THE KING & I – THE STORY OF TODD SLAUGHTER
In 1956 the broadcast of recorded pop music on the BBC was limited to an hour a day on the Light Programme. Housewives Choice was the only place to hear chart hits during weekdays, with the bonus of extra plays at the weekend with the military service personnel requests show on the not to be missed “Two Way Family Favourites”.
During the summer holidays the broadcaster would give us all some extra needle-time from the Radio and Television Exhibition at Earls Court when visitors would challenge the library staff in Broadcasting House to find and play the top tunes of the time, mostly Elvis, on the programme “Exhibition Choice”. Other than that it was down searching the ether for the American Forces Network, or the English service squirted out in our direction from the mighty transmitters of Radio Luxembourg, and it was on 208 where we were all listening to loads of Elvis Presley tracks together with the hits of home grown talent such as Cliff, Billy Fury and Marty Wilde, each slotted into chunks of record company sponsored programming.
At home we had an old wind up gramophone that played shellac 78s amongst which there was one Elvis HMV single. Next door my playmates Pat and Janice Cook had a Dansette laden with Elvis 45s and EPs and one Presley LP. Not able to afford to buy records I would audition my popular music tracks from the radio networks, and via the girlies next door. And occasionally I would sneak into the peg-boarded booths to ask to hear an Elvis tune at Moore and Stanworth’s, the record shop on the Melton Turn in my home town of Leicester at the start of the Belgrave Road now affectionately called the Golden Mile due to the abundance of amazing Indian owned Jewellery and Sari shops At the age of 16 I left school unable to afford to stay on into the 6th form and went to work for the local authority. Each week I would buy the New Musical Express and marvel at the Christmas advertising space bought by the stars to wish their fans seasonal greetings. The biggest of all was placed by Elvis and his manager Colonel Parker.
The musical press would often carry reports of the endeavours of UK impresarios and their abortive attempts at getting Elvis Presley to appear in concerts over on this side of the pond. The excuses given by Colonel Parker’s office, varied from the fact that he had a bad back, Elvis was scared of flying after a previous near death experience aboard a US commuter plane not forgetting Buddy Holly’s flight death in 1959, and, of course, Presley’s increasing movie commitments.
During July 1962 the first communication satellite was launched and although only able to relay TV pictures from the US to Europe for 22 minutes at a time, the orbiting satellite inspired me to campaign for Elvis to appear live on British TV with the benefit of this new technology.
In his autobiography Tom Jones said that the name “Jimmy Savile” isn’t one that you can go dropping into polite conversation any more, considering the appalling evidence that came to light posthumously of the man’s lifelong evil practices.” He continued by adding that it would be churlish to deny the lengths he appeared to go to get Tom Jones a recording contact with Decca. The same in a similar way applies to me, as you will now read.
Savile was the DJ employed by the Decca Record Company to present their sponsored programmes on Radio Luxembourg, and at that time Elvis Presley’s RCA product in the UK was distributed by Decca. To develop my “Elvis Via Telstar” project I had to meet Jimmy Savile, which I did during his summer season at the Great Yarmouth Royal Aquarium. He was hosting a variety show starring Helen Shapiro with Ronnie Corbett and Roy Castle. It was Roy Castle who inspired me to learn to tap-dance.
Savile having earlier met Elvis on the set of Wild in the Country back in 1961 and claimed to know Colonel Parker very well agreed to promote my “Elvis via Telstar” project during his Teen & Twenty Disc Club programme, of which Elvis Presley was member number 11321, and I was member 45204. The on-air response was enormous, and I collected over the next couple of years a petition approaching a quarter of a million signatures which Savile agreed he would present to Elvis’ manager on his next visit to Hollywood.
Albert Hand with Elvis
More signatures were collected through the pages of “Elvis Monthly” produced since 1960 and selling as many copies as the NME by printer Albert Hand who had also met Elvis on the Wild in the Country film set, but not at the same time as Savile. Pop Weekly, Teenbeat, and Mods Monthly which were all complied in his offices in Heanor, Derbyshire, with London representation overseen by co-director Robert Stigwood – who later became better known for his management of the Bee Gees and subsequent movie blockbusters “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease”. Stigwood had a recording business in which he was partnered by Joe Meek, the guy responsible for writing and producing the first US number one hit from a British band - performed by Billy Fury’s backing group The Tornadoes and that record was, of course, Telstar. Sadly during a depression which saw him imprisoned in his personal middle pits of hell, he shot his landlady and then killed himself
In 1964 the BBC broadcast the first episodes of Top of the Pops from an old church in Manchester, hosted by Jimmy Savile. During a hand over to the London Studios I had him suspended up-side-down tied by his feet to a rope draped over an ecclesiastical beam. I and a female studio aid held the other end of the rope. She whispered that the rope should have been lassoed around his neck, which in view of future revelations was quite profound.
