Ed Hill Interview
The following is a phone interview i did with Ed Hill June 10, 2007
joe krein: how you doing ed?
ed hill: I'm doing fine , its good to be with you.
its good to have you on . ed can you tell me a little about yourself. where you grew up and lived?
well I'm originally from St Lois Missouri , lived most of my life in Tennessee. . I was with the Stamp Quartet for 25 years. I've song gospel music all my life. So we got to see with Elvis and that was a thrill for all of us.
Is that what you always wanted to do , sing gospel music?
well i always wanted to sing .that's all i have done my whole life. i was fortunate . i got out of high school, went in to collage. was there for a couple years. left collage and started to sing. I've done that the rest of my life.
Did you ever do any solo projects all was it always with a quartet?
Well i just did last year, and i have one know that i am selling on my website.
i will direct people to you website , and we have made it a link on elvis2001.
i appreciate that.
When was the first time , that you met Elvis?
Well i met him years ago , i had a group called the prophets ,i met him at the international quartet convention. I guess it was in the sixties , but i didn't meet him up close until the seventies.
when was the first time that you got to sing with Elvis?
It was 1974 , in the spring. March or April. But the stamps started with him much earlier in the seventies. I thought I was going to be able to get off of the road. i started to work for JD at the office. He said I need you to help me fill in until i can find me a new baritone singer. So I filled in almost 25 years. (laughing)
Can you tell me about the first show?
Well the first show that i did with Elvis was in California. He flew us out there ,i need to learn all the songs so they gave me a live performance to study by. so i went out there , i was a little nervous . because i didn't know my part very well. We got singing the program , and he kept looking at us. So i was thinking i was singing the wrong part. so all of a sudden he walks over to us. He puts his hand out and shakes my hand and said "Ed Hill , Welcome to the family". So it was quite an experience.
Well that's something you will never forget.
Yes , I never will.
Elvis seemed to have a deep love for Gospel music , didn't he?
He did , he loved as well as anything. He talked to me a lot about Gospel music . Well he did with all of us.
I asked Bill Baise and know I'm going to ask you. Was there talk about doing a Gospel tour?
Well he would had like to , but he new that he couldn't. he didn't think that the Elvis people would have gone for it. They wanted to hear the old Elvis tunes. But he sang more and more Gospel on every program before he died.
They say that after the show was done , your job wasn't finished. you would have to go to the suite and sing with Elvis .
All night long . (laughing) We would be ready to go to bed and he was just getting started. He would sing for us and we would sing for him , and his guests. He enjoyed that and we did too. Even missing all that sleep . we caught up with it.
well you were young.
Yes i was ,
Did you ever have any problems with Colonel Parker?
No I didn't , you know he stayed away from us. He had staff that would meet and talk with us. I think with all the years that i was with Elvis , i may have spoken to Parker once or twice.
A lot of people say that
How was Vernon?
Vernon was very nice , he would sit and talk to us. he was a real great guy. he loved Elvis and kind of looked over him . But Elvis would do what he wanted to do. When Elvis died . We thought it was Vernon. They said we couldn't go on tour because of an "act of god". We figured Vernon had died because he was pretty sick. We got home , we found out it was Elvis not him.
So that's how you found out? It was an act of God?
We were all at an airport waiting to start the tour. There was ten of us here in Nashville that would always get on a jet. We would fly off to the first city. So we had all our things ready , waiting for the plane to come in and board. Felton Jarvis told us not to get on the plane. the tour was cancelled because of an act of God. I found out over the TV.
What a way to find out.
When I heard I called JD. I sad is it true about Elvis? He said yes . so we flew down to Graceland the next day.
I interviewed Donnie Sumner and he didn't believe it.
I guess all of us didn't
Well Donnie was saying that one day he was just going to take off. Get away for a year., So Donnie said he was sure if it was true or not. But when i got to the funeral . i knew then that it was true.
So you went to the Funeral?
Yes the Stamps sang at his funeral. I kept going up and was looking at him. they finally told me to stop going up because i would get so upset. I went up about four times , i would get crying. My wife stopped me.
I was surprised that Vernon allowed the fans to see the body.
Well i was to , but then again i wasn't. They kept him way back . you couldn't get close. they could only walk by him. I thought that was a great honor for all the fans out there that watched him and listened to him for years. It was the only thing really to do.
Is there one concert that sticks out in your mind?
Really its hard to say because there were so many of them. All i know is if he wasn't feeling good or whatever . when he got on that stage he gave one hundred and ten percent all the time. every time he sang. There is a lot of them that i enjoyed and it would be hard to pick just one.
You played Madison Square Garden?
Now i always wanted to see Elvis there. He sold every night out.
Not only there Joe but everywhere. Everywhere we went it was packed full before we even got there. There was always a signed out side saying "SOLD OUT"
Ed, were you an Elvis fan?
