Elvis' Youngest Step-Brother, David Stanley, Talks
to Madeleine Wilson
Madeleine Wilson caught up with Elvis’ step-brother, David
Stanley at the Fingerprints of Elvis Exhibition which opened in Liverpool,
England on Saturday 14th June 2003.
After ascertaining that David’s favourite Elvis songs
were ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Memories’, that he didn’t like Elvis
singing ‘Hey Jude’ and that he thought Elvis’ best years were 1969-1972,
the interview proceeded as follows:
MW. You have said that one of the problems with Elvis
was that he had no accountability, no one to answer to. Do you think
that he was aware of that and if so, what sort of person does you
think he could have been accountable to?
DS. I think Elvis was this prototype person; he was
the first rock star. There was no one before him. Professionally
it was hard for him to communicate with somebody who had similar
success. There had been Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, but this young
kid Elvis just broke out of the mould. There was no solid advice
on how to be a rock star.
As far as accountability throughout his life, because
he was a super star, not only on stage, but as a person, he was
a very powerful presence, it was hard to tell him what to do. I
would look at Elvis and make a suggestion. I’m 47 years old now
and the way I am answering these questions, would be a lot different
to that then. I was 19/20 years old and he would remind me. ‘When
I was your age I was a millionaire’. He was hard to approach because
of his success and fame. He was very humble and grateful for that
God had given him thee incredible gifts of music and charisma and
presence, but there was not a lot of people who could relate to
him, to get at that level of what it’s like to be an icon. Whether
you are good or bad, people still love you. Elvis was just loved.
We all have things in our lives that we are not proud of. We’ve
all sat down and said ‘how can anyone real care about me?’ Including
Elvis. People did love him. He didn’t comprehend that. So it was
hard to discuss those kinds of things, to let someone advise him.
In my opinion.
MW. So you don’t think he looked for some accountability?
DS. Elvis used to talk to preachers. We met with Rex
Humbard and Oral Roberts, people like that. Elvis had a tremendous
faith and that was instilled I him by his mother. But it was kind
of like,’ who can understand where I am coming from’. Does that
make sense? It’s like me doing this interview on a smaller level.
We can talk about Elvis, but who can really understand what it was
like, to be in that whirlwind with Elvis Presley?
MW. God can.
DS. Of course. When I say accountability, I mean no
one could really tell him what to do. He had his own mindset. I
think Elvis conscience caught up with him. The world loved him so
much, but there were things about himself that he didn’t like so
much. Some people call it sin, some people call it conviction. Sometimes
you find yourself going away from the things you know you’re supposed
to do and do not do. I think the combination of all that just took
Elvis over the top, over the edge. Plus, Elvis had to sit down and
People ask what was the most difficult part of Elvis’
life. ‘Being Elvis Presley’. He couldn’t be a person. Accountability
wasn’t there. He couldn’t communicate his feelings because people
expected this super star to have super life and super happiness
all the time. It just caught up with him. 29 years of being on top,
where do you go after you’re Elvis?
MW. They say it’s tough at the top.
DS. And lonely at the top.
MW. Another point you have made is that Elvis was afraid
of not giving his fans what they wanted. Do you think it was this
fear, which prevented him from doing all gospel concerts?
DS. No. Elvis did gospel music, but as far as I know
it was never slated. Never got together. I never heard of Elvis
doing a gospel show. It would have been great.
He loved gospel, he sat up all night with JD and the
Stamps and Imperials. We would go to gospel conventions. If he had
lived he would have done something like that. Elvis always knew
where he came from. He was always humble and very grateful for those
gifts. He told my brother Ricky ‘We all have callings, my calling
is to be a gospel singer’ He told my brother that, I remember that.
Elvis just said ‘I very simply missed my calling. The world won’t
let me be what God called me to be.’
MW. That leads on to my next question. Elvis asked the
question many times, why had God given him this gift of a wonderful
voice and personal magnetism. On reflection do you now have an answer
to that question?
DS. Let’s talk about his gospel music. Look at the inspiration
of the gospel music, look at the Grammy awards. Gospel messages
depicted in the structure of that music. Elvis never put a message
in a song that was destructive. That’s why he didn’t like the Beatles.
He didn’t like anyone talking about drugs, or anti establishment.
