David Stanley talks to EIN

David Stanley grew up as the youngest step-brother of The King of Rock & Roll.

In this exclusive interview with EIN, David talks candidly about his famous brother and step-father, sex, drugs and rock and roll, the Memphis Mafia, the Colonel, the infamous "bodyguard" book, and his latest venture, Solutionary Dynamics.


The following interview is excerpted from EIN's 90 minute interview with David.

EIN: What are your recollections of Vernon Presley?

DS: Vernon was my step-father, my dad. He drove me to school, made sure I got to football practice. And he had a great sense of humor. He was very tight with money, he gave me an allowance but it was like only 50 cents. I think he always feared that despite Elvis's great wealth they could lose it tomorrow. But if we're talking about influencing me, you've got to also understand that everything revolved around Elvis. So there were things where it was Elvis's influence on me - Elvis would play footy with me, he got me into karate & music.

EIN: And Priscilla. What was your relationship like with her?

DS: Priscilla was my first love as a 6 year old. You know what I mean, a crush. She was a lot of fun. We'd spend quality time together, go to the park, swimming. Our home in Dolan Street was connected to Graceland so we spent a lot of time together, we were very close. She was like a big sister to me. After Elvis died we went our separate ways but I have very fond memories. I also admire what she has done to keep Elvis alive. If you had Elvis it wasn't going to be hard to do but it was Priscilla that did it.

EIN: David, you and your brothers grew up in a very unusual environment, surrounded by great wealth, temptation and a coterie of very interesting, even eclectic individuals in the Memphis Mafia. In particular you were very close to Lamar Fike. Do you see much of Lamar and the other Memphis Mafia members these days?

DS: In fact I talked to Lamar last night. You know he changed my diaper as a 2 year old. I saw Patti Perry recently and still talk with Joe and Charlie. Also Dick Grob. We don't keep in touch on a regular basis but the bond is there. Those guys raised me, I became one of them and in a sense David Stanley the person is a bit of all of them. They were strong influences on me. And you know one thing that people don't realize about the Memphis Mafia. They are historians - historians of one of the most influential people of the 20th century, if not ever.

EIN: Lamar (Fike) is on record as saying that the Stanley Brothers were corrupted by Elvis Presley. What is your view on what happened?

DS: I think the situation was misunderstood. Here we were, living a life free from restraints. Sex, drugs and rock & roll. I was a hormone with feet! But Elvis didn't force me into it. Sure the lifestyle contributed to it. What happened was we grew up a bit too fast.

EIN: As a former Minister of Religion how do you feel about people who see the ongoing worship of Elvis Presley as equivalent to a religious movement?

DS: It's quite scary. There is only one King and that is Christ. Elvis felt and knew this. There is a big difference in filling your room and walls with Elvis pictures and memorabilia, but it's another thing quite different to see Elvis as a religious figure. Elvis felt his calling was to communicate the gospel to people and that is why he incorporated gospel songs in his concerts. You only had to hear him sing How Great Thou Art to know. Elvis's spiritual gift was to sing, to communicate gospel music.

EIN: Critic, Dave Marsh once wrote: "And unless you understand that Elvis Presley was more than anything a spiritual leader of our generation, there's really no way to assess his importance, much less the meaning of his music".

DS: What Dave wrote is so true but not with Elvis as a religious figure, but as a leader of a generation through his music, yes.

EIN: There has been a lot of conjecture about Elvis's relationship with the Colonel during the final few years. What is your view on this issue?

DS: The Colonel always gave me stuffed animals, things from RCA and later on cigars. The thing you need to know about Elvis is that no-one was around Elvis if he didn't want you there. If he didn't you weren't there. I hope this is making sense. The Colonel was Elvis's manager not his dad, so his influence was professional only. And you need to realize Elvis was very strong minded and if he'd really wanted to do other things professionally he would have. People often ask: did the Colonel make Elvis? And if he did why didn't he make another one? Well there was only one Elvis and could only be one Elvis. After Elvis died, the Colonel became part of the blame game. Why didn't Elvis tour Europe, why didn't he make A Star Is Born? The Colonel, Ginger, Lamar Fike, Dr Nick, David Stanley. It's easy to blame people but the reality was that Elvis brought his demise on himself. I know that may sound harsh but it's the truth, no matter how much it might hurt.

