Rethinking John Lennon’s Assassination
The FBI’s War on Rock Stars
By Salvador Astucia
PART III: PRIMAL SOUNDS
|Chapter 5: King Elvis & the Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll|
The Devil’s music
Until now, this book has focused only on the FBI’s assault on rock stars of the Sixties and early Seventies, but history reveals the Bureau was opposed to the entire rock ‘n’ roll genre since its birth in 1954, with the advent of Elvis Presley, who was targeted by the FBI early in his career.1 The question naturally arises: Why would the FBI target rock stars? Most people today think of rock ‘n’ roll as harmless party music, but there was a time when religious fanatics and politicians thought it was the Devil’s music. If we accept that the FBI’s primary function is propaganda, as William Sullivan stated, then it makes sense that the Bureau would want to destroy all possible resistance. What is it about rock music that makes it so menacing? In a word: Rebellion.
|Elvis, The King|
The roots of rock ‘n’ roll are the blues, the music of the African slaves. The blues gives strength to all oppressed people, whether their chains are physical or psychological. Over the years, the blues evolved into rock ‘n’ roll. Along the way, other musical elements were added. Ultimately rock ‘n’ roll is an amalgam of three musical genres: blues, rhythm and blues, and country.
The first musical style—blues—is secular folk music of American blacks. From its origin in the South in the early 20th century, it was simple, cathartic music, primarily vocal, with instrumental accompaniment, where the singer expresses feelings rather than tells a story. The primary emotion expressed is usually sadness or melancholy, often related to affairs of the heart. To translate these feelings into music, blues vocalists often embellish the melody or interject syncopated beats to the verses. Blues guitarists often choke or bend the strings or use a metal or glass slide across the fret board to make the guitar sound like a human cry.
The second musical style—rhythm and blues—became the dominant black popular music after World War II. The genre is a subset of the blues, but with a more positive quality, often happy rather than sad lyrics, and a more rhythmic and danceable beat. The term "rhythm and blues" was coined by record producer Jerry Wexler in 1947, when he was editing the charts at the trade journal Billboard and thought the current chart names (Race, Sepia, Harlem Hit Parade) were demeaning to blacks. Consequently, Billboard began using Wexler’s term as a chart category in its June 17, 1949 issue, although the term had been used in articles for the previous two years.
The third musical style—country, (also called, country and western)—is a form of American popular music that originated among whites in rural areas of the South and West. Unlike the blues, country focuses on telling stories rather that expressing raw emotion. Ultimately, country music's roots lie in the folk songs, ballads, and popular songs of the English, Irish, and Scots settlers of the Appalachians and other parts of the South. In the early 1920s the traditional string-band music of the Southern mountain regions began to be commercially recorded.
Early rock ‘n’ roll had a fourth element, a non-musical dynamic: the convergence of white and black cultures in America. In the Fifties, independent record labels targeted teenagers of all races as consumers of the new musical genre. Consequently, many black artists—like Chuck Berry, for example—played a large degree of country, and they played for black and white audiences alike. In the Fifties, blacks liked country music and whites liked rhythm and blues and many types of black music. Eventually larger corporations bought out the independent labels and slowly rock ‘n’ roll—like many aspects of American culture—became segregated. It is quite ironic that a color blind genre like rock ‘n’ roll would flourish in the Fifties, a period of American history that was extremely segregated socially. Conversely, the Sixties is remembered for its social upheaval, particularly in the area of race relations. But in the area of music, the Sixties became more segregated than ever, something apparently fostered by executives and promoters at large record companies, probably working with or manipulated by the FBI.
