New Elvis book dredges up painful last days of The King

my-brother-elvis-book-coverBy Mike Greenblatt

David E. Stanley’s new book, “My Brother Elvis” (Impello Entertainment) lifts up all the dirty little secrets about Presley’s final days and shakes them all out again from his particular perspective. His mom, Dee, had married Presley’s dad, Vernon. David quickly became close with The King and left school at 16 to go work for him right up to his death. I was up nights reading this. I couldn’t wait to talk to the man.

GOLDMINE: Why couldn’t any of you guys save him? If his manager numbed his senses with trivial movies, if his girlfriend would’ve only checked up on him when he left the bed on the night he died, he might’ve lived longer.

David Stanley: I don’t blame [his last girlfriend] Ginger [Alden]. I don’t blame the [manager] “Colonel” [Tom Parker]. I don’t blame myself or any of the boys he always had around him. Elvis made a decision. Elvis killed Elvis. But I will say, had [ex-girlfriend] Linda [Thompson] been there in that bed with him on the final night of his life, we would have had a better shot at saving him.

GM: Yeah, because Linda knew to sleep with one eye open. When Elvis went to the bathroom that fateful night, Ginger slept for hours while Linda would’ve been checking on him after five minutes. Plus, his soul had already been deadened by the descent of his music. He knew he wasn’t The King anymore.  

DS: From ’69 to ’73, though, he still dominated. It started with the 1968 special on TV when he looked so good and he kept it going.

GM: So who did he love musically towards the end?

DS: The Statler Brothers, Charlie Rich, JD Sumner & The Stamps, Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck, Dean Martin, Buddy Epsen and anything gospel. He wasn’t a rocker. Yet all the rock bands loved him and asked me to meet him. And I came through for Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, The Beatles and Eric Clapton … getting to introduce them all to Elvis. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t into The Rolling Stones, man! I remember saying to him one time, “El, there’s not a whole hell of a lot of difference between “Jailhouse Rock” and some of these Stones songs, man! He’d just look at me funny and never once did he ever even acknowledge them. He lumped it all together by saying, “this new music today.” And he couldn’t get into it.

David Stanley

David E. Stanley

GM: I thought he was into the blues. He never got into when the Stones did some Chicago blues?
DS: This is the saddest thing I’ll ever say to you:  I can’t even imagine Elvis Presley even listening to any Stones song. I tried to get him to listen to The Who. So the guy who practically invented rock ’n’ roll, rebelled against those from the next generation who followed his lead.

GM: Why?
DS: Because they had this anti-establishment thing going and Elvis, by that time, was Captain America. It is something I will never understand. Could you imagine if Mick Jagger said, “We have a friend who’s going to come out and sing a song with us. Ladies and gentlemen…Elvis Presley!” Oh my god! That would have been something. I’m getting a lot of criticism for writing the book that I wrote. I think it’s because I humanized The King. People like to deify kings. And so they deify Elvis and make religions in his name. I’ve met some of these nuts. There’s two kinds of people in this world: the human race and Elvis fanatics. Next year will be the 40th Anniversary of his death. There’s going to be over 100,000 of these people still mourning his death outside Graceland. You watch.

GM: In closing, how would you describe your time with Elvis?
DS:
Chaotic insanity in excess: everything all the time always. Elvis was a Greek tragedy and if it can happen to him, it can happen to you. I’m talking about the abuse of prescription drugs.

 

About Mike Greenblatt

A longtime music journalist, Mike Greenblatt is a contributing editor with Goldmine magazine.

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