***Note: This article has been published with the expressed permission of Jeffrey Schrembs, Elvis Presley Historian, Thanksgiving 2010 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – For Elvis Fans Worldwide Jeff Schrembs is recovering from major surgery and we will update as necessary. May God bless us one…and all ***
Memphis Mafia? What comes to mind? Red West? Sonny West? Lamar Fike? Joe Esposito? Billy Smith? Marty Lacker? Jerry Schilling? A group of guys in suits surrounding Elvis? A name affixed to Elvis entourage? Well, whatever you think you know about the Members of the Memphis Mafia (personally and professionally)…forget it and lets start anew.
Having read, and spent the majority of my life as a DIEHARD Elvis Presley Fan, I always thought I knew so much about Elvis and his friends that I could easily put these men into categories like: grew up with Elvis or Elvis bodyguard or Elvis’ light man or Elvis’ right hand man or Elvis’ cousin or whatever else someone labeled them decades ago. EACH of these men were chosen by Elvis himself to enter into the “circle of trust” with Elvis and each of them are worthy of our respect, appreciation, praise, forgiveness (if necessary), our support (professionally, monetary, etc.) and our affection.
Elvis died on August 16, 1977 and he left behind (sadly) his young daughter – his divorced ex wife – and the Members of the Memphis Mafia. What were they to do? Where did they go for healing? Who was going to “man the Elvis ship” now that Elvis Presley had gone to join Gladys and Jesse in Heaven? What is to become of their dreams, their goals, their family?
I would put my “knowledge” about Elvis Presley up against anyone alive…or not. But I would NEVER EVER suppose to know the real Elvis Presley 1/1000000000th as much as any of these men. Yeah, I can quote facts and yes I have (literally) over 100,000 photos cataloged and I can disseminate every Elvis record including the outtakes. What does that really tell us about Elvis? Now that I think about it I SUPPORT www.Elvis.com but how come Elvis in 1973-1977 is basically “non-existent” when it comes to EPE? Are we really to believe that Elvis contributed NOTHING for those four years? Isn’t part of Elvis life, and legacy, that we should LEARN about Elvis throughout his career? Didn’t Elvis pay the ultimate sacrifice after his heart was broken and he was depressed and his mood swung quicker than olden Saloon doors in a John Wayne Western? Is there ANYONE who can deny Elvis’ awesome talent LISTENING (yes I said LISTENING and not watching) to Elvis’ 1977 onstage version of “My Way”? How about “Hurt”? How about 30 others?
Ladies and Gentlemen we are LOSING, sadly as time is precious on this Earth, the GREATEST SOURCES of Elvis Presley’s existence still on this Earth and that is by staying silent on the Members of the Memphis Mafia and not DEMANDING that they be afforded NOW, and not at some unnamed event in the future, all the respect/support/love/attention/etc. that millions of Elvis Presley Fans Worldwide can muster. If you THINK you know about Elvis and you haven’t watched these grown men, secure in their manhood and lives, (separately and collectively) come to TEARS recalling Elvis’ actions in DVD’s such as “All The Kings Men” (if you don’t have it…get it…and pass it along to others to get as well) then you have only scratched the surface of Elvis Aron Presley (yes I use Aron as it was given to him by Gladys and that is enough for me and YES I know in Elvis later years he wanted to legally change it to “Aaron” but when Vernon followed up on it all of Elvis’ legal forms had the spelling of “Aaron” already).
Any REAL Elvis Presley Fan who does not BRISTLE with anger over the way that these men, individually and collectively, have been “dismissed” over the years is NOT an Elvis Presley Fan. OK I get it. The book “Elvis What Happened” was…many things but how does that effect Marty Lacker? Billy Smith? Lamar Fike? Joe Esposito? Jerry Schilling? I am NOT defending “Elvis What Happened” all I know is that Elvis and Vernon did not handle the firing of Red West and Sonny West the “right way” NOR did Red West and Sonny West handle it the “right way”. In hindsight we all can draw sides but WHAT IS THE POINT? These men were FIRED, without knowing they would ever be hired back, and they had families and they KNEW that Elvis’ health was declining and maybe we SHOULD put weight into their belief that only in SHOCKING Elvis publicly would he EVER get help.
I can say from my own RECENT experience, and I am older than Elvis was when he died…..OMG where did time go?, that I would NEVER have done the things I am doing now even 3 months ago. I was TOO proud. I was TOO cool. I was…whatever. Bottom line…..I WAS WRONG. If it was hard for me to do what was RIGHT for my own family I could not, nor could anyone, comprehend being the Worlds Greatest Entertainer that no one said “no” too (excluding Colonel Parker). 1977 is NOT 2010. Many improvements have taken place in the “public psyche” and we are much more forgiving to those who seek help. That was NOT the case in 1977 and it was NEVER the case for Elvis Presley. We all thought Elvis would be here…forever and reality hit us in the face that August day in 1977 and it has left us….empty everyday since. Can you IMAGINE how these men of the Memphis Mafia deal with his memory 24/7?
Beginning in late 2009 I began to amass signatures for a Petition to present to EPE about each Member of the Memphis Mafia. The number has exceeded several hundred thousand and I know for everyone I have there are HUNDREDS MORE and time is running out. Hence, before we all sit down and inhale the bounty of food this Thanksgiving, and give God our heartfelt thanks and love to our fellow man, know that the Members of the Memphis Mafia are doing the same thing with their family. They are INDIVIDUAL MEN and they have dreams, goals, and they are…alive. They are living assets to the Elvis Presley Community and tomorrow is NOT guaranteed. If I could personally say to each of these men, and to their beloved family members who have been adversely affected by our silence for far too long, I would begin with two simple heartfelt words….THANK YOU. Everything else would be “icing on the cake” for if these men knew that Elvis Fans Worldwide said THANK YOU, and meant it, that perhaps it would play a part in healing wounds that are long past opened.
May God bless every child born and…yet to be born. And may Elvis Presley Fans Worldwide say in UNISON….THANK YOU MAFIA and that means; Marty Lacker and Family. Lamar Fike and Family. Red West and Family. Sonny West and Family. Billy Smith and Family. Joe Esposito and Family. Jerry Schilling and Family….from your “friends in Elvis”…now….and always. AMEN