The [Australian] D.J. Fontana Interview 1995

June 19, 2000

The 15 most common questions from the audience during the 1995 Eddie Youngblood 'Always Elvis' tour.

Is Elvis Alive?

It's the most asked question I get so we'll clear it up straight away. Elvis did pass away. He's not at McDonalds or any other place like that. I did go to his funeral. It was a great tragedy for I guess everybody in the world, and I'm just sorry that it happened to him so young you know. But we'll get over it. Listen to the music, watch all his films, and I think he'd appreciate that.

Why did Elvis become a singer? (Question from a 12 year old girl)

(D.J. pauses) You got me stumped! ... well I guess he didn't wanna go to work. (Laughs) No, he always enjoyed singing. He sang along with his parents - he used to go to church quite a bit - there were a lot of gospel songs that he loved to sing. So that's more than likely. Probably about you size is when he got started back in Tupelo, Mississippi. You had me stumped there for a second.

Was Elvis dark or fair haired?

Basically when he was younger, he was light-haired. I mean his hair was real light actually. Then he went to Hollywood and he went to dyin' it and all that stuff, but I think he looked better when he was lighter.

I'd like to know if actualy played the guitar?

Yeah. he played pretty good blues guitar. He played a little bass. He played a little piano, a little organ, a little drums. He done 'em all - he could be dangerous actually. If you didn't watch him, you never knew what he was gonna play. He was a quick learner, so he could play any instrument - fairly decent.

We know of his generosity in giving away cars to his friends and total strangers, and of his donations to charities, but can you relate to us the story about Carl Perkins?

Carl wrote 'Blue Suede Shoes'. He had the original record on SUN and it was doing quite well in the United States. Carl was on his way to New York to do a television show, and we (Elvis' band) were on the way to New York to do a television show but on different highways. Carl had a wreck (Car accident) at about Meridan, which is up above D.C. and we heard about it on the radio, so we drove about 300 miles out of the way to see Carl and his brothers. One of the brothers, he died after that, and Elvis, he was on a train goin' north, and he sent a wire (telegram) to Carl and hoped him for the best. But anyhow, RCA Victor called him right after that and said 'Elvis, there's a tune out there you should really do' and Elvis said, 'There's probably a lot 'o them I should do', and they said ' No there's this song by Carl Perkins that's a good record' (Blue Suede Shoes) and he said, 'Well I can't do that. My good friend Carl has that record right now, and I don't want to knock him outa the charts or do anything to hurt Carl'. So, it went along for a while and Carl started comin' outa the charts, so Elvis called Call and said, 'Carl I'm gonna cut your record'. Carl said, 'I would love you to'. And all the monies that Elvis made off that record, which you all know is quite a bit, he gave it all to Carl to pay his hospital bills.

With his fame and everything, did Elvis ever want to be a non entity?

Yeah, he did. After he got really big and couldn't go out or anything, I'd go by his house and we'd get to talkin' and Elvis would always want to go back and talk about the early days when there were four of us in a car, Me, Scotty, Bill and Himself. He didn't care about with what was happening with the movies and stuff - he really didn't care for that too much. But he'd always go back. And he told me one day, He said 'You know, I wish I wasn't Elvis'. And that struck me funny - even back then. You know he kinda wanted to get away for a while. I think he should have retired for about 7 or 8 years, and then come back - you know. And then he might still be with us.

What was his house like at Graceland?

It was a gig one! (Laughs) Actually, when he first bought the house it wasn't that big. They've added on and added on and added on you know. There's still like, the basement, the first floor, the second floor, then there's an attic at the top of the whole house, and he's added all the rooms and the pool and all that stuff came later. It's somethin' to see.If you ever get to Memphis you gotta go and see it. I go down there 3 or 4 times a year and I see things that I had never seen before 'cause there's so much to see.

Can you tell me why Elvis never toured Australia?

Elvis never really got outa the United States - and we did the 68 Special and we went up to the house to eat supper with him one night - Me and Scotty - and we were sittin' around talkin' about that identical thing and he said, 'How would you like to go to Australia, Japan, Europe and all the other countries?' We said, 'Yeah, we'd love to do that!' Elvis said, 'I'm gonna start to workin' on this and see if we can't do this. I wanna go to a lotta the foreign markets'. I don't know what happened, it was probably management, you know. That's the only thing I could figure 'cause he was really wantin' to go to all the foreign countries. He said, 'Nobody's really seen me over there, except in my movies and pictures and records. 'Like I said it's probably management - and they ran outa time I guess.

Where is Scotty Moore?

Scotty's still around. I live in Nashville and I speak to Scotty 3 or 4 times a week.

What was Elvis' favourite song?

You know, Elvis loved gospel songs. Some of his favourites were 'Peace In The Valley' and some others like that, but he loved 'It's Now Or Never', because he admired good singers like Enrico Caruso - big voices - Mario Lanza was another. He really wanted to sing like those guys.

Was Elvis also influenced by Dean Martin?

Well he loved Tony Curtis as a actor and he loved Dean Martin, Sam Cooke, a lot o' guys that he would listen to all the time. He had a jukebox by the pool there foe a long time and there wasn't one Elvis record on there. All the songs were from different artists.

Was Elvis Truly happy?

Well you know, that's hard to say. I don't think Elvis was the happiest man in the world. I think he tolerated what he was doing. When his mother died, that slowed him down a bit and then when he and Priscilla were divorced, that was another downer. Actually it was kind of downhill after that. You see he had all these people around, I called them 'acquaintances', they weren't real friends. I may be wrong 'cause I know most of those guys and some of them are pretty good guys, but most of them were 'hangers on'. Gofers, I call 'em.

Before Elvis what did you do?

When I was a younger fella, I used to work 'strip joints'. A lot 'o the clubs that we worked you'd play like an hours dance set or whatever, then have a comedian on. And then they'd always have a dancer. All those dancers wanted the drummer to 'catch' their legs and their arms and whatever with a drumbeat at the right time. That's where I learned to catch every movement that Elvis would make on stage and I thought, well this is just like playing for a stripper you know. You see we couldn't hear what Elvis was singing half the time because of the screaming crowds, so he would cue the beat by moving at certain times and we knew exactly where the song was at. So that's why we got along so well I guess, because I could catch every move he made.

What influenced Elvis to move the way he did?

You know, I think it was just a natural thing for him. Before he even got famous or anything we'd work these little bars and joints and he did the same thing. He'd start singin' and movin'. I think he may have learnt it from the church. Back in the south, when people got the Holy Ghost and everything, they'd jump, shout and fall on the floor and everything else. That's maybe where he learnt some of that stuff, really. You have to see one 'o those churches to know what I'm talking about.

Is Elvis still a legend all around the world?

I think the music will be here for a long, long time. I go to Europe and all over the world all the time, and anywhere I go, they know Elvis. It's amazing - it really is. So, his music will stay, and we're gonna try to keep it up.

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