Marty Lacker (August 2008)
EIN's last interview with Memphis Mafia member, Marty Lacker, was in 2005, so we thought it long overdue to catch up with him again.
This time, apart from introductory and closing questions from EIN, we asked you, our readers, to nominate questions for Marty.
EIN thanks Marty for taking the time to answer what turned out to be a diverse and interesting set of questions. We also thank you for providing questions for Marty.
The interview that follows covers a lot of ground, including how Marty and Elvis became friends at high school to Elvis' marriage to Priscilla, the role of the Colonel, a world tour, the reality of Elvis' relationship with the Memphis Mafia and Marty's campaigning to have Chips Moman and the American Studio Band inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Reader feedback appears after the interview
EIN: What is Marty Lacker doing in 2008?
Marty: As Little as possible. I’m at the stage of my life where I cherish being able to just relax and spend time with my family including my grandchildren. A project I am working on is campaigning to get Chips Moman and the American Studio band into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame for the over 120 big hits they recorded at the studio. To get Chips a Grammy Trustee Award and the band a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
EIN: You had a health scare and were hospitalized in 2005. Is everything OK health wise today?
Marty: My health is fine other then I few old man’s aches and pains. Thanks for asking.
EIN: And Lamar and Billy. How are they doing?
Marty: Lamar is fine, his cancer is still in remission and Billy just recently retired from his work and is a man of leisure and enjoying the hell out of it.
EIN: Marty, you first met Elvis during your high school days. You appear to have come from dissimilar backgrounds but you obviously clicked. What was it you had in common?
Marty: The way we dressed and our hairstyles. Whereas most guys back then wore jeans and t-shirts and had crew cut hairstyles, we dressed in loud color clothes with our hair in Pompadours. That’s the way we dressed in NY where I had just moved from and he dressed that way buying his clothes on Beale Street. That’s the only way we knew of each other, as we were not close in school.
EIN: How did Elvis change as a person between 1952 and 1977?
Marty: He became more polished and worldly. He also developed a sense about people and what they were about. Whether they were intelligent and trustworthy.
EIN: Are there any plans to re-issue your first book, Elvis: Portrait of A Friend?
Marty: No. That’s over a done with. It’s been 28 years since it was released.
EIN: According to the Internet Movie Database you are listed as having appeared in the 1999 documentary: Mr. Rock & Roll: Colonel Tom Parker. This is a release we are not familiar with. Please tell us about it.
Marty: I need someone to tell me about it because I have no recollection of ever participating in that.
EIN: What was Elvis’ biggest mistake as a person?
Marty: Not taking care of himself and getting too dependent on his so-called medication. In my opinion also trusting Colonel Parker too much and not confronting him about things he wanted to do or not do. Especially in the late 60’s until the end.
EIN: What was Elvis’ biggest mistake as an artist/performer?
Marty: Not putting his foot down to Parker about the songs he was given to record by Parker and Hill & Range who really only had their own interest in mind as opposed to his. The only reason some of those records sold was because of the super loyalty of fans that would buy anything he did.
Cilks: Did Scotty Moore, Bill & DJ hang around with you guys in Hollywood during Loving You & Jailhouse Rock and do you have a story about them if they did?
Marty: I was not working for him on those movies. Loving You was done while I was in the army stationed in Germany. I came home from the army just before he did Jailhouse and began hanging around with him and the guys at night but began working in radio broadcasting.
Brian: Sonny West has said in recent interviews that Colonel Parker was very good friends with President Lyndon Johnson, and members of his administration so he would have asked them to fix up things for him to accompany Elvis on a World Tour, the real reason it didn't happen was because of Elvis's drug problems at the time, and the problems the could cause going through customs.
Many Performers were caught with drugs or other substances while touring internationally such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and many others Johnny Cash for example was busted for legal prescribed drugs while crossing the Mexican Border. The Colonel was worried the same thing could happen to Elvis. I have been reading about the Colonels relationship with Eddie Arnold and according to what I found out the Colonel controlled Mr. Arnolds in a similar way to Elvis to getting side deals with RCA. However the Colonel booked Eddie Arnold in Europe, Mexico, and Canada when he managed him. My question to you Marty is……I know you didn't like the Colonel, but could this all be a myth and a misunderstanding about blaming the Colonel for no world tour?
Marty: No myth. First check and see if Parker accompanied Arnold to Europe. As for Mexico and Canada you didn’t need a passport back then to enter. The biggest factor is that Eddy, unlike Elvis, would confront Parker when he didn’t want to or wanted to do something or go somewhere. Let’s put it this way. After Elvis died, Parker claimed he knew nothing about Elvis and drugs as his excuse when asked why he didn’t do something to help Elvis. Parker was a con man who would say anything to not make himself look bad. Secondly, ALL of Elvis’ drugs were prescribed medicines and there would be nothing illegal for him to take that stuff outside the US. Third, he probably would have taken Dr. Nick with him further making it legal.
