Book Review

Stories About The King

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The organ starts to play and you’re nervous. You shouldn’t be, though. You’re in love and this quickly-assembled Las Vegas wedding proves it. You’ve got the minister who barely knows you and you’re standing in a chapel you’ve never seen before. If that’s not love, what is? You’ve even got Elvis holding the wedding ring.

No, not someone who looks like Elvis. The real Elvis, and he paid for the wedding, just as he paid for your nose. His generosity didn’t surprise you, though. It’s something a guy gets used to, as you’ll see in the new book “Elvis: My Best Man” by George Klein with Chuck Crisafulli.

When Klein was young, he was fascinated with music and radio DJs. He was fascinated by an emerging fad called rock ‘n’ roll. Klein knew he wanted to be part of it, and it set the course of his life. Though he’d gone to school with Elvis Presley, it was through radio that he got to know Presley well.

And when Klein lost that coveted radio job, Elvis spontaneously stepped in and hired him as a “traveling companion.”

Elvis’ mother didn’t want her son in an airplane, so Elvis and Klein traveled by car and train to concerts, while the rest of the entourage often flew. Because they shared rooms as well as time, Elvis and Klein became close. Klein supported the singer, counseled him and brought girls to hotel parties held with chaste kisses and no alcohol.

But the support went both ways. Whenever Klein felt the pull of radio, Elvis always urged him to return to that career, but with an open-door invitation: Klein could return to the fold any time.

And he did. Who could give up the life of a King?

Elvis Presley, says Klein, was the kind of guy who gave people cars and posed for nervous fans’ cameras. He was a gentlemanly ladies’ man who respected his date’s privacy. But Elvis was easily angered, quickly jealous, and his mood could go dark in a blink. He was a star and demanded treatment as such but Klein stuck by him, as friends do.

Then, in a quirk-of-fate, circle-of-life way, Klein learned from a radio DJ that his friend was dead.

I find it amazing that, 30-plus years after Presley’s death, people are still writing books about him. In the case of “Elvis: My Best Man,” I’m glad. Not just another my-friend-Elvis memoir, this book is really only half dedicated to Presley. In addition to anecdotes and little-known insider tidbits about Elvis, authors Klein and Crisafulli also tell the story of rock ‘n’ roll and the birth of a kind of radio we can’t imagine living without.

What makes this story wonderful is that it’s lively, gently told and not one bit pandering.

If “Long Live the King” is your mantra and you can’t help falling in love with books about him, you’ll definitely want this one. Missing “Elvis: My Best Man” might make you all shook up.

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