Shaun ( Sherrill) Nielsen interview

In 1966, Shaun first met Elvis while singing back-up on Elvis’ gospel album “How Great Thou Art”.  This led to a lasting friendship between the two and the signing of a contract drawn up by Elvis himself.  This contract stated that Shaun and the group VOICE would travel with him, open his shows, sing back-up on his records and write songs for his publishing company.  As soon as the contract was signed, Elvis called his father and exclaimed “Daddy, I’ve finally got my own group." 

Shaun, an undisputed legend in gospel music, is the only person to be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame as the member of three different groups, The Speer Family, The Imperials and the Statesmen. 

Shaun’s first international recognition as a solo artist came with a song entitled “Lights of LA”, which charted in Billboards’ country charts.

The following was a phone conversation with Mr. Neilson and I.

Joe  Krein: Mr.. Neilson . i have always been a big fan of yours ,not only that of Elvis . But a fan of your music.

Shaun Neilson: My favorite would have to be "softly as I leave you". you have a god giving talent sir.

WELL THANK YOU VERY MUCH JOE ,THAT'S KIND OF YOU TO SAY.

 YES THAT IS A VERY SPECIAL SONG.

WAS THAT  ELVIS'S  FAVORITE ?

THAT WAS ONE OF THE DUETS THAT WE DID. THE STORY IS, WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR HOW THAT CAME ABOUT?

YES SIR PLEASE.

WE WERE BACK STAGE AT THE HILTON IN HIS DRESSING ROOM. BOB GARY HAD TOLD ELVIS THE STORY. AND ELVIS WAS TELLING THE STORY THAT BOB HAD TOLD HIM ABOUT THE MAN WHO WAS DIEING. I NEW THE SONG. I HAD SUNG IT IN THE PAST. I SAT DOWN AT THE PIANO TO SOFTLY PLAY IT. WHILE I WAS DOING THAT ELVIS HAD BEGUN READING THE VERSES. BEHIND ME LIKE WE WOULD DO ON STAGE, AND HIS DAD SAID ELVIS . THAT'S BEAUTIFUL. WHY DON'T YOU DO THAT ON STAGE? ELVIS SAID THAT'S A GOOD IDEA. SOMEONE GO FIND GLENN D. SO THEY SENT A SEARCH PARTY TO GO OUT AND FIND GLENN. SO THEY BROUGHT HIM BACK STAGE. WE KIND OF RAN THOUGH  IT BACK STAGE AND WE PERFORMED IT THAT NIGHT AND GOT A TREMENDOUS RECEPTION. THE VERY FIRST NIGHT WE DID IT TOGETHER. I WAS OVER IN THE CORNER OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT ,THE NEXT NIGHT ELVIS MADE SURE THE SPOTLIGHT WAS ON ME  .. THAT WAS JUST THE WAY HE WAS.

YES PEOPLE I HAVE SPOKEN TO, KATHY WESTMORELAND)  HAVE SAID THAT HE WOULD DO THAT. WHEN YOU WERE PERFORMING THAT IT WAS THEN YOUR STAGE NOT HIS. NOT MANY PERFORMERS WOULD DO THAT.

THAT'S VERY TRUE. I CAN GIVE YOU A EXAMPLE OF THAT. I HAD A GROUP I WAS IN. WE WERE DOING A SHOW FOR A WELL KNOWN SINGER. WE OPENED THE SHOW FOR THIS PERFORMER WITH " YOU CANT BE A BEACON ,IF YOUR LIGHT DON'T SHINE" AND WHEN WE WERE FINISHED WE GOT A STANDING OVATION. YOU KNOW WE WERE THERE TO SING BACK UP FOR THIS GUY. SO INSTEAD OF LETTING US OPEN HE WOULD COME OUT AND SAY ONE OF US HAD A SORE THROAT AND WERE UNABLE TO COME OUT. SO WE WERE BASICALLY REPLACED BY A ELEPHANT ACT. (LAUGHING) BUT THIS GUY WAS VERY INSECURE . BUT ELVIS WAS NOT LIKE THAT HE WAS PROUD OF HIS PEOPLE.

EVERYONE THAT WAS IN HIS SHOW WAS TOP NOTCHED.