Well i was but not as much until i started working with him. I liked his singing and had met him back at the quartet conventions. He truly loved Gospel and i respected that of him. So i was a fan of his , but I never became a big fan until i worked for him. To see him give everything he had , every night. So i learned to appreciate his talent.
Did you ever have a chance to sit with him and have a one on one conversation? Talk about Religion and things going on in the world?
Oh yes we talked many times about music and our lives. When i went with them JD said treat him like one of the guys. I said how in the world can i treat someone like Elvis Presley like one of the guys. (laughing)
after you got around him and you got to know him . you could see that's how he wanted to be treated.
He has the Memphis Mafia around him most of the time. They say that acted like a bunch of kids. How do you remember them?
Well there were some i thought to advantage of him . but then there were some that truly took care of him. watched out for him. They wanted to keep him safe., He wasn't like the rest of us. He couldn't get up and go out side for a walk .Because the people would bother him. There were some and i think Elvis new the ones who were taking advantage of him. There were one who were real friends.
I was told that some times while they were on stage , they would throw water balloons. fool around
laughing. There were a lot of things Elvis would pull. He was a real joker. He loved to pull pranks on people. Plus we would pull a prank on him if he was feeling well.
Did you go to Graceland before Elvis had passed away?
Oh Yeah. If we were in Nashville and we had to head west . we would start out early and give Elvis a call and stop by and see him. We would spend a few hours with him. Then there was the time in 1976 , he helped us get a new bus.
Oh Yeah , I know that story. All he asked was to be able to drive it.
He drove it and we road with him.
Now someone told me that JD was scared to death when Elvis pulled out of Graceland with that bus?
Oh yeah . i always worried about that even when he drove a car or a motorbike. because he would just pull right out. but they would see him coming and stop. then try and keep up with him. (laughing)
he was driving the bus one day and he didn't make the turn coming in or out of Graceland. he went right over the curb. somebody said ,your going to tear this bus up . he said if i do ,i,ll buy him another one.
did you ever get gifts from Elvis?
oh yeah , we got a lot of things . i got watches and rings and sometimes money. he always took care of us. he gave jd his last white limousine. he did a lot of things for all of us.
were you given a tcb?
i got it a month after i was with him. ED CAME OUT AND SAID "ELVIS WANTS TO SEE YOU , HE'S IN HIS DRESSING ROOM. WELL I GOT SCARED TO DEATH ,I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT HE WANTED. HE HANDED ME THIS PACKAGE THAT HAD THE TCB IN IT .I WAS SO MOVED THAT I COULDN'T OPEN IT . WELL HE SAID I'LL OPEN IT. I WILL PUT IT AROUND YOUR NECK BUT I'M NOT GOING TO KISS YOU.(LAUGHING0 SO HE PUT ON MY NECK AND HUGGED ME AND SAID WELCOME TO THE FAMILY.
WOW THAT'S SOMETHING YOU WILL NEVER FORGET.
YES IT IS.
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TCB?
YES I DO ITS IN A BANK ,LOCKED UP IN A VAULT.
I DON'T BLAME YOU.
JD SUMNER WAS EXTREMELY TALENTED, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF JD?
I ENJOYED WORKING FOR JD HE WAS QUITE A TALENT AND QUITE A GUY. YOU KNOW SOME PEOPLE JUST SEE ONE SIDE OF HIM ,BUT I SAW ALL OF HIM. HE WAS A GOOD MAN ,HE LOVED TO SIT AND TALK. HE WOULD JOKE WITH YOU. HE WAS A GOOD MAN. I MISS HIM.
JD AND ELVIS SEEMED TO TRULY LOVE EACH AND OTHER.
YOU KNOW THERE WERE TIMES THAT PEOPLE SAID JD WAS MORE LIKE ELVIS'S FATHER THEN VERNON. ELVIS TREATED JD WITH A LOT OF RESPECT ,ELVIS REMEMBERED MEETING JD WHEN HE WAS WITH THE BLACKWOOD BROTHERS , BACK IN MEMPHIS . BACK WHEN HIS MOTHER WAS STILL LIVING. INFECT THE BLACKWOOD BROTHERS SANG FOR HIS MOTHERS FUNERAL.
I THINK IT WAS DONNIE SUMNER THAT SAID , JD WAS ELVIS'S ELVIS.
WELL SORT OF , BUT JD WAS JD. SOME PEOPLE COMPARED HIM TO THAT . BUT JD WAS JD.
DID ELVIS EVER TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE GRIND OF BEING FAMOUS? IT MUST HAVE BEEN HARD LIVING THAT WAY ED?
YES IT WAS . YOU KNOW I DID ALL THE ANNOUNCING THE LAST THREE YEARS WHEN WE WERE ON TOUR. I FORGET WHAT VENUE WE WERE AT . I WAS STANDING BEHIND THE CURTAIN LOOKING OUT AND HE WALKED UP TO ME AND SAID "WHY ARE THEY HERE? I SAID TO SEE YOU ELVIS ,HE SAID I CAN'T UNDERSTAND THAT. I SAID I CAN . YOUR GREAT.
