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 There. And more… as told by Elvis Presley’s step-brother
“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.
David E. Stanley
ca. 1975-’77 — Elvis Presley livin’ it up on his custom-built Ed Roth trike motorcycles.
Me and a Guy Named Elvis by Jerry Schilling
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
Cameron Crowe: I love Led Zeppelin
“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)
Elvis meeting one of rock’s greatest guitar players, Eric Clapton, by Jerry Schilling
“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
This is one great Video to watch. A big THANK YOU to the guys who took care of Elvis.
You did the “TCB” right to the very end. Thanks for coming forward and putting it all on the record
for “The Normals” to hear the truth. Ya.. Did Good . Thanks.. I learned a lot from this.
Superb. This post just has everything the seventies has to offer.
Pretty cool stuff.
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 2013 05:24:26 +0000 To: email@example.com
What a great read, Nothing too grandiose, just a bit of road gossip and all the better for it. 🙂
I think that for so many years, Elvis was romanticized in positive, and negative ways. He ultimately became a caricature of himself which is a bit sad, but really in many ways he was the first “GaGa” if you will.. over the top mega-star, and in a time when we are so easily able to peer into the lives of famous people, his was a life shrouded in secrecy. Time has a funny way of dealing with the past however, and I think that the more time passes, people are more respectful of his life and how he lived, and treating as less of a “joke.” If that makes sense.
I have been an Elvis fan for my entire adult life, good, bad and ugly. This is a great article, as per usual. Thanks JP!
So good! Keep them pearls coming Sir!
Elvis Presley. I was in the first grade when I first heard him, and suddenly all that tribal-family-cocoon bonding was challenged. Something else was ‘out there,’ and it was gonna be exciting! Too young at the time to know what it was all about, I look back and think that life probably turned out better for me than for Elvis–which sounds odd, I’m aware of that. But did he ever outgrow his boyish phase? He was more like a Greek god, fixed in stone. Like the gods, he had everything and more, but like them, he didn’t change and grow, or so it would seem, based on what I’ve seen in print. But the stars of today’s cultural icons have failed to outshine Elvis. hH was a constellation unto himself.
I dunno . When it comes to Elvis .. well … IMO Colonel Parker destroyed Elvis in each and every way the longer he held on to the reigns .. from Elvis’s health .. to his personal life and right down to his music . Fact is the only Elvis era I enjoy was the very early years .. before Tom Parker began leading Elvis down the primrose path to self destruction .Was Elvis talented IMO ? You betcha . Was most of that talent later frittered away in the name of Superstardom by CTP …. yeah …. most definitely . CTP was the modern interpretation of ‘Svengali ‘ in all the worst ways .
As to Zeppelin ? Oh baby … was there then .. or will there ever be another band of the magnitude and influence that Led Zeppelin remains to this day ? Not likely . Oh Bono would like to pretend U2 might be … poseurs like Madonna etc wish they could be . The Rolling Stones like to try and claim the title for themselves . Elvis fans wish he had half the influence Zeppelin still maintains toady . But there was only one Led Zeppelin .. and they ruled the R&R roost like nobody before or after since . And for the record ….. Plant’s still got it .. in spades … Jones can rock with the best of them at twice their age … and Page … well Page has been such a recluse there’s no telling … but all bets are .. he’s still got it as well . And folks back in the day wondered why I took it as a compliment when industry insiders began nicknaming me ‘ Pagey ‘ behind closed doors . Heck … who wouldn’t take that as a compliment ?
I like it a lot. Good photos, story too. I remember him so well. Thanks.
I too think the early part of Elvis’ career was his best. I know he was a kind and generous person. I think I know he had serious religious convictions. I am, however, conflicted about his life. I have much to say, but it would take too long–so I will leave this quote which sums up most of my feelings, “Destroy yourself physically and morally and insist that all true brothers do likewise as an expression of unity.” Robert Hunter. People make their own decisions and are responsible for them. I think the film is a sad and poignant statement.
Sorry, one more thought–I think Elvis and the Memphis Mafia enabled each other.
Once you have more money than you could possibly ever spend, I think life must become amazingly dull once you have done, and redone, everything you can think of. It’s the only reason I can think of why so many people who have everything life has to offer end up so miserable. I also think humans are programmed to be able to absorb only a finite amount of attention and adulation before it starts to permanently alter their personality in harmful ways.
Always having to second guess people’s motives must get pretty stressful too.
I saw Zeppelin at Cap Centre..and I have quite a few old bootlegs….they were good….but that sound of 1 guitar having to do it all made the songs pale live cause Pagey could overdub the studio stuff. Only 1 guitar could cover all the sound…..the Master Jimi Hendrix .Their long drawn out jams were like Tolstoy novels long and drawn out and running out of things to say… drum solos put me to sleep….and when the engine died…or drowned on vodka…..the wheels ceased to turn. Elvis The King of R and R for sure….The cut and slice time honored rock and roll of the Stones with Keef and Mick Taylor…The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World 69-74….Zep never got that primeval sound…..and they stole the old bluesmens riffs and took the credit….ask Willie Dixon a real bluesman…….and as for MJ……there aint no King Of Pop!!!!
Elvis was my fathers thing, not mine. But I don’t think you will ever see the hysteria that the Beatles and Elvis before them caused. Just a very big change from the status quo at that time. An amazing thing at the time.