Tag Archives: Red West

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.

Elvis’ First Guitar — Part 2

Elvis Presley's First Guitar in front of Picture

When I posted the article last weekend on Elvis’ first guitar, I had no idea of what was to follow. There were more favorable comments on this post than any other in a long time. For example, Collette C. sent in this:

Oh, this story was fantastic. I can see his mama grinning from ear to ear when she got her way. As a mom I know how she felt! I just love this blog. Thank you so much.

Selma S. had this to say:

Phil, I am relatively new to your blogs, and as a lifelong Elvis fan, I can’t tell you how much I look forward to your email landing in my inbox.

Your dedicated research, your ability to write a logical story and your way of bringing the emotions to life are matched by the fresh information you bring.

As much as I appreciated these, I was more intrigued by this comment made by an unidentified member of the Tupelo Elvis Fan Club:

I believe Mr. Larry Moss of Memphis owns the original guitar.

Larry Moss at Tupelo Hardware with Elvis Presley's First Guitar.

Larry Moss with Elvis’ first guitar in Tupelo Hardware, June 2017, at Tupelo Elvis Festival

I replied to the comment and asked a few questions about Larry Moss. Within hours, I heard from him:

Great story and great due diligence. I am the person who owns the “Tupelo Special” guitar as some people call it… I’ll gladly discuss the details, if you’re interested…Larry Moss.

I jumped at the chance to learn more about Elvis’ first guitar, and Larry and I talked for an hour on Friday.

Larry Moss Collection 1

It turns out he and his wife Judy are major collectors of all sorts of Elvis memorabilia. They are kept in a secure, private location, but Larry has been known to let special people view his collection. When I get back to Memphis again, I will be thrilled to take up his offer for a guided tour.

Larry Moss and his wife started collecting back in 1973 when they got boxing champ Joe Frazier’s autograph on a dollar bill.

Elvis Presley's Contract with Col. Parker

Now Larry and Judy’s collection amounts to hundreds of Elvis items, a very eclectic mix. For example, Larry owns the original contract Elvis signed with Col. Parker in November 1955. Vernon and Gladys also signed because Elvis was a minor at the time.

 

There is an interesting history to Elvis’ first guitar between the time Elvis had it and today when it occupies a prime space in the Moss’ museum-like collection.

Red West And George Klein with Elvis first guitar

Red West and George Klein with Elvis’ first guitar

Elvis and the guitar were inseparable during his time in Tupelo, throughout high school in Memphis, at the first recording sessions at Sun records, and on the road performing early in his career. Back in the summer of 1955, Elvis and the band toured throughout the South. Red West was Elvis’ friend from their high school days, and Elvis asked him to travel with them. During off-time, Red took an interest in guitar playing, and Scotty Moore taught him the basics.

As the end of summer approached, Red told Elvis he would be leaving to attend Jones County Community College in Mississippi on a football scholarship. Elvis bought his friend a used Ford Model A or Modal T (a forerunner of things to come). By that time, Elvis had purchased better guitars, so he also gave his first guitar to Red so he could continue to master the instrument.

Red’s best friend and roommate in college was Ronnie Williams, another scholarship football player. He was a fan of Elvis because he liked all of the first Sun releases. Ronnie would talk to Red all the time about Elvis.

Even with a scholarship, Red found himself financially unable to stay in college. He sold the car for $50 and gave the guitar to Ronnie Williams. He later stated that the reason he did this was because Ronnie was such a big Elvis fan (plus Red couldn’t afford a case to properly carry it around). Red went back to work for Elvis as a bodyguard.

Shortly after that, Ronnie Williams transferred to Florida State. Later, he was killed (possibly shot by the police, details are fuzzy.) The guitar ended up with his brother, Bill Williams, who in 2011, tried to sell Elvis’ first guitar at Guernsey’s Auction House in New York.

Guernsey’s February 2016 Guitar Auction

Guernsey’s February 2016 Guitar Auction

The guitar had a minimum bid of $200,000, or possibly $250,000 (details are unclear), but no bidders wanted to pay that much for a guitar with absolutely no validation presented. There was no documentation to tie it to Elvis, particularly no photo of Elvis holding the guitar.

This is where the current owner, Larry Moss, came into the picture. He had an association with Guernsey’s Auctions from when they held the Archives of Graceland Auction in Las Vegas in 1999. Gurnsey’s Arlan Ettinger contacted Larry and gave him the name and phone number of the man who had put the guitar up at auction. Over several months, Larry Moss and Bill Williams negotiated, and finally, Larry Moss became the owner of Elvis’ first guitar.

He took a gamble, but had a connection he figured would help him prove the provenance of the guitar. His father played football at Humes High with Red West’s dad. Larry conducted interviews with Red in 2013 and 2014, and has nearly a half-hour of tape where Red provides valuable confirmation that the guitar is in fact Elvis’ first guitar. Larry is in negotiations with Graceland right now, so no more details can be given.

 

Scotty and Larry Moss with Guitars

Photo by James V. Roy

Larry Moss owns several other prized guitars. In the 2013 photo above, Scotty Moore holds a Gibson ES-295, the one he played when “That’s All Right, Mama” was recorded. This is Larry’s second most valuable guitar. You can spot it in the next photo (taken before Larry acquired Elvis’ guitar).

Larry Moss Collection Guitar Close-up

Photo by James V Roy

 

The collection also includes many items of Elvis’ wardrobe and five of his rings, which will be featured at a later date in a special edition of the ElvisBlog series, “Elvis’ Fabulous Rings.” Here are some of Elvis’ clothes and movie wardrobe.

Jacket Elvis wore in Million Dollar Quartet

This is the jacket Elvis wore when the guys jammed around in Sun studios, creating the iconic Million Dollar Quartet.

Million Dollar Quartet

 

Larry Moss’ collection includes another famous Elvis jacket — the one he wore during the Jailhouse Rock dance sequence.

Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock Dance Outfit

Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock Dance Outfit Placard

 

Do you know what was Elvis’ first jumpsuit to have a cape? It is called the White Fireworks Suit, and Elvis wore it in 1971 and 1972. It now is a star in Larry Moss’ collection.

Elvis Presley's First Jumpsuit with a Cape - Front

Elvis Presley's First Jumpsuit with a Cape - Back

 

As stated earlier, ElvisBlog will soon do a feature on the Elvis rings in Larry Moss’ collection. There are great stories to tell about some of these rings. There will also be a post about Elvis’ third cape for his American Eagle jumpsuit. Yes, the third. There’s a great story here, too.

Elvis Presley's American Eagle Cape

 

 

Like I said at the start of this article, I had no idea what last week’s post on Elvis’ first guitar would lead to.

Elvis Presley's First Guitar in Case

Photo by James V Roy

 

Now, thanks to Larry Moss, I have a treasure trove of stories and pictures to share with you.

 

The photos above credited to James V Roy appeared on www.scottymoore.net. If you want to see more photos, go to Scotty’s site.  Scroll to the bottom of the home page and type these into the search box: Elvis’ First Guitar, The Moss Collection, and The George Klein Interviews.

 

© 2017 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.