Category Archives: FRIENDS of ELVIS

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.

 

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

 

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

 

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.

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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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Goodbye Lamar Fike

It has now been over a week since the passing of one of Elvis’ oldest friends.  Lamar Fike died from complications of lymphoma on January 21.  Sorry it took so long to post a fitting tribute to him. 

Lamar Fike was an intriguing member of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia, and he is notable for several reasons.  At 270 pounds, he was certainly the heaviest member of Elvis’ entourage.

There is some confusion about how Elvis and Lamar had their first contact.  According to one report, Lamar first met Elvis by just hanging around the front of his house at 1034 Audubon Drive in Memphis until he was finally invited in.  Elvis lived there from May 1956 to March 1957.  However, it is likely that Elvis and Lamar first met in 1954 at Sun Studios.  Nineteen-year-old Fike was learning how to be a disc-jockey under the tutelage of George Klein, a classmate of Elvis’ and one of his friends.  Klein and Sam Phillips introduced Lamar to Elvis
  
With the exception of Klein and Red West, another of Elvis’ friends from high school, Lamar Fike knew Elvis the longest. Klein never lived at Graceland or worked for Elvis, but he remained a lifetime friend.  West was a year behind Elvis in high school, stayed friends with him after that, and become part of the earliest Memphis Mafia in 1960, as did Lamar Fike.

Jamming at Graceland, August 1957.  Fike on left.  Back of Anita Hill’s head at bottom.

 

In 1958, during the filming of Jailhouse Rock, Elvis was hospitalized for swallowing a cap for his tooth.  When Lamar learned about it, he got in touch with Elvis, who immediately told him to fly out to Hollywood and join him.

 

Lamar Fike and Elvis at RCA studio in Los Angeles during soundtrack recording.

After the movie wrapped, Elvis brought Lamar to Graceland, and he was the first friend to be given a room in Graceland.  So, Elvis had his pal around full time.

When Elvis was drafted, Lamar tried to enlist so he could be with Elvis, but he was turned down because of his weight.  However, Elvis took care of that problem.

Elvis was transferred to an Army post in Germany later in 1958, and he asked Lamar  to come over on the plane with Elvis' father and grandmother Minnie Mae.   Fike stayed and became part of Elvis’ extended family.  While in Germany, Lamar endured many jokes about his big size and served as the court jester for Elvis and other friends.   Elvis could kid him without Lamar ever getting upset.  He was happy to be close to his idol, and Elvis genuinely liked to have him around.  The German press called him the “Wrestler,” but Elvis liked to call him “Buddha.”

                   

Elvis and Lamar Fike while on furlough in Paris, June 1959

 

After Elvis was discharged in 1960, Lamar returned with him to Graceland.  A group of Elvis buddies – Red West, Joe Esposito, Charlie Hodge, and Lamar Fike – morphed into what became known as the Memphis Mafia.  Other members came and went over the years.
  

Col. Parker, Elvis, Lamar Fike, Joe Esposito, and Charlie Hodge, June 1968.

Lamar’s responsibilities for the next year or so, while Elvis’ was off making movies, are not well documented.  It’s seemed like he just stayed at Graceland, keeping an eye on the place until Elvis returned during breaks from movie filming.   His job responsibility seems to have been simply to be Elvis’ buddy.

In 1962, Lamar left Graceland to become road manager for singer Brenda Lee.  The following year, he moved to Nashville to run the Hill and Range Publishing office.  This housed Elvis' publishing companies, so the connection with Elvis continued.

 

Lamar Fike at International Hotel, Las Vegas, 1969

 

Photos from 1969-70 period.

                  

Lamar Fike was definitely a big guy.

In the 70s, when Elvis was once again performing live, Lamar came back into the fold and was given the job as Elvis’ lighting director at the concerts.  He got to travel to Las Vegas and every other place Elvis performed.  On tour with the King.  Great job.  Occasionally, he also took care of transportation in Las Vegas and Memphis.

 

Elvis, Jerry Schilling, Lamar Fike, Joe Esposito

 

Lamar Fike Gives Elvis a Ride on Stage

Lamar eventually married, and moved out of Graceland, but continued in Elvis’ entourage until 1977.

