Sept. 7th, 1976 — Joe Esposito (Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia buddy) wearing a Led Zeppelin 1975 Tour T-shirt at the Holiday Inn hotel with Elvis in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
“I was 14 years old when Led Zeppelin came to Memphis in 1969. As the youngest step-brother to Elvis Presley, I was living at the Graceland Mansion. My divorced mother Dee Stanley married Elvis’s widowed father Vernon Presley on July 3, 1960. Anyway, I went to the concert with a friend and was blown away. John Bonham playing his solo on Moby Dick, Jimmy Page stroking his Les Paul with a fiddle bow, John Paul Jones laying down heavy bass, and of course the driving voice of Robert Plant. While growing up as Presley’s step-brother I was no stranger to great music. But it was Led Zeppelin that became MY MUSIC while growing up the King.
I started touring with Presley in 1972 when I was 16. I always had Zeppelin’s music with me. In 1974 while at the LA Forum Led Zeppelin came to see Elvis. Later that night after the show Robert, Jimmy and John Paul came to Elvis’s suite at the hotel across the street from the Forum. I met them as they came off the elevator and walked with them to Elvis’s room. I introduced myself, shook their hands and got their autograph. Of all the people I met during my life with Elvis, it was only Led Zeppelin’s autograph that I asked for.
As I continued to tour with Elvis till his death in 1977 I would often ask my friend Tom Hewlett of Concerts West (the tour company that handled Elvis and Zeppelin) how the Boys were doing. He always gave me updates.
There was one other time the Presley tour ran across the band while out on the road. It was at the Washington/Baltimore airport. We (the Presley tour) were playing in Washington and Led Zeppelin was playing at the Capital Centre. We arrived on the Lisa Marie, Elvis’ Private Jet, and Led Zeppelin arrived on the Caesar’s Chariot. It was a hell of a sight to see these two private jets sitting side by side on the private tarmac.
I asked Elvis if I could go with the band that night for their concert. He just looked at me and said, ‘No.’ When I asked him why he said, ‘Look at the bottom of your paycheck.’ As I entered the limo with Elvis I said they sure have a nice jet. Elvis leaned over and reminded me, ‘They lease their jet from Caesar’s Palace, I OWN mine.’”
To me Led Zeppelin was and still is the greatest band in the world. Thanks Guys For So Many Great Memories.
ca. 1975-’77 — Elvis Presley livin’ it up on his custom-built Ed Roth trike motorcycles.
Richard Cole, Led Zeppelin’s manager, organized a meeting with Elvis via Jerry Schilling (Memphis Mafia member, and Beach Boys’ manager briefly). Elvis said it would be okay for them to come by the house…
“From the moment Richard Cole (Led Zeppelin’s manager) stepped into Elvis’s house, he was loud and profane–packing an amazing number of F-bombss into everything he said.
‘You know,’ Elvis said to him. ‘I’d appreciate it if you’d watch your language in front of my lady.’
Things got very quiet. Everybody sat down. And it stayed quiet. Then Elvis decided to break the ice, and asked if he could see the fancy watch that Richard was wearing. He handed the watch over, and when Elvis put it on, Richard quickly said that if Elvis wanted the watch, he could keep it.
‘Does it have any special meaning to you?’ Elvis asked.
‘Well, a bit. Atlantic Records gave them to the group,’ said Richard.
‘OK, thanks,’ said Elvis.
I don’t know if Richard expected to lose his watch that easily, but about twenty minutes later Elvis went upstairs and came back down with another watch, a real piece of jewelry, covered in diamonds – a wristwatch you could trade in for a car. Maybe a couple of cars. ‘Here,’ he said to Richard. ‘Take this one.’ A very stunned Richard accepted.
From then on the night was nothing but fun, with a lot of laughs and a lot of quoting Monty Python routines (Elvis was the first Monty Python fanatic I ever knew). Elvis and Richard obviously shared a sense of humor. And I could tell Elvis also liked the much quieter John Paul Jones. At one point, Elvis excused himself, went back upstairs, and returned with an equally impressive watch for the bassist.
Before the evening was over, Elvis said he wanted to make another exchange. He was out of watches, but had another bit of fashion in mind. So he stood, eyed John, and said, ‘Let’s swap pants’, while simultaneously, in expert Python fashion, letting his pajama bottoms drop beneath his robe. The loud Richard was shocked into silence, while quiet John burst out laughing. Nobody accepted Elvis’ offer, but it was a great note to end the night on.”
“It was like being in a whorehouse with a credit card. It was really unbelievable. Ya’ know, it just NEVER stopped.” –Lamar Fike, on being in Elvis’s Memphis Mafia
“It’s hard to believe that they were ever in the same room, but in 1972 the two diametrically opposed corners of the music world came together. Led Zeppelin met Elvis Presley.
The matchmaker was their mutual promoter, Jerry Weintraub (later to produce the Ocean’s 11 series with George Clooney and Brad Pitt), who took Jimmy Page and Robert Plant up to Presley’s Las Vegas hotel suite. Zeppelin’s music then permeated the airwaves. They were enormously popular, an enigmatic force of hard rock. Presley had already reinvented himself as the jump-suited King of Vegas, and an ‘honorary drug-enforcement’ pal of Richard Nixon’s.
