A Tribute to Elvis Presley’s Oral Biographer: George Klein

A Front Row Seat into Elvis’ Life

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In ancient days, people used to sit around a fire while wise men told stories of legends past. These were stories of the greatest who walked the earth. Accounts of those who proceeded us became stories many have heard for generations. These stories were passed through generations in time to the present.  

The difference between ancient times and now is instead of these legendary stories passing from person to person, we have actual recordings which can be played forever. Some legends seem bigger than life, but none are larger than the legend of Elvis Presley, The King of Rock and Roll. George Klein, a local Memphis Disc Jockey was a friend to Elvis Presley since his high school days. 

GK: Elvis’ Friend and Oral Biographer

George, GK as he was known to his friends and by Elvis himself, was in a front-row seat for the entire ride. As years elapsed since Elvis’ untimely death, GK would pass down the tremendous stories. It seemed the whole Elvis universe listened to stories as GK told them over the airwaves. First on his Memphis radio show and eventually on an entire radio station dedicated to the Legend: Sirius/XM Elvis Radio. Over the past 40 years, GK has told Presley’s fans the legendary stories. This has earned GK the title as Elvis’ Oral Biographer.

Today, a year after his death, you can hear rebroadcasts of his weekly radio show on SIRIUS/XM Elvis Radio. They will treat you to some of the greatest stories of the The King of Rock and Roll. There is also great information about the origins of Rock and Roll music. While GK’s book Elvis: My Best Man gave us some stories, those GK told over the last 40 years on his shows could fill volumes. He was alongside Elvis at every step of his ascendancy into legend. Sadly, GK passed away 1 year ago last week. His accounts and stories live on through the archives of Elvis Radio. 

GK and Elvis Were Like Family

GK was one of Elvis’ closest and dearest friends. He went to school with Elvis and became one of Elvis’ trusted and most admired friends. While Elvis rose from obscurity to superstardom, GK was there with him. Elvis, who did not confide in many people, trusted GK with his innermost thoughts and secrets. GK was one of the few, mostly because of his unwavering loyalty. While Elvis didn’t invite many, GK was present for almost every significant moment in Elvis’ life, including his wedding. Through it all, GK never used his relationship with Elvis as a reason to further his career or to dishonor his friendship.

GK etched his mental notes forever in his brain

Along the ride with Elvis, GK etched his mental notes forever in his brain. It became an encyclopedia of information. He was able to produce moments on-demand and whenever the situation required. He documented many of the more famous Elvis escapades in his book. Some of the best moments were stories GK would tell us on his radio show. These were escapades spurred on by talking with members of Elvis’ entourage, close acquaintances, or with other members of the Presley family and circle of friends.

GK Brought Family and Friends Together

Who else but GK could bring together Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla, former girlfriends, family, close friends, and bandmates for an intimate chat to discuss their side of the stories. When GK spoke with these people, they would seemingly let go of the disguises they might have worn and were able to relax and confide with their friend, GK. With these shows, they were as if suddenly the curtain was lifted and you were having coffee and hearing what actually happened during those years. All were done with respect and dignity as the audience was presented glimpses into the personality of Elvis Presley, the legend. 

I tuned in intently as a huge fan of Elvis’. I was too young to have met him, but old enough to know who everyone was and their significance. GK would tell stories of Elvis’ escapades, laughing about what happened. Some stories seemed larger than life and too wild to be true. I  would think there is no way a particular tale could be true! Then one of Elvis’ friends would appear on a call and would confirm everything almost word for word. GK painted a picture of each event with his words. His guests would then put them into perspective.

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Elvis’ Intimate Moments Respectfully Shared

The moments he shared with all of us allowed us access into the intimate space of Elvis’ inner circle. GK graciously reminisced about his time with the King catapulting us into the moments. They also came across as genuine because GK never at any moment disrespected Elvis’ memory. He had a genuine love for his friend, a bond of friendship that would never be broken. That is why the fans grew to love GK as well.  

Listeners sat in awe as GK framed each moment to let us inside the deepest levels of  Elvis’ life. He really knew what happened too as GK was trusted by Elvis’ friends because of his unwavering loyalty to Elvis. Known and trusted by Elvis’ family, Elvis’ mother Gladys asked GK early on to make sure Elvis was taken care of and safe while he was away from home. If Gladys approved of you, Elvis’ trust was automatic. Many nights, GK slept at Elvis’ homes; the ultimate backstage pass for a fantastic ride. GK was there for every moment from the late-night jams, movies, tours, and every family event. He knew what was intimately significant to Elvis and just about everyone in Elvis’ sphere of influence. 

