Category Archives: FRIENDS of ELVIS

Some Fancy, Some Skimpy — Linda Thompson’s Wardrobe

Linda Thompson and Elvis Presley

You all know that Linda Thompson was Elvis’ girlfriend from 1972 to 1976. You might also know that she was third runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant and won the title of Miss Memphis State. But you might not know she was voted the Best Dressed Co-ed at Memphis State University. That tradition of sartorial excellence continued during her time with Elvis.

Elvis loved to dress Linda Thompson up in custom-made designer clothes when she accompanied him on special occasions in public. But he also apparently liked to see her in skimpy, sexy outfits, especially at home in Graceland. We’ll take a look at some of the fancy and the skimpy items Linda kept in her closet while she was with Elvis.

Linda Thompson Evening Gown

This is the evening gown Elvis had custom-made for Linda to wear to the “Aloha From Hawaii” concert filming. It is beige silk with a brown velvet rose pattern, sleeveless, deep V-neck front and back.

 

Linda Thompson In Jungle Roon

This, on the other hand, is something more casual and skimpier for lounging around the Jungle Room in Graceland.

 

Linda Thompson Black Jumpsuit

Elvis loved his jumpsuits so much that he had this sharp two-piece ensemble custom made for Linda. It consists of a long-sleeved bolero jacket with black and white cross-grain ribbon trim and a matching black bell-bottom jumpsuit with spaghetti straps.

 

Linda Thompson Bare Midriff

Linda with a bare midriff is a familiar image if you go looking for photos of her on Google. As we will see, denim was obviously something she preferred.

 

Linda Thompson Eagle' Jacket

So far, this is the only item I have found where Elvis and Linda had matching outfits, but no photos have surfaced with them together wearing these striking jackets. His sold at auction in 2016 for $50,000.

Elvis Wearing Eagle Jacket

Photographed in Las Vegas 1974

They have brown leather yokes, silver leather body and sleeves, multi-colored ‘star’ appliqués affixed to front and back shoulders, intricate rainbow-colored airbrush-painted designs on front and back. They are called the Eagle Jackets because of the added silhouette of black eagle on back.

Linda Thompson Eagle' Jacket - back

 

Linda Thompson Green Feather' Ensemble

This is called Linda’s Green Feather’ Ensemble: a black suede jacket with added black leather patches, adorned with lime green rhinestones and silver-tone studs throughout, trimmed in lime green ostrich feathers.

 

Here is what Linda had to say about the clothing Elvis gave her:

“When I first met Elvis, I was just a college girl at Memphis State University, and my wardrobe highly reflected that. Elvis immediately wanted me to fly out to Los Angeles and accompany him (the same day via Leer Jet) to Las Vegas for the opening of his engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton International Hotel. Elvis was anxious to show off his new girlfriend, so he sent me to the designer & dresser of the stars at the time, Suzy Creamcheese. Suzy outfitted me with beautifully outrageous clothing befitting a rockstar and a rock star’s girlfriend! These absolutely one-of-a-kind, handmade, studded, bedazzled, feathered & furred, Vegas and Elvis inspired 70s outfits are practically museum quality now. I wore each of these to Elvis’s shows in Las Vegas, and sometimes even on tour with him – much to his delight. There was really nothing subtle about Elvis or his taste in clothing…”

 

Linda Thompson wearing Skimpy Denim

Here’s another shot of Linda wearing denim. Not very much of it, though.

 

Linda Thompson Jean Ensemble

And here’s an example of Linda Thompson’s designer denim. She had a number of pants and tops that could be mixed and matched. This top is a cropped jean jacket with added darker jean patchwork and royal blue rhinestones. The pants started out as a regular pair of Levi’s jeans, but designer “Miss Vintage” added jean patchwork and silver-tone studs

Linda Thompson in Graceland Kitchen

This is Linda in the Graceland kitchen wearing a different set of denim co-ordinates.

 

Linda Thompson Purple Dress

Linda Thompson must have looked elegant wearing this to the opening of one of Elvis’ Las Vegas engagements. The dark purple gown had two side slits, long sleeves slit to expose a white lining, deep V-neck front, and tailored waist.

 

Linda Thompson Purple Dress

Not quite so elegant, but Linda sure looks great.

 

Linda Thompson Black Floral Dress

Worn to another Las Vegas opening, this black full-length, V-neck sleeveless gown features outstanding embroidered design.

 

Linda on Elvis' 9ft bed in Graceland

I’m not sure how to describe this outfit, but it’s interesting that she is sitting on the nine-foot bed in Elvis’ Graceland bedroom.

 

Linda Thompson Fur Cape

Linda even got dressed up to visit Elvis in the hospital. The web information on this says she wore it on February 12, 1975 when she went to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee to visit Elvis in his recovery room. I’m not sure why Elvis was there, but several press photographers were outside the hospital and snapped shots of Linda going in.

Linda Thompson Fur Cape - Wearing

This dusty pink suede, waist-length cape is trimmed in white fox fur, lined in rose-colored satin, and the label reads “Helen of Memphis.”

 

Linda Thompson Elaborate Feathered Jumpsuit

Here’s another jump suit top. – a black suede jacket, adorned with white ostrich feathers, brown peacock feathers, and rhinestones.

Linda Thompson Elaborate Feathered Jumpsuit - back

There’s a matching pair of black bellbottom pants with the same feather and rhinestone treatment. Doesn’t sound very practical to me.

 

Elvis with Linda Thompson in See-Through Dress

This photo of Elvis and Linda Thompson was shot in 1974. It’s not one of Elvis’ better images, but Linda — wow.

 

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Memphis Mafia Organizational Chart

Marty Lacker's chart of Elvis' Memphis Mafia Individual Responsibilities

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:

Marty Lacker
Red West
Billy Smith
Richard Davis
Joe Esposito
Jerry Shilling
Mike Keaton

And there was a specific order of responsibilities as shown in the following organizational chart distilled from the above image.

Elvis' Memphis Mafia Flow Chart

 

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 and Elvis Presley

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.

1965 Elvis Presley Memphis Mafia Duties and Responsibilities Chart

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.

 

Marty Lacker's Elvis Responsibilities

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.

 

Red West's Elvis Responsibilities

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.

 

Billy Smith's Elvis Responsibilities

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 Smith - expanded list of Elvis responsibilities

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.

