The life and death of his stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon, was a precious mystery to Elvis, an indelible part of his life. But then, Elvis was always intrigued by the mystery that lay at the heart of all existence. When it came to Jesse Garon, he told me that as a child he would talk about him to anyone who would listen. “I have a brother!” he announced proudly, telling everyone how close they were, and how they talked together all the time. At night as he lay in his bed, in the dark and silence of his room, he would have special conversations with Jesse, and later tell people what his brother had said to him.
I knew Elvis had a stillborn twin brother; my own younger twin sisters had told me after they read a story about him in a movie magazine. It was only after we met in April of 1964, that I came to realize how deeply Elvis had been affected by this unfulfilled relationship.
“I’ll tell ya Larry, being a twin has always been a mystery for me. I mean, we were in our mother’s womb together, so why was he born dead and not me? He never even got his chance to live. Think about it, why me? Why was I the one that was chosen? An’ I’ve always wondered what would’ve been if he had lived, I really have. These kinds of questions tear my head up. There’s got to be reasons for all this.”
This was our very first conversation. I was a virtual stranger, yet for some reason Elvis felt that he wanted to bare his soul about Jesse Garon. I learned over the years that this was one aspect of his life he rarely if ever spoke about. But on this particular afternoon he opened the floodgates freely, revealing something so intimate that it was obvious that he was deeply burdened by the notion that he might have survived at the expense of his twin.
Elvis sat in silence for a moment with his eyes fixed on the ground, then looked up at me. “Larry, listen, I’m going to tell you something, and it might even sound strange, but it’s something I’ve secretly thought about before. Maybe, maybe it was me. Maybe it was something I did, ya know? Who knows, maybe when we were in the womb together we were fighting like Jacob and his twin like it says in the Bible. Man that story always stuck with me. Maybe I was like Jacob who tried to stop his brother from being born first. Hey, I’m just saying…anything’s possible.”
I learned so much about Elvis that first afternoon; his freedom of expression, his willingness to explore, and most of all his vulnerability. And I’ve always felt that all during his life he reached out for the brother he never had the chance to know; the seed was always there. He called us his “family.” Yet at all times, even when he felt betrayed, he felt a deep concern for the very ones who hurt him most. And in a curious way the guys were a composite of his twin – but never really a replacement.
It wasn’t until 1977, just a few months before Elvis’ death that I heard him bring up Jesse after all those years. Elvis was so open; he loved to talk about anything under the sun. From sex, politics or religion, to intimate details about family, friends, wives, girls friends, co-workers and private thoughts and feelings about his career and his own life, nothing was out of bounds. But I can’t remember his ever really talking about Jesse Garon…not until one day in the spring while we were on tour. I entered his room while he was still in bed.
“Lawrence”, Elvis declared excitedly, “You won’t believe the dream I just had. Man, it was so real. An’ I can’t remember dreaming about my brother Jesse Garon since I was a little kid. But there we were together – on stage. Seemed like thousands of people in the audience, and they were screaming at us. It was wild! We were dressed alike, wearing identical white jumpsuits, and we were both playing matching guitars slung around our shoulders. . There were two blue spotlights, one shining on him, one on me. An’ I kept looking at him, and man, he was the spitting image of me.
I’ll tell you something else Lawrence…” Elvis grinned. “Jesse had a way better voice than me.”