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May 24,  2017   -    Elvis Express Radio
Sad news from the Elvis World as another original Memphis Mafia member, Sonny West died today in a Nashville Hospital aged 79.

Sonny West had been in Hospital ever since October 2016 but had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and had been battling against serious medical issues on and off over
the last 5 years.

Del 'Sonny' West was born on July 5, 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. He was introduced to Elvis by his cousin, Red West back in 1958, just before he was to be stationed over
in Germany during his time in the US Army.

However, upon Elvis' military discharge in March 1960, he spent some time at his Graceland home in Memphis before heading back out on his career. During this time, Sonny
began visiting him, and soon after this, Elvis asked Sonny to come to work for him full time.

The friendship between Elvis & Sonny grew over the years into a very tight and trusted relationship. He even moved into Graceland for a period of time.

Along with other MM members like Charlie Hodge, Red West, Joe Esposito etc, Sonny appeared in several Elvis movies as an extra. He can also be seen in the 2 concert movies
'Elvis: That's The Way It Is' (1970) and 'Elvis On Tour' (1972). During the years spent in Hollywood with Elvis, Sonny started to stick close to the director and various other members
of the crew members, taking care to watch and learn about the production end of movie making.

In mid to late 60's, Sonny had a few acting roles under his belt, along with stunt work. According to the Internet Movie Database, Sonny appeared in the following productions.

1983  -  E.S.P
1978  -  The Disc Jockey

1970  -  Bigfoot  [Mike]
1968  -  The Hellcats [Snake]
1968  -  Stay Away, Joe [Jackson He-Crow]
1967  -  Daniel Boone...TV Series
           A Matter of Blood (1967) ... Brave #2 (uncredited)
1966  -  The Navy vs. the Night Monsters  [Airplane Guard / Fireman]
1962  -  Kid Galahad [Bit Part] (uncredited)

1968  -  Live A Little, Love A Little (stunts uncredited)
1965  -  Harum Scarum (stunts - uncredited)
1965  -  Tickle Me (stunts - uncredited)

Along with the above roles, Sonny also had a guest role in the Beverly Hillbillies as Dr. Robert Graham, a veterinarian and boyfriend for Elly Mae. And then of course, he appeared
in many Elvis documentaries over the years.

During his stint in Hollywood he met his wife, actress Judy Jordan, the original "Away We Go" girl from the Jackie Gleason Show.

Sonny was also present with Elvis and Jerry Schilling on December 21, 1970, when Elvis
met President Richard Nixon in the White House. Elvis was also the best man at Sonny and
wedding on December 28, 1970. Sonny West worked for Elvis up until 1976 when he, along with cousin Red and bodyguard Dave Hebler were fired.

In 1977, Sonny, Red and Hebler joined up with tabloid trash King Rupert Murdoch who saw to it that Steve Dunleavy, the slimy sensationalist tabloid writer would be the one to work
with the bodyguards and write the
controversial book 'Elvis, What Happened?'.

The following is an article by Chet Flippo, the Editorial Director for CMT:
The 1977 book
Elvis: What Happened? was a very messy tell-all expose, based entirely on interviews with the three formerly trusted aides and bodyguards who had recently
been fired by Elvis' father Vernon as part of a cost-cutting operation. The bodyguards, the cousins Red and Sonny West and Dave Hebler, felt betrayed after being summarily
dismissed after years of what they regarded as devotion to the King.

They seemed to seek revenge. And they got it in
Elvis: What Happened?

"We lost money," Murdoch told Esquire magazine in 2008 in talking about the New York Post's finances. "Until one of our reporters wrote the 'true story' of Elvis Presley.
We said we would serialise it, and it came out the day Presley died, completely by coincidence."

The instalments had actually been planned to run later, but Elvis' sudden death prompted Murdoch to pounce. The New York Post began printing
instalments from the book the day that Elvis died. The first headline read, "New Book Tells of His Decline in Drug Nightmare."