HAND PICKED BY HIM , SO HE WAS PROUD OF US . HE WOULD NEVER DO THAT . IT NEVER ENTERED HIS MIND THAT WE WERE COMPETITION

COULD YOU TELL ME HOW VOICE CAME ABOUT?

WE  WERE SITTING AROUND AND IT WAS ON A RELIGIOUS MAGAZINE. I HAD THE BOOK BUT SOMEBODY STOLE IT (LAUGHING). BUT IT WAS A RELIGIOUS PERIODICAL IT HAD A DRAWING . I FORGET WHAT IT WAS BUT IT SAID VOICE. ELVIS HAD RECEIVED IT FROM LARRY GELLER, AND HE LIKED THE NAME "VOICE" FROM THE COVER OF THAT MAGAZINE

 BUT HE COULD HAVE CALLED US ANYTHING ,AND THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE WITH ME. BUT HE NAMED THE GROUP. YOU SEE THE THING THAT SET THIS GROUP APART FROM ANY OTHER GROUP WAS . WHEN HE SIGNED US. HE IMMEDIATELY CALLED  US "HIS GROUP " AND SAID "DADDY I FINALLY GOT MY OWN GROUP" HE LOOKED  AT US AS HIS GROUP. WE WASN'T JUST ANOTHER GROUP THAT HAD BEEN HIRED. HE USED TO CALL ME UP TO HIS ROOM ,AND I REMEMBER FLYING ON THE "LISA MARIE" AND HE CALLED ME TO THE BEDROOM TO TALK ABOUT THINGS HAPPENING  IN HIS  GROUP

.( LAUGHING )

CAN  YOU TELL ME HOW YOU STARTED IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS?

WELL  WE ORGANIZED THE "IMPERIALS" IN 1963 . I WAS A TENOR BACK IN MONTGOMERY ALABAMA WERE I WAS BORN. I HAD SANG IN HIGH SCHOOL. I ALWAYS ENJOYED SINGING . GOSPEL WAS ALWAYS VERY POPULAR IN THE SOUTH. BEING A TENOR I WAS VERY MUCH IN DEMAND. BECAUSE A GOOD TENOR IS VERY HARD TO FIND. IT WAS JUST SOMETHING THAT CAME EASILY TO ME. I HAD DONE A LOT OF THINGS . BUT SINGING WAS BETTER THEN WORKING IN A CAR WASH. I JUST NEEDED TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO MAKE A LIVING OUT OF IT. MY GRAND DADDY USED TO TELL ME "SON BETTER GET YOUR SELF A REGULAR JOB. YOU CANT MAKE A LIVING SINGING"

THAT'S FUNNY BECAUSE ELVIS'S FATHER SAID ALMOST THE SAME THING TO HIM.

" HE NEVER NEW A GUITAR PLAYER THAT WAS WORTH A DAM. " (LAUGHING)

YEAH YOU BETTER GET YOURSELF A REGULAR JOB. YOU KNOW HE HAD WORK HARD IN HIS LIFE , SO HE COULD NOT UNDERSTAND HOW I COULD MAKE MONEY SINGING. BUT SO FAR I HAVE BEEN LUCKY.

WHEN I WAS 18 I STARTED SINGING WITH A GROUP CALLED THE "SONG FELLAS. " I WENT DOWN TO NASHVILLE TO RECORD A ALBUM. I REMEMBER THEY HAD EGG CRATES ON THE WALLS FOR SOUND. THE COLOR OF THE ALBUM WAS YELLOW WITH A PICTURE OF ME ON IT. VERY PLAIN. THERE WAS THIS RADIO SHOW IN NASHVILLE. THE GUY WHO DROVE ME DOWN THERE ASKED THEM IF I COULD SING ON THE RADIO. I WAS DRESSED UP IN A TUX. I WAS LATER TOLD THAT WAS WHY THEY ALLOWED ME TO SING . BECAUSE THE WAY I WAS DRESSED.( LAUGHING)

SO HE PUT ME ON , AND I ACTUALLY STOPPED THE SHOW.

SO I WENT OUT TO CALIFORNIA AND SANG WITH THE SONG FELLAS. THEN I WAS WITH THE "SPEAR FAMILY."

AND IN 1964 IT WAS THE 'IMPERIALS" AND THAT'S WHEN I MET ELVIS. I WAS THERE TO DO "HOW GREAT THOU ART" . 

