He was my friend, a person who changed my life forever, someone that I will never forget. His name was Elvis – I first met Elvis when I was only nine years old. My dad had known Elvis, meeting him at the Eagle’s Hall in Houston, Texas, that night and he did one song. In fact, my uncle had booked Elvis for the gig on March 19, 1955. Silent western film star Hoot Gibson was there and my dad introduced them. Elvis loved cowboy stars and was pleased to learn that my father was friends with his favourite, Gene Autry. Tommy Sands was also on the show. Little did I know, because of this night, I would be friends with not only Elvis, but Tommy Sands too. I would eventually perform on shows with Tommy.
February 1970: Elvis was coming to Houston for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.
My father arranged with Colonel Parker for us to meet with Elvis prior to one of his performances. Elvis introduced himself and said “Hi, I’m Elvis Presley.” I replied “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Presley.” Elvis then said “Naw, I’m Elvis. ‘Mr. Presley’ is my dad over there!” It was a short meeting, but it left an impact.
November 13, 1971: My father and I met with Elvis briefly before his performance at the Memorial Auditorium. My dad and Elvis started a quick ‘Cowboy Trivia’ game off the top of their heads and I had some answers, much to Elvis’s surprise. Elvis said “How come you know so much? You’re too young.” I replied “Old Westerns on Saturday mornings.” Elvis grinned and said “Oh!”
November 21, 1971: My parents and sister were killed when their car was struck by a train. There were no railroad crossing guards, nor signals. I was with my Grandmother at the time. It was a mere eight days after my dad and I met with Elvis. When I learned the news, I was devastated. I wrote to Elvis and informed him, I received a condolence card signed by him.
June 18, 1972: Elvis played the Tarrant County Convention Centre in Fort Worth. Joe Esposito escorted me and my aunt to see him at his suite. It was at the Sheraton Fort Worth, on the top floor. Elvis hugged me and said how sorry he was for my loss. Then Elvis said: “A great philosopher once said ‘To live in the hearts of those we leave behind – is not to die.’ I know what it’s like to lose a parent, but you have gained a friend, me.”
I was able to visit Elvis every now and then after that, he made room to visit throughout his hectic life. Not only did Elvis call me friend, but many of his inner circle did as well.
For the most part, I have kept silent regarding those times with Elvis. In some respects, I will remain to do so. Charlie Hodge gave me the run through: “Don’t say anything about what you see, because if you do, it will be denied.” That was in the 70’s, years later Charlie participated, as did 200 other friends and associates help tell Elvis’s story. The project was “The Definitive Elvis”. Joe Esposito and I were Production Consultants on this series and set up interviews and conducted them, many times together. The series went on to be awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records as “longest documentary”.
I look forward to share with you my memories of Elvis and I hope you will enjoy them. I will also share news from time to time. I retain my friendships with Elvis’s inner circle and many of those he worked with throughout his 23 year career. I have a massive archive that I will draw from of photos, videos and of course my personal memories.
Elvis Concert Photos: Don Wilson