 

Richard Davis' Elvis Responsibilities

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's Elvis Responsibilities

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's Elvis Responsibilities

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.

 

Mike Keaton's Elvis Responsibilities

Finally, we come to this fellow Mike Keaton, 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 Keaton. 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.

 

Graceland Kitchen

Graceland Kitchen

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.

Elvis' Graceland 1965 - Items to be kept in kitchen and house at all times

 

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.

 

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Glen Campbell and Elvis

Elvis and Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell died yesterday, August 8, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

Elvis and Glen Campbell had been friends for over a decade before Campbell became a star in 1967 with songs like “Gentle on my Mind,” and “By the Time I get to Phoenix.”

Glen Campbell first met Elvis on April 12, 1956 when Elvis performed at the Armory in Albuquerque, NM.

Elvis in Albuquerque

Campbell later recalled, “I saw him in the rough. He was so electrifying.”

They remained friends over the years. When Campbell moved to Los Angeles in 1960, he started playing at a little club called the Crossbow. They had a private room upstairs seating 15 to 20 people, and Elvis would bring the guys and watch Campbell perform.

In 1963, Glen Campbell was in the group of studio musicians that backed Elvis on the soundtrack songs for Viva Las Vegas.

Elvis Presley, Red West, Glen Campbell at George Klein's wedding, 1970

Elvis Presley, Red West, and Glen Campbell at George Klein’s wedding, 1970

 

There is a video on YouTube where Campbell tells a wonderful story about Elvis. In March 1975, Campbell had just finished a run at the Las Vegas Hilton. Elvis was the next headliner, so Campbell stayed around to catch his first show. With Campbell sitting in the audience, Elvis said:

“I’d like to introduce you to a good friend of mine. He just closed here last night…and he should have. I’m only kidding‘, ladies and gentlemen, he’s one of the finest voices around. He plays a fair guitar, his hair never moves, Jack, no matter what he does. Naw, he’s a great friend, Glen Campbell.”

The good natured ribbing continued:

Elvis — Hey, Campbell. I understand you’re trying to do me on stage.

Glen — I am doing you. (Audience laughs)

Elvis — If you don’t stop doing me, me and the boys will sit in the front row and read newspapers during your show.

Glen — If I’m going to do you in the future, I’m gonna have to gain some weight.

With that line, the audience booed Glen Campbell. He and Elvis got together later and had a good laugh about it. Elvis gave him some good-natured grief: “You smart ass.”

 

Glen Campbell Wearing Elvis Jumpsuit - 1975

This is Glen Campbell wearing a jump suit and “doing Elvis” in 1975.

 

Good bye, Glen Campbell. We’ll miss you. Say hi to Elvis for us.

 

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

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Concerts at the Graceland Guest House Theater – Part 2

Concert in Graceland Guest House Theater

Last week we took a look at the first big concert in the new Graceland Guest House Theater. Actually, big does not adequately describe the Joe Walsh “All Shook Up at Graceland” event.

Joe Walsh at Guest House Theater 2

It’s a package deal including two nights in the hotel, two parties, Graceland tour, a combination concert/ Q&A session/slide show by Joe Walsh, and much more. And it cost $1,795 per person.

There have been other concerts in the Guest House, and they have been on a more modest scale. For example:

Gospel Weekend at the Guest House Theater

This was a two-night package back in February, with Mark209 in concert on Friday, February, 24th, and Memphis Soul City performing on Saturday, February 25th. Anyone booked in a two-double bed room with a view of the central courtyard ($219 per night, double occupancy, plus 21% taxes and fees) could go to the concerts for free.

 

TG Sheppard and Kelly Lang

This is a straight concert, with no hotel room tie-in. You can be staying at any hotel or motel in town and come see this show for $25. T.G Sheppard had dozens of top 40 country hits, but his last was in 1988. He is 73 but maintains a busy touring schedule along with his wife Kelly Lang. I suspect that the Guest House will present more concerts of this nature than the extravaganza packages like Joe Walsh.

 

That being said, I would like to suggest three performers I think Graceland would be wise to schedule. While they are all up in age, they are still performing. And best of all, they all have a connection to Elvis, and I would love to see any of them in a concert.

Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson Smiling and Elvis

In 1955, Wanda Jackson was a seventeen-year-old aspiring country singer, with some minor hits to her credit and a half-hour radio show on KLPR in Oklahoma City. In July, she was booked on one of those packaged touring country music shows that were popular in the fifties. It was here that she met Elvis Presley, and they became fast friends. Wanda and Elvis performed in other touring shows in August and October, 1955, and again in early 1956.

Elvis Presley and Wanda Jackson April 15, 1956 San Antonio

April 15, 1956, San Antonio

Elvis and Wanda dated a bit, but her dad was her manager on the road, so things never got hot and heavy between the young singers. In an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, she said, “Our dating amounted to what we could do on the road. If we got in town early, we might take in a matinee movie. Then, after the shows, we could go places with his band — and my dad, of course… It was very important, a girl’s reputation, in those days. There were things you could and couldn’t do, and my daddy made sure I never crossed the line.”

Wanda Jackson and Elvis

Elvis urged Wanda Jackson to branch out and try rockabilly music. He said, “It’s the next big thing, and you need to be singing it.” She took his advice and decided to try her hand in this wild new world of rockabilly. “He broke my train of thought and made me realize I could stretch myself.” Rockabilly songs are what made her mark in music history. As Rolling Stone said, “Her songs were full of vinegar. She sang them all with gravel-throated gusto.” The Smithsonian Institution would later refer to her as the sweet lady with the nasty voice. Her first national hit was “Let’s Have A Party,” which Elvis fans know he originally recorded for the movie Loving You in 1957. Jackson liked the song and recorded it in 1958 for her self-titled first album.

 

Later Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson went on to have great success in other four different genres – rockabilly, country, gospel, and rock and roll. She had huge popular success in Europe and Japan. In 2009, Wanda Jackson was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

In 2007, she recorded an album in tribute to her old friend titled I Remember Elvis. “[Elvis] has been a big part of my life. I worked with him and loved him very much for the person that he was, so it only seemed right that I should do a special tribute to him. I chose the songs he was singing when I was working with him in the fifties, and that gave it purpose. At the end of the CD, I also tell stories about my remembrances of the first time I met him, the first night I worked with him, and the last time I saw him.”