HOW WAS ELVIS WHEN YOU FIRST MET HIM? CAN YOU TELL ME WHEN YOU FIRST MET ELVIS.

YES . ITS KIND OF BURT IN MY MEMORY.

  I REMEMBER I WAS STANDING OVER IN THE CORNER , TRYING TO LOOK  LIKE WALL PAPER. I WAS SOMEWHAT INTIMIDATED BY ALL THE TALENT THERE. I NEVER SEEN SO MUCH IN ONE ROOM.

 WE WERE AT STUDIO B IN NASHVILLE. ELVIS WALKED IN THE STUDIO AND HE WAS DRESSED IN A SUPER FLY OUTFIT HE HAD PURCHASED ON BEALE STREET. BLACK HAT ,BLACK CAPE ,SOLID BLACK OUTFIT , AND I REMEMBER HE BEGAN TO LOOK AROUND AND HE SAID HELLO. TO EVERYBODY. HE LITERALLY BYPASSED THE BIG WIGS FROM NEW YORK AND WENT TO THE MUSICIANS. I THINK HE FELT MORE COMFORTABLE WITH US. HE STARTED TO COME OVER WERE I WAS . HE WALKED UP AND STUCK OUT HIS HAND AND SAID ."HI IM ELVIS PRESLEY" AND I ALMOST GIGGLED . LIKE I WOULD NOT KNOW WHO HE WAS. ESPECIALLY DRESSED THE WAY HE DID. HE LOOKED GREAT. IT WOULD LOOK RIDICULOUS ON ME. BUT HE PULLED IT OFF. HE LOOKED GOOD IN ANYTHING.

HE SAID BY THE WAY . I WANT YOU TO KNOW. I HAVE ALL YOUR RECORDS AND I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A BIG FAN OF YOURS. I HAVE SEEN YOU ON TV. YOU ARE ONE OF MY FAVORITE SINGERS. THAT'S THE ONE THAT GOT ME. HERE IS ELVIS PRESLEY SAYING THESE THINGS TO ME. I STAMMERED AND ALMOST LOOKED AROUND TO SEE IF HE WAS TALKING TO SOMEONE ELSE.

I SAID THANK  YOU SIR ,I DID NOT REALIZE YOU EVEN NEW WHO I WAS. HE SAID NO . I FOLLOWED YOUR CAREER ,I HAVE ALL YOUR RECORDS YOU HAVE EVER DONE. THERE IS A SONG I WANT TO DO ON MY NEW ALBUM THAT YOU RECORDED. WOULD YOU MIND SITTING DOWN AND GOING OVER IT WITH ME? SO WE SAT DOWN AT THE PIANO AND RAN THROUGH IT A LITTLE BIT. UNTIL WE GOT IT RIGHT. WE WERE PLAYING "WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE" .ANYTHING HE EVER DID . HE WANTED IT DONE RIGHT. HE WOULD SING IT ALL NIGHT UNTIL HE GOT IT THE WAY HE WANTED IT.

HE HAD THAT ENDEARING QUALITY OF MAKING EVERYBODY FEEL SPECIAL. NOT JUST ANOTHER SINGER ON THE PAY ROLL.

WAS HE A NICE MAN?

VERY NICE MAN ! VERY KIND ,CONSIDERATE .A SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN. I REMEMBER TIMES HE WOULD GET UPSET. BUT DON'T WE ALL?

SO HE WANTED EVERYTHING PERFECT?

WE SHARED THAT. WE WERE BOTH PERFECTIONISTS. HE LIKED THAT ABOUT ME AND I LIKED THAT ABOUT HIM.

ANYTHING THAT WE DID WE WANTED IT THE BEST THAT IT COULD BE.

HOW LONG WERE YOU WITH THE" ELVIS PRESLEY SHOW"?

WELL WE WERE FRIENDS FROM 1964 . WHEN I FIRST MET HIM. HE CAME OUT SEVERAL TIMES TO SEE ME PERFORM. I WAS WITH THE "STATESMEN" .IN FACT THE WEIRDEST THING ABOUT IT WAS. I HAD LEFT THE IMPERIALS. I WAS OUT IN CALIFORNIA. I WAS SINGING AGAIN WITH THE "SONG FELLAS. " FOR A WHILE. I WAS SINGING AT A LOCAL TV STATION.

