When Elvis thought of jewelry, who did he turn to? Lowell Hays, that's who. Mr. Hays created many pieces of jewelry for Elvis. Mr. Hays spoke with us about his time with Elvis Presley.
Q - You have an online store, but do you have a jewelry shop?
A - I don't have a jewelry shop. I was born in the retail business. Our business was founded in 1937 and I closed it 3 years ago (2007). I work out of my home and I have an online business which is
www.elvisjeweler.com. I have about 200 different versions of jewelry that I made for Elvis. I sell to Graceland and gift shops all over the country. So, I'm selling reproductions of jewelry I made (for) Elvis.
Q - Do other stars come to you for their jewelry?
A - Well, the stars don't come to me now. Years ago, I sold Issac Hayes, Al Green and T.G. Sheppard were all customers of mine. As far as any other major stars, no.
Q - You're a life long resident of Memphis?
A - Correct.
Q - Did you find you could sell more jewelry online than in a retail shop?
A - Well, I'm now 70 years old and I was in it all my life and I just got tired of it. I thought it was the perfect time to close it and with the recession we've been going through, it turns out it was the perfect time. God really blessed me when I closed it when I did. I'm very pleased with where my life is right now. I have this great business I do out of my home, so I'm having fun.
Q - Were you a fan of Elvis before you ever met him?
A - Yeah, of course. I think everybody was a fan of Elvis. Nothing like the fan I became when I saw him perform 'live' the first time.
Q - And where was that?
A - It was in Vegas. August of '69. Actually, I had just met him. I didn't know him before that personally. Dr. Nick (Elvis' doctor) was my Dad's doctor and my friend and he introduced me to Elvis. Then Dr. Nick was traveling with Elvis all the time. So, I just kind of got invited to go along and I got to know Elvis.
Q - That show marked Elvis' return to the stage.
A - Dr. Nick was invited to come out to the opening. Elvis was already out there of course. Dr. Nick called me and said "Elvis sent a Lear jet for me. Would you like to get to Vegas?" And I said "Yeah. Let's go." So I went.
Q - What was it like when you met Elvis for the very first time? What kind of a guy was he?
A - He was a great guy. He was friendly, warm, glad to meet me. I was a Memphis boy. It was fine.
Q - When Elvis wanted jewelry, did you go to Graceland? He wouldn't come to your store, would he?
A - Well, he did a time or two. But usually he'd call me and I'd take jewelry out there or out to Vegas. Whenever he was on tour, I'd travel with him, flew on his plane with him. He told me he always wanted me to have jewelry with me because you never know when he wanted to buy something and he was right about that. You'd never know, so I always had a case full of jewelry. I sold him a lot of jewelry.
Q - How about his entourage?
A - No. They didn't buy any jewelry. He'd buy jewelry for them, but they didn't buy any themselves.
Q - Was he an easy customer to satisfy or did you really have to work hard to please him?
A - I always had quite a selection of jewelry with me and he would just go through it and pick out what pieces he wanted from my jewelry case. It was like shopping in a mini-jewelry store really. He liked to know when people's birthday was and he would try to relate through this book what color stone they might like to have, if he knew their birthday was by a birthstone color. He was very careful with what he purchased. If it was a custom piece, like he and I were working on his TCB ring or the Aloha Hawaii ring for example. I made that ring. He was very particular. It took me about three different tries to get the TCB ring like he wanted it. That was his big ring.
Q - You could almost write a book about your time with Elvis.
A - Yeah, I'm working on that. A lot of people want me to write a book. Actually I'm dealing with someone abut the possibility of doing that. I have a lot of pictures of a lot of jewelry I made for him. We're going to make a coffee table book.
Q - This title, "Jeweler To The King", did you come up with that or did someone else give you that title?
A - (laughs) I've been assigned that title. I didn't come up with that.
Q - Where were you when you heard the news about Elvis' passing?
A - I was at home. Of course everybody knows where they were.
Q - What went through your mind when you heard it?
A - I didn't believe it. There were always rumors, but it didn't take long for me to understand that it was true. A very sad time.
Q - When you say rumors, you mean that Elvis is still alive after being reported dead?
A - Yeah. (laughs) There were several reports that Elvis had died you know before that. When he'd get sick they'd put him in the hospital. Rumors would go around that Elvis was dead, and you know he wasn't dead. But it was true this time.