in the following organizational chart distilled from the above image.
So, it appears Red West and Billy Smith had special relationships with Elvis and reported directly to him. But Richard Davis, Joe Esposito, Jerry Schilling, and Mike Keaton all reported to Marty Lacker.
Marty Lacker as co-best man at Elvis’ wedding
I never knew Marty was such an important member of the Memphis Mafia.
And, like most of you, I had never heard of Mike Keaton.
So what is this document that shows the power ranking among Elvis’ guys? It was part of a ten-page lot offered at the recent Auction at Graceland.
It had a pre-auction estimate of $5-10,000, but bidding failed to reach the minimum of $2,500. In the early 1980s, Lacker transferred ownership of these papers to Mike L. Moon for display in the Elvis Museum. I suspect we will see them up for auction again.
This blow-up refers to Marty as Foreman, a term I had not come across before regarding the Memphis Mafia. The boxes beside his name, spell out his duties in both Memphis and Los Angeles. With Elvis making three movies a year, he and the guys traveled back and forth between the two cities.
In Memphis, Marty’s responsibilities were:
All personal financial business, including, especially, money.
Elvis’ personal mail
Business with the Col’s office.
Responsible to Elvis for entire operation
Upkeep of bus
Item # 4 is the biggie. We have read that Marty Lacker was Elvis’ personal bookkeeper and secretary, but who knew he was responsible for the whole operation?
The list for Marty Lacker’s responsibilities in Los Angeles is essentially the same. However, one of the other pages in this package expanded on Marty’ functions at both locations. I like this one – Purchase records for Elvis. This makes sense, because Marty had business interests in the recording industry and lots of contacts. So, maybe he had better taste than the other guys in what music would appeal to Elvis.
In L.A, Marty also had to work with the studio heads for Elvis. I guess he was some kind of buffer between Col. Parker. The last two other L.A. assignments make no sense to me – weekly food menu and grocery shopping. It seems strange for the guy running the whole operation to do the food shopping.
At the top left of the chart is Red West, Elvis’ friend since high school, and he had a sweet deal – Assistant to Elvis and Available to assist others as needed. So I guess he just got to hang out and be Elvis’ buddy both in Memphis and L.A. Of course, Red served as bodyguard, so I wonder why that wasn’t mentioned.
At the top right of the chart is Elvis’ cousin, Billy Smith. The religious symbols drawn below his name and elsewhere must have been some kind of doodling by Marty Lacker, because this document was in his possession at all times. Billy Smith’s responsibilities in Memphis were rather light – Elvis’ shoes, Elvis’ razor, and be available daily if needed by Elvis. However, there is a separate sheet with a more detailed list (and a bunch of drawings of Elvis). It was also the only one to be typed
Billy had to keep Elvis’ shoes polished and repaired, and Elvis’ razor had to be cleaned and kept charged. A new duty was added: Elvis’ clothes – work with Richard, keep cleaned and hung upstairs in dressing room.
I like the longer explanation of be available if needed by Elvis. Here Marty gets a lot more specific about Billy’s duties: Be at Graceland by at least 2:30 P.M. each day, unless notified otherwise. (If for any reason you cannot make it by that time on any day, please tell Marty the night before).
Unlike Red West who had the same job of being Elvis’ buddy in both locations, Billy Smith had some real responsibilities added when they were in Los Angeles.
Upkeep and care of portable dressing room on set each day.
Elvis’ clothes. (Receive dirty clothes from Richard. Keep a list of them, then send to cleaners. Upon return from cleaners, remove and save tickets, then give clothes to Richard to be hung in closets. Give all tickets to Marty at end of each month to be checked against bill).
Assist Elvis with each change of wardrobe at studio
Keep Elvis’ black kit stocked with needed items and carry it for him when necessary
And Elvis’ shoes and razor as already explained.
Now we get to the two men listed as assistants to Marty. All fans know that Richard Davis was Elvis’ wardrobe guy and shopped for his clothes, but he had some other jobs, too. In Memphis, he took care of the vehicles (wash, gas, repairs), and he oversaw the stocking of needed items for Elvis in the kitchen and the rest of the house. He was also expected to be at Graceland by 1:30 every day.
There are two other Memphis responsibilities on his expanded list that I find interesting. Richard had to buy six copies of TV Guide and distribute them to Elvis’ room, the kitchen, Marty’s room, the downstairs den, and two other places with unfamiliar names. The conference room – I guess that was the dining room because Elvis ate all his meals in the kitchen. The Graceland room – I guess that would be the living room.