I WAS OUT SIDE AND A LIMOUSINE DROVE UP AND CHARLIE HODGE JUMPS OUT. HE SAID ELVIS WANTS TO KNOW WHY YOU LEFT THE IMPERIALS. ELVIS IS UPSET ABOUT IT.  I SAID WE JUST HAD A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION. I ALWAYS FIGURED THAT WAS THE WILDEST THING THAT HE WOULD SEND SOMEONE OUT TO ASK WHY I LEFT THE GROUP (LAUGHING)

HE ALSO CAME OUT TO SEE ME WHEN I WAS WITH  THE "STATESMEN" IN LONG BEACH CALIFORNIA. I SAW HIM SEVERAL TIMES. AROUND 1968 OR 69. HE ASKED ME IF I WOULD SING A SONG I HAD RECORDED. HE HAD ALSO RECORDED IT. BECAUSE WHEN I HEARD IT . IT WAS THE SAME ARRANGEMENT I USED. A SONG CALLED "THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM".  HE SENT CHARLIE AROUND AND ASKED IF I WOULD SING IT FORM HIM , ON THE SHOW THAT NIGHT IN LONG BEACH. I SAID I WOULD BE HAPPY TOO. SO I SANG  IT THAT NIGHT. THEN AFTER I FINISHED IT. HE ASKED CHARLIE TO BRING ME BACK STAGE TO SAY HELLO. WHEN I DID .THAT WAS WHEN HE PUT A "TCB" AROUND MY NECK. HE SAID IT WAS A THANK YOU FOR THE MANY YEARS OF ENJOYMENT HE GOTTEN OUT OF LISTENING  TO MY RECORDS.

DO YOU STILL HAVE IT?

OH YES I STILL HAVE IT. I KNEW I WAS IN THEN.( LAUGHING)

SO YOU WERE WITH THE ELVIS PRESLEY SHOW LATER ON ?

I JOINED THE SHOW IN 1973. RIGHT AFTER HE HAD RETURNED FROM THE "ALOHA SPECIAL" I WAS WITH HIM FROM THEN ON UNTIL HIS DEATH IN 1977. I WAS WITH IN VOICE FROM 1972 TO 1973. HE QUIT TOURING FOR A WHILE. HE WAS NOT FEELING WELL. WE LEFT VEGAS. SO I PUT A GROUP TOGETHER BACK IN NASHVILLE. I WAS SINGING AT A HOLIDAY INN. I HAD A FULL BAND AND A GIRL SINGER . I GOT A CALL FROM RED. HE SAID ELVIS WANTS YOU TO JOIN HIM IN LAS VEGAS. I ASKED HIM IF HE WANTED ME TO PUT THE GROUP BACK TOGETHER. HE SAID NO . HE WANTED JUST ME. I TOLD HIM I HAD A CONTRACT ,BUT I WOULD TRY TO BREAK IT . I WAS ABLE TO DO THAT AND I HEADED BACK TO VEGAS TO PERFORM WITH ELVIS. I THINK IT WAS AROUND 75 OR 76 IS WHEN I WENT BACK.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE HYSTERIA OF AN ELVIS PRESLEY SHOW?

I OFTEN  WONDERED ABOUT THAT. I STOOD MOST OF THE TIME NEXT TO ESTELLE.  OF THE "STAMPS" ON STAGE. THERE WERE TIMES WE COULD NOT HEAR EACH AND OTHER. AND WE WERE STANDING NEXT TO EACH AND OTHER.

 THERE WAS ONE TIME IN PENNSYLVANIA  . THEY MADE THE MISTAKE OF HAVING FEMALE SECURITY GUARDS ,AND THE WOMAN CHARGED THE STAGE WITH SUCH GUSTO THAT THEY BROKE SOME OF THE SECURITY GUARDS RIBS. THERE WERE TIMES THAT IT WAS ALMOST FRIGHTENING. I MEAN YOU HAD TO THINK WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THEY BROKE THROUGH . WHAT WOULD THEY DO IF THEY GOT TO US ON STAGE.

WELL HE HAD REAL GOOD SECURITY .