High mortality rate
Anyone who studies the history of rock ‘n’ roll cannot miss the large number of artists who died violently, either murdered outright, or expiring from a variety of unnatural causes such as substance abuse, car accidents, plane crashes, shootings, drownings, suicides, and so on. Some say it is natural for rock stars to die young because they live in excess. That is true to an extent, but it is also true that many such excesses are in fact manufactured images. For example, it was rumored for years that Yoko Ono was addicted to heroin in the late Sixties, early Seventies. According to the rumor, both she and John Lennon were addicts. But time has shown this was probably not true. Today Yoko Ono is 70 and the picture of health. Generally speaking, extreme drug use begins to take its toll by the time a person reaches 70, assuming the user lives that long. Also, living in excess is not restricted to rock stars. Professional athletes, politicians, journalists, diplomats, and other professionals live on the edge as well. Yet the non-rocker mortality rate is significantly lower than that of rock stars. Are we to believe that becoming a successful rock star means artists must be junkies, drunks, reckless drivers, or suicidal maniacs?
Speaking of suicide, I never understood how several rock stars—like Kurt Cobane, for example—struggled for years to make it to the top only to commit suicide after achieving success. People forget that rock ‘n’ roll is a business, and like any business, a minimal level of discipline is necessary in order to succeed. It takes quite a bit of discipline to put a band together, rehearse, play gigs, write songs, and constantly promote the entire project. As part of the endeavor, a degree of recreational drugs or alcohol are often present, similar to the way conventional businessmen sometimes drink cocktails before signing a large business agreement. This level of substance use is not considered a problem in the conventional business world, and it is not necessarily a cause for alarm in the music business either. But extreme substance abuse would create problems for any business, whether it is a rock band or a more conventional enterprise. Like any business, if appointments are missed, if commitments are not honored, if people in the business generally do not conduct themselves in a professional manner, then the business will falter, usually before it has the opportunity to succeed. To believe that professional rock musicians are continually strung-out on drugs is simply not realistic. This is not to suggest that substance abuse does not exist within the entertainment industry, but it is a matter of degree. For example, if a rock journalist or author claims a particular rock star was a heroin addict before he/she became famous, and the substance abuse continued after achieving success, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Anything is possible from time to time, but many rock journalists and authors tend to portray all rock stars as drug addicts, drunks or suicidal maniacs.
After examining the deaths of John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and the infamous Manson murders, a pattern of malevolence and oppression emerges which begins to explain the seemingly inexplicable fates of countless young rock stars who died unnaturally—one after the other—over the past fifty years. In fact, many black blues artists died mysteriously over seventy years ago.
It may seem far-fetched to consider a covert program to assassinate blues artists in the Twenties; however, the FBI was created in 1908 and J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director in 1924. If we accept that Hoover persecuted rock stars in the Sixties, is it inconceivable that the same man would persecute similar artists years earlier? More specifically, is it inconceivable to believe Hoover—a man who hated blacks—would target black blues artists of the Twenties and Thirties?
It is difficult to determine if such a program was used on blues artists because many of the blues masters lived relatively long lives. John Lee Hooker, for example, was 83 when he died in 2001. Aaron "T-Bone" Walker was 64 when he died in 1975. B.B. King (real name, of Riley B. King) is still alive and well at 78. Big Bill Broonzy (real name, William Lee Conley Broonzy) died of cancer in 1958 at the age of 65. Muddy Waters was 68 when he died in 1983. Howlin' Wolf (real name, Chester Arthur Burnett) was 66 when he died in 1976. Leadbelly (real name, Huddie William Ledbetter) was 64 when he died in 1949. But others suffered more tragic fates. Blind Lemon Jefferson was 32 when his body was found in the streets of Chicago in December of 1929. He reportedly suffered a heart attack on the street and died from exposure. Robert Johnson was 27 when he died after drinking strychnine-laced whisky in a juke joint in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1938. Sonny Boy Williamson* (real name, John Lee Williamson) was 34 when he was robbed and murdered while walking home from a Chicago blues bar in 1948. Little Walter Jacobs was 37 when he was killed in a Chicago street fight in 1968. Bessie Smith was 39 when she died in 1937 in Clarksdale, Mississippi from injuries sustained in a road accident.
