Wink Martindale Remembers Elvis Presley
Source: Fox News
August 16, 2019
After listening to the aspiring singer's new track titled 'That's All Right Mama', the radio and game show personality knew there was something magical occurring. And sure enough, Presley quickly transformed into the king of rock 'n' roll.
But despite Elvis' reign in both music and Hollywood, the iconic performer passed away on Aug. 16, 1977, at age 42 from a heart attack.
Martindale, 85, spoke to Fox News about how he met his beloved pal, their heartbreaking final meeting and how he continues to pursue his own passion to entertain others.
Fox News: How did you meet your pal, Elvis Presley?
Wink Martindale: I met Elvis Presley on a hot July night in 1954. I was morning man at WHBQ Radio in the Chisca Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. I did the morning show called 'Clockwatchers'. At night from 9:00 to midnight, we had a wild DJ on the air who played black music for white kids in those days. They called it race music, rhythm and blues music. He had 65 to 70 percent of the audience.
Now, even though I worked mornings, I happened to be there this particular night showing some of my hometown buddies around the radio station. I heard this commotion coming out of the studio where Dewey Phillips was doing his show called 'Red, Hot and Blue'. I excused myself from my friends, and I walked into the studio. I discovered that Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, had walked in with an acetate - not a finished record - but an acetate of a recording he had made just two hours earlier by a truck driver for Crown Electric Company whose name was Elvis Presley.
He wanted [DJ] Dewey Phillips to test it on the air to see if he had anything. Dewey Phillips played it. The switchboard lit up. It was called 'That's All Right Mama'. It turned out to be his first hit. He played it seven times in a row. I was the one delegated by Sam Phillips to call Elvis' parents, who lived in low rent housing out in east Memphis called Lauderdale Courts. They were very poor. I got on the phone, and I called the Presley residence and Gladys, Mrs. Presley, answered the phone.
Fox News: Was Elvis' family aware of what was happening on the radio?
Wink Martindale: They were listening, of course, and they were very excited about the way the audience was reacting to 'That's All Right Mama', Elvis' first record. I said, 'Mrs. Presley, Dewey would like him to come down to the studio. He wants to interview him. Where is he?' She said, 'Well, he was so nervous about his record being played. He went to see a double-feature Western. You'll find him at Suzores Theatre on Decatur Street'.
They got in their truck, and they went over to the Suzores and walked up and down the dark aisles. There was Elvis sitting all by himself watching this Western movie. They whispered to him about the excitement being generated by 'That's All Right Mama'. He, of course, was excited. They came down to the station. Dewey put him on the air and interviewed him. It was his very first interview as a pro. I met him that night, and he remained my friend until the day he died.
Fox News: What surprised you the most about Elvis?
Wink Martindale: He was a giver. Very few people knew that he gave away literally millions and millions of dollars to charitable organizations not only in this country but all over the world.
He was a great giver. If he was your friend, he was your friend until the day you died. I mean he would always be your friend and do anything for you that you needed him to do. He was that kind of a person.
Elvis on Wink Martindale show (1956)
In 1956 Wink interviewed Elvis on his Dance Party TV Show. Elvis spent the interview leaning against a jukebox, while his hair flopped over his forehead sending new feelings through teen-age America.
Fox News: Do you remember the last time you spoke to Elvis?
Wink Martindale: Yes, I do. My wife, Sandy… took me to Las Vegas to see Elvis' show at the International Hotel on my birthday in 1976. He knew we were coming. He was doing two shows a night at that time at the International. Between shows, he wanted Sandy and me to come backstage to his dressing room to chat… He had just seen us that day on a show called 'Tattletales' on CBS… He was astounded to see how much we knew about each other. Little details we knew about each other because he had dated my wife for six years before I ever met my wife.
I remember so well [Elvis] making this statement, 'Gee, Wink, look, how well you've done. Look at how successful you've become. I'm so proud of you'. We jokingly said many times since then, 'What's wrong with this picture? Elvis Presley telling me how well I've done'. Well, we walked out of there that night very sad because he was already big. He was overweight. He was pasty looking. He didn't look in good health.
Fox News: How did Elvis' surprising look make you feel?
Wink Martindale: I remember so well saying to Sandy as we walked out of the International Hotel, 'Sandy, that's the last time we'll ever see him alive'. When we got back to our hotel, we close the door behind us. We just broke down, and we both cried because of what we had just witnessed. We tried to put the best face on it. But that was the last time that we spoke and the last time we ever saw him alive.
Listen to the full audio from Elvis' Dance Party interview with Wink's - plus the second interview with Elvis on the phone from Germany.
Fox News: How did you make sense of his passing?
Wink Martindale: Well, it didn't come as a shock that he passed because most people knew that he had been in and out of hospitals for over two years, and we knew he wasn't in good health. He didn't eat right. Nothing was right about his diet. I wasn't shocked. But I remember I was on the air… I was working for Gene Autry on KMPC in Los Angeles. The newsman came in because he knew of my relationship with Elvis, and he didn't want to just break in with a bulletin about his passing.
I just broke up and I just played records and played commercials for the rest of my 40 minutes of my show because I was so broken up by the news, although I knew it was going to happen because of his being in such bad health.
Elvis Presley And The Events Of 1977
Elvis Presley | The story behind the last photo taken | August 16, 1977
Elvis Presley on Holiday in Hawaii | March, 1977
1977 CBS TV Special
Interview with Annett Wolf, co-producer of Elvis In Concert 1977
Elvis, Ginger and Lisa Marie driving through the Graceland gates on August 12, 1977
The Death of Elvis Presley: August 16, 1977
Elvis Presley Phenomenon Becomes History: Forest Hill Cemetery on Aug. 18, 1977
Elvis Presley's Epitaph & Eternal Flame Memorial
Elvis returning to Graceland
Elvis Presley on Holiday in Hawaii: March 1977
Elvis Presley Louisville Kentucky: May 21st, 1977
Elvis Presley Macon, GA: June 1, 1977
Elvis Presley June 25, 1977: 8.30pm Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, Oh
Elvis Presley June 26, 1977: 8.30pm Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, In.
Rock Idol Elvis Presley Dies at 42
Elvis' Funeral Procession August 17, 1977
A Broken Heart ... Hastened Death
World's At Standstill For Elvis' Fiancee
Firemen's Call To Graceland Was Anything But Routine
Elvis Presley and the Events Of 1977
Elvis Presley in the Australian Press 1977
Kathy Westmoreland Remembers: August 16, 1977
Elvis Presley Family History: 1669-1935
Elvis Presley Biography
Gladys and Vernon Presley: Elvis Presley's Mother and Father
Jessie D. McDowell (J.D.) Presley - Elvis Presleys Grandfather
Elvis Presley's Graceland - 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard
The Priceless Gift: To Lisa Marie from Daddy
For a more (very) detailed history of Elvis Presley see our pages; starting at Elvis Presley 1935-1953
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