Objectively speaking, the book was a true MURDOCH HATCHET JOB. It laid out all of Elvis' dirty laundry that you didn't want -- or need to know. And it was all hear-say from the
three bodyguards. No other sources are cited in the book at all.

There are no voices to answer for Elvis. The book's copyright is by Murdoch's News Corporation. It became a best-seller, and the profits went to Murdoch's News Corporation, not
to the author. It was written by Steve Dunleavy, a hard-drinking, controversial Australian reporter greatly favored by Murdoch.

Dunleavy told me the assignment to do the Elvis book came from the very top. When I pressed him about his financial arrangements about the book, Dunleavy would only say, "Mr.
Murdoch took care of me very well for the book."

Steve would not say if he or the Post had paid for interviews with the three bodyguards for the project. Given the Murdoch empire's lengthy history of
buying interviews and paying
out bribes, I suspect that was very likely the case. There were no cell phones back then, so they couldn't have been
hacked. But Dunleavy didn't really need phone hacking. He got
his dirt straight from Elvis' former guys.

Close Elvis associates have said the book had a devastating effect on Presley. He read portions of an advance copy of it, became alternately
depressed and enraged. The book
was published in
early August of 1977. Elvis died in Graceland two weeks later, on August 16, 1977.

They did not write the book out of spite, hatred or to exploit Elvis, explained Sonny. "Our thoughts were all positive," Hebler said. West said  he deplored the press emphasis on
drugs and denounced ghostwriter Dunleavy "for going up there and blasting into him and saying the whole thing is about drugs. It's not. There's love and admiration in there."

A study of the book shows, however, that drug references appear in at least nine of 22 chapters; other chapters are taken up with incidents of violence, biographical information,
anecdotes detailing Presley's well-known generosity with both friends and strangers and his love of his late mother, Gladys.

But many of the "love and admiration" remarks are used to offset negative impressions of Presley. For example: "'I had a lot of laughs, a lot of good times with Elvis,' says Red. 'I
also had a lot of rough times with him. Elvis over the years has changed since those days, unfortunately ... but I grew to love the sonofabitch, and despite everything — maybe I still

In a press conference, Sonny said the following regarding Elvis and why he turned to drugs; "Ever since I've known Elvis, this man has needed a challenge, and he'd meet it. He did
it in 1973 when he was overweight. He was gonna do a satellite show — 25 countries, a billion people — he went on a diet, he got down to about 165 pounds, the best I had seen
him look in several years, and he put on a dynamite show, and then he went right back to what he was doing before.

He just didn't care. He loved performing, but all the time he wasn't on stage for that hour, I guess the man was just bored and trying to find different things to do. He would get toys
or things, like three-wheelers, and ride them around Memphis, just for an hour or so, just to get out. I mean the man was limited, he could be in the middle of a crowd and he could
be lonely. He was one of the loneliest men I've ever, ever seen in my life. We tried to be with him and protect him and keep him happy as best we could. I swear to God we did, man".

After Elvis’ death in 1977, Sonny and his wife, Judy, raised, bred and showed Arabian Horses until 1983. They also owned and operated a Western Costume Jewelry line. In 1978
Sonny was Associate Producer and co-starred with Jim Stafford in a movie filmed in Nashville, titled "The Disc Jockey".

A promoter he had met during his years with Elvis hired him to take charge of security for a tour he was promoting called the "SALEM COUNTRY GOLD TOUR ’82," starring the
country group, Alabama, Mickey Gilley, Johnny Lee and Juice Newton. Sonny was also in charge of hotel arrangements and transportation for the tour.

Over the next several years, Sonny learned the talent booking business from the promoter for whom he was working, booking top talent into all size venues and booking for Special
Events. Sonny was also a Co-Producer on several music videos.

Sonny loved to share his stories about his life with Elvis with fans around the world and filmed a DVD called "Up Close and Personal" of his live performance. In 2007, Sonny
published his second book on his life with Elvis with co-writer, Marshall Terrill, titled: ELVIS: STILL TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS by Triumph/Random House.

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