Tearing down the family. He was very conservative in his perspectives
and I think that his calling was fulfilled because he did do what
he was called to do, those records are still out there and when
you talk about Elvis, everyone talks about the gospel, the roots
of his life. I think he fulfilled his calling and more.
MW. Did you ever talk about Christian spiritual matters
with Elvis, if so what would you say was he most interested in about
the Gospel and what did he have the most questions about?
DS. .Elvis read a lot of books. The Impersonal Life,
the Shroud of Turin, endless, but he always went back to the Bible.
During the 26 years after his death, I have been through
a lot of journeys myself. Through all the ups and downs of my life,
the one thing that stays solid is my faith in God and my love for
Christ. No matter whether I am up or down, good boy, bad boy, full
of sin, full of grace, I still focus on my relationship with the
Lord, and I think that Elvis, although he searched, always went
back to he simplicity of God the creator and Christ the Saviour.
That was instilled in him. Elvis had adversity after adversity after
adversity. I would sit down on his bed and watch him open that Bible
and cry his eyes out ‘God give me strength!
One day he’s taking a handful of drugs, next he’s praying
for forgiveness. We’re all that way. One thing people need to understand
about Elvis is that no one, not even that king was perfect. There
was only one king that was, and Elvis recognised that. The song,
Why Me Lord? sums it up. ‘Why am I this big huge star? God I’m no
good, I’m, capable of self-destruct, rebellion and all kinds of
things which don’t fall into the structure of what you would want
me to do. In spite of all that why have you picked me?’ That was
the life of Elvis Presley.
He was a modern day King Solomon. If Elvis would have
lived in Biblical times, there probably would have been a book written
about him because he was a modern day king. Can you imagine living
with that? It’s almost impossible.
MW. A heavy burden.
DS. A very heavy burden. I’m standing here talking to
you in Liverpool, 26 years after Elvis died. Tell me about it. The
impact this guy had on society, 26 years later, we’re talking about
him and we’re talking about his faith. What he did and how he did
it. He was a modern day king. If anyone says ‘what killed Elvis?
‘Being a modern day king’. Forget Elvis, just imagine being that
person. That’s a tough road!
Look at all the kings, the adversities of king David,
king Solomon. Elvis was no different.
MW. It is well known that Elvis had a great sense of
humour and that the sullen Elvis often portrayed was far outweighed
by the fun loving Elvis. What is your favourite memory of having
fun with Elvis?
DS. The best fun I ever had was when Elvis was playing;
whether we were doing firework wars, go carts, football. People
talk about poor miserable rock star Elvis Presley. It wasn’t that
bad. Elvis had fun. We had fun vacations we had wonderful Christmases.
We had practical jokes. Elvis said ‘if it ceases to be fun, quit,
if you can’t laugh go home.’ And Vernon was that way too. Elvis
inherited it from his daddy. The best fun I had with Elvis was just
being with Elvis when he was in a good mood. Now when he was in
a bad mood, that wasn’t fun, but we all get in a bad mood. And when
Elvis played, he played hard. He was just a big kid. You would just
look at this 39/40-year-old man acting like a12 year old kid. My
sons look at me and say ‘dad you act like you’re a kid’. I say ‘thank
you’. I want to keep that, my youth and my joy and my happiness.
At the end of Elvis’ life it wasn’t funny more. You think of his
statement, ‘when it ceases to be fun quit.’ It makes you wonder,
that he just quit. As a believer Elvis knew that life is fleeting.
It was time to go home. He’s having more fun than any of us right
MW. You have said that Elvis was both a father figure
and a brother to you, but that being a father figure was greater.
Was that because you had lost contact with your own father, whereas
you still had your other brothers around?
DS. That’s good evaluation. That’s exactly right. My
father was swept out of my life. Vernon loved us, but his son was
Elvis. I had a good relationship with Vernon, my stepfather. He
raised me and gave me a roof, took me to school. He did all the
father things. Because I had lost my identity, growing up in this
fishbowl surrealistic life with Elvis, the only thing I could grab
hold of was Billy and Ricky and Elvis. Billy and Ricky were my age,
they were my true brothers, Elvis was that father figure. He was
the guy who would pat you on the back and you would know that everything
would be OK.
