Elvis Memories: The Real Elvis Presley - By Those Who Knew Him
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The man, the music, the mythology – everyone knows Elvis, right? From the swinging hips and tempestuous love life to the peanut butter and banana sandwiches. But how do the iconic snapshots and the snippets of rumour match up with the truth about the man behind the legend? Michael Freedland’s Elvis Memories sets out to answer precisely that question – and succeeds in grand style, giving us a rare and privileged glimpse into the intimate recollections of the people who really knew him. On a journey that spans the United States, Freedland introduces us to Presley’s friends, family and followers, taking in the kids who competed against him in childhood talent shows, the members of the ‘Memphis Mafia’ who went everywhere with him and the maid who prepared those infamous sandwiches and watched him line up the girls he wanted to take to his bed. Thirty-five years after the death of the man we still call ‘The King’, Elvis Memories offers a unique chance to see the real Elvis Presley through the eyes of those who shared his life.
did, too. And there were those fights. One of the other ones that people will talk about – and they don’t like giving bad news – is the one Elvis had with Farleigh. But it was rare. As Buzzy Forbess recalled: ‘Elvis usually handled things better.’ And the row at the gas station, we mentioned before, came into our conversation. Ken Black called out: I want to comment on the fight. They were two older men, the gas station staff, who were jealous of him and his car. We had picked up some girls –
prospect of joining the other cats in the business, they’ll be very happy. There is always a special label on whatever it is you buy, stressing the Presley connection. Why else would the label – and the one on a string that hangs from every jacket and pair of trousers in the shop – declare the fact that Lansky Brothers were ‘Clothiers to the King’? They couldn’t allow that connection to disappear – and neither could the customers. By this time, you would have learnt that the Lanskys long ago
business. I phased that out. The most momentous artist I discovered was Jerry Lee Lewis. Chap came in and said he could play the piano like Chet Atkins. Well, Atkins was a guitar player and sure enough Jerry Lee played the piano like Atkins’s guitar style. So Jerry Lee was good but, he said, ‘Oh! Elvis was unique.’ Not, however, that Elvis ever made a fuss over what he was doing. ‘He’d tell people you could get on the radio and fart.’ But that didn’t mean that Elvis was necessarily the best of
met Elvis, you couldn’t help liking him.’ The change in Elvis’s persona was evident across the generations. ‘That was because he was out there in the field. Before the army, parents [of young girls] were not happy about Elvis being too sexual. But once, he was in the army, the adults liked him, became fans.’ What Esposito realised was that becoming a serious Presley friend required giving up a portion of his life to the star. He took that joyfully. ‘Before we left the service, Elvis asked me
you watch the videos [you can see that] if he heard a good horn line he would get a twinkle. If someone made a mistake, he would also indicate that he heard it. He was very aware of the physical surroundings when he was performing.’ Walker saw Elvis at work even when he wasn’t singing with him. So that brought me to the obvious question: how much of it was the art of a man with a good voice (despite what he himself thought of that voice’s quality, singing sometimes great songs – and sometimes