Fourth, Elvis on numerous occasions stated his desire to tour Europe and the Far East. He talked with some of us about important things to him and I see no reason why he would not tell us the truth about touring. I love Sonny like a brother and I’m not putting him down but he had a tendency of believing Parker in everything he told him especially when Sonny was part of the tour advance team with Parker. Parker was very good for Elvis in the early years but he couldn’t or wouldn’t change with the times after the early 60’s. He was an old-fashioned carnie con man whose money was, “get the money and run”. With no thought about the future. Or what it might be doing to Elvis. And NO, I didn’t like him because of that.
Annemaree: If Elvis could have changed anything in his life what do you think this might have been and also with all the conspiracy news that Elvis may have faked his death, do you believe there is any truth in any of these findings?
Marty (shown opposite in Germany): He wouldn’t have married Priscilla. I also think he really knew that the pills were bad for him and he might have finally decided to stop taking them.
Scott/John/Peta: Why did Elvis seem to lose his self later in life and became lost and dependent on drugs?
Marty: He was dependent on drugs long before later in life. I think he just plain got bored and that’s why touring Europe and the Far East would have been good for him. Every time he was presented with a new challenge he got himself straight and did a fantastic job on stage and getting himself in shape.
Scott/James/Anne/Sarah: Why did Elvis not fight more against Tom Parker to do good music and movies?
Marty: Because Elvis was non confrontational especially where Parker was concerned. That was due to Parker’s control factor that he instilled in Elvis from the beginning. “If you don’t do as I say, your career will end and the Hollywood moguls will kill your career”
Elvis wanted to go on being Elvis Presley, he didn’t want to lose it. The sad part is that if he knew anything about the business side of entertainment, he wouldn’t have lost his career if he dumped Parker as there were a number of people who would have been a better manage from the mid 60’s until the end. He might still be alive if he had done that.
Scott: Marty, tell me about Elvis and his creative process as an artist.
Marty: His talent was natural, no formal training so he did what his inside feelings guided him to do with what he had to work with. Sometimes he needed guidance as Chips Moman did during the ’69 Memphis sessions.
Scott: Did Elvis lose his grip on reality because he was too protected from it by his friends?
Marty: There is a misconception of our relationship with Elvis, which has made many fans think that even to the point where they blamed us for many of his negative things he did including his death. That is done out of ignorance, ignorance of what the relationship was all about. Elvis was a strong, grown man in many ways who made his own decisions. We only did what he told us to and wanted us to do. When you hear complaints, sometimes from people he knew that we kept them from seeing him which is pure hogwash. When they called or came to the gate about coming up wanting to see Elvis, when he was awake we would always ask him if he wanted to see the person, if he didn’t he’d tell us to tell the guy he was asleep. Sometimes he really was asleep and we knew not to let anyone in that did not work for him or was not close to him if he was asleep. It was his house, and his life and he called the shots. Just like we all make our own decisions about what you want to or not want to do.
Shane/Barry: Among Elvis' friends (the guys) which was the most popular among the majority of the group and which the least liked?
Marty: The entire original MM were equal in Elvis’ eyes. A couple thought they were more special but to him and the rest of us, they weren’t. Some of us were smart enough and content to realize that. He was closer and trusted the original MM more than the guys who came later and that came directly from him. If anyone was really the closest it would be Billy Smith who was like a younger brother to Elvis.
Kim/Celia: Did Elvis watch his own movies?
Marty: Usually Not. I only saw him watch them twice in the 20 years I knew him.
Shane: Elvis What Happened? What would have happened if it had been released 3 (or 4) years earlier ?
Marty: It might have helped him get himself straight which was the main reason they wrote it despite what some nay Sayers think.
Tom: I work in a drug rehab. Center. please clarify if elvis was a hard core addict. I have read so many articles on this subject . A physician that I know states that his physical condition and bloated appearance was due to steroid injections . he obviously used uppers and downers. was his early demise due to strictly drug abuse or did just have genetic issues. I do not want to appear to be naïve just looking for an explanation.
Marty: Your physician friend never examined Elvis so he’s just guessing. All of Elvis’ dependencies were on prescribed drugs. He sometimes times took medicine he didn’t need that was a bit strong like Dilaudid but he did not take street drugs.
Tyler: How tall was Elvis for real?
Marty: About 5’ 11”
David H: Were you at Elvis's home when he shot the screen out of the television because Robert Goulet was on?
Marty: yes, but he did that in L.A. too. And he shot screens out in hotels while on tour not just when Goulet was on.
