KAY WHEELER INTERVIEW
The above audio file goes along with the text below. the two lower files were interviews done in 2010 with Kay Wheeler.
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Part one 2010 Interview
Part Two 20 10 interview
JOE KREIN Can you tell usa little bit about yourself?
Joe Krein . Where did you grow up?
Kay likes to say that she was born at age 15 when she heard her first rock and roll record! It was the Clovers singing "Little Mama." However, in the world outside of rock and roll, Kay was actually born December 22, 1938, in Houston, Texas, the largest city in the southwest which is the hometown of original blues and rock pioneers such as Johnny Ace, Big Mama Thornton, Lightning Hopkins, among others. Kay's musical heritage is rooted in listening to her mother's favorites like, Fats Waller playing boogie woogie, King Cole Trio, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, etc... However, her father favored the raucous country and western honky tonk music. Kay's father moved the family away from Houston when Kay was a baby. For the most part, the family settled in Dallas where Kay , the eldest, and her two sisters and brother grew up.
When did you first meet Elvis Presley?
KAY: The first time I heard Elvis sing was a live radio broadcast from the "Big D Jamboree" in Dallas. He was singing "Mystery Train" and it was like an atomic bomb was dropped on me and my life would never be the same! That night I caught a ride on the rockabilly Mystery Train and I have managed to stay on it all these years! It so happened that I had a connection with Radio Station KLIF in Dallas (the founder of "Top 40 Radio). My aunt worked there; and one Saturday I went in to work with her. A Disc Jockey stopped by and said, "Hey, you won't believe this crazy record I just got by some corny name like Elvis Presley". I spoke up - "What do you mean by that - all the girls are just crazy about him...why I've even thought about having a fan club for him! Later, the DJ played the Elvis record as a joke on his Saturday night show - he announced my name and address as the Elvis Presley Fan club president. On the following Monday morning there were 3 large boxes of mail on my front porch - all girls wanting to join the club! I wrote Bob Neal, Elvis' manager at the time, and my letter was forwarded to Colonel Parker's office who had just taken over management of Elvis.
My letter was answered by Colonel Parker's assistant, Carolyn Asmus (to her everlasting credit)! She wrote me back saying," Colonel Parker has instructed me to let you know that we have absolutely no fan club facilities set up for Elvis Presley, who is only one of our minor acts. Col. Parker's main attractions are Hank Snow, June Carter, etc... . The Colonel told you to just go ahead and do whatever you want to do for an Elvis Presley Fan Club." Well, friends, I took the ball and ran with it as the first officially organized E.P. fan club in the world! There were to be major problems down the road as the club grew into the tens of thousands and Parker wanted control - but that whole wild story as well as my life story is in my book titled, "Growing Up With The Memphis Flash", which I wrote and was published in Europe. Her letter to me also mentioned that Elvis Presley was doing a show in San Antonio, Texas; and if I wanted to go, I could meet Elvis there! Wow!
What are you doing now?
But for now, Kay Wheeler is alive and well and living in Northern California. She has raised a son and a daughter. She has been through 2 marriages and is presently single because she says, "I think I'm just too darned independent - that's just the way it is - plus I still play my record player too loud. It would plumb kill anyone else my age!" She still loves rock & roll and has an extensive collection of early 50s memorabilia. She was recently featured in a 1997 Hollywood movie called "Elvis Is Alive". Kay's comment on her life during the beginning of rock & roll and Elvis - "There will never be another time like that--I promised myself back in the 50s that I'd never be a square and that I would always be--COOL UNTIL THE LIVING END. I hope I've kept the promise!"
What kind of person was Elvis?
KAY: When I walked into Elvis' backstage dressing room in San Antonio - he was a rockabilly rebel! He had on a blue satin shirt, a gaudy EP diamond ring - hair in a cool ducktail with sideburns. He was plumb dangerous! He turned to me and said in a strong, sensual voice with a heavy lidded grin on his face, "So you're my fan club president. Honey, what do you want me to do?" He walked up to me - slid his hands down my sides and said, "Is all this really you, Baby?" At that point, he started to kiss me. I flipped! Later, during his show, I was dancing in the wings on the stage. After it was over, Elvis made me show him my special "rock & bop" bop steps that I did during his show. The early Elvis at that time was all you could imagine a rebel to be - he said anything he wanted to shock the news reporters. I was with Elvis on the rest of the Texas tour and on many occasions during the next 2 years. Elvis was wild and free in the beginning. I loved him for it and was really disappointed when the influence of Col. Parker caused Elvis to nearly abandon his rockabilly roots to be a main stream crooner and a movie actor. But friends, that's not the Elvis I knew in 1956! Elvis was a wild one - like his music! He was in deed and in truth - "The Memphis Flash!"
How did you feel about the Colonel?
Looking back on Elvis' legacy, how do you see his impact on the world today?
KAY: It is difficult for me to grasp that so much time has passed since the fabulous 50's - and, thank God, the music has survived the decades as they rolled by50's - and, thank God, the music has survived the decades as they rolled by