 

Lamar Fike is on Far Left

The photo above is a promo still from the 2005 CBS miniseries Elvis, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Elvis.  The actor on the far left is portraying Lamar Fike.  The other guys, left to right, are Joe Esposito, Jerry Schilling, Red West, and Charlie Hodge.  Elvis had his Memphis Mafia boys dressing sharp when they were with him.

 

So, now we say goodbye to Lamar Fike.    ElvisWorld seems smaller as we lose another of his buddies.  But, I’ll bet Elvis was really happy to see Lamar show up in Heaven.

 

©  2010    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.

Loving You — Starring Scotty, DJ, and Bill (Plus Elvis, of Course)

I recently found something interesting on the website for a Rock and Roll memorabilia auction.  It was a movie theater lobby card from Elvis’ 1957 film Loving You.  Most Elvis movie cards and posters show pictures of him with one or more of his lovely female co-stars, but this one included Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, his original guitarist and drummer.  I would guess neither man ever knew this lobby card existed, so I am sending copies to their webmasters.


Lobby Card showing DJ Fontana (far left) and Scotty Moore (far right)

 

Loving You was Elvis’ second movie, his first in color, and also the first of several (many?) where Elvis’ character was a singer.  There are elements in this film that are considered auto-biographical.  Elvis’ character, Deke Rivers, parallels Elvis’ start as a truck driver; for a beverage distributor in the movie and for an electric company in real life.  Once he starts singing in the movie, all the famous frenetic leg-gyrations and hip-swinging are there to produce loud squealing by the young girls in the audience.  There is even a female Col. Parker-like manager who gets Deke to sign a personal services contract giving her 50%.

The lobby card reminded me that all three of Elvis’ original bandmates, Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana and Bill Black, have considerable screen time in the movie, so I checked it out again to note all their appearances.  Within seconds after the opening credits finish, they are up on a town square stage, in a country band providing music for a political candidate.  DJ, unfortunately, is directly behind Scotty, and is not seen much.

Scotty Moore and a Politician – Bill Black in Background

 

After a few minutes of dialog by other characters, it’s back to the bandstand where we get a similar, but longer look at Scotty and Bill.  In fact, Scotty gets his best screen time in any of the Elvis movies — fifteen seconds in a close shot, standing beside the politician.

About seven minutes into the picture, Deke Rivers is persuaded to get up on the stage and sing a song. He chooses “Got A Lot of Livin’ To Do.”  This song is now used in Viva Elvis in the big trampoline sequence, which is generally considered one of the highlights of the Cirque du Soleil show.

Bill Black and Scotty Moore flank Elvis during “Got A Lot of Livin’ to Do”

 

At the eighteen minute point of Loving You, Elvis’ character is now a full time member of the band.  He sings “Let’s Have a Party.” Scotty again fares best with screen time, followed by Bill, and last again, DJ.

 

Bill, Scotty, Elvis, and DJ Playing “Let’s Have A Party”

 

However, DJ has a solo scene five minutes later when he comes out of a high school after a spring hop and removes the sign that announced the performance they just finished.


DJ Fontana in His Solo Scene

 

Seconds later, the band is presenting Elvis’ character a new guitar. Check out Bill Black, looking very dapper as he chomps on a long stogie. 


 
Bill Black Watching Elvis Get a New Guitar

 

About five minutes later, we see what is in essence a 1957 version of a music video. The beginning is striking, thanks to some very imaginative lighting used on Elvis.  The song, “Lonesome Cowboy,” changes mood and pace several times, and the three bandmates all get lots of screen time. The bad news is they are now a little farther back behind Elvis and in dimmed lighting. Near the end, DJ is clearly visible behind Elvis in a close shot, but you’ll never notice him, because Elvis does that incredible eye thing of his. This is where he bends his head down and looks out of the top of his eyes. Elvis’ presence in this scene is very powerful.

