Where there is the Alpha Male there is his crew, bound to do his bidding. The historical preedent of the Memphis Mafia, a
term coined by a wideass journalist, descends from King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. As Joe Esposito reclalls, El's
Angels was sort of like La Cosa Nostra, but without it's Sopranos overtones. ' We played a little game with the Mafia thing.
Elvis was very impressed with the mob and how they worked. He didnt like what they did,' Joe quickly points out-very PC, '
but he liked the idea of loyalty to friends and family'.
Plus, there was the hugely cinematic possibilities of traveling around in a large group. When they went to the movies
in LA, the car would pull up and guys would jump out and Elvis would always get out last. ' I think he liked to make an entrance,'
observes Joe mildly.
Everybody played a role. If the MM were a boy band, Jerry Schilling was the Cute One with his shaggy hair and winning
smile. Assuming anatomy is destiny, he, more then Billy Smith ( who had a suspiciously small head ), could have been Elvis'
cousion. Red West looked like one tough nut, or acted that way. Like Elvis and Anna Wintour, he wore sunglasses indoors. While
he always rode shotgun in the limo, it was hard to appear too striped with red hair and a penchant for striped Dennis The
Menace shirts. Charlie Hodge seemed intelligent and Lamar Fike was definitely along for the ride.
As soon as the boys were assembled, EP decided they needed a look. They tried black cotton jumpsuits for a while, but
ended up looking like glorified gas jockeys - not the effect Elvis wanted. The 1960 Sy Devore black suits with thin ties were
the most successful: Prada Secret Service agents. As the 60's turned into the seventies, the MM tried to morph into mini-Elvis
with sideburns, gold sunglasses, and alot of extracurricular marital activity. Crazy times. ' We were bad boys', admits the
now grand-fatherly Joe Esposito.
Like the Round Table, everyone took their cue from the top. Elvis said ' Jump' and you could practically hear ' How high?'.
Everybody chewed gum. Everybody - including Esposito, an Italian kid from the West side of Chicago - spoke in soft, slurry
vocies, leaving the consonants off the end of their sentences. As with any decent prep school, there were nicknames, inside
jokes, water fights, internecine power struggles. Think Lord Of The Flies with a veneer of Southern gentility. ' They arent
employess,' insisted Elvis. ' These boys are my friends from down home. I've known them since we were kids'.
They broke into close four part harmony during any lull in conversation, laughed at everything Elvis said. Everything.
It must have been very boring for Elvis alot. With your TCB necklace, given by Elvis, it meant you were in or you werent!
The Memphis Mafia - a never ending Boy Scout troop. How tiresome it must have been for Priscilla. And the expense, like
any expense drove Vernon up the wall. Yet on some level, Elvis needed them, because for 20 years, whenever he hit the road,
he took the show with him. While the boys provided entertainment, the comfort of home, and the unending fount of youthful
hijinks, in the end, they may not have done him much good.
Did the Memphis Mafia help or hinder Elvis' growth? Does it matter? In hazelden parlance, they may have been enablers,
but they were good old boys, and they served their master well - or atr least, as well as they were able.
The members of the Memphis Mafia were:
Sheriff Bill Morris
Sheriff Roy Nixon
Billy Smith Presley
And the only female member Patty Parry