Through my association with Savile I met other show business luminaries , including the producer of British TVs best ever music programme Ready Steady Go! – Elkan Allen. He loved the Elvis via Telstar idea and via his company Associated Rediffusion made an approach to the US TV network ABC to put together a treatment to be presented by Savile to Colonel Parker along with the petition from UK Elvis Fans during his subsequent visit.
That second meeting between Savile with Elvis & Colonel Parker took place on the set of Roustabout. Parker replied that because of a combination of film commitments and movie studio contract exclusivities he couldn’t consider the programme opportunity at that time, but would keep Telstar in mind for the future. He added that having no representation on other planets little green men would possibly be able to see the show for free. I am justifiably proud to say that Parker acknowledged my idea when 9 years later in 1973 Elvis Presley starred in his very own live concert programme “Aloha From Hawaii” beamed around the world by satellite.
Also in 1964 the BBC lost a good chunk of its radio daytime audience to an unusual interloper, and anchored just outside of territorial waters in the North Sea Radio Caroline fired up its transmitter. A chance meeting with DJ Tom Lodge, whose grandfather was something big in wireless telegraphy and also invented the spark plug gave me the chance to suggest that Radio Caroline should have an Elvis Hour and I should host it, I fantasised.
Through the good offices of the heir to his grandfather’s spark plug empire I auditioned at Caroline House, and failed. Not wishing to give up I went out to the ship a year later to read the news, and guess what? I failed again. In all honesty I was a big hunk of no talent, but I did persuade the Caroline bosses to have a daily Elvis spot on both Caroline South and Caroline North with Tom Lodge and Tommy Vance driving the plays off the coast of Frinton, and our honorary Fan Club president (though not at that time) Tony Prince anchored in Ramsey Bay off the coast of Isle of Man.
In 1967 Elvis Monthly editor Albert Hand was unbeknown to most people suffering from the early stages of lung cancer, and having run both the Elvis Presley Fan Club and the Monthly in tandem he was now of a mind to divesting himself from parts of his publishing business which we not commercially viable – the Elvis Fan Club being one of them.
Originally established in London in 1957 and operated by Jeannie Seward and Doug Suteees, once Elvis Monthly hit the bookstalls, it was only a matter of time before they surrendered their stewardship of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain & The Commonwealth – to give our organisation its full branding, to Albert Hand.
Seven years later there was to be no surrender by Albert, but a deal was put into place to sell me the title of what was the world’s most respected fan club. I was in real terms buying fresh-air, just a shell of a business which had no physical membership, no active subscribers, no customers, no stock, and no trading history, but the brand was known throughout the world., and I was justifiably proud to be working for Elvis!
In 1967 Elvis movies were not box office, and his last number one single was” Crying in the Chapel” in 1965, initially ignored at the time by the BBC light programme but promoted heavily by the pirates. In 1967 Indescribably Blue peaked at 21, You Gotta Stop barely made it into the Top 40 at number 38, and a week after I took over the Fan Club Elvis had reached the dizzy heights of 49 with Long Legged Girl With the Short dress On. – a song from his MGM Epic Double Trouble, that co-starred a 16 year old first time British actress our good friend Annette Day. Another Brit Suzanna Leigh had also co-starred with Elvis in the earlier movie for Paramount Pictures “Paradise Hawaiian Style. Both have been frequent guest at our events over the years.
On 12th August 1967 I hosted Albert Hand’s last Elvis Presley Fan Club convention at the Nottingham Palais. Our special guests that day were former programme controller of Radio Caroline Tom Lodge who had left the ship to prepare for his part in the launch of Radio 1, and the Admiral Robbie Dale who was to go back onto the Mi Amigo with Johnny Walker on 13th August (the day prior to the Marine Offences Bill becoming law prohibiting British subjects broadcasting from offshore radio stations).
Knowing that I had previously auditioned and failed, Tom suggested I go back onto the ship with Robbie to become the third DJ, but I had bigger plans! I knew that on the 16th August 1967 – ten years prior to the day that Elvis died, I was to take over the control of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain.
