A few months ago I wrote a rather throwaway piece concerning Tommy Steele’s claim that Elvis Presley visited London in the late 1950s and that he, Tommy Steele, had had the privilege of showing him around London. In this short piece, I questioned the truth of the story — and especially the counterclaims made by Elvis‘s friends, Marty Lacker and Lamar Fike. The way the BBC article was presented suggested to me that Marty and Lamar were intent on using this episode to promote their own material.
So, I wrote the piece, replied to comments and forgot all about it — until, that is, Marty Lacker got in touch with me by email. Marty emphatically restated his and Lamar’s position. He was categoric that Elvis did not visit London at any time.
I had no reason to disbelieve Marty. He’d taken the time to email me reaffirming the comments made to the BBC and as we exchanged emails I found him to be a genuine and upfront guy. However, I was still rather puzzled as to why Tommy Steele would make such claims. As I saw it, he’d never been the type to promote himself at any cost and, also, if the story were true, he didn’t actually want this information releasing in the first place.
I wanted Tommy Steele’s side of the story and, so, I emailed his agent explaining my position and asking if Mr Steele would care to make a further statement. That was over a month ago, and at the time of writing I have still had no reply. (If Mr Steele or any of his associates happen to read this and would care to share their side of the “story”, please feel free to comment here or to email me via the Contact section above.)
The question remains: why would Tommy Steele make such claims? I don’t know. Maybe it was simply a story he told to a friend over dinner that got out of hand — he went too far down the road, and now doesn’t quite know how to turn back. Or maybe it was just a publicity stunt. As Marty put it:
“Many people have done the same since he died and in a way it irritates us.
“The reason being that Elvis is a historical Cultural Icon and it’s important that his history be accurate and true. So to that end, some of us are quick to correct things that are untrue and publicly stated. If we don’t, people will consider it happened and true because they don’t know any better.”
There were points I felt I needed to address with Marty, however. I was aware that some of my readers would still have questions regarding certain aspects of Marty and Lamar’s story.
The original BBC article, as I’ve already said, mentioned a book/movie project that Lamar was working on. Marty conceded that Lamar may have mentioned this to the BBC but he, Marty, certainly didn’t. It was also possible that the BBC tagged this information on the end of the article by way of a filler.
It also occurred to me that many people would question Marty’s claims that someone was with Elvis every day. Marty’s response to this was very thorough — taking in the Nixon episode, which I’d used as an example.
“The statement that one of us was with him every single day is basically true. Were we with him every minute or hour? NO! On his trip to Washington, that was a rarity but in fact Jerry Schilling was with him that afternoon in L.A. where he went first and then he and Jerry flew to Washington where they were met by Sonny West who Elvis told to come up there from Memphis.
“There have been times when he was upstairs in his suite at Graceland for three or four days after a movie or tour but one or more of us were in the house and some of us lived there too. I and my family did for a year and a half before building my own house five minutes away. A number of the guys lived there from time to time and in L.A. most of us lived together with him in his house.
“Was there a day every now and then we we didn’t see him, yes but we knew where he was.”
My final point concerned Elvis’s time in the army. I wanted to know how, since this was the period of Tommy Steele’s claim, it had worked — it being Elvis’s personal security, etc. Marty told me in reply that Lamar was with Elvis all of his time over there. Red West was there for eight months. Cliff Gleaves was there for a few months during Elvis’s first year. None of them was, however, in the service. Elvis also met Charlie Hodge and Joe Esposito in the army.
Given all this, and the fact that Elvis was confined to base at this time (I haven’t checked this out — but may do so in the future), I think it is fairly safe to say that Elvis never came to London. Yes, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having doubts. But given that Marty has been so generous with his time and information, I also have to add that those doubts are now few and far between. As Marty put it:
“I am a stickler for the truth as is Billy and a few others. We’re just tired of people making untrue statements about the entire Elvis situation since he has died. That’s why I’m quick to correct or dispel any rumors or lies.”
I can only applaud the sentiment. Thirty-one years later and, it would seem, still “taking care of business”.