Such Poignant Stories and Moments

While GK was alive, many of us (including myself), listened intently as he passed details to all of us. Then he played the songs that represented the moment he had shared. Ultimately, GK brought friends to join him. They were an essential part of the story as they invariably added color or cleared up what may have seemed like inconsistencies. Many devoted fans, like myself, listened not only to be entertained but to be catapulted back in time with The King of Rock and Roll as it happened.

GK loved to tell us what occurred in his own voice and would explain why Elvis did something. Someone not only there, but a friend who saw every moment as it happened with a front-row seat. GK also shared mistakes that occurred sadly reminding us of the tragedy of losing his best friend to drugs. GK, however, never said anything inappropriate about his friend. He was as heartbroken as the world was when Elvis died.

Perspectives of Elvis’ Rock and Roll Peers

Later on, after Elvis had passed away, GK spent his life recounting these memories and stories The friends he brought into the conversation were essential to Elvis and ranged from Sam Phillip, Scotty Moore, James Brown, and B.B. King. They not only validated what happened, but told the story from their perspective. At the conclusion, Elvis’ beautiful voice would join in, and everyone would all feel good inside.

GK was gifted with a radio voice and could describe each moment vividly. He would tell us what happened at a particular moment then what made it memorable. If Elvis’ contribution to the world was to sing songs which made us feel good inside, GK’s gift was to bring the moment back to life in vivid fashion. All of these moments together have been preserved in the Elvis Archives on Sirius/XM Elvis Radio. The remarkable legend of Elvis: The King of Rock and Roll can live forever!

GK Supported So Many

Those who met GK know how he always made you feel special. He helped to initiate the careers of people like Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, and many others. GK was supportive, especially if they also loved his friend Elvis. Less than a year before he passed away, I had the greatest opportunity to meet him at the Elvis Radio studio in Graceland. I spoke to him about my book idea to tell Elvis’ story from a time capsule perspective. As I described my book details, he calmly but excitedly said to me “Frank, no one has written this story, not the way you have related it to me. It is like you want to put people into the middle of what actually happened. No one has told Elvis’ story that way…YOU HAVE TO DO THIS!” 

Then as if on cue, he said, “put on those headphones.” For 15 minutes towards the end of his show, he interviewed me about my book idea. What a moment it was as I was on Elvis Radio, talking about Elvis Presley! GK encouraged me to write my book and to keep him posted on my progress along the way. He had promised to write the forward for the book. Unfortunately, he passed on before he could do that. It was his support and encouragement that led me to finish writing my book. It is completed and I am currently looking for a publisher. Many telling me that there isn’t a market for books about Elvis Presley, but I am looking undeterred!

GK AND Elvis will live forever in our memories

GK always used his influence to ensure people succeeded. He did so without asking for any compensation or even recognition. He did it just because this was who he was. Nothing he did was about recognition for himself. He was all about helping people and this was a trait he told me Elvis passed on to all of his friends. That afternoon, GK stayed an additional two hours after his show telling me stories about Elvis he thought would be great fodder for my book. It was one of the greatest and most surreal three hours of my life.  Somewhere during our talk, GK put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Frank, Elvis would have loved you!”

GK left us a year ago, but it’s still possible to sit around the fire like to old days and hear stories of the legend. We can listen as GK tells us in his own voice instead of reading the stories that were written, . His words highlight the greatest of the great stories about his friend, The King of Rock and Roll. Elvis will always be able to make us feel good with his songs. It is reassuring to know the behind the scenes stories of each memory of the past have been recorded with GK’s vivid descriptions and aligned with Elvis’ beautiful singing. Elvis will forever be in our hearts.

Tune into Sirius/XM’s Elvis Channel

We can always tune in to hear GK tell us about the Legend of Elvis: The King of Rock and Roll and about all of his friends’ stories and adventures. They are now part of oral history. We can access these forever as a part of SIRIUS/XM and other media formats. Those stories are destined, like Elvis’ beautiful songs, to be played forever.

Thank you, GK and Rest in Peace. You touched my heart in a way that was very profound even though I only knew you for a brief moment. You gave me the encouragement to write my book about Elvis. Hopefully like you, I can add value to his legend.

Frank D'Onofrio
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