Gone was the free promotion I had enjoyed from my off shore pals, Radio Luxembourg was still awash with pre-recorded sponsored programmes taped in London and flown out each week to the Grand Duchy, but by then there was little space for Elvis within their schedules. When Radio 1 opened on 30th September 1967 Elvis was a mere “revived 45” play, but in November 1967 I did get a 15 minute show on first newly franchised local broadcast station the mighty BBC Radio Leicester.
To re-launch the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain I put together a plan to present a national Fan Club Convention at the De Montfort Hall in my home town of Leicester which would attract lots of publicity. The challenge was to fill every one of the 2,000 seats with something special from Elvis on a big screen, live entertainment from tribute acts, and a bevy of special guests to tease the audience.
DJs were my obvious choice as I knew that they would talk about the forthcoming Elvis festival in Leicester especially if the proceeds were donated to charity. So I gathered together former Caroline North DJ Tony Prince was now working for Radio Luxembourg, former Caroline South boss jok Emperor Rosko whose dad Joe Pasternak had produced a couple of Elvis movies “Spinout” and “Girl Happy” for MGM and was broadcasting on the French Service of Radio Tele Luxembourg from their Paris studios whilst at the same time supplying down the line a Saturday show for Radio 1, and Kid Jensen who had recently arrived from Canada to join the newly reformed 208 team. Other Leicester Elvis Convention guests included number one chart topper Spencer Davis, and Anita Harris was chart-bound with her latest single “Loving you”.
I contacted Colonel Parker with a request to screen King Creole, as it had never been shown on British television, and hadn’t been seen in a theatre for ten years. He agreed and also gave us an opportunity to premiere Elvis’ movie Speedway which co-starred Nancy Sinatra., complete with an on-screen message from Elvis. From the proceeds we bought 3 guide dogs.
We did the same in 1969, this time premiering the Elvis Presley NBC TV Special, plus the BBC launched its very first Radio One Road Show from our event, an outside broadcast produced by Ted Beston and hosted by Rosko. We had loads more guests including Tony Prince who was by now our honorary president, and other well known radio personalities. In the audience were Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, anxious to view Elvis first television appearance in over ten years. Naturalist broadcaster David Attenborough (a Leicester lad), was now controller of BBC 2 television, and he asked the BBC film crew recording the event for the national news, to bring back the NBC print so that he could view it. They did, he liked it, bought it, and scheduled it for his new TV colour service later that year.
In 1970 we turned our annual convention into a truly international event. The venue was the Theatre Nouveau used previously for the Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg. Fans came from all over the UK and Europe to take part in an event promoted by RTL, and filmed by MGM for the movie Elvis That’s The Way It Is. An MGM crew complete director Denis Sanders arrived at Findel Airport in the Grand Duchy without a carnet required to temporarily import a million dollars worth of Hollywood film equipment.
I had to scurry off to the Grand Duke’s offices to get him to call off the customs officers who were about to impound their kit, and it was agreed for me to open an airport side gate to allow the stash to enter the country and avoid the official customs clearance protocol. The finished film received its European premieres simultaneously in Luxembourg City and London hosted by the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club.
With Elvis now firmly entrench in Las Vegas the only thing left for us to do was in 1972 to take members of the fan club see Elvis at the Las Vegas Hilton. 200 fans lived on Heinz Baked beans for two years to afford this adventure which visited Nashville and Memphis with a police escort into the city of Tupelo, Mississippi , and then on to Las Vegas to see the great man on stage. For $10 you could watch the Elvis show whilst enjoying two cocktails, or $15 for the dinner show which was prime rib, with two more cocktails and Elvis, of course. Tipping extra and that tip could be as much as 100 bucks to get close to the stage. After Vegas it was off to Disneyland, Universal, and Knotts Berry Farm – the latter being a branded Jam Factory transformed into a theme park.
It later transpired that third of our passengers were brave enough to ask Colonel Parker if they could meet Elvis and most who did got all their dreams to come true. Some of our group were from Holland, and Colonel Parker spoke to them in Dutch – his native tongue, not ashamed to reveal his true heritage. And it goes without saying that I with my first wife Vicky got to meet the King, along with Ian Bailye and his wife and Tony Prince who was not only the first European DJ to interview Presley for his radio station, but the first ever to introduce him on stage.
So up until Elvis’ death on 16th August 1977 we took fans to see him both in Las Vegas and on tour. We had a group in the United States in June 1977, and we saw the last two concerts that Elvis performed, one in Cincinnati and the last show on June 26th in Indianapolis. I met with Elvis at the airport for my third and last time after he arrived in his plane the Lisa Marie. My meeting was recorded by CBS and sadly it was the last footage filmed of Elvis before his death. From a base of no physical members when I took over the club in 1967, by August 1977 we have an active membership approaching 12,000. All this and more happened, during the first ten years that I was president of the World’s most famous fan club embraced by a wonderful group of fans.
