Elvis Presley’s Longtime Friend Jerry Schilling On Playing Football With The King, His First Meeting With The Beatles & Elvis’ Death
The world was shook upside down 34 years ago today when the news of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Elvis Presley[/lastfm]‘s death at the age of 42 left fans all around the world heart-broken. For close friend and member of Elvis’ “Memphis Mafia” Jerry Schilling, the news of his death was “the saddest day of [his] life” and something he never got over. [photogallerylink id=49841 align=left]
On this anniversary of his death, we got a special call from Jerry to reminisce about the good times he had with Elvis since he was just a young 12-year-old boy playing a game of football with the soon to be King of Rock and Roll to becoming one of his closets friends and confidants over the years.
[pullquote quote="Would you tell Elvis I almost got kicked out of high school because I wanted to look like him?" credit="John Lennon to Jerry Schilling "]
Now a veteran music and film mogul, Jerry Schilling recalls the day he first met Elvis Presley when he was only 12 years old during a friendly game of football the King put together just after his first single “That’s All Right” was featured on Dewey Phillips’ “Red, Hot and Blue show in Memphis.
His success was almost immediate after his first radio airplay, and Elvis quickly took advantage of it to start up a game with kids in the town.
“He was a loner. He moved up from Mississippi at 13,” recalls Jerry. “So he immediately took that overnight success on Dewey Phillips and got up a football game, which we played for years.”
Their friendship snowballed from there and eventually blossomed into Jerry becoming a close confidant and part of Elvis’ entourage, the “Memphis Mafia.” Jerry recalled Elvis “making him an offer I couldn’t refuse” to come work for him, and later that night, Jerry packed up his things and went on tour with The King.
Jerry was around for all of Elvis’ momentous moments, including the day The Beatles came to meet Elvis for the first time in Bel Air in 1965. After hanging out with Elvis for the night, Jerry recalls that John Lennon invited him over to The Beatles’ place on Benedict Canyon the following night.
He stayed with The Beatles for three days where Lennon asked Jerry to give a message to Elvis.
“He pointed to his sideburns and said, ‘I didn’t have the nerve last night to tell Elvis, so would you tell Elvis I almost got kicked out of high school because I wanted to look like him? And we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,’ and it just a nice story,” says Jerry.
[pullquote quote="I felt so lonely and insecure. That stayed with me for a long time." credit="Jerry on Elvis' death "]
On the day of Elvis’ death, Jerry was getting ready to go on his first tour as the manager of the Beach Boys when he got a call in his home that Elvis bought him in 1974.
“I got a call from a mutual friend, who was hysterical, and said ‘Elvis is dead.’ And that was the whole conversation,” said Jerry. “I walked out on my balcony and in ’77 out here we had a three year drought, and it started raining just after I hung up the phone.”
He later flew out to Memphis to be a pall-bearer in Elvis’ funeral, which was “the saddest day of my life.” He remembers his friendship with Elvis as something very dear and special to his life.
“When he was around, you know it was almost like it was a friendship insurance policy. You knew there was going to be a fun day, you knew that if anything happened to you, he was going to take care of you, it was just the way he was,” said Jerry. “I felt so lonely and insecure. That stayed with me for a long time.”
From his time spent with Elvis over the years, Jerry has produced an incredible DVD box set titled Elvis: The Great Performances, complete with concerts, interviews, home movies, photos and much more that revealed the more personal side of The King.
You can hear many more behind the scenes stories from Elvis’ good friend Jerry Schilling in our extended interview with him below: