|ELVIS WAS MY BEST MAN
By George Klein
ELVIS was in a good mood. And when Elvis was in a good mood, everyone around him was in a good mood. “Get over here, GK,” he said. “sit down and
stay a while.” He was looking relaxed, happy and as cool as could be sitting at the head of the table in the Graceland dining room.
He gestured to the empty chair next to him on his right, so that’s where i took my seat, saying hellos to Priscilla and other members of the “Memphis Mafia”.
it was a couple of days into the new year of 1969 and Elvis had been making me a welcome place at Graceland since he bought the place in 1957.
Elvis was still feeling extremely proud and pleased with the Elvis Tv special that had just aired at the beginning of
December. After years of feeling stuck in mediocre films with mediocre music, he had fought hard to make the kind of television show he’d wanted to make.
He’d shaken off the advice of the not- so-easily-shaken Colonel Parker, who wanted his star client to make some- thing along the lines of an hour of cosy
Christmas carols. instead Elvis put together an exciting hour that paid tribute to his rock ‘n’ roll roots.
But i sensed a dip in Elvis’s happy mood. For all that it had been going well recently, it had been a long time
since he’d had a hit. i knew where he could find the material he was after.
But i also knew very well that it wasn’t wise to come at him with some big career-related suggestion in front of a lot of other people, especially a mixture of
business associates and Memphis mafia guys. As open and generous as Elvis was, he had a strong sense of pride and you didn’t want to do anything to
embarrass him. I knew that but raised my hand.
“Elvis, you know you can sing anything. But it just makes me sick that you’re getting nothing but B-side material to work with. You’re sitting here, a
superstar, being told which musicians you can and can’t get. Just 10 miles north is American sound studios, where they’re cutting the greatest hits in the
world.” it was awfully quiet round that table. For the first time i was really nervous. Elvis turned to me, looked at me hard and pointed an index finger right at
me. “GK’s right,” he said.
“George is right. i just want some great songs.” One of the first songs he recorded there was in The Ghetto. Elvis was back. Humes High school was a big
red brick building on north Manassas street in north Memphis and in the autumn of 1948 i was a pupil there. My teacher Miss Marmann announced that
since Christmas was coming up, we’d get to sing Christmas carols together. This didn’t sound too “special” to me but a new kid in class held up his hand
“Miss Marmann?” he called out.
“Do you mind if i bring my guitar to class and sing?”
There were a few little snickers and laughs. Back in 1948 there wasn’t any- thing cool about a 13-year-old kid playing a “country” instrument like a guitar.
But next Monday we all took our seats in music class and sure enough, there was Elvis Presley with his guitar. when Miss Marmann called on him he picked
up that gui- tar, walked to the front of the class- room and sang us two songs. As he strummed his last chord, there was a moment of shocked silence, then
a smattering of applause.
But that boy could really sing and i was blown away. First of all it was impressive that this boy had some talent but to see him get up in front of the class,
with one of the strictest teachers in the school and sing so strongly was unbelievable. This was a boy unafraid to put himself in the spotlight. For the first of
many, many times in my life, i thought: “That guy is cool.”
By the time it was our final year at school, Elvis was clearly different. The most obvious thing about him was that he dressed differently. Most of us were
wearing jeans and plain, collared shirts. But you never saw Elvis in jeans. (i’d learn later that he hated them – they reminded him of the work clothes his
family had worn at their poorest.) instead he’d wear black slacks with a pink stripe down the side and a black sport coat with collar turned up. He’d let his
hair grow out and had it combed back. He acquired his notoriety in a quiet but unmis- takeable way. like a velvet hammer.
After Elvis began to be successful, i started to work for him as a travelling companion. One night we went back
to the new house he’d bought with three bedrooms: his, his parents’ and his Grandma Minnie. it was too late for me to go home. i expected Elvis would point
me to a chair or a sofa or a piece of floor to bunk down on. “You sleep in my bed. You take that side, i’ll take the other. There’s plenty of room.”
He was right – one of the first luxuries he’d bought himself was a king size bed. So in 1957 that was how I found myself in the unusual position of preparing
to get under the covers with the biggest rock ‘n’ roll star in the world.