At 10.25pm on 16th August, newscaster Reggie Bosanquet was first to reveal that news was coming out of Memphis Tennessee fearing that Elvis had died, though at that time there was still doubt. In time for the 11.00 o’clock news from the London Daily Mirror millions of people from all over Europe and beyond had turned their radio dial to 208. Mark Wesley announced the singer’s death, and programme controller and our honorary president Tony Prince shelved all the normal programmes, and axed all commercials. For five hours he played non-stop Elvis through the night and spoke to grieving fans (many he knew or had met at various fan club functions or on club holidays) and to those celebrities who contacted the broadcaster to share their condolences. There was no way of calculating the Radio Luxembourg pan-European audience that night, but with at least 15,000,000 from the UK the actual total must have been approaching 150 million – a global all time record for any am frequency broadcaster.
For my part it seemed that I was asked to comment to every news gatherer across the world from as far afield as South Africa and South America. With a dozen domestic TV appearances over the space of a week, almost immediately I was recognised and pointed at by people who previously didn’t know me from a bar of soap. Quite an unnerving experience and something everyone in the public eye must have to hanker for otherwise life must be hell.
Three days after Elvis’s death the Fan Club was staging its annual pre-arranged convention at the Nottingham Palais. It was media mobbed by broadcasters from all over the world. Like Jesus who threw the money changers out of the temple, I had to evict a plethora of preachers who thought now was the time to convert the unworthy.
Elvis death put into doubt the future of our organisation, but those fears were quickly averted when the soon to be closed RCA record pressing plant in Washington Country Durham was reprieved for a further two years of almost total non-stop Presley platter production. Demand for memorial trips to the States were phenomenal and for many years thereafter we were taking more fans to Memphis and beyond than we ever took to see Elvis in concert.
A strike of police and fireman in Memphis over the first anniversary of Elvis’ death put the entire city on lockdown, with a 10 o’clock curfew every evening through until 6.00am the following morning during the industrial action. The city was under martial law, with the Tennessee National Guard patrolling the streets arresting curfew violators, picketing fireman and cops.
All bars in hotels were closed except in our hotel on Union Avenue. For some reason, better known to us, our bar was able to continue to serve booze throughout the night, and news of our dispensation spread through the journalistic community who all arrived on masse at 9.45pm each evening. In the foyer and along all the corridors at one time I counted 38 TV cameras with each bearing station identification stickers from around the world. On the first anniversary of Elvis’ death at Graceland the crowds were huge, and journalists fought for positions to capture the very best shots of the grieving pilgrims at Elvis Presley gravesite. Rumours were permeating around the news community that one distraught fan was about to commit suicide by dousing herself in petrol. The word on the street was that a Sun reporter was armed with a lighter just in case her matches were damp, but happily it was just another urban rumour.
Yorkshire Television reached an agreement with the Fan Club to make a television documentary. It was to record the sights, and sounds of what we got up in Memphis during August 1979. As our plane from the UK landed, there was no expected British television film crew to greet us. Whilst we were in flight there an ITV technicians strike called, and every union member downed their cameras cables and clapper boards. The programme host Alan Whicker, locked himself and his partner Valerie Kleeman, in their Peabody Hotel Suite and made no appearance what so ever.
Having invested such a lot in their Whickers’ World Memphis Special it was doubtful that the Leeds based ITV contractor would try again, but try again they did. This time in August 1980 Yorkshire Television had a programme host who was bigger in the US than in the UK, who flew out with our fans, stayed with our group, and did everything that we did, whilst Memphis and Tupelo residents looked on in amazement when seeing David Frost riding shotgun ahead of our coach convoy.
At Elvis Presley’s Mississippi birthplace it seemed like the entire population of the town turned out to greet the television superstar, including the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the State Governor. The resulting programme was an ITV Christmas special capturing an audience of over 10 million.
Back in the UK we had teamed up with Pontin’s to present a week long Elvis festival initially in Camber Sands East Sussex and a couple of years later we moved to their holiday camp in Hemsby, Near Great Yarmouth. Up to 3,000 fans partied each year celebrating the legacy that Elvis had left behind, and our cabaret act included British hit maker past and present, Elvis’ former musicians and friends and the usual sprinkling of radio presenters. Acts as diverse as Manfred Mann, The Seachers, and Freddie Starr often appeared on our stages.