EIN: There is an issue of 'personal responsibility'?

DS: Yes, very true. We have to get away from this easy way out with the blame game. Again I know many fans won't like it, but it is how it was. Elvis became like Howard Hughes, very self destructive. He was afraid of losing and had to protect his image, that charade I mentioned earlier, at all costs. If only he had admitted his problem with medications. It was such a waste. It also shows that kings can make mistakes, they can be as frail as everyone else. Elvis's death was a tragic loss. The Memphis Mafia lost a friend, I lost a brother, fans lost their idol, but importantly we must always remember, Elvis lost his life.

EIN: David, another widely debated topic in the Elvis world is his relationship with Ginger Alden, in particular were they engaged? What light can you shed on this?

DS: I was there when Elvis asked her to marry him. I was there when he gave her a ring, so was Charlie. But I think we need to look at his state of mind. He needed to love someone and he needed them right now. He wanted to keep Ginger around, but marry her?, I don't think he would have.

EIN: Your own friendship with Ginger became an issue. You were similar in age and enjoyed the latest music. What was Ginger like as a person?

DS: That's right we had a lot in common but not in any sense that was prejudicial to Elvis. Ginger is part of that 'blame game' mentality. Fans need to blame someone. If only she had gone into the bathroom sooner, Elvis could still be alive. In her defense, she was a college kid who entered Elvis' world and saw all these problems. It was very difficult and she wasn't seasoned enough to know how to handle it, what to do. I don't believe Ginger was really in love with Elvis.

EIN: If it had been Linda Thompson there and not Ginger?

DS: I think Linda and Elvis loved each other and yes things probably would have been different. But again you can't blame Linda for that. Elvis was Elvis and as I said before deep down he knew he was far from perfect in personal relationships. Some fans won't like hearing this but it is the truth.

EIN: David, I'd like to ask a few other questions about August 1977. You wrote in Raised On Rock about what obviously were great internal conflicts that Elvis experienced throughout his life and particularly in the last few months of his life. The issues with Red, Sonny and Dave, his obvious bad health etc. How devastating was the so-called Bodyguard book on Elvis?

DS: He was devastated by the book. Here were his close friends who had written serious stuff that would affect his life. He felt betrayed. Red was honest with Elvis about his medication problems and I think this was one of the reasons he was fired. For the guys they were fired, but not by Elvis. That must have hurt.

What they wrote was true. I mean no-one forced Elvis to take the medication. For Elvis, here he was about to start a new tour, very overweight and unwell and this book had just been published. He didn't want to go out there looking the way he did and confirming what was in the book. He didn't know how to deal with it. Fear built up about facing his fans, his audience. I feel that's why the tour wasn't going to go ahead. I must say this, the blame game cannot include Red, Sonny or Dave. I reiterate, Elvis was responsible for Elvis.The only thing that can be said about the book is that it was definitely a case of bad timing.

EIN: You mean the August 1977 tour was going to be cancelled? DS: Elvis was in no shape to go on tour, either physically or emotionally. And he knew this and being Elvis he didn't want to disappoint his fans. Serious consideration was being given to canceling the tour.

EIN: At the time of Elvis's death you were one of his personal bodyguards and on duty at Graceland. The events that day have been repeated many times. In Life With Elvis you wrote that in August 1977 it was Elvis's time to die. In Raised On Rock you wrote about your last conversation with Elvis (14 August, 1977): 'The last thing he said to me was, 'David, I want to say goodbye.' How should we interpret Elvis's statement? Can you elaborate on these two things?

