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Pat Boone Remembers Elvis Presley

By Elvis Australia (Source: Elvis World Japan Feb 2, 2005)

Pat Boone & Elvis
Pat Boone: Well, I first met Elvis in Cleveland, Ohio. He was not very, he was not known really nationally at all. It was before Heartbreak Hotel, before Hound Dog, he had two or three country records, sort of 'rockabilly' we called them. And I'd seen his name on some jukeboxes in Texas, and made note of the name. But he couldn't be a pop artist, not in those days,

But Bill Randall, who was the nation's number one disc jockey brought me in for an old fashioned sock hop, to the big thing in the fifties, where a dj would bring teenagers and school kids in by the hundreds or thousands to a big gymnasium, they'd play records, and sometimes if the dj was powerful enough, he would bring in a recording artist to surprise the kids. So I was his big surprise that night. And he also brought an unknown fellow up from Louisiana, way out in the country, named Elvis Presley. Now, when I heard that Bill was bringing this country singer whose records I'd seen on the jukebox in Texas, I thought he was a little bit crazy, because a country artist was not going to be exciting to these teenagers who wanted rock and roll. My record at the time was Ain't That a Shame - "You made me cry when you said good-bye."

Now, here comes Elvis, his collar's turned up, this is backstage, lots of hair hanging down in his face. We shook hands, I said, "Hello, Elvis. Bill Randall says you're going to be a big star." "Well, thank you very much." He just mumbled and looked up at me like this, stayed back against the wall, and I thought, "This guy is hopelessly shy. How can he possibly perform? This is going to be a disaster."

Well, Bill Randall introduced him as an up and coming star, he was saving me for last. Elvis went out there and swiveled around the stage, and sang, "That's all right, mama. That's all right with me." And the kids - "Whoo, who is this, what is this?" And even though he seemed very country, very raw, they liked him. And I had to follow him. Thank God I had two hit records then, and I was the star that night. Of course I never followed Elvis again in any show. We never appeared together after that. Of course, a person would have been a fool to go on after Elvis. Elvis would have to always be the star.

But we became very good friends, and we both had, we leased homes in very exclusive areas, Bel Air, here in Los Angeles, and we visited each others' homes. And back then, of course, I had a wife, and four little children, he was not married, and he would come over some afternoons, by surprise, just come in unannounced, and want to visit with me and my wife and my children. My children would maybe jump out of the swimming pool, and come running up and get in his lap, and he would become soaking wet, you know, and I would say, "Girls, don't do that." And Elvis said, "Oh, no, let them, let them." And I knew that he wanted a family. He was missing... He saw that I had something he didn't have.

He had all this fame, and of course, we both had a lot hit records, and we were friendly competitors, but I had something he didn't have, Which was a wife, a family, children. And I could tell that he wanted this. And so of course he married Priscilla, and they did have a little Lisa Marie, but they didn't live a normal life. Priscilla said later that they were never alone, although they might to into a part of the house alone, they could hear the laughter of his buddies in some other part of the house, always. So he didn't live a normal life, didn't go to a movie like we would go to a movie theater. He would rent the theater at night, after midnight, and bring a few friends, and just he and his friends would watch the movie themselves, at two or three in the morning. I think if Elvis had allowed himself to have a more normal life, he would be alive today. It was, he lived like a criminal, really, in hiding rather than a person who wanted to have a normal life, which Elvis, at least part of him, wanted to have. So I've been very, very fortunate, and very grateful that I've had a lot of hit records, movies, and all this stuff.

I even did an album, a tribute album to Elvis. I wanted to call it 'Pat Sings Elvis,' that's the logical title, but his manager, Col. Tom Parker, wanted to charge us a huge extra royalty for the use of his name in the title. And I said, "Colonel, this is my friend, I'm doing a tribute, I'm honoring Elvis." "Yes, but this is business, you know. You got to pay for the use of his name and sell more records." It was really sort of unscrupulous of him. So we didn't call it 'Pat Sings Elvis.' We called it 'Pat Boone Sings Guess Who?' And I wrote, I don't know how this will translate, but I wrote backliner notes all about my friend Guess Whosely. I never said his name.

And Tom Parker eventually tipped his hat to me, and said, "Well, you've conned the con man. You've out-hustled the hustler, and I salute you." But the album was one of the best albums that I've ever made, musically, and very much like, in a way, my new album - that is, doing songs that were hits for somebody else, and never really recorded, most of them, by anybody else. And then I did my own versions, which were light, commercial jazz treatments. And I'm very proud of that album, Pat Sings Guess Who? The new album, of course, is an album of heavy metal classics.

Pat Boone Sings Guess Who?
Pat Boone Sings Guess Who?
(Backliner notes by Pat Boone)

It was a noonlit night in old Mexico. . . Oh, wait - I'm getting my stories mixed. It was a snowy night in old Hartford, Conn. Matter of fact, there was a regular blizzard descending on the State Theater where I was appearing in 1956. Still, for some strange reason, business was brisk, the audiences were enthusiastic and we were doing 7 shows a day - in spite of the slush!

Shortly after 7:30 on a Saturday evening, a small group of entertainers, whose number included your singing author, hunched over an old TV set, ranting and raving at the poor stagehand who was trying to conjure up a distinct image on the magic tube. We finally decided that the metal beams and electrical equipment in the theater offered too much static interference, and almost gave up the idea. But then, old diehard Boone conceived the brilliant scheme of stretching an extension cord out into the alley alongside the theater, where passing patrons, hurrying to get inside, out of the snow, were treated to a puzzling sight.

The evening's entertainers were slowly sinking into a snowbank, while we watched Tommy Dorsey's Stage Show, featuring a new young singer named -"Guess Whosley' I'd heard some exciting predictions concerning this truck-driving rock-n-roller from Memphis, and wanted to see his national debut.

Well - the sideburns hit the screen, the hips dislocated, the voice erupted, and a big new chapter of entertainment history had begun. Shivering and soaked to the skin, I viewed that electric moment (I stepped on an exposed piece of extension cord) from my vantage point in a Hartford Alley. Ever since, I've taken a special interest in the spiraling career of young Guess. I have most of his records, have seen most of his films and have even come to know him personally. You might even call me a fan - (of course, you can call me anything you like - it's a free country).

I like the honest way he sings, and many of his songs. Secretly, I've often wanted to sing some of them.

Now, not so secretly - in fact, rather conspicuously - I've done it! Proudly so, aided and abetted by Paul (Pee-Wee) Smith and his hand picked jazz octet. Paul, as you should know, is the gargantua of the jazz 88 - and his talent is even bigger than he is! He arranged and participated in each of the sides.

All the guys, Barney Kessel, Irv Cottler, Ted Nash, Don Fagerquist, Larry Bunker, Red Mitchell and the rest, enjoyed the sessions and contributed great things, many with a deft touch of humor. My thanks and admiration to all of them.

Hope you get a real charge out of this appreciative and sincere tribute to - Guess Who.
Pat Boone

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- Elvis & Pat Boone


Elvis Australia