For those unable to attend our weeks of nonsense we still presented our annual charity conventions generally in our old stomping ground of the De Montfort Hall in Leicester. In 1979 after Marty Wilde and the Wild Cats came off of our stage on walked Reginald Bosanquet, the ITN the news reader who two years earlier announced the possibility of Elvis Presley’s death. He was greeted by rapturous applause, and after his speech and fan club award presentations a news hungry press descended on our venue. You see two hours before his appearance in Leicester he unexpectedly announced his resignation from News At Ten.
It was newscaster Anna Ford who recalled "Reggie was a dear. I mean, you wouldn't have chosen a man who had epilepsy, was an alcoholic, had had a stroke and wore an ill fitting toupée to read the news, but the combination was absolute magic” And the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club was able to share in that magic. I first met my newscaster hero a very dishevelled Reggie at Wimbledon after a heavy game of tennis. He was a most generous, yet humble and amusing upper class giant of a man. We ate a bowl of bangers and mash, drank a bottle of red, and afterwards he offered, “I always love to trough here – great nosebag old boy.”
In 1981 Warner Brother released a new Elvis movie, “This is Elvis”. With Colonel Parker still at the helm of everything Elvis he was taking care if business in his way. The movie deal at the height of the ongoing aftermath of Elvis’ death was great positioning, and attracted huge interest from fans and media pundits alike.
Using archive footage and event re-creations This Is Elvis re-told his life story. The highs and lows, and most of all his successes, are well documented in a production that cost half a million dollars to manufacture and netted eight times that figure from theatres, video and DVD sales during its lifetime. The Official Elvis Presley Fan club supplied a variety of historical fan footage and I was given carte blanche by Warners to promote the title to journalists and celebrities in their private theatre in Wardour Street. That was fun!
The following year Graceland was opened up to the general public. The costs of upkeep of the Whitehaven property just to allow fans to walk up the drive and view the exterior of the house and the gravesite had escalated, so it was inevitable that the home had to become a viable tourist experience to secure a revenue flow to support Elvis’ only heir, his daughter Lisa Marie Presley who was only 9 when her father died and apart from the Graceland estate and a modest one million dollars in the bank in 1977 the family was faced with a $6 million dollar tax demand from the IRS.
Our Fan Club entertainment events, holiday camp festivals and trips to Memphis were hugely successful, all attracting lots of media attention and subsequent capacity audiences. At the time of Elvis’ death the membership was a respectable 12 thousand. During the ten years that followed it rose to almost 40 thousand, with the fan club having to employ a staff of 10 full and part time bodies to deal with subscriptions, mail order sales and holiday promotions.
In the run up to the tenth anniversary we knew this it was going to be a media circus. For our part we produced a commemorative “Elvis: Ten Years After” book, which I helped to adapt into a programme for Radio Trent, the commercial Nottingham based broadcaster for which I was given with a Sony Award for the Best Popular Music Programme in1987.
In that same year we took one thousand fans to Memphis for the now annual Elvis Presley Estate commemorations. Three years earlier Elvis’ two aeroplanes “The Lisa Marie”, and “Hound Dog 1” had been moved to Elvis Presley Boulevard adding value to the Graceland experience.
In 1989 the Elvis Fan Club partnered a Liverpool based business to open an Elvis Exhibition in Blackpool. “The Life & Times of Elvis” was Graceland’s first attempt to support the display of a variety of costumes, artefacts and personal possessions outside of Memphis. Although hugely successful, in part due to additional out of the box publicity! One of our Elvis Exhibition Blackpool sea-front trams killed the Coronation arch-villain character Alan Bradley whilst in hot pursuit of Rita Fairclough But that wasn’t enough to keep out turnstiles spinning and after two years it closed with debts so great that it cost me my home and every cent! (I had accrued a considerable sum a few years earlier with the publication of two non-Elvis magazine titles, one CB News to promote the growth of Citizens Band Radio in the UK, and the second Satellite TV News featuring the possibility of direct domestic reception of TV channels supplied by world – wide broadcasters.)
One former Radio Luxembourg presenter Kid Jensen was as the time of our CB News magazine launch appointed news anchor in Atlanta for the satellite delivered service WTBS the superstation. On an assignment to report of the interest of CB radio in Florida, it became apparent to me that the growth of this industry would be tempered dramatically by a new technology on the horizon – that being the Mobile Phone.