David H: Did you attend Elvis's funeral/viewing?
Marty: No, I was in living in California at the time and my wife was ill and although there was ticket to Memphis waiting for me at the airport I couldn’t leave her.
David H/Sheila: Marty, what are you're best memories of Elvis's Lake Tahoe engagements.
Marty: Really nothing special except the scenery was beautiful. They were just like his Vegas and other shows.
Jeanne: What is your fondest memory of Elvis?
Marty: His smile.
Jeanne: What do you miss the most about Elvis?
Regina: Did Elvis really want to marry Priscilla or did the Colonel want him to marry her.
Marty: Elvis told me, the day he asked me to be his Best Man that Priscilla’s father threatened him with breach of promise and that he would go to the media and tell them he had been living with her since she was 16, if he didn’t marry her. He told me that
Parker advised him to marry her, even though he said he didn’t want to. To be fair, Priscilla and her father denied that on Elvis By The Presleys, which really should have been called Elvis By The Beaulieus. I prefer to believe Elvis because of how agitated he was about it.
Thomas: Were you upset that the Colonel interfered in Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding plans and inserted Joe Esposito as co-best man after Elvis had chosen you?
Marty: No. I was just pissed as to the way I found out. It didn’t surprise me knowing Joe.
Julia: I would like to ask Marty who Priscilla's doctor was when she was pregnant with Lisa Marie? Why, because I have always believed she was pregnant before the wedding and that was the push and secrecy for the wedding. As much as Col. Parker loved putting on a show it is hard for me to believe he would have given up the chance to make money off of Elvis' wedding. Also I have yet to hear or see any information on Priscilla during her pregnancy. Which is very strange because everything else has been found out. Yes, I know this is opening up a big can of Priscilla loving worms.
Marty: I do not remember the name of her doctor. However, he did not find out she was pregnant until Speedway and Lisa is his daughter, all you have to do is look at her face to tell that.
Nadine: is it true that Elvis caught Priscilla in the arms of her dance instructor Steven Peck barely 4 months after Lisa's birth and that they went right after that to Hawaii to reconcile and to give the marriage a second chance
Marty: Elvis did not catch him in his arms. However, some of us suspected that’s what she was doing with him and later with Mike Stone.
Cris: Did Elvis have a favorite perfume or nail polish he liked on a woman?
Marty: I have no idea.
Cris: We've heard about the love affairs in Elvis's life over the years, but was their any one woman Elvis truly called a "Best Friend" that he really trusted and kept in touch with over the years?
Marty: Not really but he did care a great deal for Ann Margret.
Carolyn/Candice/Sue T.: Marty...can you tell us your first reaction when you heard that Priscilla was going to open Graceland to the public? Did you think it would have been the success it is now? Did you have any concerns as to exactly what the pubic would be able to view?
Marty: There is a misconception that Priscilla did this all by herself but the fact is that Vernon Presley purposely named three executors to succeed him upon his death. He would not give Priscilla the sole power because he knew Elvis did not want her to have anything to do with his estate, which is why she was not in his, will. She caught Vernon on his deathbed and he finally gave in. The three executors were her, The National Bank Of Commerce and the accountant, Joe Hanks. It was the bank’s Advisory board that made Graceland a success more than her.
In addition, Jack Soden had enough business savvy to make it work. When it came to business, Priscilla was no rocket scientist. The one business she tried after she left Elvis, a boutique, failed. If anybody should get the credit it should be Jack and the bank. When I heard the news it didn’t surprise me because I knew she would go after the money under the guise of doing in for Lisa Marie. Priscilla has become a millionaire because of what she’s made from the estate.
EIN: Now that Robert Sillerman’s CKX Company has had the marketing rights to Elvis for several years what are your views on what they are doing?
Marty: Sillerman is a businessman and really has no emotional ties to Elvis. He is looking to make his investment back and a profit. He supposedly has big plans for Elvis name and likeness. Time will tell. Most of the guys understand that and have no problem with it. We just hope whatever he does will be done with class and won’t cheapen Elvis’ image or memory with some more tacky merchandise that’s sold across from Graceland.
Some of us hope whatever he does does not include Elvis impersonators or as some of us refer to them as assclowns.
EIN: Elvis impersonators or ETAS have become an industry of their own; particularly with EPE sponsoring ETA contests around the world. What are your views on this?
Marty (shown far left with Elvis): I’m not fan in any shape or form of Elvis impersonators. Calling themselves Tribute Artists is a joke; they just want their 15 minutes of fame. If they had any talent they should put it to use being themselves.
Problem is most of them don’t have the talent. They will never be Elvis or anything close to it. If you want to hear Elvis music, play an Elvis record. If you want to see him perform, play a video or DVD of ELVIS!