As I soon discovered, sleeping alongside Elvis Presley wasn’t always a very restful experience. Almost as soon as we laid down on our respective sides of
his bed, I became aware of a soft, strange steady tapping coming from the wall nearest Elvis’s bed. “What’s that, Elvis?”
“Oh, that’s just the girls outside. They worked out where my bed- room is so now they just sit on the other side of the wall.”
Along with the tapping, I could hear whispers too. “Elvis, we love you. Elvis, can we come in?” He was so used to the commotion, that he didn’t seem to
have much trouble falling asleep. Later that night I saw him sleepwalking but I never talked to him about it. Shortly afterwards he moved to Graceland.
A few years later we Memphis Mafia members were hanging round the den of a beautiful house in Bel Air, which Elvis was renting. At the mention of Ann-
Margret, who was coming round that night, we all began to hoot and holler. Priscilla Beaulieu was living in Graceland – he loved the fact that she was
younger, 18 to his 28 – but while he wanted a future with Priscilla, that didn’t mean he might not enjoy himself with somebody else.
As far as somebody else went, it didn’t get much better than Ann- Margret. “She’s got a body that won’t quit,” somebody called out. “I can’t wait to get a look
“You ain’t getting a look at her,” said Elvis. “You guys are going to get lost tonight.” This did not go down well, but he didn’t budge. Elvis was going to be
entertaining Ann-Margret in the house’s large den, which had a circular layout and was completely glassed in on one side.
While Elvis was getting ready, we came up with a strategy. There were heavy drapes around the glassed-in side of the den, which Elvis had pulled shut for
privacy. We went round and separated them all an imperceptible half inch or so, just enough so that someone on the other side of the glass could see in.
We stayed out of sight she arrived, then crept outside and took up our peeping positions. Ann-Margret was a stunning woman, with a great figure, beautiful
legs and a real glow about her. Ann and Elvis laughed and talked for a while, then sat down for a dinner that was brought in by the house cook. When the
couple had finished dinner, we saw him do something that we’d only seen him do with Priscilla: he slow-danced with Ann-Margret. That sight shocked some
They kept dancing and laughing and seemed to be having a great time together. At some point Elvis headed out toward his bedroom, leaving Ann-Margret
behind. We didn’t care because we only wanted to look at her.
“Ahem.” We all jumped and turned round to see Elvis standing there behind us not looking very unhappy. There was just a moment when everything was
quiet, then he began shouting and swearing at us, firing karate kicks at us and shooing us like a pack of dogs. We all scattered and began running,
although I received a good karate kick before I got away. I ran into a glass door, took a moment to check my nose – the one Elvis had bought for me – then
I took off like a jet again, trying to avoid being on the receiving end of any more karate kicks.
AT THE end of his life, Elvis became so weak that dates had to be cancelled. His system had become too compromised from his overuse of prescription
medication. One day when I was working as a DJ, the phone rang in my office. It was one of the other DJs.
“I hate to make this call to you, GK,” he said, “but we just got a wire story that Elvis has passed away.”
“You know that’s not true.” But a second call came in and a third. I started feeling uncomfortable hearing this again, but I knew it couldn’t be true. “Let me
check things out,” I said.
I dialled Graceland right away and got one of Elvis’s friends. “It’s true, George,” she said. “You need to get out here as fast as you can.” I felt like somebody
had stabbed me with a red hot knife. I got into my car and started driving to Graceland at about 100 miles an hour. The room was full of people and the
face that stood out at me was little Lisa’s, Elvis’s nine-year-old daughter. I couldn’t imagine how she’d make sense of what had just happened to her.
There was one terrible sound that cut through all the other noise in the room: the sound of Elvis’s father Vernon Presley crying uncontrollably. “We’ve lost
him, George, we’ve lost him,” he said through his tears.
“We’ve lost my dear, dear son.” “Oh, Mr Presley. No, no, no...” My best man. My best friend. He was gone.
l To order Elvis: My Best Man by George Klein (Ebury Press) at £18.99 send a cheque payable to “Express Bookshop” to Elvis Offer PO Box 200 Falmouth
TR11 4WJ or tel 0871 988 8367 or at www. expressbookshop.com UK delivery is free.
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