YES HE HAD SECURITY. BUT YOUR TALKING 7-8-9 SECURITY AND OR BODY GUARDS. PROTECTING US FROM 10.000 PEOPLE. YOU WOULD NEED MORE THEN HE HAD. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH 10,... PEOPLE . WHEN THEY HAVE ONE THING IN MIND (LAUGHING)

HOW WAS IT PLAYING AT THE SAHARA TAHOE ?I VE BEEN TOLD BY OTHERS THAT IT WAS MUCH LIKE A VACATION. THAT IT WAS NOT AS CRAZY AS VEGAS. BECAUSE IT NEVER STOPPED IS THAT THE WAY IT WAS? DO YOU HAVE ANY STORIES ABOUT TAHOE?

I WOULD HAVE TO AGREE THAT WE FELT TAHOE WAS MORE LIKE A VACATION THEN VEGAS. I THINK HE WAS MORE RELAXED IN TAHOE, FOR SOME REASON. .BUT YOU KNOW TAHOE DOES NOT STAND OUT IN MY MEMORY AS MUCH AS VEGAS DOES. I GUESS IT WAS BECAUSE IT WAS A LITTLE MORE LAID BACK .IF ANY THING LESS HECTIC. BUT IT WAS ALWAYS SOLD OUT. BUT HE SEEMED TO BE MORE RELAXED ON STAGE ,AND HE KIND OF DID MORE WHAT HE WANTED TO DO.

 YOU KNOW IN VEGAS THEY WANTED HIM OFF THE STAGE AFTER 45 MINUTES ,IF THEY COULD GET HIM OFF. MOST OF THE TIME THEY COULDN'T. THEY WANTED THE PEOPLE BACK IN THE CASINO TO GAMBLE. WHEN THEY WERE LISTENING TO ELVIS THEY WERE NOT SPENDING MONEY.

I WAS TALKING TO LARRY GELLER ,DO YOU REMEMBER ANY DEATH THREATS AT THE SAHARA TAHOE? I KNOW ONE STORY.  SOMEONE TO A CRAYON AND DREW A TARGET ON A ELVIS POSTER. DICK GROB WAS TALKING TO ME ABOUT THAT ONE.

I THINK THAT WAS BEFORE I JOINED THEM IN 1973. YEAH THAT HAPPENED SEVERAL TIMES.

YOU MUST HAVE SEEN ELVIS STARTING TO GO DOWN HILL. I HATE TO EVEN TALK ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT UPSETS ME SO.

THAT WAS THE SAD THING ABOUT IT. HE WAS IN SUCH BEAUTIFUL SHAPE AFTER THE "ALOHA SPECIAL" BUT THAT WAS THE LAST TIME IN HIS CAREER THAT HE EVER GOT HIMSELF IN GOOD SHAPE. BUT THAT WAS THE PROBLEM. YOU SEE ELVIS WAS THE TYPE OF GUY THAT NEEDED A CHALLENGE

I CANT BELIEVE IT. YOU SAID ALMOST THE SAME THING LARRY GELLER SAID . . LAUGHING. DID YOU JUST GET OFF THE PHONE WITH LARRY. I MEAN YOU MIRROR WHAT HE SAYS. LARRY SAID THAT HE NEEDED A CHALLENGE TO LIVE. THERE WAS NO MORE CHALLENGES FOR ELVIS PRESLEY . THAT MAYBE A GOOD MOVIE COULD HAVE GOTTEN HIM GOING AGAIN. GIVING HIM SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR. LIKE WHEN BARBARA STREISAND OFFERED HIM THE ROLE IN THE MEGA HIT "A STAR IS BORN" .

HE DIED OF BOREDOM MORE THEN ANYTHING. LIKE YOU SAID . HE WANTED TO DO THAT MOVIE. HE WANTED TO GO TO EUROPE. HE WANTED TO DO SO MANY THINGS. BUT WE KEPT PLAYING THE SAME PLACES THAT WOULD ROLE OUT THE RED CARPET FOR THE COLONEL

