(Above Left: Elvis's Death Notice from his hometown Memphis Commercial Appeal; Above Right: Front Page notice from The Sun)
TEENAGE MEMORIES OF ELVIS FROM JONNIE KING...
AS A TEENAGER GROWING UP IN ST. LOUIS IN THE FIFTIES, I was a BIG Elvis Fan ! So were most of my buddies, as well as the girls we went to High School with. And, just like Elvis, my pals & I grew our hair a little longer...and added sideburns. Man, we were stylin' ! It was also at that time I started playing drums, and with any group I was in you had to do an "Elvis" song...it was expected !
My early Elvis record collection was purchased on 78 RPM discs because I didn't have a 45 RPM player. I bought 'em because I liked 'em...little did I know that years later they would become valuable. No matter, I played the heck out of 'em and, always wanting to be a DJ, I did my in-house Radio Shows on my folks big 78 RPM Radio-Record console that was in our living room.
Then, for Christmas 1957, my folks surprised me with a Portable multi-speed Record Player for my room ! Wow ! Now I could not only play my 78's in the privacy of my own room, but I could get 45's like most of the other kids did ! And, hey, guess what was the very first 45 EP that I bought ? Since I had just seen the movie, I went right down the day after Christmas and bought Elvis's "Jailhouse Rock" EP !
Man, oh, man ! This was "Teenage Life" as it was supposed to be: Christmas vacation, seeing Elvis in "Jailhouse Rock", getting my own personal Record Player, being able to do my DJ shows in the privacy of my own room...plus some of Mom's delicious Christmas cookies, and homemade fudge, paired with a cool Pepsi or some Egg Nog, and checkin' out some of the new 1958 cars from Detroit with my Dad. It didn't get any better than that !
(Above Left: Lobby Card for Elvis in "Jailhouse Rock"...Released November 8, 1957 ; Above Right: Elvis on the cover of TV Guide, September 8, 1956)
(Above Left: 'TEEN Magazine, November, 1958 with Elvis, Ricky Nelson,and, Dick Clark; Above Right: A 1959 Elvis Christmas Card)
(Above: Elvis's favorite Cadillac ! A 1955 Fleetwood 60 Special...the car he never sold.)
ELVIS IN LITTLE ROCK 1972...
AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, I continued playing drums with different groups, then started a career in acting which took me from St. Louis to California and back to St. Louis again. Then, in 1965, I began working with my friend & mentor, Don Pietromonaco (Johnny Rabbitt) at KXOK Radio in St. Louis, and by 1967 broke out on my own when Don Liddenton hired me at his station KLID. All those years of doing those Disc Jockey shows in my at-home studio had finally paid off !
IN THE SPRING OF 1969, I received an offer to move to one of the most powerful stations in the Country: 50,000 Watt KAAY Radio in Little Rock, Arkansas. The "Mighty 1090" was a part of the LIN Broadcasting chain and was one of the most influential stations at the time, with a Clear Channel Signal that reached into 40 States and over 20 Foreign Countries...and it was A.M. "Rock & Roll" at its' B-E-S-T !! Shortly after I arrived there, I was appointed Music Director which also blended in with my position as Air Personality.
Now, to fully realize the impact of KAAY during those days when "A.M. Radio Was King Of The Airwaves", for a record company to have a hit record and be successful in the Mid-South Region you needed to have it played on certain radio stations in the Memphis, Nashville, and, Little Rock Markets. That would include: WHBQ & WMPS in Memphis, WMAK, Nashville, and, KAAY, Little Rock.
That exposure could also help push the record onto and up the national charts. To that end, the record promotion men & women contacted all of these key stations on a local, regional, and national basis. Which meant that I could get calls on a particular record that had been released from the promotion people in New York, Los Angeles, or, Chicago, St. Louis, and Memphis. To say my position was important would be putting it mildly. But, I always respected the people involved in contacting me, and in-turn they knew I was always honest with them and never abused the power that we had.
With all of the above in mind, when the Elvis Presley Concert set for April 17, 1972, in Little Rock's Barton Colesium was announced, I became hottest celebrity in town ! Not because of my ratings (which were great !), nor because of my beautiful, new, metallic gold-colored Olds Cutlass Supreme Hardtop, and, not because of the recent TV coverage in L.R. that I had been honored with, BUT because I was the KAAY MUSIC DIRECTOR...and EVERYBODY wanted me to get them tickets to the Concert !
PERSONALLY, this was the culmination of my longtime appreciation of Elvis. He had made a tremendous comeback from his low point in the mid-60's, had launched a "new" part of his career by going back to Vegas, had multiple hit records, and was now on tour and coming to the town where I had been picking & playing those records...the same way I had done it all those years ago on my record player at home when I was doing those DJ shows in my room. Only now it was on 50,000 Watt KAAY and it was for real !
Through my association with the great RCA record promoters in Memphis, I had met both Marty Lacker & George Klein (WHBQ) who were two of Elvis's closest longtime friends and a part of his "Memphis Mafia", never knew them real well, but it was a privilege to meet them as they had become well-known on their own. Then, when the news of the Concert Tour coming to L.R. hit the streets, the Memphis RCA promotion group could not have been more gracious & generous with any tickets or help I needed for the KAAY Staff, or, myself.