DS: I think that for everyone a time comes when you are ready to move on to the next stop. For Elvis, August 1977 was that time. Sometimes it is just time to go and Elvis was ready to move on to the next stage of his journey. I always say "Be Elvis for a day". It's actually amazing that what happened didn't get him earlier.

EIN: Also, in Raised On Rock, you commented that "He [Elvis] was a person who had it all but was unhappy with what his wealth and fame brought to him." We all know how much Elvis was into things of a spiritual nature. Why do you think Elvis Presley couldn't find the inner peace he so much wanted and strove for?

DS: I believe Elvis did find some inner peace. He went inwards a lot but didn't deal with all his demons. In a way the legend superseded reality. I remember his most revealing statement: "The image is one thing, but the man is another". Because he knew he was influential, Elvis kept a lot of things to himself. And I think he struggled with how to deal with the power of God in concert, that spiritual power, even though it was part of his calling, he just wasn't totally sure how to convey it fully to his audience. I hope that makes sense.

EIN: David, following on from my previous question, a very important question, one millions of fans have asked, in August 1977 did Elvis want to live?

DS: That is a profound question. I feel Elvis and God may have cut a deal. Elvis was ready for the next stop, but not here on Earth.

EIN: Elvis's death in August 1977 shocked the world and made many people question their own mortality and meaning in their life. You've written extensively and openly about your downward spiral following Elvis's death. Twenty-five years later what was the most important thing you learnt about the world or yourself as a result of Elvis's death?

DS: There was an opportunity to grow as an individual and it took me a long time to do that. It is possible though and that's really important to understand. Many people give up when there is so much more for them to do. I thank Elvis for the wonderful things that came my way as a result of him being my brother.

EIN: David, a lot has been written and said about Elvis's darker side. However he was only human and there was also a very loving, giving side to him. What are some of your fondest memories?

DS: On a scale of 1 to 10, no let's say 1 to 100, about 7 or 8% were sad times, but the remaining 93% of the time was wonderful. Elvis was such a fun, caring, giving individual (he'd literally give you the shirt off his back). I mean he gave everything away! He was the greatest giver and I don't just mean material things. He gave to us by a pat on the back, a word of advice. And he gave his gift, his music, his life, to the fans. The reason there wasn't much to his estate when he died was he gave so much away - I remember him giving millions of dollars to charities. And he was usually a very upbeat person. We had so much fun whether playing around at Graceland or on the back lots of movie studios.

EIN: What is the rest of the Stanley family doing in 2003?

DS: My brother Ricky is an evangelist in Florida, he's the real miracle story, how a really wild child overcame incredible challenges, survived, and found God. Billy lives in Nashville and is involved with data processing and racing cars. My mom is 76 years old now, healthy and happy. We all have regrets, like everyone we have made mistakes.

EIN: If you were to describe your life with Elvis in just one word what would that word be?


EIN: David, when you reflect back on your life growing up with Elvis what is it that you most remember?

DS: I wouldn't trade my life with Elvis for anything. It was the greatest experience of my life. I was part of history with a wonderful individual, an individual who was my mentor. The legacy of my life is a gift from Elvis Presley.

EIN: David, as a person who has experienced the terrible negative effects of drugs and alcohol and is now helping people through Solutionary Dynamics™ what would you say to people who today are caught up in that self-destructive cycle?

DS: We all have incredible potential. But to realize that potential people need to face their fears and deal with those things holding them back. It can be done. It's certainly not easy, I can testify to that, but it can be done.

EIN: On a more positive note, what does the future hold for David Stanley?

DS: My goal is to build Solutionary Dynamics™ into the premier peak performance company in the world.

EIN: David, we wish to all the best in this endeavor. David Stanley, it has been a great pleasure talking with you today. Thank you sincerely for your time and we wish you all the best taking your powerful message 'From the Shadows of The King to Solutionary Dynamics©' around the world and hopefully we'll see you in Australia sometime in the near future.

David Stanley was interviewed by telephone by Nigel Patterson on Thursday 30 January, 2003 (USA time).

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