The overall mortality rate of the blues masters appears to be significantly less than that of the rock ‘n’ roll stars. If Hoover was in fact ordering the murders of blues artists in the Twenties and Thirties, it may have been more difficult than anticipated. These were not middle-class white kids looking for a good time. These were hardened blacks who lived the blues. Many were the children and grandchildren of slaves, people with a healthy understanding of man’s capacity to inflict cruelty on others. Big Bill Broonzy’s mother was born a slave, and she died in 1957 at the age of 102. People like her probably instilled in their children—the blues masters—a degree of survival skills, making them less susceptible to murder than middle-class white rock stars of future decades. For example, Lead Belly was imprisoned twice for murder, but somehow managed to serve only a few years. I suspect any hit man would think twice before trying to kill someone like that. Nevertheless, several blues masters died young under tragic circumstances.2
|Blind Lemon Jefferson|
|Sonny Boy Williamson|
|Little Walter Jacobs|
Hank Williams’ country
The 1950s brought a wave of musical creativity that manifest itself in the form of rock ‘n’ roll. Hank Williams was never classified as a rock ‘n’ roll artist, partially because of his country roots, but also because rock ‘n’ roll was not a commercial musical genre during his lifetime. Williams’ music incorporated a substantial element of blues, enough to meet the minimal criteria to be labeled rock ‘n’ roll, particularly if Williams had dropped his country twang along with the steel guitar in his backup band, an instrument traditionally associated with country music. In addition, Williams had the wrong image for a rock ‘n’ roller. Elvis jumped around on stage, shaking his hips like a sex maniac. Although Williams lacked the rock ‘n’ roll stage presence of Elvis, his music was remarkably similar in style.
Williams’ "Move it on Over" isn’t much different from Presley’s "That’s all Right Mama." Williams’ "Love Sick Blues" is probably more bluesy—and not particularly country—than anything Elvis ever recorded. Years later John Fogerty recorded Williams’ song, "Jambalya." Rock ‘n’ roll was as much attitude as musical style. Williams didn’t have the attitude, but musically, his style was a precursor to rock ‘n’ roll.
Williams died on January 1, 1953, in Oak Hill, West Virginia, a year before Elvis Presley introduced the world to rock ‘n’ roll. Like the deaths of future rock stars, the circumstances surrounding Williams’ death are mysterious. Williams was booked to play a New Years Eve show in Charleston, West Virginia and a New Years Day show in Canton, Ohio. Charles Carr, a college student, was hired to drive Williams from Montgomery, Alabama to the Charleston show. They left before noon on December 30th, but because of worsening snow conditions, they attempted to fly to Charleston from Knoxville, Tennessee. Unfortunately, the plane returned to Knoxville because of the blizzard. The Charleston show was subsequently canceled due to poor weather conditions. Carr booked Williams and himself in the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, but Williams was reportedly in terrible shape, presumably drunk. A doctor was reportedly summoned and gave Williams two shots of morphine and B12. Rumors spread that Williams also received injections from another doctor earlier that day. Intending to make the Canton show, Carr loaded the ailing singer in his Cadillac and left shortly before midnight.
Williams reportedly died in transit, so the precise time and place of death is not known. A patrolman pulled Carr over for reckless driving shortly after midnight, and asked Carr about the condition of his passenger who appeared to be quite ill. Carr explained to the patrolman that Williams was merely tired and sick from being on the road. By early morning, Carr realized Williams was in grave condition, and subsequently drove to a hospital in Oak Hill, West Virginia. Williams was pronounced dead at 7:00 am. He was 29 years old.3
|Alan Freed||Marquee for Freed's Rock 'n' Roll show||Freed & Little Richard|
Who created Rock ‘n’ Roll?
Rock ‘n’ roll was given its name by white rhythm and blues disc Jockey Alan Freed who had just moved from Cleveland to a top-rated New York station in 1954. "Rock ‘n’ roll" was actually black slang for sex, and it was an inside joke amongst disc jockeys, performers, and teenage fans, although most adults in white America had no idea what the term really meant.4 Many of the original rock ‘n’ rollers were actually established black rhythm and blues artists who were easily migrated by their record companies to Presley’s new musical genre. While Presley is credited as the "king" of rock ‘n’ roll, many believe Little Richard (real name, Richard Penniman) was its true inventor. In March 1990, Parke Puterbaugh interviewed Little Richard and asked if he invented rock ‘n’ roll. The following is Little Richard’s answer:
There is no reason to doubt Little Richard’s claim of being the creator, or architect, of rock ‘n’ roll. But unfortunately, talent scouts like Sam Phillips (Sun Records) and concert promoters like Alan Freed were looking for a white man to perform rock ‘n’ roll. Some will debate this point, but I believe the search for a white rock ‘n’ roller had more to do with demographics than racial bigotry. Teenagers were the target audience for the new musical genre, and since blacks were only twelve percent of the population, it made sense to find a young white man who could properly perform Little Richard’s musical art form. That young man turned out to be Elvis Presley.
