Book Reviews: Best Man and Genuine Elvis

George Klein is one of the last remaining Memphis Mafia regulars to pen a memoir.

It stands out from the other MM Guy books in 2 important respects:

1. For the majority of his friendship with Elvis, George wasn’t on the payroll. This also meant that he wasn’t around 24/7, he wasn’t exactly Elvis’ celebrity equal, but it did allow him to be less dependent and beholden to Elvis.

2. Rather than just a collection of Elvis stories, George adds a career commentary and places Elvis against the events of the day.

These are two departures from the usual MM Guy books – because the other men spent most of their association being paid by Elvis and inhabiting his somewhat isolated existence.

For those of us who were kids when he died or became fans after, Elvis seems to stand outside of the events of the 60 and 70’s. It was disappointing for example to have all the 30 Year Anniversaries on CNN of the big summer of 69 culture events and have Elvis’ return to live performing completely left off the list.

The big controversy in the book is George’s claim that it was he that got Elvis to record at American Studios for that essential follow up to the 68 Special. Other books, if they go into the why, give that credit to Marty Lacker – who did a lot of work with that studio. I tend to lean towards Marty’s version of one on one cajoling, rather than George’s recollection with his rather frank suggestion in front of a group that included Parker and the music publishers.

I can’t see Parker allowing George to stick around if it had happened as told in the book’s opening.

I found the starting the book in 69 with that teaser and then jumping back to high school and continuing chronologically a bit odd. A bit too much like trying to make the book screenplay ready.

After Walk Hard‘s spoof of that Critical Moment in your life makes you consider your whole life that brought you to this critical moment, no one should do that scene anymore.

Especially when telling a familiar story about a famous person – we already know the ending and what that critical moment put in motion and what came of it.

Back to George’s book……

The aspect that I liked the best about the book, is that unlike other MM Guys, George doesn’t give the sense that he is inflating his place in Elvis’ life – he clearly says Elvis was his best friend, not that he was Elvis’.

George also is far more inclusive to mention other MM guys reasonably and evenly – when I first began to read MM books about Elvis, some of the guys were left out, others had their roles and importance rise qand fall depending on the relationship of the MM Guys in question.

It strikes me that they all say they were such great friends as a group, and yet, post Elvis, there are many factions and camps. The group’s friendship didn’t survive the loss of the central figure.

The only thing that jumped out to me as wrong was George’s not exactly claim, but an expressed belief that he is the only person who ever Emcee’d for Elvis and the Beatles.

This is not correct – Vancouver’s Red Robinson introduced Elvis in 57 and the Beatles in 64. George had intro’d Elvis in the 50’s and the Beatles in 66.

I doubt that Red was the only other one, but he was probably the first one to Emcee both. Red also has a book about his own career – Rockbound published in 1983.

Red is probably the only Emcee that John Lennon told to “get the F— off the stage” when Red had to break into the concert to tell the crowd to calm down or the show was over.  My Mom and Aunt were at that show – right up front!

Wow, two digressions in one review.

The book benefits from being written so much longer after the events, so there’s not really any axe to grind or agenda overwhelming the stories. It has a balanced feel with only the occasion self inflating embellishment tone.

That the book is chronologically arranged and more importantly, puts Elvis in context to the times. This grounds Elvis in the time periods and makes his 50’s work more exciting as to how this out of step young man took the country, the world really, and pop culture into uncharted territory of fusing musical styles and the 2 separate cultures of America.

George being in radio also met and befriended a range of artists who are quoted as being inspired by Elvis, as well as learning how many more celebrities Elvis had interacted with than previously known.

My only complaint about GK’s book is the constant “I was famous too” whine that runs throughout it. He was locally famous in the Memphis area, so anyone outside of that are who has heard of him, it’s because he was associated with Elvis, not his radio/tv work. Fame is a relative and fickle thing.

Who would enjoy this book?

I think everyone from hardcore fans to the Elvis-curious.

I consider it a good addition – with a grain or two of salt – to having a solid Elvis library.

___

The book was a lot smaller and thinner than I expected, so I don’t even want to give it it’s own blog review page.

Many of the quotes (it’s overly generous to call them stories when they mostly don’t go over a small page) weren’t from people who knew Elvis – they were often by people who just a meet or a wanted to meet Elvis.

No rare or new photos – and yes, there are new photos of Elvis surfacing all the time.

I couldn’t help but think that this was more about Ronnie and his paintings than Elvis.

If you’re a super hardcore collector, this is for you,  and a complete time waster for casual fans or anyone looking for an Elvis 101 introduction.

As a mere hardcore collector myself, this isn’t something I would have put on my shelf if I had seen it in the store first.  I consider it 20 mins of my life that I won’t get back.

1 thought on “Book Reviews: Best Man and Genuine Elvis

  1. again, couldn’t agree more, I was so disappointed in it’s actual size – probably to discourage copying McDowell’s portraits, but still!
    Wasn’t too thrilled with much of the content, on the other hand, if I learn at least one new thing…

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