After ascertaining that David's favourite Elvis songs were 'Jailhouse Rock' and 'Memories', that he didn't like Elvis singing 'Hey Jude' and that he thought Elvis' best years were 1969-1972, the interview proceeded as follows:
MW. You have said that one of the problems with Elvis was that he had no accountability, no one to answer to. Do you think that he was aware of that and if so, what sort of person does you think he could have been accountable to?
DS. I think Elvis was this prototype person; he was the first rock star. There was no one before him. Professionally it was hard for him to communicate with somebody who had similar success. There had been Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, but this young kid Elvis just broke out of the mould. There was no solid advice on how to be a rock star.
As far as accountability throughout his life, because he was a super star, not only on stage, but as a person, he was a very powerful presence, it was hard to tell him what to do. I would look at Elvis and make a suggestion. I'm 47 years old now and the way I am answering these questions, would be a lot different to that then. I was 19/20 years old and he would remind me. 'When I was your age I was a millionaire'. He was hard to approach because of his success and fame. He was very humble and grateful for that God had given him thee incredible gifts of music and charisma and presence, but there was not a lot of people who could relate to him, to get at that level of what it's like to be an icon. Whether you are good or bad, people still love you. Elvis was just loved. We all have things in our lives that we are not proud of. We've all sat down and said 'how can anyone real care about me?' Including Elvis. People did love him. He didn't comprehend that. So it was hard to discuss those kinds of things, to let someone advise him. In my opinion.
MW. So you don't think he looked for some accountability?
DS. Elvis used to talk to preachers. We met with Rex Humbard and Oral Roberts, people like that. Elvis had a tremendous faith and that was instilled I him by his mother. But it was kind of like,' who can understand where I am coming from'. Does that make sense? It's like me doing this interview on a smaller level. We can talk about Elvis, but who can really understand what it was like, to be in that whirlwind with Elvis Presley?
MW. God can.
DS. Of course. When I say accountability, I mean no one could really tell him what to do. He had his own mindset. I think Elvis conscience caught up with him. The world loved him so much, but there were things about himself that he didn't like so much. Some people call it sin, some people call it conviction. Sometimes you find yourself going away from the things you know you're supposed to do and do not do. I think the combination of all that just took Elvis over the top, over the edge. Plus, Elvis had to sit down and be Elvis.
People ask what was the most difficult part of Elvis' life. 'Being Elvis Presley'. He couldn't be a person. Accountability wasn't there. He couldn't communicate his feelings because people expected this super star to have super life and super happiness all the time. It just caught up with him. 29 years of being on top, where do you go after you're Elvis?
MW. They say it's tough at the top.
DS. And lonely at the top.
MW. Another point you have made is that Elvis was afraid of not giving his fans what they wanted. Do you think it was this fear, which prevented him from doing all gospel concerts?
DS. No. Elvis did gospel music, but as far as I know it was never slated. Never got together. I never heard of Elvis doing a gospel show. It would have been great.
He loved gospel, he sat up all night with JD and the Stamps and Imperials. We would go to gospel conventions. If he had lived he would have done something like that. Elvis always knew where he came from. He was always humble and very grateful for those gifts. He told my brother Ricky 'We all have callings, my calling is to be a gospel singer' He told my brother that, I remember that. Elvis just said 'I very simply missed my calling. The world won't let me be what God called me to be.'
MW. That leads on to my next question. Elvis asked the question many times, why had God given him this gift of a wonderful voice and personal magnetism. On reflection do you now have an answer to that question?
DS. Let's talk about his gospel music. Look at the inspiration of the gospel music, look at the Grammy awards. Gospel messages depicted in the structure of that music. Elvis never put a message in a song that was destructive. That's why he didn't like the Beatles. He didn't like anyone talking about drugs, or anti establishment. Tearing down the family. He was very conservative in his perspectives and I think that his calling was fulfilled because he did do what he was called to do, those records are still out there and when you talk about Elvis, everyone talks about the gospel, the roots of his life. I think he fulfilled his calling and more.