Elvis Singing “Lonesome Cowboy”

 

The next song in the movie is “Hot Dog.”  For a few seconds, the camera shot cuts off the actor members of the band and shows only Scotty, DJ, Elvis and Bill. It’s fun to watch Scotty, because smiles so much and seems to be having a wonderful time.  It is during this song that the manager creates a fake riot, very reminiscent of some of Col. Parker’s publicity stunts.

 

Scotty, DJ, Elvis and Bill Black Playing “Hot Dog”

 

The next appearance of Scotty, DJ, and Bill is in the scene that produced the lobby card.  The band is killing time on the road, and DJ and Scotty are at a table, playing cards with some other guys.  Bill Black is nearby in an armchair. He actually gets two lines of dialogue, including, “Hey, Deke. See the picture in the paper of the gals fighting over you?”
 

Bill Black Delivering his Speaking Part in Loving You

 

About 45 minutes into Loving You, Scotty, DJ, and Bill make their last appearance.  Elvis’ character sings “Teddy Bear.”  Although the band is visible, they are well behind him, and again the lights are dimmed until the song finishes.  In this scene, as others, the bandmates move their lips as though singing.  In truth, all the very fine vocal accompaniment in the movie came from the Jordanaires, an arrangement that would continue in many more Elvis films.
 

Taking a Bow after Singing “Teddy Bear.”

 

Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana and Bill Black also had significant screen time in Elvis’ third and fourth movies, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole.  It would be so cool to find lobby cards showing them in these films as well.  I’ll keep looking.

 

©  2010    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.

 

Elvis' Wedding Reception Redo

Lots of Elvis fans celebrate the anniversaries of events in Elvis’ life, including May 1, the day he and Priscilla married.  However, not many folks this week celebrated the forty-third anniversary of Elvis’ second wedding reception on May 29, 1967.  This event is pretty far down on the list of Elvis lore, but it is still an interesting story.

In her book, “Elvis and Me,” Priscilla Presley devotes a few pages to the special wedding party she and Elvis hosted in Memphis four weeks after they were wed in Las Vegas.  The most telling line was: “We threw a big reception at Graceland for all our friends and relatives.”  The italics were provided by Priscilla, to indicate she and Elvis were not happy with way some of the folks in their circle were excluded from the wedding ceremony.  She categorized them into three groups:

Those who hadn’t known about the wedding.

Those who knew but couldn’t attend.

Those who knew but weren’t invited.

Yes, there were a few people, especially among Elvis’ Memphis Mafia pals, who got cut out from the wedding.  And guess who cut them out – Col. Parker, who was running the whole show, as usual.

Elvis had assembled a large wedding party at his Palm Springs home the day before the wedding.  Then, two leased jets took everybody to Las Vegas.  Shortly before the scheduled time of the wedding, Col Parker advised most of Elvis’ entourage and their wives that there was no room for them at the ceremony.  They had to sit and wait until the reception room opened and they could join the celebration.

 

Here are the five Elvis buddies that actually got into the wedding:

        

             

Joe Esposito is no surprise.  He was Elvis’ tour manager and has been called Elvis’ best friend.  He was the logical choice to be Elvis best man.  However, Elvis actually had two best men.

Marty Lacker was the other.  He was Elvis’ personal bookkeeper and secretary.   This probably involved a lot of contact with Col. Parker, so my guess is that the Colonel liked him better than the rest of the guys and allowed him to be at the wedding.  Another guess that would logically follow is this:  Elvis knew there would be big trouble with the excluded guys if Marty Lacker got to go and they didn’t.  Do you think Elvis might have named Lacker Co-Best Man to justify him being at the wedding?

George Klein was a buddy of Elvis’ dating back to high school.  He did not work for Elvis, but he hung around a good bit with Elvis, and travelled with him sometimes, so his place at the wedding ceremony was natural.  If anybody should have been Co-Best Man with Joe Esposito, it was George Klein.  A few years later, Elvis was the best man at George Klein’s wedding

Billy Smith was a cousin on Elvis’ mother’s side.  He took care of Elvis’ wardrobe and served as his valet.  Billy and his wife lived in Graceland for many years.

Gee Gee Gambill was married to a cousin on Elvis’ dad’s side.  He had just married Elvis’ cousin three months earlier, but that gave him the family status it took to be assured a place at the ceremony.