ELVIS AT THE END OF ELVIS'S LIFE , IT SEEMED LIKE HE WAS SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING. HE READ A LOT OF BOOKS ABOUT DIFFERENT RELIGIONS. DID YOU GET TO SPEAK TO HIM ABOUT THIS?
WELL HE STUDIED ALL OF THEM JOE , BUT HE NEVER FORGOT WHAT HIS MOTHER TAUGHT HIM. HE SAID TO ME ONE DAY , I WILL NEVER GET AWAY FROM WHAT MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME ABOUT FAITH AND SALVATION. I READ A LOT ABOUT OTHER THINGS , BUT I BELEIVE WHAT SHE TAUGHT.
SO I WONDER WHAT HE WAS DOING WITH ALL THE BOOKS?
HE LOVED TO READ ABOUT EVERYTHING. HE WOULD SIT UP ALL NIGHT AND JUST READ .
ED DID HE EVER TALK TO YOU ABOUT HIS MOTHER?
NOT VERY MUCH , NO MORE THEN WHAT I JUST SAID NOW. JUST THAT SHE TAUGHT HIM
ED CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE FIRST TIME , THAT YOU WENT TO GRACELAND? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
GOODNESS I CAN'T REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME , I'VE BEEN THERE SO MUCH. LIKE I SAID WE ALWAYS STOPPED IF WE WERE PASSING BY TO VISIT WITH HIM. WE WERE THERE A LOT IN THE SEVENTIES.
PLUS YOU DID THE RECORDINGS IN THE JUNGLE ROOM.
YES WE DID. NOW THAT WAS A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE , ELVIS HAD EVERYTHING TAKEN OUT OF THE JUNGLE ROOM , SO WE COULD ALL FIT IN.
IT DOESN'T LOOK THAT BIG ED
WELL WE WERE ALL IN THERE , THE SWEETS ,THE STAMPS AND THE TCB BAND. HE STOOD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM AND SUNG TO ALL OF US. THEY PUT IN THESE DIVIDERS SO YOU WEREN'T STANDING NEXT TO EACH OTHER SO YOU HAD SOME ROOM. TO THIS DAY I DON'T KNOW HOW THEY DID IT.
WELL THEY DO IT DIFFERENTLY TODAY. THE VOCALIST WOULD COME IN AFTER THE INSTRUMENTAL WAS LAID DOWN . RIGHT?
OH YEAH ITS NOTHING LIKE IT WAS . ITS ALL DOWN ON COMPUTERS.
BUT ELVIS LIKED HAVING THE BAND THERE DID HE NOT?
HE DID ,WHEN I RECORD NOW JOE , ALL THE TRACKS ARE DONE BEFORE I GET THERE.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW ED?
I,M SINGING SOLOS IN CHURCHES NOW. I,M WORKING A FEW SUNDAYS A MONTH. REST OF THE TIME I STAY HOME AND RELAX.
WILL YOU BE GOING TO ELVIS WEEK?
OH YES , ALL THE FORMER STAMPS WILL APEARING DOWN ON BEALE STREET . THEN WE WILL BE PERFORMING WITH THE IMPERIALS FOR GRACELAND.
DO YOU SEE A LOT OF THE MEMPHIS MAFIA GUYS?
I DON'T SEE THEM AS OFTEN AS I WOULD LIKE. BAISE , JIM MURRY , DONNIE SUMNER,ED HILL , LARRY STRICKLAND
DO YOU SEE PRISCILLA?
THE LAST TIME I SAW HER WAS AT THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY.
HOW WAS SHE WHEN ELVIS WAS ALIVE? MOST HAVE BEEN HARD FOR HER.
WELL IT WAS BUT SHE WAS ALWAYS VERY NICE TO EVERYONE. SHE TREATED US ALL WITH RESPECT . EVEN NOW WHEN YOU SEE HER SHE IS VERY COrdial. SOME PEOPLE COULD WALK RIGHT BY . BUT NOT HER.
DO YOU REMEMBER LISA MARIE WHEN SHE WAS RUNNING AROUND?
I SURE DO , I REMEMBER HER RUNNING AROUND PLAYING. THE LAST TIME I SAW HER WAS ALSO AT THE 25TH.
ED WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE EVERLASTING POPULARITY OF ELVIS PRESLEY?
IT SURPRISES ME , SO MANY STARS THAT HAVE GONE ON IS FORGOTTEN ABOUT AFTER A FEW YEARS. BUT HE'S BEEN GONE THIRTY YEARS NOW AND HE IS MORE POPULAR. PLUS KIDS ARE NOW ENJOYING HIS MUSIC. I THINK ITS WONDERFUL. YOU KIND OF WONDER WHY . BUT ITS GREAT.
ED HILL THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR DOING THIS .
YOUR WELCOME JOE