MW. Did you ever talk about Christian spiritual matters with Elvis, if so what would you say was he most interested in about the Gospel and what did he have the most questions about?
DS. Elvis read a lot of books. The Impersonal Life, the Shroud of Turin, endless, but he always went back to the Bible.
During the 26 years after his death, I have been through a lot of journeys myself. Through all the ups and downs of my life, the one thing that stays solid is my faith in God and my love for Christ. No matter whether I am up or down, good boy, bad boy, full of sin, full of grace, I still focus on my relationship with the Lord, and I think that Elvis, although he searched, always went back to he simplicity of God the creator and Christ the Saviour. That was instilled in him. Elvis had adversity after adversity after adversity. I would sit down on his bed and watch him open that Bible and cry his eyes out 'God give me strength!
One day he's taking a handful of drugs, next he's praying for forgiveness. We're all that way. One thing people need to understand about Elvis is that no one, not even that king was perfect. There was only one king that was, and Elvis recognised that. The song, Why Me Lord? sums it up. 'Why am I this big huge star? God I'm no good, I'm, capable of self-destruct, rebellion and all kinds of things which don't fall into the structure of what you would want me to do. In spite of all that why have you picked me?' That was the life of Elvis Presley.
He was a modern day King Solomon. If Elvis would have lived in Biblical times, there probably would have been a book written about him because he was a modern day king. Can you imagine living with that? It's almost impossible.
MW. A heavy burden.
DS. A very heavy burden. I'm standing here talking to you in Liverpool, 26 years after Elvis died. Tell me about it. The impact this guy had on society, 26 years later, we're talking about him and we're talking about his faith. What he did and how he did it. He was a modern day king. If anyone says 'what killed Elvis? 'Being a modern day king'. Forget Elvis, just imagine being that person. That's a tough road!
Look at all the kings, the adversities of king David, king Solomon. Elvis was no different.
MW. It is well known that Elvis had a great sense of humour and that the sullen Elvis often portrayed was far outweighed by the fun loving Elvis. What is your favourite memory of having fun with Elvis?
DS. The best fun I ever had was when Elvis was playing; whether we were doing firework wars, go carts, football. People talk about poor miserable rock star Elvis Presley. It wasn't that bad. Elvis had fun. We had fun vacations we had wonderful Christmases. We had practical jokes. Elvis said 'if it ceases to be fun, quit, if you can't laugh go home.' And Vernon was that way too. Elvis inherited it from his daddy. The best fun I had with Elvis was just being with Elvis when he was in a good mood. Now when he was in a bad mood, that wasn't fun, but we all get in a bad mood. And when Elvis played, he played hard. He was just a big kid. You would just look at this 39/40-year-old man acting like a12 year old kid. My sons look at me and say 'dad you act like you're a kid'. I say 'thank you'. I want to keep that, my youth and my joy and my happiness. At the end of Elvis' life it wasn't funny more. You think of his statement, 'when it ceases to be fun quit.' It makes you wonder, that he just quit. As a believer Elvis knew that life is fleeting. It was time to go home. He's having more fun than any of us right now!
MW. You have said that Elvis was both a father figure and a brother to you, but that being a father figure was greater. Was that because you had lost contact with your own father, whereas you still had your other brothers around?
DS. That's good evaluation. That's exactly right. My father was swept out of my life. Vernon loved us, but his son was Elvis. I had a good relationship with Vernon, my stepfather. He raised me and gave me a roof, took me to school. He did all the father things. Because I had lost my identity, growing up in this fishbowl surrealistic life with Elvis, the only thing I could grab hold of was Billy and Ricky and Elvis. Billy and Ricky were my age, they were my true brothers, Elvis was that father figure. He was the guy who would pat you on the back and you would know that everything would be OK.
When someone would mess with his family he was front and centre, He was always up there for you to protect you. And it was the same with me for him, nobody got to Elvis on my watch. No one was going to hurt him, touch him, beat him up, do anything bad to him when I was around. He wasn't my biological father, but I would call Elvis my dad. It doesn't mean like I'm going to grow sideburns and walk with a cane. He was that influential person in my life that taught bad and me all about life, good. It's taken me many years to soak it all in through my life.