When someone would mess with his family he was front
and centre, He was always up there for you to protect you. And it
was the same with me for him, nobody got to Elvis on my watch. No
one was going to hurt him, touch him, beat him up, do anything bad
to him when I was around. He wasn’t my biological father, but I
would call Elvis my dad. It doesn’t mean like I’m going to grow
sideburns and walk with a cane. He was that influential person in
my life that taught bad and me all about life, good. It’s taken
me many years to soak it all in through my life.
It will always continue to be the dominant force in
my life, my father figure Elvis Presley, and my real father. As
Elvis said to me ‘Always love your Daddy, be proud of his heritage
as a combat veteran, a person who was willing to lay his life down.’
The greatest compliment Elvis ever gave me was to say ‘you’re just
like your dad’. And I am much like my biological father, but Elvis
was Pop and I loved him.
MW. It is clear from your writings that you really miss
Elvis. Even after all these years you still feel pain. As a Christian
do you feel that you will stop grieving and that as the Bible says,
your mourning will turn into dancing, in this life here on earth.
DS. I don’t really mourn, because I am a believer. I’ll
see Elvis again. There’s times I get sad you know. Probably tonight
when I go back to my room and lie down and all this will start to
build. You see people won’t let Elvis die. I will never have closure
because Elvis will always be. I miss Elvis, but I don’t wish he
was still around. That would be selfish, and I think Elvis is in
heaven, tuning up the choir, whatever he’s doing.
MW. Having a ball.
DS. Yea, whatever the great and wonderful things God
I get sad. It’s like Elvis said, ‘it’s not that I am
not liked, I am just misunderstood’. No matter how many interviews
I give out and how many people I talk to, people never comprehend
the simplicity of this very humble God-fearing man. He was just
simple. He could do this interview with you; he would find you very
disarming and very caring and very qualified in your questions.
He would enjoy the process, and you would think this icon, he’s
above reproach, but he would talk to anybody. And when I think about
that and how much he cared about people and the person he was, I
miss him, but I miss more about people not getting it. Who he really
MW. You want to put the record straight, for people
to understand him?
DS. Yes exactly. When you think of Elvis, don’t be so
complex. He was just one of us. He just made a lot more money! And
had a tremendous gift.
MW. If you could speak to Elvis now what would you say
DS. My goodness. If I had one wish in my life, it would
be to be able to communicate with Elvis at my age now. All the adversities
that I have been through, since he’s passed away, and to be able
to communicate with him, man to man, not boy to rock star or boy
to man, but man to man. I would probably tell Elvis that I love
him, that he is loved and how much I appreciate him taking this
4-year-old snotty nosed kid, when he didn’t have to. Dee (David’s
mother) came into his life when his mother had only been gone one
and a half to two years. That’s tough. He loved my mother and he
loved us three boys. When I walked into Graceland he hugged me ad
welcomed me and gave me all those years.
People say so many things.’ David why didn’t you save
him, why didn’t’ you do this, do that’. Until you’ve been there
don’t criticise and abuse, until you’ve walked in David’s shoes.
My legacy stands for itself. People can say what they like, but
Elvis trusted me and I trusted him. I lost a friend and brother
that day. If I could say anything I would probably say ‘thanks’.
And I am sorry about a lot of things, because it’s hard t be the
keeper of a legacy. I didn’t ask for this position, I got thrown
into it. I have done my best along the way. The hardest part about
death is the people left behind.
MW But God gives you the strength.
MW. And you will see him again.
DS. Yes, that’s the good part about it.
MW. Will you ever return to preaching?
I went through rock and roll to evangelism, fell off,
crashed and burned. Never really dealt with the negative ideologies
instilled in my life as part of the rock and roll scene. But my
life evolves around the grace of God. As long as there is breath
in my body I will always be an instrument of the Lord.
I doubt if I will (return to preaching). But I’ll say
this. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. And anywhere I go
as a speaker, a cooperate speaker, I always interject my faith.
The reason I am breathing is because of my faith. I have survived
my years, with and without Elvis because of my faith. There’s a
great song by Russ Taff, ‘I Still Believe’. He says, ‘I have been
caught in a cave for forty nights and nothing but a spark to lead
my way. I’ll climb that mountain, on my knees if I have to. I will
continue to live and go forward, I still believe. Because of my
incredible faith and the grace of God that has sustained me along
Will I ever preach again? Every time I talk about my
life and Elvis, I’ll be telling you about the Lord.
MW. Thank you very much David for your honest and open
Copyright - Madeleine Wilson June 2003