A : I met Elvis first in Las Vegas. I think I was appearing with Tom Jones and he came backstage to say hello to Tom or we went to his dressing room to say hello. And then I was working at Harrah's up in Lake Tahoe and Elvis I believe was at the Sahara across the street. And we renewed our friendship. You know, we used to go over after the show and in the evening and hang out a little bit and got to chat with him in his suite and all the guys would go up for get together. And just he was a delightful person.
I always remembered him with such affection because he was kind and he was polite and he was courteous and he was always what you'd want a superstar to be'.
Merv Griffin, Tom Jones, Elvis Presley, Norm Crosby
Q : What did you think of Elvis' sense of humor?
A : I thought he had a great sense of humor. I remember him sitting in a circle after the show when all the guys would sit around and start talking about current events and things in general. He was very interested in what was going on in the world, which I respected a lot because unfortunately people in our business have a tendency to get so involved in the business that they forget there's a real world out there. They forget that there's things happening every day in the newspapers and they don't even care. You know, you can say to a guy, 'God, there's a bomb went off somewhere' and they say, 'Yeah, how do you like my makeup?' I mean, you know, that's it. They're all focused on them. Elvis never ever gave me that impression.
Q : Did you talk about show business with Elvis or current events?
A : I was with Tom Jones of course and being on the road and I knew what road was like. You know, they think it's all fun and games that we do, but it's difficult, making connections, flying from one job to the next, catching your mail and your information and talking to your families and you're people on the run. And we chatted about that. That was part of the conversation'.
Q : What are your memories of seeing Elvis perform in Vegas?
A : I remember one particular performance I caught his, he was having a concert at the Hilton and I believe that's the time that they were interviewing some of the celebrities in the audience and I was on his video. I was on that particular evening. They caught me in the doorway and we did a little chat. And then of course to sit down and watch him was an experience because he would just, the enthusiasm and the excitement that he created, the mystique of just being somebody that people envisioned as someday I'm gonna go and see Elvis, and there he was. And it was this awesome audience reaction. You could look around the audience and see people who were actually mesmerized by him, some girls crying because he was in person. I mean it was just something that they couldn't. The emotion that he created was so unbelievable. The ovation after every number. You know, It was planned but it wasn't. It was all spontaneous and it was all real. It's just for another performer to sit and watch that is like, you wanna go home and quit the business, you know?
Q : Getting back to the film, 'That's The Way It Is', do you remember what you said?
A : No, I don't really.
Q : I came to see that pectoral descreption.
A : No, I don't. That was some time ago. I was speaking coherently then.
Q : Did you get to see Elvis and Tom Jones sing together?
A : Well Tom Jones and I became very close 'cause I did his first three or four years when I did his first American tour, which was an incredible tour. The Count Basie orchestra, Gladys Knight and the Pips, myself and Tom, that was the package. And we went out and did 48 one-nighters one year. That was his first year, one after another. I mean he collapsed at the end of it, had to go to the hospital, but it was an incredible, unbelievable tour. And subsequently I followed. Of course he was living in England then, so he would come over for a month or two or three and then go back. And then eventually he moved to California so he was here all the time. But we became really good friends. And Elvis we would see somewhere on the road. You know, wherever we had occasion to bump into him, we'd always go and visit.
Q : Did you and Tom go together to see Elvis?
A : I don't think so. In fact when Tom went to see Elvis or when Elvis went to see Tom they kinda played it low because I do remember Elvis coming over to Caesar's Palace one night to see Tom. He sat way in the back. He had a cap on. He just didn't wanna interfere in Tom's performance by being recognized and having people run to him. And I think Tom felt the same way. They were both very, very hot at the same time. And I know how it would be for Tom to walk into an Elvis performance or Elvis to walk into a Tom performance.
The audience would be certainly distracted and they would run for autographs and run to take pictures, and it's not fair to the guy onstage who's performing. And I think they were both very much aware of that and kind of specially sensitive to it.
Q : Did Elvis ever ask you about telling jokes or did he tell jokes?
A : Well he liked what I did. He got such a big kick out of the mispronunciations and the word uses 'cause he did that a lot, too. And we had a lotta fun with that. We talked about that.
Q : Was there anything about Colonel Parker and Elvis' relationship together that you ever had seen a combination like that before?
A : No, not really. I always compared the Colonel Parker and Elvis relationship to what Mike Tyson had with Gus D'Amato. Gus discovered him as a tough young kid and brought him up and brought him along and made him championship quality, and they had that kinda relationship. Of course Gus died before he could see the results of his work, and Colonel was blessed he was able to see Elvis become a superstar, a one of a kind sensation. But the beginning, the way they began together, the close relationship, it was like grandfather & grandson, father & son, whatever you know. And that kind of respect and mutual affection and, and it worked.
Q : What made Elvis so unique?
