and Jimmy Dean
by Jimmy Dean
the years I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity
to witness the beginnings of more than one musical legend.
Occasionally entertainers that were performing in the
Washington, DC, area would drop by WMAL-TV to do a guest
spot on our show.
afternoon, we were paid a visit by a very young and inexperienced
Elvis Presley, who was appearing on an excursion boat called
the S.S. Mt. Vernon. The boat would make its run from DC,
up the Potomac River to Mt. Vernon, where there was an amusement
park, and of course the home of George Washington.
was the featured entertainer on the boat that night and was
booked on our show to promote the cruise, apparently because
it wasn't quite full. I had the excruciating task of conducting
the interview with Elvis, possibly the worst I've ever done.
went basically like this:
So, you're gonna be on the S.S. Mt. Vernon tonight, are you,
Have you ever worked on a boat before?
I imagine you're looking forward to this, aren't you?
Yep. And that was it. "Yep, nope... "and that's all he would
I'm sure it didn't matter; all it would take would be for
the gals who tuned in to that TV show to get a good look at
him and he wouldn't have any trouble selling more tickets.
later, when we were both playing in Las Vegas, Elvis would
apologize profusely for leaving me hanging on that interview.
He told me, "You know, Jimmy, I was so sorry about that but
I was scared to death." It's hard to believe that Elvis could
be shy or afraid of anything, but I guess even "The King"
had those days in the beginning.
played Vegas regularly back in the late sixties, and
there were many times he would drop in and visit our
show at the Desert Inn. Afterward he would usually end
up backstage, where he'd hug my neck and always flatter
me with "You country genius son of a bitch . . . you
country genius son of a bitch!" During one stint at
the Desert Inn when Dottie West was my opening act,
Elvis came in to watch our show and she acknowledged
him, introducing him from the stage.
course the audience went bananas, but she caught pure
hell from the stage manager. He told her in no uncertain
terms that if there was a celebrity in the house, it
was the star of the show who introduced them and not
the opening act. Sometimes I'd look over and Elvis would
be standing in the wings while we were finishing up
our show, but one particular night he came in without
me knowing it.
at the Desert Inn I would use a wireless microphone when I
performed, and that night there was obviously something wrong
with the one I had. It kept cutting out, so I said to the
sound engineer, "Can you get me another microphone out here?"
I tried continuing with the show while I waited, but no new
microphone showed up. I asked again for a replacement, but
still no mike.
as I was getting ready to blow a fuse, the audience erupted
with gasps and cheers of delight. Unbeknownst to me, Elvis
was coming out of the wings and across the stage to deliver
my microphone. He said, "Is this the item you were looking
for, sir?" Well, needless to say, the rest my show that evening
was shot to hell - Elvis Presley was in the house.
guess it's no secret that Elvis had a passion for acting and
movies, and when the movie Patton with George C. Scott came
out, he couldn't wait to tell me about it. He said, "Dean,
you've got to go see this movie." I told him I didn't want
to go see it, that I happened to be a big fan of General Patton's
and I didn't want to see anybody tear him down for some of
the things he did. But I finally did go see it, and it turned
out to be one of my favorite films of all time.
I saw Patton, Elvis was visiting backstage again one night,
and as we were talking about it, he went into this monologue
from the movie that must have lasted for ten minutes. It was
the entire opening scene that George C. Scott performed in
front of a huge American flag, and Elvis knew it by heart.
He did it well too. I got the feeling it was that kind of
role he would have liked to have sunk his teeth into if he'd
had the chance.
remember that Elvis would sometimes call us before the last
show of the night and say, "Hey, Dean, would you and the guys
hang around after the show?" He loved to come over to our
gig at the end of the evening and sing with my backup vocal
group, the Imperials. And anybody who says Elvis couldn't
go anywhere without an entourage of bodyguards doesn't know
what they're talking about. He'd show up at our dressing room
door and it would just be him and a driver.
lot of times Elvis would cut his show by a couple of numbers
and come watch the last part of ours, and then afterward we'd
go down to my dressing room. Our piano player Joe Moscheo
would sit down at the piano, and Elvis and the Imperials would
start singing - nothing but gospel songs and spirituals. To
me Elvis was a person with multiple personalities, because
he was somebody one day and somebody different the next.
I used to watch him there with that wonderful look on his
face - with no gyrations and no put-on - and I'd say to myself,
I don't really know if I know Elvis Presley, but I think that's
him, that one there singing those gospel songs. It was during
one of those jam sessions that I told Elvis I was having a
helluva time getting "up" for that second show. And it was
true, especially during that last week of the month-long contract.
energy level began to wane every night, and I would try to
keep going by eating four or five tablespoons of raw honey
before each show. I knew that honey was instant energy because
it's predigested and the sugar goes right to the bloodstream.
told Elvis that, in spite of eating all that honey, I was
still having a hard time, and he said, "Tell me about it,
Jimmy, I know just what you mean. I'll have my doctor call
you tomorrow." Sure enough, his doctor called the next day
and I explained to him what my problem was. I remember his
words to this day. He said, "Jimmy, what you have is the old
Las Vegas 'blahs.' I'll send you over some pills. Just take
one about a half an hour before the first show, and then another
one before the second show, and you'll be fine."
true to his word, the doctor sent over these little bitty
yellow pills, and that night I took one thirty minutes before
showtime. I remember just sailing right through that first
show; then I took another pill about a half hour before the
second show. Same thing - I was just flying and having a high
fact, the show ran over that night I was having so much fun.
It was usually an every night thing that a few of us guys
would go somewhere and have a bite to eat, so after our show
ended around one o'clock that night, we set out for breakfast.
I used to order things like a bowl of chili with three scrambled
eggs in it and a stack of toast with a glass of whole milk,
but I noticed that particular night I wasn't very hungry.
had also noticed during the show that I was sweating a lot
more than I ordinarily did. Some of us also had a tee time
every morning at ten o'clock, and that meant getting to bed
so I could get up the next day for our golf game. But when
I lay down to go to sleep that night, my heart was beating
really hard and my eyes wouldn't close. It was then I said
to myself, Dean, you are on drugs!
I got up and found that bottle of little yellow pills, walked
over to the john and dumped them in. I really don't know how
strong they were, but I would bet that the lid blew off the
city septic tank somewhere in downtown Las Vegas. I'm sure
Elvis and his doctor meant well by me, because they obviously
thought that pill business was okay, since it worked for EP.
I remember he always had a small box filled with pills that
he carried around with him - pills of all colors, shapes and
sizes - and I really think Elvis thought they could do no
you know, I could understand how people could get hooked on
them, because they made you feel so good.., but not for very
long. I'll admit to a fondness for wine or a cocktail, but
I've had the good sense to stay away from cocaine and all
the drugs that have been the bane of many a performer. As
a matter of fact, the only thing I'd put up my nose is my
Source: Elvis World Japan)