 

Wanda Jackson Concert Schedule

Although Wanda Jackson will turn 80 this year, she still does the occasional concert. I would be thrilled to see her perform at the Graceland Guest House Theater, and I’d bet she would pack the place. How about it, EPE? Please schedule Wanda Jackson while you still can.

Wanda Jackson in 2014

 

 

 

Johnny Rivers

Elvis & Johnny Rivers were friends in Hollywood in the early 60´s.

Johnny Rivers’ connection to Elvis started the same year as Wanda Jackson – 1955. At that time, he was Brooklyn-born John Ramistella, a twelve-year-old growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Young John and a buddy went to the local high school to see a country concert starring Minnie Pearl and Little Jimmy Dickens. Opening the show was an unknown singer named Elvis Presley. Minnie Pearl introduced him as “The Hillbilly Cat,” and he came out wearing a pink suit and white buck shoes. Elvis sang only two songs, “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Rivers recalled, “All that sexual energy up there on stage, people didn’t know what to make of it.” He said to his buddy, “Wow. This guy’s really cool.”

Johnny got a second look at Elvis after that high school concert. He went around behind the auditorium and saw Elvis, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black loading their gear in a trailer. Actually, Scotty and Bill were doing the loading. Elvis was talking to some of the country acts. Johnny remembers this about Elvis: “He was bouncing around, he couldn’t stand still. I’m thinking this is the coolest guy I ever seen.”

Within a year, Johnny was playing guitar in local groups, and by age fourteen, he was fronting the band “Johnny and the Spades.” In 1958 he performed at the Lousiana Hayride in Shreveport. Later that year, Johnny traveled to New York to seek work in recording studios. It was there he met legendary disc jockey Allen Freed, who convinced him to change his name to Johnny Rivers.

The next stop was Nashville, then back to New York City, and finally Los Angeles. In 1963 Rivers and his group began an extended stay as the house band at a local nightclub. This led to a lucrative offer to open the new discotheque Whiskey A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. Soon, his first album Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey A-Go-Go was released, and it quickly sold a million copies. Johnny Rivers’ career was on a roll.

With his newfound wealth, Johnny Rivers moved into a mansion in exclusive Trousdale Estates, and regularly drove his maroon Jaguar over to Elvis’ place in Bel Air for weekend football games, with other stars like Pat Boone and Jan and Dean.

 

Elvis on his 1966 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide and Johnny Rivers on a Triumph

Johnny Rivers and Elvis had one other interesting connection – the song “Memphis” written by Chuck Berry. Elvis recorded it during a two-day session in Nashville in May 1963 that produced fourteen songs. Time constraints limited “Memphis” to just two takes, and Elvis was not happy with either one. So, on January 12, 1964, Elvis went back in the studio to re-record “Memphis” and one other song. He wanted a more exciting, modern sound, because he planned to release “Memphis” as his next single. Elvis was dedicated and focused. He was in good voice, and he loaded up the studio with three guitar players and two drummers.

Elvis - Memphis Single

Elvis left the studio very pleased with the results, but “Memphis” was never released as a single – and Johnny Rivers was the reason. He and Elvis had jammed together on the song back in Bel Air. Rivers liked it so much he incorporated it into his repertoire at the Whiskey. In May 1964 a live version of the song hit the market and quickly went to #2 on the charts. That killed any chance of “Memphis” ever being an Elvis single.

Johnny Rivers- Memphis Single

 

There is one last Elvis/Johnny Rivers connection. I would strongly recommend his 1991 CD The Memphis Sun Recordings. Rivers recorded it at Sun Studios, with James Burton and Carl Perkins as special guests. It contains cover versions of four Elvis songs and three Perkins hits, plus others by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich. It’s a terrific CD, and I play it a lot.

Johnny Rivers -- The Memphis Sun Recordings

 

I find it hard to believe, but Johnny Rivers has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. How can they ignore an artist with 17 Top 40 hits, 9 Top 10 hits, and a Number 1 hit “The Poor Side of Town.” His most notable song over the years has been “Secret Agent Man,” which peaked at #3 in 1966.

 

Older Johnny Rivers

 

Johnny Rivers will turn 75 this year, but he still performs regularly.

Johnny Rivers Appearances

 

So, my second suggestion for an artist to appear at the Guest House Theater is Johnny Rivers. He could certainly wow the audience by performing the four Elvis songs on the Memphis Sun Recordings CD: “Mystery Train,” “Tryin’ To Get To You,” “That’s Alright, Mama,” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” Plus there is “Memphis.” Rivers also released an album Blue Suede Shoes, and the title song is the best version I’ve ever heard. If Graceland books Johnny Rivers, I guarantee there will be dancing in the aisles.

 

 

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley

Yes, I know this is a Photoshopped photo

Did you see this choice coming? How absolutely cool would it be to have Jerry Lee Lewis perform at the Graceland Guest House Theater?

I presume it isn’t necessary to detail the connection between Elvis and Jerry Lee. However, stories about their rivalry persist, so that’s worth mentioning. Elvis had been gone from Sun Records for over a year before Jerry Lee burst on the scene. In some ways The Killer had the better of it in this presumed competition. For one thing, Jerry Lee had much bigger hits at Sun Records than Elvis did. The sales of “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On” and “Great Balls of Fire” absolutely dwarfed anything achieved by Elvis’ five Sun releases. “Breathless” and “High School Confidential” also made the Top 40, something not achieved by an Elvis song until he went to RCA. Jerry Lee’s career also shot out of the gates quicker than Elvis’. His first release “Crazy Arms” went nowhere, but the second, “Whole Lot of Shakin’,” instantly made him a national star.

 

Million Dollar Quartet

The supposed feud between Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley is on pretty shaky ground. Consider what Elvis said after the famed “Million Dollar Quartet” session, his first musical interaction with Jerry Lee:

“That boy can go. I think he has a great future ahead of him. He has a different style, and the way he plays piano just gets inside me.”

Jerry Lee wasn’t afraid to put his stamp on Elvis songs. He has recorded “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” Elvis covered Jerry Lee’s’ “Whole Lot of Shakin,” and a few lesser-known Lewis songs.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis RockHall of Fame Photo

Both men are charter members of the Rock& Roll Hall of Fame, inducted together in the inaugural class of 1986. Check out the picture the RockHall uses as their stock Jerry Lee Lewis photo.

These days, Jerry Lee doesn’t climb up on the piano. He will turn 82 this year and his performance schedule is pretty skimpy.