A : I just think it was an incredible job of the basic talent has to be there. There's no question. The performer must have the talent, but a great deal of that kind of extreme success has to do with promotion, playing the right dates, being in the right place, being with the right people at the right time, public relations, press releases, press involvement, and all that has to do with management. So I would think that the Colonel was certainly responsible on his end for what he did. And then of course once you're onstage there's nobody there to help you. You can have the finest manager and public relations and agency in the world, but once that light goes on and the mike is on, it's up to the act. And Elvis of course could deliver. He was brilliant. So it was a combination of perfect management and perfect performer, which is very rare, and that's how it happened.
Q : Do you have a special memory of Elvis?
A : Yeah, I think I do. Aside from the performing, we were up in his suite at the Sahara in Lake Tahoe and the guys were all just sitting around. We were having just a general conversation. He liked to do that. He would have that just about every night after work. The guys would all come up to his suite and they'd sit around and chat. And I remember him just getting so involved in the conversation and listening so carefully to what everybody else had to say. He never once dominated. He never once tried to say, 'Hey, I'm the boss'. You know, this is what I got to say. He really cared about what the other people contributed to the conversation and he listened. And I respected that so much because unfortunately as I said earlier, we have so many people in our business who are ego controlled who don't understand that maybe somebody else does know something. So I was very profoundly affected by that and respectful of him.
Q : I was wondering if you could show this and tell us a little bit about what you remember.
A : Okay. This is Merv Griffin and Tom Jones, Elvis and myself. I was much older when this picture was taken, but we were all in Las Vegas somewhere where we could all be together at the same time. It looks to me like it was at the Hilton. I see the candelabra in the back. It was either the Hilton or Liberace's house. But there's chandeliers and candles all over the place, so it had to be somewhere fancy. But this picture is no in the Beverly Hilton Hotel blown up. I mean it's like a mural on the wall. Merv owns that hotel of course and his picture's all over the place. It was something we were all very proud to be in.
Q : Do you recall any practical jokes?
A : Not really. I unfortunately never had that much time with him and I never saw that side of him.
Our relationship was frequent, but brief. It was always between shows, after a show, 'Hi, hey', big hug and then go, you know.
Q : When was the last time you saw Elvis?
A : I think the last time I saw Elvis was at that show at the Hilton when I watched him perform, and he was just wonderful. I like to think of him that way.
Q : Do you recall where you were when you found out Elvis had passed away?
A : No, I really don't. I just know that I was really very saddened by it and like everybody else, it was so depressing because he was young so talented and had the whole world at his feet and whole life to live, you know, and a very, very sad thing. But I don't really remember where I was or what I was doing.
I just know that it bothered me.
Q : Do you recall meeting Priscilla?
A : No. I never met Priscilla. As a matter of fact, I met several of the girls that Elvis was going with. You know, different times I'd meet 'em. And in fact I invited his girlfriend over to see our show one night and she said she would have loved to come but she just wanted to stay with Elvis. So she didn't come over.
But he wasn't with Priscilla when I knew him'.
Q : Do you think he was overworked or he did what he wanted to do or he needed a rest or what do you think?
A : Well I know that he worked very hard onstage, the same as Tom. Tom worked very hard. When Tom Jones came offstage he was wringing wet, and we would jump in the limousine and drive, 'cause I rode with him, it would be Tom, myself, his conductor. We'd jump in the limo and I always waited for him. After the show we had the car with the door open and the motor running. I know it was the same with Elvis. They'd have to rush him right out of the nightclub or the theater, wherever it was. Maybe not in a Vegas hotel because of security, but with the places that we played on the road like these theater in the rounds or these concert halls or even Madison Square Garden in New York or places like that, the kids would be waiting.
The fans would be waiting outside, all around the building. So what we did was as soon as the show was over, immediately upon him leaving the stage we would rush right into the limo and take off before anybody could get around to the back. And I always know he was soaked. He'd sit with the towels around him 'cause he was wet, and I know Elvis worked the same way.
Q : What would it be that you could tell Elvis' fans that you remember about him that they may not know?
A : They may not know that, 'cause most fans don't get to meet their idols, that he was a very warm, caring, loving, delightful human being. He was a nice, nice man, and that's the best thing I can say about anybody.
Q : Well, it's been great fun for me too and thanks a lot for sharing your memories with us.
Interview with Larry Muhoberac
Interview with John Wilkinson
Interview with Michael Jarrett, songwriter, I'm Leavin'
Interview with James Burton
Interview with James Burton Sydney Australia 2006
James Burton : First Call For The Royalty Of Rockabilly
Interview with Ronnie Tutt
Interview with Ronnie Tutt #2
Interview with Jerry Scheff
Interview with Glen D. Hardin
Interview with Sherrill Nielsen
Interview with Terry Blackwood & Jim Murray
Interview with Tony Brown
Interview with Scotty Moore
Interview with D.J. Fontana
Interview with Charlie Hodge
Interview with Ernst Jorgensen
Elvis Presley & the TCB Band