A fond remembrance of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll from a longtime member of his entourage, assisted by entertainment journalist Crisafulli (co-author: Me and a Guy Named Elvis, 2006, etc.)
As early as 1948, when they were classmates at Humes High School in Memphis and Elvis played “Old Shep” and “Cold Icy Fingers” in a classroom, Klein sensed that Presley would amount to something big. So when he began an apprenticeship at a local radio station, Klein made sure to get early copies of the epochal singles Presley recorded for Sun Records. (The author claims to be the second person to play Elvis on the radio.) Elvis never forgot that early support, and when he became a full-blown phenomenon in 1957 he asked Klein to assist him on the road. Much of Klein’s labor as an early member of the Memphis Mafia was mundane—he was in charge of minding Elvis’s gold suit, for instance—and he eventually abandoned life as a hanger-on to pursue a successful career as a regional DJ and TV host. But their friendship was intimate enough that he consoled Elvis when his beloved mother died, and he had enough clout in 1969 to demand that Elvis pick better songs for himself—an insistence that led to the sessions that produced classics like “Suspicious Minds” and “Long Black Limousine.” Elvis was the best man at Klein’s wedding a year later, and Klein is clearly disinterested in writing ill of a man who performed such a kindness for him. Even the dishier parts of the memoir have a tempered, innocent tone, as when he and a friend were busted by Elvis for spying on a tryst between him and Ann-Margret. Klein’s story isn’t wholly toothless, however. His long experience in the music industry gives him a keen eye for the manipulations of Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and how his obsession with the bottom line eroded his client’s ambitions, and the author displays admirable candor in describing his and his cohorts’ failure to help Elvis halt the unhealthy behavior that eventually killed him.
A respectful, personal assessment of Presley’s character, even though it adds little new to the body of Elvis knowledge.