Jerry Lee Lewis New Years Eve 2016

Jerry Lee Lewis New Years Eve 2016

He performed at his own club in Memphis this past New Year’s Eve, and then at a Country Music Festival in late February in Indio, California. His website does not list any upcoming appearances.

Jerry Lee Lewis On Stage - May 4, 2013

Hopefully, there is still enough time for EPE to book Jerry Lee Lewis for the Graceland Guest House Theater, but they better hurry.

 

Nesbit, Missippi

He lives on his ranch just south of Memphis in Nesbit, Mississippi.  They could send a stretch-limo down there and transport him to the Guest House in style. They could put him up in the Vernon and Gladys Suite.

Vernon and Gladys Suite

 

All that would probably run up the price of tickets, but I don’t think they’d have any problem filling up the place.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis is a Rock and Roll legend.

Come on EPE. Bring him to Graceland.

 

Older Jerry Lee Lewis

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©  2017    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

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Remembering Marty Lacker

Marty Lacker and Elvis Presley

On Tuesday, this appeared on Graceland.com/news:

“The staff of Elvis Presley’s Graceland wishes to send its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Marty Lacker, who passed away yesterday.

“A member of Elvis’ inner circle, known in the fan world as the Memphis Mafia, Marty’s friendship with Elvis stood the test of time. Among his contributions to Elvis’ legacy, he served as one of the best men at his wedding to Priscilla Presley and connected Elvis with famed American Sound producer Chips Moman.”

I’m sorry, but Marty Lacker was a special trusted friend to Elvis, and he deserves more than a four-line biography.

Priscilla and Marty Lacker at the Wedding

To be fair, Graceland.com did include a photograph of Elvis, Priscilla, and Marty at the wedding.   The shot above shows Priscilla and Marty at the reception. The first photo in this post is a color shot of the occasion. For some reason, most of the ones circulating around are black-and-white.

They also could have shared a photo of Marty along with Chips Moman at the famous American Sound Studios recording session, like this one:

Marty Lacker and Chips Moman

 

The Memphis Commercial Appeal put it this way:

Memphis Commercial Appeal on Marty Lacker

Two of the other songs were hits and should have been mentioned: “Kentucky Rain” and “Don’t Cry Daddy.” Elvis recorded a staggering total of 35 songs in the two sessions at American Sound.

 

Here’s a picture of Elvis and Marty Lacker on the set of Paradise, Hawaiian Style. Have you ever seen this one before?

Elvis and Marty lacker on set of Paradise, Hawaiian Style

 

Elvis fans deserve to know more details about Marty’s life and death. Here’s a good explanation from website EIN:

“Marty’s passing so easily demonstrates the fragility of life. His death being caused by a simple home accident (he fell over while doing laundry) which caused him to be hospitalized with internal bruising and eventual kidney failure. Marty was such a character that he even apologized for being in hospital and not replying to all his friends emails!

“Marty Lacker was born in Brooklyn, NY but grew up in the South Bronx until he moved to Memphis in 1952. In 1953 he transferred to Humes High School where he became aware of Elvis because they both dressed alike which was unlike most of the kids back then. Carrying his NY influences Marty would also wear bright, loud color clothes with collars up and had semi longer hair than the regular crew-cuts of the time. It was later after Marty’s time in the army, early 1957 that he started going over to Graceland.

“While Elvis was in the army Marty became Production Director for Memphis WHHM Radio, and it was only in 1961 that Elvis persuaded him to join Elvis’ core team full-time.

Unlike many others in the ‘Memphis Mafia’, Marty Lacker managed a separate career (working for radio stations as well as starting his own label Pepper Records in late 1967 before becoming VP and General Manager of Chips Moman’s American Studios in 1969) as well as staying a best friend to Elvis.”

 

Gold and Diamond Ring Elvis Gave to Marty Lacker

As research for this memorial to Marty Lacker, I searched for him in the ElvisBlog archives. I found the ring above in a 2012 article about the Ultimate Elvis Auction held by Heritage Auctioneers. The website printed this recollection from Marty:

“One night in the 70’s, I was upstairs at Graceland with Elvis, and he was going through his jewelry case. He turned around came over to me and said ‘let me see your hand’. I had no idea what he meant so I put my left hand out and he slid this ring on my finger. I thought it was a good looking ring. I looked at it and started to take it off to give back to him and he said, ‘keep it, it is now yours.’ That was a typical move for Elvis… I have worn it on my left hand every day for the last 40 years.”

The ring sold for $5,250, including the auctioneer’s premium.

 

Another gift from Elvis to Marty showed up at the Heritage Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction in 2013: For some reason, the number of clothing items Elvis gave to other Memphis Mafia members like Charlie Hodge, Red West, and Richard Davis was substantially more than what Marty Lacker got. Maybe he wasn’t so interested in fashion.

Elvis Wearing Shirt he later Gave to Marty Lacker Heritage August 2013 $3,000

This photo verified the shirt had been worn by Elvis before he gave it to Marty. It may be a shot you haven’t seen before. The shirt sold for $3,000.

 

Elvis and Priscilla's Marriage Certificate

Believe it or not, Elvis and Priscilla’s marriage certificate actually showed up at the first Auction at Graceland in August 2014. You will note the signatures of Elvis’ two co-best men, Joe Esposito and Marty Lacker. The pre-auction estimate was $40-60,000, but it didn’t even bring the minimum of $15,000. Seems like somebody would have considered it worth that much.

 

Elvis-Autographed-Americas-Ten-Outstanding-Young-Men-Program

Remember when Elvis was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of 1970 by the Jaycees? Elvis’ entourage at the ceremony included not only Marty but his parents.

Elvis Signed Program for Marty Lacker's Parents

This is Elvis’ inscription and autograph on the Lacker’s program.

 

Elvis Shooting Robert Goulet on TV

Marty Lacker is credited with revealing what happened when Elvis shot up a TV. This is the story published some years ago on www.elvisinfonet.com

“Elvis harbored some bad feelings about Goulet from back in the late 50s when he was in the Army. Elvis’ girlfriend Anita Wood was a singer and she did shows with Goulet and Buddy Hackett. Anita would often write Elvis in Germany, and one time Goulet added a postscript to one of them telling Elvis in a sly way that he was personally taking care of Anita. Elvis didn’t like that and he never forgot, so when he saw Goulet on TV, he shot the TV out.”