King Elvis launches the first Rock ‘n’ Roll insurgency
Elvis Aaron Presley is widely regarded as the "King of Rock ‘n’ roll." Born January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis achieved superstar status in the mid-Fifties after being discovered by producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records, an independent blues label based in Memphis, Tennessee. Phillips was quite impressed with an audition tape he received from Presley and immediately signed the young man to Sun Records. To get things moving, Phillips put together a trio with Elvis on acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals, Scotty Moore on lead electric guitar, and Bill Black on upright bass. The trio's first single was "That's All Right Mama," released in July 1954, followed by "Blue Moon of Kentucky." Phillips only recorded a handful Elvis tunes before selling Sun Records to RCA in 1956, but those early Sun recordings are considered vintage rock ‘n’ roll. The renowned Sun sessions produced "Milkcow Blues Boogie," "You're a Heartbreaker," "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone," "Baby Let's Play House," "I Forgot to Remember to Forget," and "Mystery Train."
|Elvis Presley, 1954|
|It was primarily those tunes—particularly "Mystery Train"—that inspired other musicians to mimic the new rock 'n' roll sounds of Elvis. Over the next two years one artist after another recorded richer versions of rock ‘n’ roll. In the Eighties, the late super-guitarist Roy Buchanan recalled his first impression of Elvis’s trio, particularly guitarist Scotty Moore. Buchanan’s comments are presented in Phil Carson’s book, Roy Buchanan: American Axe. The following is an excerpt:|
|The fact that Roy Buchanan was impressed with Scotty Moore’s abilities cannot be understated. Sam Phillips had put together a first-class musical ensemble which Elvis fronted. Elvis had the rock ‘n’ roll attitude, the image, and the right moves, but clearly there was more to the Elvis phenomenon than hype. Keep in mind, Buchanan first heard the trio on radio, and was not influenced by Elvis’s looks or his movements. He could have looked like Ernest Borgnine for all Buchanan knew, yet Buchanan believed Elvis’s trio was "going to be big." This was based purely on their sound.|
Sam Phillips & Sun Records
Recording engineer Sam Phillips’ independent label, Sun Records, had its first rhythm-and-blues hit with "Bear Cat" by Rufus Thomas, in 1953, an answer record to "Hound Dog," the rhythm-and-blues hit from Houston, Texas, by Willie Mae Thornton. Phillips was a major player in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. He discovered Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, plus several country stars like Johnny Cash and Charlie Rich.
|Sam Phillips at Sun Studio|
|In 1990, Carl Perkins reminisced about Phillips in a Rolling Stone interview. The following is an excerpt:|
In the same 1990 interview with Rolling Stone, Perkins described how he first met the Beatles in 1964 and inadvertently paid them a huge compliment by telling John Lennon the Beatles sounded like "the old Sun records." Lennon’s reaction was quite interesting, to say the least. The following is an excerpt:
|Little Richard (on piano)||Chuck Berry||Fats Domino|
Elvis opens the flood gates
In 1953, the year of Hank Williams’ death, Marlon Brando starred in "The Wild One," a movie viewed by many as a precursor to rock ‘n’ roll. The Elvis phenomenon occurred in 1954 with the renowned Sun Record recordings. This opened the flood gates for a multitude of other rock ‘n’ rollers. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and other black artists were already playing rock ‘n’ roll, or something fairly close. As a result, converting them to rock ‘n’ roll artists was simply a matter of matter of marketing them in the new musical genre rather than rhythm and blues or straight blues.