YOU SEE THE COLONEL WAS A PRACTICAL MAN. . HE WAS GOING TO MAKE THE EASIEST MONEY .FOR THE LEAST OUT PUT. HE NEW HE COULD MAKE THE SAME MONEY IN PORTLAND MAIN AND HAVE A LOT LESS PROBLEMS THEN TAKING A TOUR OVER SEAS. AS FAR AS THE GROSS PROFIT. THE COLONEL WAS A BOTTOM LINE MAN. HE DIDN'T REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT ELVIS NEEDED. ELVIS NEEDED A NEW TOY. SOMETHING TO KICK HIM IN THE BUTT AND TO GET HIMSELF GOING. SO IT WAS SAD TO SEE IT HAPPENING. FELTON JARVIS AND I WAS SITTING ON THE PLANE TALKING ONE TIME. HE SAID BOY IF SOMETHING DOESN'T HAPPEN SOON . THE MAN IS GOING TO DIE. BUT YOU KNOW WE NEVER DID REALLY BELIEVE HE WOULD EVER DIE. BUT WE COULD BOTH SEE IT.

YOU KNOW I NEVER NEW HOW YOUNG 42 WAS UNTIL I TURNED 42.

YES IT WAS SAD TO WATCH ,YOU KNOW PART OF THE REASON I WORKED OUT SO MUCH. WAS TO TRY AND MOTIVATE HIM TO GET HIMSELF INTO SHAPE.

I WAS TOLD BY OTHERS THAT YOU HAD A SET OF ARMS ON YOU, AND THAT YOU WORE SLEEVES LESS SHIRTS TO SHOW YOUR MUSCLES . (LAUGHING)

I USED TO DO 100 PUSHUPS BEFORE I WENT ON STAGE AND I USED TO DO DIPS IN THE REST ROOM .I USED TO JOKE THAT IT WAS HARD TO GET THE GIRLS TO LOOK AT YOU WHEN ELVIS WAS STANDING ON STAGE (LAUGHING)

SHAUN WHY DID YOU CHANGE YOUR NAME FROM SHERRILL TO SHAUN?

IT WAS BECAUSE AS A YOUNGSTER ,IT WAS LIKE BEING A BOY NAMED SUE. THE OTHER KIDS SAID IT WAS A GIRLS NAME. WHEN I GOT OLDER I WAS OFTEN PAGED IN THE LOBBY AS MISS SHERRIL NEILSON. SO ONE DAY I DECIDED IF IT WAS UP TO ME I WOULD HAVE TAKEN THE NAME SHAUN. I ALWAYS LIKED THAT NAME BETTER. SO I WAS IN WICHITA KANSAS PERFORMING.  I HAD A NUMBER ONE RECORD BACK IN THE 60S. I HAD TO SIGN A CONTRACT WITH RCA RECORDS. SO I JUST CHANGED IT THEN. SO I FIGURED I WAS STARTING A CAREER HERE SO IT WAS A GOOD TIME TO FINALLY CHANGE MY NAME. YOU SEE WHEN I FIRST STARTED OUT I SPELLED IT " SHAUN  " THEN THE LAST NAME WAS NEIL. IN FACT ON MY FIRST LP FOR RCA IT SHAUN NEIL . BUT FOR SOME REASON THE COUNTRY DJ WOULD CALL IT "SHANE". SO IT GOT SO CONFUSING THAT I FINALLY WENT BACK TO THE NEILSON.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF COLONEL PARKER?

(SHAUN TAKES A VERY LONG TIME TO TO ANSWER ME. )

YOU NEED NOT ANSWER ME SHAUN IF YOU DON'T WANT TOO.

OH WELL IT DOESN'T MATTER HE IS GONE NOW. ITS JUST MOMMA ALWAYS SAID IF YOU CANT SAY SOMETHING NICE ABOUT SOMEBODY. DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.

AND I CANT THINK OF ANY THING GOOD TO SAY ABOUT THE MAN

MY PERSONAL OPINION . THE COLONEL MADE ELVIS IN THE BEGINNING AND DESTROYED HIM IN THE END.

REALLY?

THAT'S MY PERSONAL OPINION. I DON'T THINK HE DID IT IT ON PURPOSE. I DO BELIEVE HE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR ELVIS'S SUCCESS. BUT WAS ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS DEMISE. IF  HE HAD JUST LET HIM DO MOVIES.

ANY THING THAT WOULD HAD MADE HIM WANT TO GET INTO SHAPE.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF VERNON PRESLEY?

I LIKED VERNON , BUT VERNON WAS STRANGE .