So I headed to Atlanta to catch up with Kid Jensen who I had worked closely with when I was publisher and editor of Club 208 magazine for Radio Luxembourg. It was 1st June 1980 and I was invited by Kid to attend a reception at the TV stations’ dish farm. Greeted by Ted Turner dressed in a sailor’s cap having recently won the America’s cup and his then wife Jane Fonda, we were there to celebrate the launch of Cable News Network, now the global news-gatherer CNN. My CB News magazine was on its way out and Satellite TV News within three months was on the presses, following an unexpected door opener in Las Vegas engineered by Colonel Parker who was able to get me access to a closed-door Satellite TV exhibition being held under high security at the Las Vegas Convention centre.
The stress of my personal losses over the Blackpool Elvis exhibition affected my immune system. During a visit to an unclean dentist and I contracted a viral infection which destroyed my heart muscle. Within days I was hospitalised with cardio-myopathy, and on the donor list for a replacement heart. A fog on the A14 attributed to multi-death pile-up and subsequently it was possible to harvest 8 hearts. I was one of the very lucky recipients when on 19th November 1994 I was gifted with a new life, for which I am still very humbled and grateful to donor’s family for allowing me to survive, in spite of their tragic loss.
During my stay in Papworth Hospital I received a forest of flowers from Graceland, and during my hospitalisation my wife Juliet received a daily phone call from Colonel Parker for an update on my progress. I did so well that I was discharged early after only 19 days, which lead to the abandonment of a celebrity visit to my bedside, that of Jimmy Savile, who we have subsequently learned had an unhealthy interest in hospitals up and down the country.
It would be a cop-out to repeat the happenings within our Elvis Fan Club community year after year, name-dropping the vast numbers of celebrities who have supported our cause because to the average person it would appear to be more of the same. To the avid fan however each year brought different pleasures especially when we had visitors from the United States, stars in their field of Elvis, but anonymous souls in the real world.
One such visitor was a hardnosed RCA record producer from Los Angeles, who since Elvis’ death had spent hours re-inventing Elvis’ retail consumer catalogue, and tweaking old master-tapes to produce a richer sound. Joan Deary had flown into London to guest at our annual Hemsby Elvis week, and was to take questions from prying fans. On the drive from Gatwick to Norfolk she spoke about her resilience to the San Andreas fault line passing through LA, and confessed that she was prepared for what the locals referred to the inevitable big one. In the basement of her home she had two large barrels. In one she stashed the Elvis reel to reel tapes which at some time in the future she was intending to re-work - plus bottled water, canned food and preserves which she painstakingly refreshed every three months. In the other there were two sleeping compartments, one for her and the other for her sister. She had stored in barrel number one enough vitals to survive a month.
Joan Deary had heard a great deal about British pirate radio from former Radio Luxembourg DJ Don Wardell who was now in charge of something big in RCA’s Sunset Boulevard HQ. She was curious to know how her record pluggers got her company’s material out to the DJs now that the surviving floating radio giant was very much illegal, and well hidden somewhere in the middle of the North Sea. In rubber boats, I revealed, so that Her Majesty’s coastguards couldn’t track them on radar – she was most intrigued.
The highlight of her Hemsby Holiday camp visit was the Q & A with possibly the weirdest question posed by a Glaswegian fan who wanted to know why Elvis records in her local coop were so expensive and was she in a position to do anything about it.
Year after year Elvis’ former musicians and backing vocalists loved the opportunity to visit us limeys if only to top up their pension funds. Only one regular was willing to become truly involved in the madness. Elvis’ former drummer DJ Fontana participated in everything from judging the wet tee shirt competition, to being driven around the campsite in his bed at 7 o’clock each morning banging two saucepans together – his novel way of giving everyone a wake-up call.
Graceland has become the second most visited home in the USA second only, they say, to the Whitehouse. I guess Paul Simon said it best when he sang: “I’m going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee. I’m going to Graceland. Poor boys and pilgrims with families. And we are all going to Graceland.” Since Elvis death I have promoted fan club holidays to the US with a tally total of passengers of around 25,000 Elvis Fans. I have the key to the City of Tupelo, and honorary citizenships to the Cities of Memphis and Shelby County.
I have been head of the world’s best known and most respected fan club, and been part of Elvis and his legacy now for a staggering 50 years. I have met some amazing fans and celebrities, some who are now doing time, and others who should have! I have looked in from the outside of the outside of show-business, and I have made some remarkable friendships. There is one thing for certain, you don’t forget someone with a name like Todd Slaughter easily. I guess a man cannot ask for more.