It will always continue to be the dominant force in my life, my father figure Elvis Presley, and my real father. As Elvis said to me 'Always love your Daddy, be proud of his heritage as a combat veteran, a person who was willing to lay his life down.' The greatest compliment Elvis ever gave me was to say 'you're just like your dad'. And I am much like my biological father, but Elvis was Pop and I loved him.
MW. It is clear from your writings that you really miss Elvis. Even after all these years you still feel pain. As a Christian do you feel that you will stop grieving and that as the Bible says, your mourning will turn into dancing, in this life here on earth.
DS. I don't really mourn, because I am a believer. I'll see Elvis again. There's times I get sad you know. Probably tonight when I go back to my room and lie down and all this will start to build. You see people won't let Elvis die. I will never have closure because Elvis will always be. I miss Elvis, but I don't wish he was still around. That would be selfish, and I think Elvis is in heaven, tuning up the choir, whatever he's doing.
MW. Having a ball.
DS. Yea, whatever the great and wonderful things God promises us.
I get sad. It's like Elvis said, 'it's not that I am not liked, I am just misunderstood'. No matter how many interviews I give out and how many people I talk to, people never comprehend the simplicity of this very humble God-fearing man. He was just simple. He could do this interview with you; he would find you very disarming and very caring and very qualified in your questions. He would enjoy the process, and you would think this icon, he's above reproach, but he would talk to anybody. And when I think about that and how much he cared about people and the person he was, I miss him, but I miss more about people not getting it. Who he really was.
MW. You want to put the record straight, for people to understand him?
DS. Yes exactly. When you think of Elvis, don't be so complex. He was just one of us. He just made a lot more money! And had a tremendous gift.
MW. If you could speak to Elvis now what would you say to him?
DS. My goodness. If I had one wish in my life, it would be to be able to communicate with Elvis at my age now. All the adversities that I have been through, since he's passed away, and to be able to communicate with him, man to man, not boy to rock star or boy to man, but man to man. I would probably tell Elvis that I love him, that he is loved and how much I appreciate him taking this 4-year-old snotty nosed kid, when he didn't have to. Dee (David's mother) came into his life when his mother had only been gone one and a half to two years. That's tough. He loved my mother and he loved us three boys. When I walked into Graceland he hugged me ad welcomed me and gave me all those years.
People say so many things.' David why didn't you save him, why didn't' you do this, do that'. Until you've been there don't criticise and abuse, until you've walked in David's shoes. My legacy stands for itself. People can say what they like, but Elvis trusted me and I trusted him. I lost a friend and brother that day. If I could say anything I would probably say 'thanks'. And I am sorry about a lot of things, because it's hard t be the keeper of a legacy. I didn't ask for this position, I got thrown into it. I have done my best along the way. The hardest part about death is the people left behind.
MW But God gives you the strength.
MW. And you will see him again.
DS. Yes, that's the good part about it.
I went through rock and roll to evangelism, fell off, crashed and burned. Never really dealt with the negative ideologies instilled in my life as part of the rock and roll scene. But my life evolves around the grace of God. As long as there is breath in my body I will always be an instrument of the Lord.
I doubt if I will (return to preaching). But I'll say this. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. And anywhere I go as a speaker, a cooperate speaker, I always interject my faith. The reason I am breathing is because of my faith. I have survived my years, with and without Elvis because of my faith. There's a great song by Russ Taff, 'I Still Believe'. He says, 'I have been caught in a cave for forty nights and nothing but a spark to lead my way. I'll climb that mountain, on my knees if I have to. I will continue to live and go forward, I still believe. Because of my incredible faith and the grace of God that has sustained me along the way'.
Will I ever preach again? Every time I talk about my life and Elvis, I'll be telling you about the Lord.
MW. Thank you very much David for your honest and open answers.
Copyright - Madeleine Wilson, June 2003