In 1955, Fats Domino had a hit with "Ain’t That a Shame"; Little Richard gave us "Tutti Frutti"; Chuck Berry gave us "Maybellene"; Bo Diddley gave us the song by the same name ("Bo Diddley"); Bill Haley and the Comets performed "Rock Around the Clock" in the teenage movie, Blackboard Jungle, a motion picture that caused teen riots in movie theaters; James Dean starred in "Rebel Without a Cause". In 1956 Buddy Holly and the Crickets took America by storm with their song, "Blue Days, Black Nights"; Carl Perkins showed us his "Blue Sued Shoes"; and Gene Vincent gave us "Be-Bop-A-Lula".
In 1957 Eddie Cochran gave us "Sittin’ in the Balcony"; Jerry Lee Lewis came on like gangbusters with "Whole Lotta Shaken Goin’ On" and "Great Balls of Fire"; the Everly Brothers gave us "Bye Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little Susie"; Ruth Brown gave us "Lucky Lips"; and renowned black gospel singer Sam Cooke decided to record secular music and gave us the classic ballad, "You Send Me." In 1958, Cochran had two more major hits—"Summertime Blues" and "C’mon Everybody"— which would elevate him to iconic status; Ritchie Valens gave us "Come on, Let’s Go", "Donna", and "La Bamba"; the Everly Brothers released "All I Have To Do Is Dream".
1954 through 1958 were the golden years of rock ‘n’ roll. Teenagers all over the world were singing and dancing to the musical genre spawned by King Elvis. Rock ‘n’ roll was blessed with the best and brightest artists. Then things shifted, as if a traffic light had changed from green to red. Suddenly the followers of King Elvis were cursed with misfortune, their gold records turned into malignant tumors metastasized to the vital organs of rock ‘n’ roll until finally, it passed away. In 1957 rock ‘n’ roll deejay and promoter Alan Freed’s nationally televised rock ‘n’ roll show was canceled because black singer Frankie Lymon danced with a white girl on television. In 1958 Freed was indicted for inciting a riot at a rock ‘n’ roll show in Boston where violence occurred. The charges were dropped, but Freed continued to have bad luck. Finally, his career was destroyed when a huge broadcasting payola scandal erupted in 1958. In 1964, he was indicted on charges of tax evasion. The next year, on January 20, 1965, Freed died from alcoholism. He was 43. The late Robert Palmer—longtime writer for Rolling Stone magazine (Palmer was not the rock singer)—described how political and business forces converged with other interests to thwart rock ‘n’ roll. The following is an excerpt from The Decades of Rock ‘n’ Roll, published by Rolling Stone:
While rock ‘n’ roll was being strangled by businessmen and politicians, a series of misfortunes occurred which further hastened the demise of the new musical genre. In 1956 Carl Perkins and his brother Jay Perkins (rhythm guitarist in Carl’s band) were seriously injured in a car accident. Six months later, Jay died* from his injuries and Carl became an alcoholic.10 In early 1958 Elvis was drafted and joined the U.S. Army, an event that some believe Colonel Parker negotiated with the United States government. America’s teenagers went into a brief period of national morning. In the years that followed, Elvis made several comebacks—which included a string of B movies—and continued to be a superstar, but he would never again be the King of rock ‘n’ roll. A king needs followers, but many of Presley’s musical disciples died, retired, or were destroyed. Elvis’s departure from rock ‘n’ roll in 1958 was an omen of hard times ahead. In 1958 a scandal ended the career of Jerry Lee Lewis after he married his 13-year-old cousin.