ALTHOUGH ELVIS WAS AN ICON the World over, you have to understand the importance of his coming to Little Rock. He was born and raised in Mississippi and Tennessee. And, even though he was an International Star, those Southern roots grow deep, and he still lived in Memphis...just about 140 miles from Little Rock.
His popularity in the South could never be fully understood by those in other areas, but if you lived there at the time like I did, and experienced that culture on a daily basis, you didn't need to have it spelled out for you: In their eyes Elvis wasn't just one of "The Good Ole Boys"...he was "The King".
AND, so it was on April 17, 1972 that the "frenzy" that had been building since the announcement that he would be there reached a crescendo. The entire City of Little Rock was in a celebration-mode that could have rivaled New Orleans at Mardi Gras.
Since the Concert was to start at 8:30pm, my girlriend and I headed out about 7:00. When we got to the Colesium a few minutes later the traffic was already backed up, but when we hit the Front Gate driving her little Mercedes 230SL, and I showed them my pass, they sent us to the special area reserved for radio.press, etc.
On the bill that night were Comedian Jackie Kahane, along with the Sweet Inspirations gospel group, and, J.D. Sumner & The Stamps Quartet who backed Elvis during the show. There was a crowd of 10,000 that filled the Colesium...and no one left disappointed ! Elvis opened the show with the Chuck Willis classic "C.C. Rider", and closed, ironically with my favorite song of his: From his film "Blue Hawaii" it was "Can't Help Falling In Love With You".
ELVIS WAS AT THE PEAK of his regenerated-fame that night...and gave one of the most exciting performances I've ever witnessed. It was a night I'll always remember...a night you couldn't forget. If you weren't a "fan" before you came into that building, you sure were one after you left.
SO, on that special night back in 1972 in Little Rock, my journey with Elvis that had begun in 1956 in St. Louis, came full-circle. Those songs of his I had played & DJ'd at home, I now played on a 50,000 Watt Radio Station that was one of the most powerful in the U.S.A.
I guess you could say that everytime I played one of those songs, it was my way of connecting to my past...and to one of the people who had helped shape & mold me into the person I had become in the present.
And, for one magical night, after all those years, we were both in the same place at the same time.
(Above Left & Right: Elvis...The Night I Saw Him Live In Concert At Barton Colesium, Little Rock, Arkansas: April 17, 1972. ! Photographer unknown.)
THE DAY ELVIS DIED...
IT WAS A HOT AUGUST DAY IN ST. LOUIS and I had come back to my apartment after working on my syndicated radio program "THE BREAKFAST SERIAL" at the station I was with KSLQ. It had been a tough day in the Ptoduction Room and I needed to relax, refresh, and do some research for the show for tomorrow's production.
It was shortly after I got home, that I heard the woman who lived in tthe apartment next door come in her front door and say loudly to her husband: "Did you hear about Elvis ? Elvis died today !". Elvis, dead ? How could that be, he was only 42 years old ? The information had to be wrong !
I quickly went into the living room and turned on the TV. That's when I learned that NBC, CBS, and, ABC all had news reports saying that exact same thing: "Elvis Is Dead." Their reporters were covering the scene from Graceland, and from the hospital that Elvis had been taken to.
At that point I got dressed again and headed for the radio station to see what information our news staff & the AP wire had on the story. Some of the audio feeds had comments from Elvis's friends like Johnny Cash & Jerry Lee Lewis, but the results were still the same: Elvis Presley had died at his home in Memphis of cardiac arrest.
Everyone at the station was depressed, so was I so I decided to go back home.
It was when I got back to the quiet & loneliness of my apartment that it finally hit me head-on: Elvis had died, and with him went a part of my own life.
From the innocent days of my youth, to the career I'd always wanted, Elvis had been a part of my life for so very long. In a way, through the years, we had "matured" together in our separate worlds, and now he was gone. And a piece of me died that day too: August 16, 1977.
SPECIAL: ALL OF THE ITEMS SHOWN BELOW ARE FROM MY PERSONAL COLLECTION...
Above Left: Rare, Original, Official Elvis Presley Fan Club Card...owned by my close friend Jim Edwards since he received it in 1956; Above Right: Elvis Bubble Gum Trade Card #1 (1956)
Above: My Elvis International Hotel Souvenir Promo Menu which was sent to select Radio Station Program Director's & Music Director's. (1971
Above Left & Right: Elvis 1973 Pocket Calendar (Front); Elvis 1973 Pocket Calendar (Back). Every year these would be sent to select Radio Station Program Director's & Music Director's
Above Left & Right: Rare "Memories Of Elvis" 18 Page Promo Booklet sent to Radio Stations after Elvis's death in 1977. It promotes 8 of Elvis's most recent LP releases from that time period.
THE ELVIS-JONNIE KING HOLLYWOOD CONNECTION...