 

In closing, I would like to share these sentiments from my friend Jeff Schrembs at ElvisCollector.info:

“Along with being a trusted friend, Marty worked with Elvis in several positions including bookkeeper, secretary, and “sounding board”. However, no “title” can fully/adequately define the relationship between Elvis and Marty that endured for three decades.”

 

Older Marty Lacker

 

Good bye, Marty Lacker. We’ll miss you. Say hi to Elvis for us.

 

(Editor’s note:  Recently ElvisBlog received a message from Marty Lacker’s daughter.  Here it is:  Phil….sincere thanks for your tribute to my father and highlighting his very endearing roll in Elvis’ life and the deep and abiding friendship that my father and Elvis mutually had for each other. Many people, especially those most closely associated with the estate, like to negate or ignore Marty’s place in the Inner Circle and the many honors both pre and post Elvis’ passing that my father was responsible for creating and/or facilitating…but that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things because his family, his best friends Billy and Jo Smith and he and Elvis know the truth and that will never change…and for that I am comforted. Again, heartfelt appreciation for your kind memorial to my father, Marty Lacker—may he and his buddies passed be having a wonderful reunion now. 🙂)

 

© 2017 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

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Graceland Milestone – Elvis Humor at Graceland

Graceland Plaque

Elvis Presley Enterprises never misses a chance to celebrate a new milestone relating to Elvis.  For example, the 50th anniversary of the release of his first hit, “That’s All Right, Mama” in 2004.

EPE also marks milestones involving Graceland.  On May 3rd, they announced that Graceland officially welcomed its 20 millionth paid visitor since opening to the public on June 7, 1982.

Graceland Celebrates 20 Million Visitors

 

So, EPE is now giving us fans a chance to celebrate with 20 days of events.  Until May 22, you can sign up for a giveaway:

Graceland 20 Million Fan Giveaway

There will be winners every day, but the grand prize is a getaway to Memphis including a private tour of Graceland, a three-night stay at the new Guest House at Graceland, tickets to other Memphis music attractions, and the Elvis Presley limited-edition 60-CD box set.  Click here to enter.

 

Graceland Fan Mosaic

You don’t win any prize with this one, but if you submit a photo of yourself it may end up in a mosaic photo of Graceland.  They now have an app where you can locate your photo in it.  Of course, you will be encouraged to buy a copy of the final photo, but no price has been listed yet.

 

I like to tie an ElvisBlog post in with these Elvis milestone events, but celebrating Graceland is a little harder.  I have a great file of photos, but I want to use the best ones next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Elvis’ purchase of the mansion and fourteen acres.  EPE hasn’t announced a celebration yet, but you can bet there’s one coming.

 

Elvis Humor

Then I discovered Elvis’ Humor, a book of 290 humorous Elvis anecdotes, divided into distinct categories.  Like the three in the sub-title, girls, guns, and guitars, and dozens more… including Graceland.  When I saw that, it registered on me that stories of Elvis antics at Graceland would make a great blog post to join the 20 million visitors celebration.  I contacted the book’s author, Bo Keeley, and asked for his permission to use a few, and he kindly said “yes.”

 

So here are five excerpts from Elvis’ Humor.  Bo Keeley proceeds each story with a little background information and follows with his original source book, the author, and the page number where it appears.

 

Looking Up

Elvis flails fins on the movie poster of the 1967 musical comedy ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’. He plays Lieutenant Ted Jackson who is a former U.S. Navy frogman who divides his breaths between twin careers as a deep sea diver and nightclub singer. His actual background for the role was swimming and waterskiing as a teen, and many movie sets on ocean beaches. Graceland also had a kidney-shaped pool on a cut-stone patio. In the summer of 1973, recalling his fantasy frogman days, E threw a scuba party on the Graceland patio…

  Swimming Pool at Graceland

Elvis got into snorkeling and scuba diving. He rented equipment for everyone. Of course there was nowhere to go snorkeling around Memphis so Elvis just invited a lot of people over and we used Graceland pool. The whole entourage got involved and, as usual, there was a lot of local talent, pretty young girls in scanty bathing suits, all vying for Elvis’s attention.

Elvis in Scuba Gear

When Elvis got in the water so did everyone else, but the Graceland pool wasn’t that big. It looked kind of like an underwater fight scene from a James Bond movie with all of them trying to navigate around in there. Elvis just like to sit at the bottom of the pool and watch the girls swimming above him.

– Billy Stanley, Elvis, My Brother, 288

 

Switcheroo

The Presley family moved to Graceland in the spring of 1957, between ‘Loving You’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’. One of the reasons Elvis bought the 14-acres estate is because his earlier neighbors found, despite the perks of having a famous celebrity living nearby, the constant gathering of fans and journalists was a nuisance. At the time, the property was located several miles beyond the Memphis main urbane area that, in later years, would expand with housing, resulting in Graceland being surrounded by other properties. The King immediately spent in excess of $500,000 for renovations, including the $35,000 wall around every inch of the property, and musical gates. After returning from Hollywood, Las Vegas, or a concert tour, his favorite getaway place was back home…

The Gate at Graceland

Fans were always down at the front gate at Graceland. At night they gathered to watch the lights go on and off in the different rooms.

Some nights, Elvis would call out to the barn and have Mike McGregor saddle up Rising Sun so he could ride down to the gate and sign autographs and talk.  He felt safer on a horse.

One night he called down to the gate. His uncle Harold Lloyd was on duty down there.

“Open the gate,” Elvis said.  “Tell them to come inside.”

“Come inside?” Harold echoed.

“Just hold on,” Elvis said.  “Tell them to come on inside, then shut the gate after then and lock it.”

“Lock ‘em inside?” Harold echoed again.

“That’s right,” Elvis said.

So Harold opened the gate and the fans came on inside.  They looked up at the mansion, expecting to see Elvis coming out the front door.

A car honked behind them in the street.

They turned around.  It was Elvis, driving along the boulevard, smiling and waving at them.

They all ran back to the gate.  It was shut.  Elvis drove on out of sight.

They didn’t know what to do.

Then they saw Elvis’ car swing in the back gate.  Elvis got out and walked down the winding driveway toward them.  They were so stunned they didn’t move.

They dissolved when he walked in among them and smiled.

“Hi, gang.”

