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|IS SCOTTSDALES JOHN SMITH THE
SECRET LOVECHLD OF ELVIS PRESLEY?
John Smith is the secret love child of Elvis Presley. And he has, he swears, the DNA evidence to prove it
By Robert L Pela (Pheonix NewsTimes)
|John Dennis Smith and Co-writer, Rob Carlburg
"There was an effort to keep John and Elvis apart," explains Carlburg, the co-author of Smith's
memoir. "If they were seen together, people might start to notice how they looked alike or
sounded alike, and there might be questions."
Smith isn't keen on questions. He dodges requests for in-person interviews, consenting only to
speak to New Times by phone. During a 45-minute telephone conversation that takes place
during a sound check at a bar gig in North Dakota, Smith sets the phone down often to go check
his mic and his song list.
"I have always been compared, as a performer, to my daddy," he says, returning to the phone.
"Now, if I'd been compared to Tiny Tim, I would have had a problem with that."
Yet Smith has no problem with bending — or at least ignoring — the truth. In Let the Boy Sing,
he writes about the thrill of recording and releasing an album in 1980 with top Nashville session
musicians and vocals by the Jordanaires, Elvis' renowned background singers. But Smith never
tells us the title of the album, and an exhaustive search of ASCAP, BMI, and RIAA catalogs shows
only two albums by Smith, recording as John Starr, both released in 2010 on the teeny
independent Adonda Records label owned by Smith's longtime manager, Harrison Tyner. Despite his claims that he also once had a recording deal with
RCA Records, Smith's only other vinyl output appears to be a pair of Adonda singles, released in 1979 under the name Dennis Smith.
In his book, Smith refers to Adonda Records as "a subsidiary of Capitol Records." Asked about this, he replies, "Well, I know at one time they were a
subsidiary of RCA." Neither is true. Nor is it true that Adonda owner Harrison Tyner also managed Elvis, another of Smith's claims. (He also tells
readers he's been inducted into the Cowboy Music Hall of Fame, although no such organisation appears to exist. There is a National Cowboy Hall of
Fame in Texas, but its only inductees are Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Hugh Farr, and Tex Ritter. And there is, of course, a Country Music Hall of Fame,
but Smith is not among its many esteemed honorees.)
After his indie singles flopped, Smith, then 19, apparently decided to try his hand at songwriting. A chance encounter with Kenny Rogers in a Nashville
diner, he claims, led to a long series of hit records for which other people took writing credit.
"You see, that song that I wrote, it was called 'The Old Man in Our Town,'" Smith writes, "and it was the B-side of the record 'You Decorated My Life,' which
was one of Kenny's earliest big hits in country music."
The only part of this story that Smith got right was the spelling of Kenny Rogers' name. The song he lays claim to is actually titled "There's an Old Man in
Our Town," and while it's true that Kenny Rogers recorded it, the song was not the flip side of "You Decorated My Life," which was hardly one of
Rogers' early hits. In fact, that song was Rogers' 20th consecutive Top 40 single and was released in 1979 — 20 years after the singer launched his
successful recording career. "There's an Old Man in Our Town" was first recorded by Rogers in 1972, while he was still a member of the folk-rock group
The First Edition.
Smith claims he wrote the song when he was a young man toiling away as a songwriter for Capitol Records' Nashville division. But the song was published
when Smith was only 10 years old, and was released not on Capitol or any of its subsidiaries, but on Jolly Roger Records, a label distributed by MGM
Records. What's more, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) gives sole songwriting credit to Kenny Rogers himself.
Smith also claims to have co-authored songs with the Gatlin Brothers and country band Restless Heart , "I was privileged to be a part of writing one of
their biggest hits, 'The Bluest Eyes in Texas,'" he writes in his book, among others. But his name doesn't appear on any recording by these artists, neither
of whom responded to e-mails and phone calls about their working relationship with John Smith.
Asked about this, Smith chuckles. "Well, back then, the songwriter did all the work, & the artists took the credit and rode around in the limos."....Not true,
according to pop music archivist Lisa Kurtz Sutton, who has produced hundreds of pop music anthologies and dozens of TV shows about the history of
rock. "There have always been stories about singers and producers and label owners giving shared songwriting credit to someone who didn't write the
song," she says. "But not the other way. And that's because the recording industry is a union industry. It doesn't seem likely that a big, powerful union is
going to look the other way while singers are putting their names on songs that some kid wrote."
But if Let the Boy Sing is any indication, Smith can't be bothered with unions or copyright dates or published song credits. In his book, Smith writes at
length about the song that proves conclusively that Elvis is really his daddy.
"One of the biggest indicators of how Elvis felt about his time with my mom was shown when Elvis commissioned the writing of a song that just missed
becoming his 17th (U.S.) number-one hit," Smith writes. "The song became popular in the later part of 1961 — the year that I was born. The song was
'(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame.'"
Rock historian Richie Unterberger doesn't think so. Unterberger, author of bestselling books about the Beatles, the Who, and Jimi Hendrix, says the
song, penned by legendary songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, originally was intended for singer Bobby Vee. "Producer Snuff Garrett realized
the songs weren't appropriate for Vee," Unterberger says, "and Pomus and Shuman then approached Bobby Darin, who tried to record the songs with
unsatisfactory results. It seems doubtful to me that Pomus and Shuman were commissioned to write the song by Elvis or his representatives."
The song eventually was recorded by singer Del Shannon, who'd recently had a hit with the now-classic "Runaway." The story goes that Elvis heard
Shannon's version and decided to cover it.
"If Elvis ever commissioned a song with a particular girl's name," says Serene Dominic, "which he never did from Doc Pomus or anybody else, he would have
had an exclusive on the song. No one else would've given a song to Del Shannon to sing if Elvis had commissioned it." Continue To Page 4