WHEN I WAS LEAVING ST. LOUIS in the Fall of 1963 to move to California to study at the Pasadena Playhouse, I asked my dentist, Dr.Earl Poe, Jr., if he could refer me to a Los Angeles-based dentist if I had any problems while I was out there on the Coast. He recommended a friend of his, Dr. Max Shapiro of Beverly Hills.
After school was over in June, 1964, two friends of mine and myself moved into the Highland Towers Apartments in Hollywood...just a quarter-mile down from the Hollywood Bowl, and a quarter-mile up from Hollywood Boulevard. By the first part of July I developed a minor dental problem and decided to call Dr. Shapiro's Office for an appointment. Dr. Shapiro saw me the next day, thanked me for coming in and we talked briefly about Dr. Poe whom he had known for some time. He then turned me over to Dr. Arnold Loel who checked me out and made a future appointment for me to finish-up my treatment.
To say that the dentists' at that facility treated the "Hollywood Elite" would be putting it mildly ! After my Tuesday, July 14th, 1964, appointment I was waiting for the elevator and when it arrived who walked out but ANNETTE FUNICELLO ! At that time she was one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood, having graduated from the Disney "Mouseketeers" to starring with Frankie Avalon and a crew of young actors in the "Beach Party" movies which carried on for most of the 60's.
Anyway, I was stunned at seeing her in person (she looked GREAT !), I said "Hello", she said "Hello", I introduced myself and told her I'd been with the Pasadena Playhouse. She wished me good luck in my career, we said "Goodbye", and I left the building to do some shopping in that area of Beverly Hills. About a half-hour later, as I was leaving and heading for Wilshire Blvd. I saw her exit the Dr.'s building and get into a new '64 Cadillac Convertible that was parked out in front. What a pretty girl she was, driving away in that drop-top Caddy !
NOW, BACK TO DR. MAX SHAPIRO...
ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 1979 ABC'S "20/20" AIRED Geraldo Rivera's documentary "THE ELVIS COVER-UP". I was watching it with much interest in my St. Louis apartment, and in it a number of doctors' including Dr. George Nichopoluus (Dr. Nick), Elvis's Memphis physician, were listed as those who over-prescribed drugs for Elvis. Then a photo came on the screen, and I heard Geraldo say: "And, this man, Elvis's Hollywood dentist known as "Dr. Feelgood", DR. MAX SHAPIRO of Beverly Hills, also is one who through the years has supplied Elvis with prescriptions & drugs...even, allegedly, liquid cocaine."
WELL, I was on the floor ! I had met Dr. Shapiro, visited him in his office, and even though we had no "long term connection", he had still been instrumental in my dental care at one time. So to have that personal connection with one of the individuals also involved in Elvis's life linked me, as well as others he and his office treated, to Elvis Presley..a "Rock 'n Roll" Pioneer that I had admired since High School, and had seen in-person in Little Rock that night of April 17, 1972.
After that expose' things didn't go well for Dr. Max. His life & celebrity of being "Dentist To The Stars" went on a downward spiral. He later lost his license and, from what I understand, passed away with most of his fortune gone. JK
(This has been in my Collection since 1964. Elvis's Beverly Hills Dentist: Dr. Max Shapiro, D.D.S. He was also MY California Dentist and HE gave me the card !)
GEORGE BARRIS "THE KING OF THE KUSTOMIZERS" & ELVIS...
GEORGE BARRIS'S PERSONAL STORY ABOUT how kind & thoughtful Elvis was to all that worked for George at the time his limo was being kustomized is a real Tribute to Elvis's basic, down-home, "Southern Gentleman" roots that had been instilled in him since he was a boy. And shows how he kept those manners as an adult.
Shown below is the kustomized 1960 Series 75 Fleetwood Cadillac, that Barris Kustoms built for ELVIS at a cost of approximately $100,000.
Quoted from "Elvis's Cadillacs" Website: "Most everything inside the car was gold plated or gold colored. They included gold plated interior gadgets such as a phone, shoe buffer, refrigerator, entertainment console with a ten record automatic changer RCA record player, swivel TV and tape deck. Forty coats of exterior paint made with pearl, diamond dust and oriental fish scales were used on the outside. Hubcaps, wheel covers, headlight rims and the front grille are gold plated in 24kt gold. Gold lame drapes were used to cover the back windows and to separate the front and back seats. Truly a vehicle fit for a King! "
(Above Left: "Barris Cars Of The Stars" Book...Read my Review in the "Hot Off The Press" Section; Above Right: Elvis with his Barris Kustomized 1960 Series 75 Fleetwood Cadillac Limo)
(Above: The Entertainment Console in Elvis's Caddy Limo ! )
BE SURE TO VISIT GEORGE'S WEBSITE: www.barris.com Great info, cool cars, and neat stuff to buy for your collection !
"ELVIS'S CADILLACS" Website: http://elviscadillacs.tripod.com/index.htm A fantastic look at Elvis's cars...and the ones he gave away !
NOTE: Some photos & info on this page courtesy of, and copyrighted by, their respective owners.