– Charlie Hodge, Me ‘n Elvis, 139

 

 

Jungle Room

In the mid-1960s, Presley enlarged the house to create a den that came to be called the Jungle Room. It was originally a screened in back patio that sat behind the kitchen, which he incorporated into the main house complete with a waterfall of cut stone on the far wall. It leaked and flooded, which created a steamy atmosphere in the summer in the Jungle Room full of exotic plants, animal prints, and floor-to-ceiling shag carpet in an African motif.  One day in 1968, Elvis heard Vernon laughing and went downstairs to investigate. Vernon snickered that he had just stopped by a furniture store to have a look at a new style of home furnishing. It was hilarious, he said, and belonged in a jungle. The enormous price tag made him laugh too. Why would anyone spend that kind of money to live in a jungle?…

Rock Waterfall in Graceland Jungle Room

Elvis was inspired. He called the store and ordered the entire set. He spent much more than he would have normally dared, but it would be worth it to see the expression on his father’s face.  The furniture was delivered the next day while Vernon was out of the house.  Elvis and his men set the furniture up in the downstairs den. When everything was in place, Elvis found that he actually liked the ambiance the furniture gave the room.  He felt calm and at ease. The oversized animal-print chairs were set low and wide; the coffee table was a slab of giant cypress tree heavily lacquered with polyurethane.

Cypress Plank Table in Graceland Jungle Room

Elvis installed a rock waterfall fountain which dripped water from a pump on top, and even the lamps had an African motif.  Elvis could not express how he felt in that room, but whatever it was, he liked it.

When Vernon returned to the house, Elvis called him downstairs.  The younger Presley almost dropped to the floor with laughter at the sight of his father’s amazed face. Elvis explained that the room had originally been intended as a gag, but now he liked it and wanted to leave it as it was.

–  Jim Curtin, Elvis: Unknown Stories Behind the Legend, 43

 

Golf Cart Plunge

Elvis Presley’s response to difficulty, anxiety, nuisance, insult, and troubles was often humor. One day in the summer of ’75, the Stanley brothers were fooling around at the pool and wouldn’t stop. Elvis was trying to read at the poolside and they kept splashing him. He growled that if they didn’t’ stop… the splashing continued…

He walked off in a huff and we forgot about it. We were still in the pool about half an hour later when we saw Elvis coming over the hill in the golf cart.  He stopped, stood up, and yelled for us to get out of the pool.  We just yelled, splashed, and taunted him.

Elvis on Golf Cart

So he came driving straight toward the pool with 300-pound Lamar Fike sitting next to him on the cart.  We thought he was just trying to scare us but he came busting up and drove right into the pool.  Of course we scattered, but Lamar had trouble getting out of the cart.  So we all jumped back in to make sure he made it to the surface.  Vernon came out yelling at everyone to get out.  The cart was electric powered by batteries, and he was afraid we’d all get electrocuted.  Vernon made us drain the pool before pulling the cart out.

–  Billy Stanley, Elvis My Brother, 288

 

 

Elvis' Humor - Front and Back Covers

My thanks go out to Bo Keeley for providing these humorous Elvis stories.  If you would like to get a copy pf Elvis’ Humor, click here.

 

 

©  2016    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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ELVIS meets NIXON

Elvis and Nixon Shades and Flag

We are about to see a flurry of promos and media buzz for a new movie about Elvis’ famous December 21, 1970 meeting with President Richard Nixon. It is titled Elvis & Nixon and will premiere on April 22.

 

Elvis & Nixon Poster

As a big Elvis fan, I really want to see this film; and I really, really hope to like it a lot. But I have some doubts. For instance, the guy they chose to play Elvis is Michael Shannon. In the preview clips I have seen, he does not look like Elvis at all.

Michael Shannon Plays Elvis Presley

So, what do you think? See much Elvis there? Maybe he looks better wearing an Elvis wig and shades and clothes.

Michael Shannon as Elvis

Sorry. To me he looks more like Evil Elvis living a parallel existence in an alternate universe. Or maybe Keith Richards.

To be fair, Michael Shannon has been in dozens of movies and is an excellent actor. In 2008, he was nominated for an Academy Award — Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the Leonardo DiCaprio/Kate Winslet movie Revolutionary Road. But he primarily plays intense, scary, bad guys, so why pick him to play Elvis?

 

President's Day Kevin Spacey as Nixon

The choice to play Nixon is perfect – Kevin Spacey. He is going great guns in House of Cards, and he’s excellent playing all those characters on the E-Trade commercials.

Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon

My worry after watching an Elvis & Nixon featurette on You-Tube, is that Spacey will dominate the movie with an inspired portrayal of Nixon. That won’t bother the casual movie-goer, but we Elvis fans want our guy to be the center of attention.

 

Elvis and Nixon in Oval Office

One thing we can count on to keep the story on track is that Elvis’ good buddy Jerry Schilling is an Executive Producer of the movie. He was with Elvis on the trip to Washington DC and was inside the Oval Office for part of the time Elvis was with Nixon.

Sonny West and Jerry Schilling with Nixon and Elvis

Sonny West and Jerry Schilling between Nixon and Elvis

This picture was one of 28 taken by the White House photographer that day. The public is very familiar with the famous one of Nixon and Elvis shaking hands. It is the most requested photo from the US National Archives

The Official Photograph of Elvis and Nixon

To see all the photographs taken, click here.

Colorized Photo of Elvis Meeting Nixon

They were all black and white, but here is a colorized version of one of them.

Photographer Taking Official Photograph of Elvis Meeting Nixon

And this is the scene from the movie where they posed for the famous photo.

 

Elvis and Nixon - Historical Drama

The key thing to me in the heading of this article is “Historical Drama.” This implies that they will be playing it straight. However, the whole story of Elvis’ visit to Nixon is bizarre and surreal. There’s little drama to it. To me, the best way to tell this story is with humor, and, in fact, that has already been done.

Elvis Meets Nixon -1997 vrs 2016

The above composite shows this is not the first time a movie has been made about Elvis and Nixon. I absolutely love the 1997 version, and will devote the next ElvisBlog post to it. It is one of the most hilarious movies I have ever seen, and there are three You-Tube video clips that will show you what a great fun romp it is. Next week is going to be a really great post.

 

Elvis & Nixon Title Block

 

 

© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Elvis Week’s Best Kept Secret

Elvis-Presley-Memorial-Trauma-Center-Sign

Have you ever heard of the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in Memphis? If you a member of an Elvis fan club, you probably have. If you are just an Elvis fan with no club affiliation, perhaps not. I’ve been to Elvis Week four times, but I never knew about this trauma center until a few weeks ago.