 

So, Colonel Parker excluded some men very close to Elvis, most notably Jerry Shilling, Red West and Charlie Hodge.  In the photo below, you can see Shilling and Hodge (second from left and second from right, respectively) as they joined Elvis at the reception.  Red West was so furious about being excluded from the wedding that he refused to attend the reception.

Farther down on the pecking order, Alan Fortas and Lamar Fike did not receive invitations to anything.  Larry Geller first learned of the wedding from a supermarket tabloid (Parker really did not like him).

According to Priscilla, the second wedding celebration at Graceland was a lot more fun.  “Elvis and I wore our wedding clothes, greeted everyone, sipped champagne, and shared cake just as if the party were taking place after the wedding ceremony.”

                          

                    Cake at First Reception in Vegas                               Cake at Second Reception in Memphis

It would appear she had a lot less cake to share with a lot more people at the second party, but that didn’t really matter.  They had lots of champagne.  “It was much more comfortable and relaxed than Las Vegas.  Laughing and somewhat high from the champagne, we could really have a good time.” 

 

Elvis and Priscilla Enjoying Champagne at Their Wedding Reception Redo

 

“There were no photographers watching our every move.  It was fun seeing Vernon get loose.”   Here is a favorite memory Priscilla has from this reception:

“Daddy, you want some more champagne?”  Elvis asked, his eyes twinkling.

“Don’t mind if I do, Son.  That’s pretty good stuff.”

“Yeah.  Well, don’t drink too much.  I don’t want my daddy gettin’ in trouble.  I see that blonde you’ve been eyein’.”

Vernon stole a glance at the girl and, with the same twinkle replied, “She ain’t too bad, is she?  Think I’ll go see if she needs anything.”

 

Go for it Vernon, you old hound dog.

 

The New Bride and Groom Start their Honeymoon

©  2010    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.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Ignores TCB Boys Again

The Rock & Fall Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2010 inductees today, and for some reason, they skipped the Sidemen category.  This means that Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, Glen D. Hardin and John Wilkinson will have to wait at least another year to join TCB band leader James Burton in the Rockhall.  Frankly, I cannot figure out the logic the selection committee uses, but they continue their stupid record of keeping Elvis’ bandmates on hold.

 

Elvis, Charlie, Jerry, Ronnie, James and John (Glen is off frame to left)

 

As we have discussed on earlier blogs, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Sidemen category has a strange history.  It was started in 2000 with five inductees including Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore.  The next year, two more musicians were honored, including James Burton.  So, things started out good for Elvis’ bandmates.

In 2002 Chet Atkins was the lone honoree, and in 2003, three more musicians were added.  Fans started wondering when Bill Black and DJ Fontana would join Scotty, and when the rest of the TCB guys would join James in the Hall of Fame.  Five years later they were still wondering, as there were no new Sidemen inducted in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.

In 2008 the Sidemen category was revived with a strange selection.  Little Walter was an exceptional blues talent and harmonica wizard, but his fame as a bandmate was with Muddy Waters, not any rock singers.

Finally, in 2009 DJ Fontana and Bill Black won their long overdue recognition and were installed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Nine years after Scotty Moore was honored, Elvis’ full band from the 50s was finally together in the Hall.  It was then that I started to hope the same thing would happen the next year for the TCB Band.  Surely Jerry Schell Ronnie Tutt, Glen D. Hardin and John Wilkinson would join James Burton in a Class of 2010 Sidemen after their own nine year wait.

Ronnie Tutt, Glen D Hardin, and Jerry Scheff

 

I’m afraid not.  By skipping the Sidemen category again, the Hall has put off the other TCB guys’ worthy induction for yet another year.  That will make it a full decade of waiting.  This is so frustrating.  These guys deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.  It’s hard to tell if EPE is doing any promotion on their behalf, but they should.  If they would use that huge mailing list of fans they’ve got to organize a letter-writing campaign on the fellows’ behalf, maybe we could get this thing done.

I’ll say it again.  Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, Glen D. Hardin and John Wilkinson BELONG in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net