Samuel Charters is the author of the book Elvis Presley Calls His Mother After The Ed Sullivan Show. He talked with us about the writing of such a strangely titled book.
Q - Mr. Charters, when did you get the idea to write this book and how long did it take you to write it?
A - I thought of writing the book about 1980, after the Goldman biography (on Elvis) came out. I dis-liked it very much and wanted to present something more positive about Elvis. Also, I had already done a novel in the same style about the jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton...Jelly Roll Morton's Last Night At The Jungle Inn and I wanted to follow it with something on Rock. The writing took three or four months.
Q - Did you ever meet Elvis? Did you talk with people who knew Elvis for background information on your book?
A - I worked with Bill Haley and His Comets as their producer for more than seven years, and Bill often talked about Elvis. Also, I worked with Scotty Moore (Elvis' guitarist) at Sun Studios in 1961. And, during the 1960s I recorded several musicians in Nashville who were working regularly with Elvis. The man to whom the book is dedicated, William Kelly was a Warrant Officer in Germany during Elvis' period in the Army and had only good things to say about him as a soldier.
Q - Were you a fan of Elvis Presley? Were you a fan of Rock 'n Roll?
A - I first wrote about Elvis in 1959, a very positive comment in the book The Country Blues.
Q - You own a small jazz record company?
A - Yes. I have a jazz record company, but during the 1950s and 1960s I was recording a great deal of Blues and Rock.
Q - Your portrayal of Elvis is really that of a hayseed, a hick. Elvis comes off like a cartoon character in your book, not a real person. How would you defend the dialogue you've made up for Elvis?
A - The model for Elvis' speech in the book was the series of radio interviews that he gave when he was touring as The Hillbilly Cat. He really sounded like that. Also, in the book, he's talking to his mother and all of us sound a little constrained when we're talking to our mothers.
Q - As you see it, was Elvis just a lucky guy who was in right place at the right time?
A - I certainly don't think Presley just happened to be somewhere at the right time. He wouldn't have had his sustained career if that's all he had been. I always thought he was enormously talented. And for me, what continues to be so important about him was that on his own terms, he never sold out to anyone. He came from a social background that he continued to believe in throughout his life. He never joined a Beverly Hills Rat Pack. He never moved into a penthouse in New York. He stayed himself to the end...and you can't ask anything more of an artist.