On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens perished in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. Also killed was Jiles Perry Richardson (aka, The Bopper). On April 17, 1960, Eddie Cochran was killed in a car crash near Chippenham, Wilshire, England. He was 21. Gene Vincent was seriously injured in the crash and became a semi-cripple until he died of alcoholism on October 12, 1971. By the 1960 all that was left of rock ‘n roll were a few black rhythm and blues artists, many of who disliked white artists for borrowing their musical culture, and the Everly Brothers who were not a creative force; virtually all of their hits were written by the songwriting team of Boudleux and Felice Bryant. Due to their lack of creative stamina, the Everly Brothers began to lose popularity by the early Sixties. In 1962, Chuck Berry was imprisoned for violating the Mann Act. This was the result of an incident in 1959 where Berry reportedly fired a fourteen-year-old hat-check girl at his St. Louis nightclub because he believed she was a prostitute. She in turn reported him to the authorities, he was prosecuted, was eventually convicted in 1962, and spent two years in prison.11 Ruth Brown was forced to leave show business because Atlantic Records had refused to pay royalties for her music. Several other black artists were also cheated out of royalties by record companies. Years later Brown sued Atlantic Records and recouped some of her unpaid royalties.12
Colonel Tom Parker
Roy Buchanan’s biographer, Phil Carson, credited sidemen Scotty Moore and Bill Black for Elvis’s initial success, and blamed Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, for firing the two sidemen. Carson made the following comments about Elvis’s original trio in his book, Roy Buchanan: American Axe:
It’s interesting that Carson refers to Colonel Tom Parker as Elvis’s "predatory manager." Why would Colonel Parker allow Elvis to drop his great sidemen? When Elvis first became a star in 1954, he had something very real to offer. It was a fragile, almost indefinable quality, but it was definitely real, nothing abstract. Whatever it was, it rubbed off on others. But once Colonel Parker got a hold of Elvis, the young rocker quickly began to falter as an artist. Who was Colonel Tom Parker, anyway? Writer Alanna Nash attempts to answer that question in a new book, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley. Nash portrays the Colonel as a psychopathic murderer born June 26, 1909 in Breda, Holland, whose real name is Andreas "Andre" Cornelis van Kuijk. He fled Holland in 1929 shortly after the death of a twenty-three-year-old woman, Anna van den Enden, the newlywed wife of greengrocer Wilhelm "Willem" van den Enden. On May 17, 1929, Anna van den Enden was bludgeoned to death in the kitchen of her home behind her husband’s greengrocery shop at Nieuwe Boschstraat 31. Andre van Kuijk (aka, Colonel Tom Parker) left Holland for America the same night that van den Enden was murdered.14
Nash believes van Kuijk/Parker murdered van den Enden. Although Nash does not provide absolute proof, she builds a strong circumstantial case, and she points out that Parker was discharged from the United States Army on August 11, 1933 by reason of "Psychosis, Psychogenic Depression, acute, on basis of Constitutional Psychopathic State, Emotional Instability."15
While in America van Kuijk took the name Colonel Tom Parker and immersed himself in the world of carnival and circus which led him to musical promotion. He first promoted country music artists, most notably Hank Snow, before managing Elvis. Contrary to popular belief, Colonel Parker did not discover Elvis. If anyone should be given credit for that, it would be Sam Phillips. In addition, Elvis’s lead guitarist, Scotty Moore, was Elvis’s manager. So what exactly did Colonel Parker do? Nothing really, except take a hot young rock ‘n’ roll artist and turn him into mush. The Colonel maneuvered his way into Elvis’s world, managed to broker a buyout of Sun Records by RCA, took over management of Elvis from Scotty Moore, and eventually fired Moore and bassist Bill Black. Elvis was also drafted and joined the Army on Colonel Parker’s watch, a move that destroyed what little momentum Elvis had left after firing sidemen Moore and Black. As an artist, Elvis floundered badly from the day he met the Colonel, but commercially he became quite successful, acquiring vast wealth. In December 1968, Elvis made a comeback with a televised one-man Christmas special which revitalized his status as a performer. In 1969, he released a single, Suspicious Minds, which went to Number One. Throughout the Seventies he became one of the top live attractions in the United States, often appearing in Las Vegas.16
Oddly, Elvis did not perform outside North America because of Colonel Parker’s aversion to traveling abroad. In 1957, the Colonel admitted to his twenty-three-year old assistant, Byron Raphael, that he was afraid to leave the United States. Parker reportedly told his young assistant: "You know, Byron, we’re never going to be able to take Elvis abroad to do personal appearances." Raphael thought this was an odd statement because Elvis was so popular internationally. Raphael explained: "By that time , Elvis was already the biggest star in Japan, and also in Germany. And the offers from Europe were for many millions of dollars, even then."17 Nevertheless, Parker refused to book Elvis overseas. Parker had a problem with his immigration status from years earlier, but had never bothered to get it fixed. The big question was Why? Alanna Nash described the essence of Parker’s fear of foreign travel in her book, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley. The following is an excerpt:
