Interviews the Memphis Mafia
1986 EIN has had the privilege of interviewing many members
of Elvis's Memphis Mafia. In this compilation interview
we've pieced together some of the most memorable questions
and answers by several Memphis Mafia members.
interviewees are Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Jerry Schilling
and George Klein.
interviewer was Nigel Patterson, President, Elvis Information
Charlie Hodge spent an hour with me over coffee at Graceland Plaza
early one morning, George Klein invited myself and another fan club
member to his disco, In Cahoots (and there's a real story about
that night) while I enjoyed a twenty minute discussion with Jerry
Schilling before a dinner-concert at the great Memphis seafood restaurant,
Captain Bilbo's. Joe Esposito was interviewed earlier this year
in Canberra as part of his tour with Australian tribute artist,
Charlie, in your book 'Me 'n' Elvis', you tell some very funny stories
about your time with Elvis. I remember one incident involving TV's
The Rifleman, Chuck Connors. Can you tell us about that incident?
That was a funny night. Elvis was appearing in Vegas and after a
great show one night Chuck Connors came thundering into Elvis's
suite. Now Chuck is a really big man, about 6'4" and he just towered
over us all. When he spotted Elvis he starting cursing, "Elvis you're
not a 'bleep, bleep' star. You're a 'bleep, bleep' galaxy! It broke
us all up and Elvis was in hysterics.
What other moments do you remember?
There's a story I tell in my book about Elvis's cousin. She was
real beautiful and often came to see Elvis perform. One night the
audience took to throwing teddy bears on to the stage. Well Elvis
decided to start throwing the bears back into the audience. He picked
one up and threw it. It hit his cousin on the head and knocked off
her wig. She looked real funny. It cracked everyone up in the showroom.
There was a sad ending though. Not long after Elvis received a phone
call to tell him his beautiful cousin had died. It hit him really
Joe, you are one of a select few who has worked as Tour Manager
for two of the world's biggest superstars, Elvis and Michael Jackson.
What was it like working with 'The King of Pop'?
Working with Michael Jackson was very different to working with
Elvis. I didn't actually tour with Michael but I did the up-front
arrangements. Michael's tour involved 18 months and there would
have been a lot of time twiddling my thumbs in hotel rooms as Michael
only performs three times a week. As my son had just been born,
I asked if I could fly home every couple of weeks to be with my
family but his policy was that no one left the tour. I think he
was concerned that something might happen, they wouldn't return,
leaving him with a problem. I didn't want to leave my family for
long periods as I had done during my time with Elvis when my two
daughters were growing up.
Your first book, Good Rockin' Tonight, was a really interesting
and positive tribute to Elvis. Have you any plans to re-release
Good Rockin' Tonight has been out of print for a few years now and
I'm interested in re-issuing it in an expanded version. My original
manuscript was 500 pages but Simon & Schuster released it as 250
pages. There are a lot more interesting things in the manuscript
including things beyond Elvis's death in 1977.
George, along with Red, you were friends with Elvis since
high school. What do you remember about Elvis at high school?
Elvis was always outside the 'in-group'. He dressed differently
and his hair and sideburns were longer than what was normal
at the time. Despite being different Elvis a nice young man
and he was fun to be around. Some people thought it funny
that he and I became friends but, you know, we just connected.
What about Elvis's stage presence, his charisma?
Charisma is right on. Elvis had tons of it. Even when he started
out fans were drawn to him on stage. He was raw, exciting and incredibly
When he first started out, did you think he was going to become
I knew Elvis was different and very talented and I thought he would
be a big star. But I don't think any of us could foresee just how
big he would become, let alone the biggest star in the world.
What are your memories of Elvis performing at the height of his
popularity in the 50s?
Man it was scary, real scary. Those were wild times and sometimes
I wondered how Elvis survived it. The fans, especially the girls,
went crazy every time he moved any part of his body. The noise was
incredible and very quickly the Colonel had to arrange extra security
for Elvis' concerts. It's sad there isn't more visual record of
Elvis' live shows from the 50s. If there was it would blow you away,
just how wild it all was. I'll never forget it.
Jerry, we've read that the Bodyguard book, Elvis: What Happened?'
really affected Elvis. What can you tell me about his reaction
Elvis and I talked about the book. The thing that hurt Elvis
the most was that it was his friends who betrayed him. A lot
of negative things had been written about him before but it
was that the guys who had been with him for so many years
would do it that really hurt him. It dented his pride in a
big way. And he was very concerned for Lisa Marie and his
father, Vernon. He didn't want them to be hurt.
You are a very good friend of Priscilla's. How did your friendship
develop and do you still see her and Lisa?
Priscilla and I hit it off pretty much from the first time we met.
We had a rapport and found it easy to talk to each other. A lot
of us formed close friendships. We spent so much time together at
Graceland or in Hollywood. I have incredible respect for Priscilla.
And yes, we see each other from time to time.
Jerry, you obviously enjoyed some great holidays with Elvis. What
are your fondest memories?
Oh yes, we had some fantastic times. Elvis loved all types of things
so whether it was having snowball fights or lounging around a pool
we always had a lot of fun. At night Elvis would try to catch the
shows of other stars. Sometimes he'd be recognised and pandemonium
would ensue. We went to a lot of great places - Palm Springs, Vegas,
even the Bahamas. Hawaii was Elvis' favorite place to holiday.
Since Elvis died you've been involved with many big name stars.
Have you ever been to Australia?
Yes, I managed The Beach Boys when they toured Australia. One of
the cities we played was your home town, Canberra. Australia is
a beautiful country and I'd like to visit again. The people were
very friendly and the band had a great time.
Charlie, during the Hollywood years you guys had a lot of fun, joking
around and playing practical jokes on each other and the rest of
the cast and crew. But there were also more serious times. Most
fans are aware of the lighthearted moments but not the other times.
What can you tell us about them?
I remember when Elvis was filming Charro. He was really taken with
the script. It had a hard edge and was very different to the fluffy
films he had been making. There was a lot of violence in it. As
shooting went on there were more and more changes to the script,
the violence was taken out. Elvis finally confronted the director,
Charles Marcus Warren. Mr Warren told him that the studio had changed
its mind, there was a lot of concern about the level of violence
in films and on TV and they wanted it toned down. I remember Elvis
wasn't happy about this and he passed a comment that the studio
must have wanted a 'milktoast' western. It was another time that
with the right script Elvis could have achieved what he wanted,
to be regarded as a serious actor.
George, for you what was the greatest thing about having Elvis as
Elvis's generosity and kindness. When you had Elvis as a friend
you had a real friend, a friend for life. There wasn't anything
he wouldn't do for you. And he helped all of us out at one time
or another. You could have an argument with Elvis but when the chips
were down he was always your friend. Man, his loyalty to you was
1987, 2001, 2002