Daily Archives: January 29, 2011

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.

 

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