(LAUGHING)

 WE HAD TO GO UP AND BEG FOR OUR MONEY. WE WENT TO GRACELAND. I MEAN EVERY TIME WE WERE SUPPOSE TO GET PAID WE HAD TO DRIVE FROM NASHVILLE TO MEMPHIS TO GET PAID AND LITERALLY BEG.

WHY WAS THAT? VERNON WAS TIGHT? (LAUGHING )

FACT THERE WERE TIMES THEY THREATENED TO TURN THE LIGHTS OFF AT GRACELAND. BECAUSE VERNON DIDN'T WANT TO PAY ANY BILLS! HE WAS IN CHARGE OF THE MONEY. HE WAS JUST ALWAYS AFRAID THEY WERE GOING TO GO BROKE. I GUESS HE ALWAYS REMEMBERED HOW IT WAS IN THE PROJECTS.

I THINK VERNON WAS A NICE MAN . I DON'T THINK HE WAS A VERY SMART MAN. THAT WAS MY PERSONAL OBSERVATION.

HOW ABOUT PRISCILLA?

THE LAST TIME I TALKED TO PRISCILLA. I WAS AT GRACELAND. WE HAD JUST VIEWED ELVIS. THEY HAD THE MUSICIANS COME OVER. AS I WENT THROUGH I CONVEYED MY CONDOLENCE ,AND SHE TOLD ME . I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW ,WE USED TO LISTEN TO YOUR RECORDS ,AND YOU BROUGHT HIM A LOT OF HAPPINESS. I SAID THANK YOU . THAT WAS VERY KIND OF HER. THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I EVER HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO HER.

SO YOU WERE AT THE FUNERAL?

WELL NO NOT THE FUNERAL. WE WERE AT THE VIEWING THE DAY BEFORE. THERE WERE SOME OF US THAT WERE NOT INVITED TO THE FUNERAL. WE WERE INVITED TO COME DOWN THERE THE DAY BEFORE, AND VIEW HIM LAYING THERE IN GRACELAND. THAT'S WHEN I WAS THERE. I DIDN'T GO TO THE FUNERAL. WHICH I WAS HAPPY. AS YOU KNOW IT WAS CHAOTIC.

BUT WE VIEWED HIS BODY IN THE CASKET THERE AT GRACELAND THE DAY BEFORE. HE LOOKED GOOD. YOU CAN SEE HE STILL LOOKED SWOLLEN. I MEAN BIGGER THEN HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN. I MEAN IT WASN'T LIKE HE LOOKED  AT THE 68 COME BACK SPECIAL. LETS PUT IT THAT WAY.

VINTAGE SEAN BUTTON

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT THAT ELVIS HAD PASSED?

THAT'S A WEIRD STORY ,WE HAD GONE TO THE AIRPORT .IT WAS A LITTLE PRIVATE AIRPORT IN NASHVILLE. WE WERE WAITING FOR THE JET TO ARRIVE SO WE COULD FLY TO PORTLAND MAINE. THE ORCHESTRA JET  CAME IN AND IT TOUCHED DOWN AND THEN TOOK OFF AGAIN. FELTON COMES  BACK., AND THIS WAS SO TYPICAL OF THE COLONEL . FELTON SAID THAT THE TOUR WAS CANCELLED DUE TO AN ACT OF GOD. THAT IS WHAT WE WERE TOLD. NOT THAT ELVIS HAD PASSED. SO NATURALLY THE FIRST THING I THOUGHT OF WAS THAT VERNON MUST OF HAD A HEART ATTACK. VERNON WAS IN POOR HEALTH .

 ON THE WAY HOME ,I WILL NEVER FORGET IT. THE BIGGEST CLOUD YOU EVER SAW CAME OVER, RAIN AND WIND . IT WAS JUST REALLY YUCKY LOOKING SKY. THEN I OVER HEARD IT ON THE RADIO, ON THE WAY BACK TO MY APARTMENT THAT HE HAD DIED. THE COLONEL TREATED US WITH SUCH DISRESPECT ,,BUT THAT WAS SO MUCH LIKE HIM. HE WOULD NEVER TELL ANYBODY ANYTHING. THAT WAS WHY GLENN HARDIN LEFT THE TOUR, AND WENT WITH EMMY LOU HARRIS. BECAUSE THE COLONEL WOULD NOT GIVE US ENOUGH NOTICE TO DO ANYTHING ELSE. WHEN EVER THERE WAS A TOUR COMING UP HE KEPT IT A SECRET ,HE COULD HAVE  TOLD US. I THINK IT WAS A WAY TO HAVE POWER OVER ON US.