Elvis’s obsession with the Kennedy assassination
If history teaches us anything, we should know that the United States government—particularly the FBI—does not care for rock ‘n’ roll, and it particularly did not care for the King of rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis Presley. But the Bureau eventually had another reason besides rock ‘n’ roll to dislike Elvis. It is not widely known, but in the Seventies, Elvis was obsessed with the assassination of President Kennedy. Elvis’s stepbrother, Billy Stanley, revealed Elvis’s preoccupation with Kennedy’s murder in a 1989 book, Elvis, My Brother, by Billy Stanley and George Erikson. The following is an excerpt:
Elvis reportedly believed Lee Harvey Oswald did not murder President Kennedy. He also believed and Robert Kennedy’s death was the result of a conspiracy. The following is an excerpt from The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, by Alanna Nash:
Elvis died on August 16, 1977, while the House Select Committee on Assassinations was underway. The Committee’s primary objective was to re-investigate the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. On November 9, 1977, high-ranking FBI official William Sullivan was shot and killed—reportedly by Robert Daniels Jr, age 22, of Libson, New Hampshire—while hunting near his home in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. Sullivan was struck in the neck with a .30-caliber high-powered rifle. Sullivan had just completed a preliminary meeting with investigators for the House Select Committee on Assassinations.21 He was also in the process of writing a book highly critical of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.†
If writer Alanna Nash’s revelations about Colonel Tom Parker are correct—that Parker was a Dutch murderer on the run—then it is quite possible he was working for the FBI to keep tabs on Elvis. Under Colonel Parker’s management, Elvis lost his edge which made him less threatening to the FBI as a performer who might encourage youth rebellion. By 1977, Elvis had become a different kind of threat. He was a superstar with an international following, and he was obsessed with the assassinations of President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. He was so obsessed that he watched the Zapruder film for hours at a time. With a man like Colonel Tom Parker managing Elvis—a man quite possibly on the run for murdering Anna van den Enden in Holland in 1929, a man who quite possibly worked for the FBI—then murdering Elvis would have been an easy task.
The Death of Elvis
Elvis’s girlfriend, Ginger Alden, found his body in the bathroom of his home—Graceland—in Memphis on the morning of August 16, 1977. He was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is still a matter of controversy. Dr. Jerry Francisco, Shelby County medical examiner—the physician who signed the death certificate—stated publicly that Elvis died of "cardiac arrhythmia," that several prescription drugs were found in his blood stream, but did not contribute to his death, he would have died regardless of the drugs. Francisco further described the cause of death as "hypertensive heart disease, with coronary artery disease as a contributing factor."22 Dr. Eric Muirhead, chief of pathology at Baptist Memorial Hospital, reportedly claimed Elvis died from an accidental overdose, or "polypharmacy, the lethal interaction of a number of drugs taken concurrently."23 Surprisingly, Elvis’s father, Vernon Presley, reportedly believed Elvis was murdered. The following is an excerpt from The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, by Alanna Nash, which describes the confusion over the cause of death of the King of rock ‘n’ roll:
Colonel Parker’s behavior at Elvis’s funeral was quite odd, and inappropriate, to say the least. The following is an excerpt from The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, by Alanna Nash:
The Dentist, Dr. Lester Hofman
According Alanna Nash, Elvis went to the office of Dr. Lester Hofman, his dentist, on evening of August 15, 1977—several hours before his dead body was discovered in his bathroom—to have a crown fixed. Apparently it was not an emergency visit. He merely wanted the problem crown taken care of before he started a tour the next evening. The mysterious trip to the dentist occurred after 10:30 PM. This seems quite odd, especially when there was such a controversy about the cause of death. The following is an excerpt from The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, by Alanna Nash, which describes Elvis’s late-night trip to the dentist:
The trip to the dentist is quite peculiar. Most doctors would not see a patient—even a superstar like Elvis—late at night unless it was an emergency. From Alanna Nash’s description of the visit, it was not an emergency. Elvis apparently had a loose crown or something of that nature, but it apparently could have been done any time. So why did Dr. Lester Hofman allow his patient to come to his office after 10:30 P.M.? This is incredibly strange. Is it possible that Hofman called Elvis and made the late-night appointment, or did Elvis schedule it? Is it possible that Hofman slipped Elvis a drug that could trigger or mimic a heart attack? Given the controversy over Elvis’s death, and the fact that Elvis’s own father thought he was murdered, Dr. Lest Hofman should have been a prime suspect. Yet to my knowledge, no one has ever raised the possibility that Dr. Hofman might have been involved.