EIN: Marty, we’d like to mention the names of a few people linked to Elvis and ask for a short comment from you about each:
Jeanne Carmen:-Met her one time, exaggerates her friendship.
Tempest Storm:- He dated her a few times in the 50’s.
Stella Patchouli:- who?????????????????
Alan Fortas:- One of the most well loved original Memphis Mafia, like a brother to most us original guys and one who Elvis really liked.
Paul Lichter:-Fake,scam artist,bogus. Absolutely no connection to Elvis.
Sean Shaver:-Nice guy who followed Elvis on tour and took many pictures.
Bitsy Mott:- The Colonel’s boy. He was from the old school of Parker but a nice guy.
Bill E. Burk:-Longtime Memphis Newspaper Columnist and reporter who Elvis knew. He did a great job of keeping Elvis’ memory alive after Elvis died.
EIN: Marty, is there anything else you would like to say?
Marty: I thank you at EIN and all the fans for keeping Elvis’ memory alive.
Comment on this interview
interviews with members of the Memphis Mafia:
Read EIN's 2005 interview with Marty
Read EIN's 2008 interview with Lama
Read EIN's 2007 interview with Sonny West
Read EIN's 2006 interview with Billy Smith
Read EIN's 1986 interview with Charlie Hodge
I thank you all for the nice comments on my interview. I would like to clarify something. For the most times Elvis was happy and lived a happy life. He had a crazy sense of humor that he exhibited almost every day. I don't want anyone to get the impression of him otherwise.
He was a human being as we all are, he had his good days and bad days. Fortunately the good days were in the majority. He had his faults and human frailties and considering the pressue he sometimes lived under being Elvis Presley, so well loved and sometimes smothered by fans, family and friends, he fared very well.
Thanks again to all of you for keeping his memory alive. Marty
Tom: good interview -straight forward honest answers . I would expect nothing less from mr. lacker. thank you, marty. and thanks to ein!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Paul Terry King: For once you have said something i can wholeheartedly agree with Marty! Chips Moman and the American Group should be inducted in the rock and Roll hall of fame! As you well know I for one have sat many hours in that old shoe shop control room watching the masters at work. One night driving by i noticed the door ajar and stopped to investigate .Just then the phone rang it was Chips. When I told him I found the front studio door pried open and heard someone run out the back parking lot and Elvis Masters out of the shelf he said Dont move till he got there.! Twenty minutes later pistol in hand chips rushed in and after seeing everything was okay he said thanx boy I really appreciate it man.! Probly In The Ghetto would be another song the world never heard if Id been a few minutes later that night
Jeanne Pellicani: THANK YOU, THANK YOU SO MUCH for the interview with Marty Lacker. I wanted it to go on and on! It was great! Please send my best to Marty and thank him for taking the time to answer all of our questions.
John W: Top marks EIN. A very good interview.
Betty & Col: Thankyou for a wonderful interview. We wish Marty and his family all the best. As grandparents ourselves we know how special it is to have time to spend with our grandchildren.
Annemaree: Many thanks to Marty and EIN for this very informative and interesting interview. I was also glad to hear Marty that you are in good health.
The more news that I hear involving Elvis the more I feel so very deeply sorry for him, just hearing about the many horrible situations he was faced with alone. Elvis had the most beautiful heart and soul, he was so caring and loving by nature...and certainly didn't deserve the way certain so called people treated him with their cold, callous, manipulative and threatening ways.
I sometimes wonder how Elvis was ever able to perform as brilliantly as he did with all the hurt and frustration alone he had to endure and can certainly understand just how he felt when he quoted that he could feel so alone inside at times, even when performing for thousands of people.
Marty you sound like you were a real true friend of Elvis and it must have been so wonderful to have known him as you did...a real blessing to have known and been a close friend to someone so beautiful. If only we could have changed everything for Elvis, even if only in his last few years and just to have him still with us... if only...
God bless you Elvis...forever in our hearts and souls.
Nadine Van Battel: good job, thanks Marty for clarifying so many things.
Gary C: Enjoyed the interview.
Tania Wilkes: Marty rulz!!!
Fred W: Good interview with Marty who tells it as it was rather than the sugar coated story Graceland keeps giving us. Give us more of the honesty rather than the bull shite!
Cris: Hello EIN! Just wanted to comment on the Marty Lacker interview, GREAT JOB! I sometimes find myself not agreeing to what he may say but I truly do love his truthfulness. Best wishes to Marty and his family :)
Helen: Thankyou for another terrific interview. Marty mightn't always say what some fans want to hear but I respect his candour.
Joe K: Marty's one of the good guys! Well done with the interview.
Sue T: Loved the interview with Marty. Keep up the good work.