Richard was also expected to take care of business for Elvis, along with Joe Esposito, in the Marty’s absence. Thus the title of Assistant to Marty we see in the graph.
In Los Angeles, Richard got to oversee the running of the house on Bellagio Road. This included menu preparation and grocery shopping. I wonder why Marty would do that in Memphis and Richard would do it in L.A. Handling fan mail shifted from Marty to Richard, who also handled business calls at the house when Marty was absent.
As in Memphis, Richard Davis was responsible for the cars, bought the TV Guides, and was responsible for stocking the kitchen and bar. But my favorite of his duties is this: Keep water, gum, cigars(ettes), Blistex on set for Elvis when Jerry not available. Among Richard’s wardrobe responsibilities was: Select clothes to take to studio each morning. Return at night to Jerry.
Joe Esposito, the other Assistant to Marty, had few daily responsibilities while Elvis was in Memphis. On an as needed basis, he would drive car for Elvis, handle miscellaneous business for Elvis, and make and confirm appointments such as doctor, dentist, house repairs, and prescriptions. He also had fill-in duties: Assume household responsibilities in Richard’s absence, and take care of business along with Richard in Marty’s absence.
When Elvis was making movies In Los Angeles, Joe had several important functions. He maintained Elvis’ script, marking daily scenes and keeping it available on set. He assisted Marty conducting business with the studio. In Marty’s absence, he handled business with Col. Parker. He assisted Elvis with wardrobe in Billy’s absence
Marty Lacker deserves credit for thinking ahead and making certain all his and the others guys’ functions had back-ups.
Jerry Schilling had it almost as easy as Red West when Elvis was in Memphis. He was responsible for upkeep of the Cadillac limo. There’s no telling why Richard was charged with all the other cars. Jerry also kept the cigar boxes stocked in the den, car, and Elvis’ room, plus he notified Richard of needed cigar box items. He assisted with Elvis’ clothes. Here’s the one I really like: Be available if needed whenever Elvis comes down from his room.
Marty definitely made sure people were around when Elvis woke up and started his day.
The sheet with Jerry Schilling’s expanded duties included two regarding Elvis’ private screening of movies. He had to check with the theater, and bring Elvis and Priscilla large cups of water at the movie.
When Elvis was in L,A., Jerry got some new jobs in addition to the cigar duty, assisting Billy with the clothes, and being around at night for Elvis’ companionship. Now he took care of the studio golf cart, purchased the afternoon paper at the studio, and kept glasses of ice water, cigarettes, etc on set for Elvis. And here’s the big one: Assisted Mike with ice for set dressing room each morning. How can ice detail take more than one man?
Jerry’s expanded responsibility list had this: Check with assistant director after each take, scene, or delay, as to how much time before next shot and what it will be.
Finally, we come to this fellow Mike Keeton, who has been unknown to us up until now. He was a friend of Jerry Schilling and Elvis hired him in late September 1964. There are several familiar Memphis Mafia names who were not on the organizational chart, even though their tenure started before 1965 and ended after it. So, Charlie Hodge, Sonny West, Lamar Fike, and Alan Fortas must have been away from the scene for a while perusing singing careers, acting, or something else.
Thus, Elvis needed some new blood, and Jerry recruited Mike Keeton. When Elvis interviewed Mike, he learned the new guy was a member of the Assembly of God church, which the Presleys had attended when Elvis was a kid. Then Elvis found out that Mike’s wife was named Gladys. That clinched it for Elvis, and he hired him on the spot.
To be honest, many of the responsibilities listed for Mike in both locations duplicate many of those listed for other guys. The only different jobs listed for Memphis are picking up and returning movies, and maintaining the 16m mm film projector. In Los Angeles, he purchased two copies of the trades papers each morning at the studio, and he brought the daily call sheets to the Colonel’s office.
The last sheet in the auction package did not apply to anyone. It was a general list of 31 items to be “kept in kitchen and house for Elvis — at all times — every day.” I believe you will be able to read it, so I’ll skip typing it.
So, maybe Marty Lacker’s Memphis Mafia Organizational Chart and related pages didn’t sell for $2,500, but they did give us a free look at how Elvis’ every need was provided by a group of seven men.
Next week we’ll look at some of the items at the Auction at Graceland that did sell.
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