Ran in October 08 Easyriders and V-Twin Magazines

Elvis… . Through all my research, I have found Elvis to be not only the spangles and velvet wrapped king who ruled the music charts and silver screen from his Memphian Camelot, Graceland; he was also a fun loving, courageous, courteous, southern born and bred gentleman who loved anything with an engine, especially his motorcycles. I have also found that everyone has an Elvis story…

 

June Juanico “recalls a time when she stood up to Elvis in front of his “gang” who would accompany him everywhere. He grabbed her arm, took her into the bathroom and declared: ‘Look, you are so right, I am really sorry.’ He kept her there for five minutes, then swaggered out, his image intact.”

Charlie Cleaves was a Shelby County Sheriff Deputy and head of the Sheriff’s motorcycle division in Memphis when Elvis died. Charlie led the Elvis funeral procession on his motorcycle.

After a visit to Elvis’s home, John Lennon stated, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”

Sonny West, of the Memphis Mafia, remembers fondly,” …Jerry Schilling showed up at the house with a Triumph 650 motorcycle. Elvis owned a Harley-Davidson that he took for long rides with Priscilla, but on this day when he spotted that Triumph, he decided that he wanted not just one but an entire fleet for the whole gang. He had Alan Fortes order twelve bikes from Triumph Honda in West Los Angeles. Every Saturday we’d hop on the bikes and ride around Los Angeles and the surrounding area. Those were great times, and when the press caught wind of our rides, we were dubbed ‘The El’s Angels.’”

There is an old urban legend that still makes it around campfires often… A guy buys an old Harley at a garage sale for 200 dollars, restores it, then finds beneath the seat or the gas cap the bittersweet words “To Elvis, Love Priscilla.” It then makes the man a millionaire. Even in the most fictitious of stories, of a bike that never even existed, Elvis rules supreme.

Everyone

The squally humid air that threatened rapidly approaching tornadoes was unforgiving as Billy and I rushed across Elvis Presley Boulevard, snapping shots of Graceland and the teal Caddy standing guard along the way. Refusing to be deterred by the boisterous weather, we entered the still quietness of the museum that houses Elvis‘s love affairs with all things automobile.

The car museum itself is awe inspiring… The moment you walk in the door the very essence of Elvis himself is tangent in the air. The fact that I opened the door and found myself standing directly in front of the very motorcycles that Elvis himself rode, were inches from the throttle he held, the seat upon which he sat, took my breath away. The entire room is a vehicular tribute to the man that Elvis was off stage… go carts, jeeps, snow mobiles, custom trikes fill the corners, a beautiful tribute to the country boy behind the glitter… so obvious was his love for all things fast and fun and outdoors. I was struck by the kindred spirit I felt with this man, knew somehow deep inside that he too had relished the freedom of the highway, knew the sound of gravel crunching beneath your tires and the thud of a Milwaukee heartbeat lulling away your troubles as you feel wind on your face. The 66 Sportster chopper glistens atop the pyramid of machines in the display… the two ‘76 dressers prove his true biker loyalty as Elvis stood by his beloved Harleys through the AMF years. It’s easy to imagine him riding, laughing through the country with his buddies, whose memoirs must sound hauntingly familiar to the biker lifestyle we all cherish today.

Elvis treasured cars as well… long sleek cars adorn every available space, most famous probably the cool pink Cadillac. A Stutz Blackhawk holds court with the ‘75 Dino Ferrari and the little red MG he buzzed through “Blue Hawaii.” There is an Italian born Iso Isetta, a serious black Mark V limo, a purple ‘56 convertible is one of various other Caddy’s …. Elvis was very easily also the king of automobiles.

Elvis was well known for giving. Most notorious are his extravagant gifts of Cadillacs and motorcycles to friends. Less often mentioned are the more profound ones… The little old crippled lady in Memphis who dragged herself around on a cart on wheels until Elvis bought her a wheelchair. His friend at RCA who he helped by paying for dialysis, eventually saving his life. I believe that if Elvis knew that there were Harley replicas of his 57 Panhead being sold to raise money for diabetes last year, he would smile.

I will not be certain that the visit to the Elvis car museum wasn’t a fabulous dream until I see this article in print. I await anxiously the Elvis Rock and Roll Ride for Life sponsored by the American Diabetes Association on the grounds of Graceland April 17-20, as they have invited me to lead the 100 mile ride. I look forward to writing the story of that ride for Biker magazine. And most of all, I feel quite certain that if he could, Elvis would be riding right beside me out of those magnificent gates, the three decades between our Electra Glides non existent….

Amy White

“that white girl”

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

has an Elvis story. This is mine.

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