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Elvis Presley: An intimate look at ‘the king’

In his memoir, “Me and a Guy Named Elvis,” Jerry Schilling shares moments he spent with the man he considered his best friend. Read an excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY

Wednesday marked the anniversary of the death of “the king,” Elvis Presley. While it’s been 29 years since then, the voice and style that brought us all of those unforgettable songs lives on. When you remember Elvis, one of his 31 number one hits, like “Hound Dog,” might come to mind. But one man still remembers man behind the music. Jerry Schilling was invited on “Today” to discuss his new book, “Me and a Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley,” written with Chuck Crisafulli. Read an excerpt:

Author’s note

I wouldn’t want to speak for Elvis Presley and tell you that I was his best friend. But I can tell you this: He was my best friend.

I met Elvis when I was just a boy and he was a teenager. I met him on one of the last weekends before he became “Elvis,” when he was simply a truck driver who did some singing on the side.

I knew him for twenty-three years, and in those years I grew up with him, lived with him, worked for him, learned from him, laughed with him, and shared one amazing experience after another with him.

Elvis was the first rock-and-roll superstar; I knew him as a friend. In writing this book my hope has been to present Elvis not as the larger-than-life figure known around the globe, but as, simply, a very real and quite remarkable human. That’s important to me because as Elvis has become an icon and a figure of legend, I think an appreciation of his humanity has been lost. Viewing Elvis as some kind of rock-and-roll superhero doesn’t do justice to his very human struggle, his talent, his life, or his legacy.

He was my friend, and this book is, above all, a story of friendship. The book is also a personal history, and, as such, it’s a work of memory. Sifting through six decades’ worth of memories has been no easy task, but wherever possible, efforts have been made to ensure that the “history” part of the personal history is accurate. My life’s history is very much interwoven with Elvis’s, and much of his life has been extensively documented.  So, if it was possible to look up or double-check a who, what, when, or where, I’ve done it.

Documents don’t often capture the more personal moments of life though, and that’s where memories must be sorted out.  In thinking back on my life and experiences, I’ve tried to balance the way I remember things now with the way I might have experienced them at the time. I’ve tried to be as honest as possible about how and why things happened, and have tried to resist the temptation to describe a past I might wish for rather than the one I experienced.

The places, people, and events of the book are real — as I remember them. No scenes have been invented, no characters made up, and the timeline of events reflects a real chronology.  The dialogue people speak in these pages may not be a verbatim transcription, but always reflects the words I remember hearing.  In just a couple of cases, when it wasn’t possible to contact someone from my past, I’ve changed a name in deference to the sensitivity of the situation described.

People have been making up all kinds of stories about Elvis since his first record came out, and in the years since his death the stories have become so big that my friend’s very real life has often been obscured, or ignored.  In putting this book together, I’ve discovered again and again that, with Elvis, the truth is the best story of all.

Excerpted from “Me and a Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley,” written by Jerry Schilling with Chuck Crisafulli. Copyright 2006 Jerry Schilling and Chuck Crisafulli. Excerpted with permission of All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.