 Outside View of Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

 

So, I also didn’t know they had an annual fan reception during Elvis Week. This year, it is one of the 45 events listed in the official schedule of events on Graceland.com.

Announcement of Trauma Center  Fan Donor Reception

Maybe the receptions were not listed in the schedule of events for those four years when I was there, or if they were, I just skimmed past looking for something more interested to do. That was very short sighted of me.

.
First a little background. The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center is part of a huge hospital system called Regional One Health.

Regional One Health

Regional One Health Entrance

A scene from the 1997 movie The Rainmaker was filmed here with Matt Damon and Danny DeVito going up the steps and into the hospital

Established in 1983, the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center was named in honor of Elvis by then Memphis Mayor Bill Morris, a personal friend of his. When it was dedicated, many loyal Elvis fans conducted a fundraising campaign and donated $50,000 to the hospital. The Trauma Center is the only free-standing building that bears Elvis’ name and the only healthcare institution named in his honor.

Elvis fans and fan clubs have continued to contribute to the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center for the past thirty years. To express its appreciation for this generosity, the center holds a fan reception each year during Elvis Week. If you are heading to Memphis in the next four days, you should definitely take in this event.

 

Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center Fan Reception

As you can see, the guest speaker this year is George Klein, one of Elvis’ closest friends, and someone who knows a treasure trove of great stories about Elvis. Klein’s book Elvis: My Best Man is full of them. Klein does several events during Elvis Week each year, but the Trauma Center fan reception has one difference. It is free.

Plus they are serving “Elvis-style” refreshments.  I have it on good authority that this includes fried peanut butter and ‘nanner sandwiches done the way Elvis liked them.

The notice in the official Elvis Week schedule of events says that tours of the facility will be conducted. This includes the lobby and the Elvis family waiting room, full of large photographs of Elvis engaging with various charitable organizations he supported during his life.

Waiting Room at Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

Next up would be the shock trauma rooms (if they aren’t in use) and the ambulance bay.

Inside Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

Two interesting walls complete the tour. The Mural Wall is covered with huge reproductions of Elvis photos showing him in various stages of his life and arranged in chronological order.

Mural Wall 1

Photo credit — Andrea Zucker Photography

Mural Wall 2

Mural Wall 3

Photo Credit — Andrea Zucker Photography

The last part of the tour is officially called the Donor Recognition Wall, but fans know it as the Wall of Honor. It is covered by more than 300 brass plaques honoring those who have made a donation of $1,000 or more to the Regional One Health Foundation for the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center.

 

Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center Wall of Honor

Pamela Castleman, Regional One Health’s Nursing Director, in front of fan plaques in this 2009 photo

Some of the $1,000 donors are individuals, a few are corporations, but most are fan clubs. And many of these fan clubs are based in other countries.

Fan Plaques at Wall of Honor

The Wall of Honor is anchored by a bust relief of Elvis in the middle. Note the size of this in the photo above.

Brass Plaque of Elvis at Trauma Center Wall of Honor

 

The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center maintains an email list of all donors, not just those who gave over $1,000, but also those who have contributed any amount. These folks get updates each year about the date of the Fan Donor Reception and who will be the featured speaker. However, the event is open to all fans, so if you are at Elvis Week this year, consider attending.

We all know how generous Elvis was giving to charities. Now you can see how his fans are following in his footsteps. Elvis has reached people all over the world, and they still love him and do generous things in his name. Don’t be surprised if you come away motivated to join that list of donors.

 

© 2014 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Check out the Facebook page for the Regional One Health Foundation. If you “Like” them, you can keep up on any news regarding the Trauma Center.

In case you don’t know what trauma center means, it is a multidisciplinary team of highly trained specialists: surgeons, anesthesiologists, trauma nurse practitioners, certified registered nurses, anesthetists, nurses, respiratory therapists, orderlies, x-ray techs, and lab techs. They care for injuries caused by motor vehicle collisions, falls, poisonings, burns, suffocation, and drowning. Injured patients treated at trauma centers have a 25% greater chance of surviving 30 days than patients treated at non-trauma centers. The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center serves over 6,000 patients a year.

Many thanks to Joe Brandenburg, Director of Development, Regional One Health Foundation for much of the information and some of the photos used in this article.  The two professional photographs of the Mural Wall are provided by Audrea Zucker Photography.

 

More Gordon Stoker Stories

In the ElvisBlog tribute to Gordon Stoker last week, not much biographical material was given for this legendary musician.  So, here’s a little history.  Gordon was not a charter member of the Jordanaires vocal group when it formed in 1948, but he joined soon after and became the leader for the next six decades.  Gordon backed Elvis on his first RCA recording, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and the Jordanaires sang on almost every song Elvis recorded for the next thirteen years.

 

On Stage in Jailhouse Rock

Here is Gordon (right) doing a little dance move in Jailhouse Rock.  The Jordanaires also appeared in King Creole and G.I. Blues.

 

Gold Jacket - Gordon and Jarret

In addition to recording with Elvis and appearing in movies with him, the Jordanaires also backed him in concert.  Here are Gordon Stoker and Hugh Jarrett behind Elvis in his famous gold lamé jacket.

The Jordanaires did backing vocals for many other singers, including Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, K. D. Lang, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ricky Nelson, Ringo Starr, Chicago, Neil Young, Jimmy Buffett, Connie Francis, the Judds, and Vince Gill.  It has been estimated that songs with their backing vocals have sold over 2.6 billion records.

 

During my meatloaf meal with Gordon Stoker, he took my phone number and e-mail address, but I never thought I would actually hear from him.  Well, a few years later he called me to correct a mistake I had made.  The story is a little involved but here it is.

For years, I liked to make CD music compilations and send them to friends at Christmas.  One was called “Elvis Songs by Other Artists,” and it contained two covers each by Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Blacks Combo, Scotty Moore, the Jordanaires, and others.  However, four of the songs came from Scotty Moore’s 1968 album, The Guitar That Changed the World.

The Guitar that Changed the World

Scotty had called upon old buddies like DJ Fontana and the Jordanaires to help him out with the album.  You would consider most of the songs instrumentals, even though the Jordanaires repeated their original vocal backing parts.  However, on two songs, Gordon and the boys replaced Elvis doing the vocal lead.  These sounded more like Jordanaires’ songs, so I labelled them on my CD that way.

I thought Gordon Stoker would enjoy hearing the compillation and I sent him a copy.  A few weeks later, he called me and said I had it wrong.  He insisted those two songs were not sung by the Jordanaires; it had to be someone else.  So, I explained about them coming from Scotty’s album, and he thought about it and finally said, “Yeah, you’re right.”  After that forty-year-old memory came back to him, he was happy and we had a nice conversation.

 

Over His Shoulder

The last Gordon Stoker story is a little tricky, but I’ll try to write it so it doesn’t offend anyone.  See this picture of Elvis at the piano with the Jordanaires around him.  Knowledgeable fans know Elvis liked to wind down after concerts by singing Gospel music for hours.  Gordon told me a story about one of these sessions.

Bill Black was hanging out with everybody one night while the Gospel singing went on.  He was something of a prankster, and he noticed Gordon was leaning against the side of the piano with his hands behind his back.  One hand held the other, and the upper hand was in a cupped position.  Bill Black moved behind Gordon, who was really focused on the singing.  Black quietly opened his fly and gently placed his penis on Gordon’s cupped hand.  Gordon was so into the singing that he didn’t notice.  Of course, the giggles from everyone else finally gave him a clue and he saw what was going on.  Gordon said everybody broke into raucous laughter.

 

Inducted into Country Music HOF 2001

All of the photos so far have been of Gordon Stoker as a young man.  Let’s look at some more recent shots, starting with the one above from 2001 when the Jordanaires were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The fellow in the center next to Gordon is Ray Walker, who replaced Hugh Jarrett as the bass singer in 1958.

 

Phil and the Jordanaires  2007

This photo was shot before the Elvis Week 2007 concert, “The Last Man Standing.”  It was a tribute to Scotty Moore, the last man remaining from the Sun Records recording session on July 5, 1954, that started Elvis on his way.  The concert was also the last time Scotty ever performed on stage.  That’s me wearing my all-access pass and standing behind Gordon.  In 2004, I got autographs from all the performers, but in 2007, I was smarter and got photos with everybody.

That was the last time I ever saw Gordon Stoker.  I was unable to attend Elvis Week 2012, but once again he was part of another concert promoted by Darwin Lamm.  Declining health made it necessary for Gordon to be brought on stage in a wheelchair, and I am told the audience reception was emotional and huge.   Boy, I wish I could have been there.

The last photo comes from 2008 and features Ray Walker and Millie Kirkham along with Gordon Stoker.  Millie was the high soprano voice behind Elvis for fifteen years, starting with the 1957 Christmas album.

 

Gordon, Millie and Ray 2008

I have some concert stories about Ray and Millie, too.  They are not as old as Gordon, but in the back of my mind, I know I will be writing tributes to them as well someday.  It saddens me how we keep losing folks from Elvis’ world.

 

©  2013    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Remembering John Wilkinson

Former TCB Band member John Wilkinson passed away last Friday, January 12.  Over the following weekend, many Elvis websites noted his passing with biographical information and photos of him performing with Elvis in the 70s – like this one.

On Stage with John - Copy

ElvisBlog’s tribute to John Wilkinson is a little late because I had to make arrangements to secure the following photo from the graphic designer for Elvis International magazine.

25th Anniversary Concert Elvis Week 2002

The shot was taken during the one of three concerts presented by Darwin Lamm for the 25th Anniversary celebration at Elvis Week 2002.  This concert featured the TCB Band with Terry Mike Jeffrey (left) handling the vocals.  Continuing to the right, there is Jerry Scheff, James Burton, John Wilkinson, Marion Cocke, and Larry Geller.  A little bit of Charlie Hodge’s plaid shirt is visible behind Terry Mike Jeffrey.

The reason I wanted to feature this photo is because this is the only time I ever saw John Wilkinson.  The four re-united TCB boys, Scheff, Burton, Ronnie Lott, and Glen D. Hardin were the main draw, but there were lots of old Elvis friends who had time on the stage.  Most said a few words, but with John Wilkinson, it was different.

 

Me at the Legends Concert -- 2002

Me sitting next to Johnny Memphis, part-time Elvis tribute artist, former Graceland security guard, and supposely Jerry Lee Lewis’ second cousin.

I was sitting in a front row seat, a nice comp from Darwin Lamm for all those Elvis International magazine article articles I wrote for him.  So, I could practically reach out and touch the performers.  At such close range, I could really see the interaction between the folks on stage.  It was like a reunion — one big happy family.

When John Wilkinson was announced, he walked out slowly using a cane.  He held his left arm stiffly at his side.  I didn’t know it at the time, but John’s condition was the result of a stroke he suffered in 1989.  You could tell it was a very emotional moment for the others on the stage, and soon it spread to the entire audience.  There’s a lot of love in the world for members of the Elvis circle, and John Wilkinson certainly felt it that night.

 More Farewell Concert

Wilkinson spoke for a bit, but his big moment was when he sang “Early Morning Rain.”  The song had been associated with him since the Elvis concerts of the mid-seventies.  When Elvis introduced the band members, he would say, “From Springfield, Missouri, my rhythm guitar player, John Wilkinson.  Play it, John,” and Wilkinson would launch into “Early Morning Rain.”  I don’t know if John got standing ovations for it in the seventies, but he sure did in 2002 at that Elvis Week concert.  Very moving.

 

John Wilkinson Backstage Pass

 

Here are some more photos of John Wilkinson at work with Elvis.

Elvis and TCB Band All in White

Rehersal For That's the Way It Is July 1970

Rehersal for “That’s the Way It Is” – July 1970

Elvis and John Wilkinson 1977

John Wilkinson’s passing reminded me of an injustice that has lingered on for more than a decade.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored James Burton by inducting him into the Sideman category in 2001.  Every year since, I have hoped the other four members of the TCB Band will be inducted as well, but it never happens.   And, if it does finally happen, John Wilkinson will not be around to enjoy it.  Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, and Glen D. Hardin are not getting any younger.  It is time for the Roll Hall to honor the entire TCB Band.  To read more on the Hall of Fame’s snub of these bandmates, click here, here, and here.

 

John Wilkinson on Stage with TCB Band

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Good bye, John Wilkinson.  Say hi to Elvis for us.

John Wilkinson in the 70s

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©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

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