|1||Alex Constantine, The Covert War Against Rock, p 12|
|2||SOURCES: (1) Encyclopedia Britannica: Blues; (2) used numerous articles about the cited blues masters; (3) Leadbelly, http://www.playazandplayettes.org/Ledbelly.html|
|3||Website promoting book, "Hank Williams: Lonesome Highway," by Colin Escott and Kira Florita. http://www.dacapopress.com/hankwilliams/bio.html|
|4||Robert Palmer, "The Fifties" (article), from the book, Rolling Stone: The Decades of Rock & Roll, by the editors of Rolling Stone, p 16|
|5||Parke Puterbaugh, "Little Richard" (brief article & interview), from the book, Rolling Stone: The Decades of Rock & Roll, by the editors of Rolling Stone, p 35|
|6||Phil Carson, Roy Buchanan: American Axe, p 19|
|7||David McGee, "Carl Perkins," (brief article & interview), from the book, Rolling Stone: The Decades of Rock & Roll, by the editors of Rolling Stone, pp 49-50|
|8||ibid, pp 52 & 53|
|9||Robert Palmer, The Fifties (article), from the book, Rolling Stone: The Decades of Rock & Roll, by the editors of Rolling Stone, pp 17-18|
|10||David McGee, "Carl Perkins," (brief article & interview), from the book, Rolling Stone: The Decades of Rock & Roll, by the editors of Rolling Stone, p 52|
|11||Kristofer Engelhardt, The Beatles Undercover, pp. 53-54; David McGee, "Carl Perkins," (brief article & interview), from the book, Rolling Stone: The Decades of Rock & Roll, by the editors of Rolling Stone, p 51|
|12||Lee Jeske, "Ruth Brown," (brief article & interview), from the book, Rolling Stone: The Decades of Rock & Roll, by the editors of Rolling Stone, pp 23-24|
|13||Phil Carson, Roy Buchanan: American Axe, p 54|
|14||Alanna Nash, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, pp. 39-40|
|15||Photocopy of discharge paper, dated August 19, 1933, for Thomas Parker, from Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, Office of the Detachment Commander; signed by Major A. G. Heilman, assistant Detachment Commander. Photocopy of Parker’s discharge paper is included in book by Alanna Nash, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley.|
|16||Encyclopedia Britannica: Presley, Elvis|
|17||Alanna Nash, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, pp. 37-38|
|18||ibid, p 38|
|19||Billy Stanley and George Erikson, Elvis, My Brother, p 144|
|20||Alanna Nash, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, p 236|
|21||Multiple sources: (1) Jim Marrs, Crossfire, p. 564; (2) New York Times notice: "Man is fined in death of former FBI official", January 15, 1978; (3) Daily log entry from Maryann K. Monteiro, New Hampshire State Police, Nov. 9, 1977, "Hunting accident of Nov. 9, 1977, Telephone calls and radio transmissions"|
|22||Alanna Nash, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, pp. 313-314|
|23||ibid, p 314|
|24||ibid, pp. 313-314|
|25||ibid, pp. 312-313|
|26||ibid, p 305|