WERE YOU ABLE TO COMP FAMILY MEMBERS INTO THE SHOWS?

YOU WERE GIVEN SO MANY TICKETS. BUT YOU HAD TO PAY FOR THEM .THEY MADE THEM AVAILABLE. BUT YOU HAD TO PAY FOR THEM.

I WAS TOLD EVEN ELVIS PAID FOR TICKETS TO HIS OWN SHOWS.

THAT'S PROBABLY RIGHT

THE COLONEL WAS SOMETHING.

YES HE WAS UNIQUE . IT WAS FUNNY. THE WHOLE TIME I WORKED FOR ELVIS. THE COLONEL NEVER SAID A SINGLE  WORD TO ME.

YOUR KIDDING

NOPE NOT ONE WORD IN ALL THOSE YEARS. BUT WE WERE EVEN BECAUSE I NEVER SPOKE TO HIM.

 HE RESENTED US SIMPLY BECAUSE HE WANTED TO CONTROL EVERYTHING THAT WENT ON ABOUT ELVIS. HE COULDN'T CONTROL US. THERE WERE ONLY TWO  PEOPLE IN THE WHOLE ENTOURAGE THAT WAS PAID DIRECTLY FROM ELVIS'S  ACCOUNT. THAT WAS ME AND JAMES BURTON. THE REST WAS PAID THROUGH THE COLONELS  OFFICE. I MEAN AS FAR AS THE MUSICIANS . I DON'T KNOW ABOUT SECURITY AND ALL. SO HE COULD NOT CONTROL US.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW ?

I REMARRIED MY FIRST WIFE . BRENDA HALL. I HAVE 3 ACRES OF BEAUTIFUL WOODS AND A BEAUTIFUL NEW HOME. . I AM PUTTING A ACT TOGETHER. WE WILL BE SINGING TOGETHER. YOU KNOW I JUST GOT BACK FROM EUROPE. I MOVED THERE AND LIVED THERE FOR 12 YEARS.

DO YOU SEE MANY OF YOUR FRIENDS ANYMORE?

SOMETIMES I DO . I JUST DID A FESTIVAL IN BRUSSELS.

DID YOU EVER THINK ELVIS WOULD STILL BE AS POPULAR?

YOU KNOW WE ALL NEW  HOW POPULAR HE WAS. I DON'T KNOW IF HE EVER REALIZED ,HOW POPULAR HE WAS.

HE WORRIED IF HE WOULD BE REMEMBERED IN 10 YEARS AFTER HE WAS GONE.

 LIKE I SAID I WAS IN EUROPE. I LIVED THERE. AND TO THINK THAT A MAN THAT HAS BEEN GONE FOR SO LONG. CAN HAVE A NUMBER ONE RECORD.

YOU KNOW I DID A ELVIS SHOW IN DENMARK. IT WAS THE ELVIS CONCERT. THEY SOLD THE PLACE OUT. ELVIS WAS SINGING ON THE VIDEO SCREEN. WOMAN WERE STILL THROWING THERE PANTIES AT HIM. (LAUGHING)

IT MUST HAVE BEEN HARD FOR YOU. SINGING WITH THE REST OF THE BAND THERE ,AND ELVIS IS ON A VIDEO SCREEN. HOW DID YOU FEEL?

WHEN I DID IT. YOU KNOW YOU FORGET HOW GOOD HE REALLY WAS. I SAID MY GOODNESS. YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE WITH HIM YOU ARE SO WRAPPED UP DOING THE SHOW., BUT HERE NOW 20 YEARS LATER. I HEAR HIM AND REALIZE WHAT A GREAT TALENT HE WAS. HE WAS THE REAL DEAL.

SHAUN THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

JOE IF YOU ARE EVER THIS WAY YOU GIVE ME A CALL AND STOP IN FOR A VISIT.

I WILL SIR

NOW I REALLY MEAN  THAT NOW

YOU TAKE CARE

BYE JOE