For the first few minutes of the summit meeting, Elvis ignored Led Zeppelin. The room was filled with an awkward silence. Bodyguards monitored the temperature. Jimmy Page – who had first picked up a guitar after hearing Elvis singing Baby Let’s Play House on overseas American radio – began to fidget. What was going on? Did Elvis really want to meet them? Was this a big misunderstanding?
Finally Elvis turned to his guests. His first question had nothing to do with Zeppelin’s music. It was their roguish reputation that interested him. ‘Tell me,’ asked Elvis, ‘is it true, these stories about you boys on the road?’
For a surreal moment, they found themselves staring at the three-dimensional embodiment of their own youthful rebellion. Plant spoke first, without cracking a smile. ‘Of course not,’ he said. ‘We’re family men. In fact, I get the most pleasure out of walking the hotel corridors, singing your songs.’ Plant leaned forward, and offered his own best Elvis Presley impersonation. ‘Treat me like a foooool, treat me mean and cruuuel, but loooooove me…’
Presley eyed Plant very carefully. Presley’s ‘Memphis Mafia’ studied the moment with growing intensity. And then Presley burst out laughing. The bodyguards burst out laughing. Suddenly, the atmosphere was dorm-room friendly.For the next two hours, Presley entertained them with his own road stories, and tales from his movie-making days. He confessed that he had never heard Led Zeppelin’s music, except for the one song his stepbrother played him – Stairway to Heaven. ‘I liked it,’ said Presley.
Later, walking down the hallway from the hotel room, Page and Plant congratulated themselves on their meeting with the King. Had it really gone as well as it seemed? The answer arrived a moment later.
‘Hey,’ came a voice from down the hall. Elvis had poked his head out the door. They would never meet again, but this last image was one for the memoirs. It was Presley, serenading his new hard-rock friends with a perfect imitation of Robert Plant doing him. ‘Treat me like foooool…’”
December 21, 1970– Elvis Presley, at his own request, met President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office of The White House. Elvis reportedly expressed his patriotism along with his contempt for the hippie drug culture, and that The Beatles, whose songs he used to perform in concerts, exemplified what he saw as a trend of anti-Americanism and drug abuse in popular culture. Elvis presented President Nixon with a commemorative World War II Colt .45…and requested to be made “Federal Agent at Large” in the war against drugs, and received a Bureau of Narcotics badge. –photo by White House photographer Ollie Atkins (then chief White House photographer)
“That happened through my friend, Richard Cole, who was Led Zeppelin’s road manager. After Zeppelin met Elvis, I became pretty good friends with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and Richard Cole. I hung out a lot with all of them. I hadn’t seen Richard in a year or so, and he called me and said he was doing the ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ tour with Eric Clapton.
Richard said, ‘We’re doing this big show at the Mid-South Coliseum, and we’re supposed to fly in and fly out, but Eric will come in the night before if he can meet Elvis.’ I said, ‘Richard, Elvis doesn’t really meet many people.’ I really felt bad because when I went to a Led Zeppelin concert I’d sit on the side of the stage with Peter Grant bringing me Dom Perignon champagne. I said, ‘We go to movies quite a bit, so let me see if it’s okay with Elvis if he comes to one of the movies.’ I said to Elvis, ‘You remember Richard Cole?’ And he said, ‘Crazy Richard.’ I told him he was the tour manager for this tour and that Eric Clapton was this great guitar player. Is it okay if we go to the movies that I bring him by and introduce him?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that would be okay.’ We were down at the Circle G Ranch in cowboy boots and cowboy hats driving our trucks. As we’re going to the movie theater, I reminded Elvis that Eric Clapton was gonna be there. We drove up, and there’s two limousines, and there’s Elvis in a truck wearing a cowboy hat. He goes, ‘Who in the FUCK is Eric Clapton? Goddamn limousines! Why does he have to bring a fuckin’ limousine to a movie theater?’ I said, ‘Oh my God, what am I gonna do?’ Then, to top it, Elvis always sits in a certain place in the theater, and Eric’s sitting there (laughs). It’s like rubbing salt in the injury.
I made the introductions, and Eric was just his wonderful self, and he said everything right. Elvis liked him immediately. We stood and talked for about 15 minutes, and then it was time to start the movie. Elvis invited him and his wife, Pattie, to stay and watch the film. Then he went out to the bathroom, and someone would always go with him. When we go out there, he said, ‘Hey, you know that Eric is a pretty nice guy.’ (laughs). I told Eric that story years later when Scotty Moore was being inducted at The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. I went up to him and introduced myself, and he said, ‘I know you, Jerry. You introduced me to Elvis.’ I said, ‘Well, could I introduce you to Scotty Moore?’ and he said, ‘Where is he?’ So I got to make that introduction.”
Elvis romanticized the comradery of the mob, and so assembled his own Memphis Mafia to ‘TCB’ (Take Care of Business), a term he made iconic. Joe Esposito (third from right) was the most prominent and well-known of the group.
“We got more ass than a toilet seat.” –The Memphis Mafia