ELVIS ' HUMOR
GIRLS, GUNS & GUITARS
by Steven Bo Keeley
review by Nigel Patterson
Service Press, USA, 2016, Softcover, 408 pages, Illustrated (final chapter), ISBN-13: 978-1501072253
Laughter is pure freedom, like being a kid again – Elvis Presley
Elvis was well known as a practical joker and a person who liked to laugh. In this context it is surprising it has taken so long for a substantive record of the fun side of Elvis’ personality to be brought together in one place as author Bo Keeley has done in his latest book, Elvis' Humor Girls, Guns & Guitars.
Elvis’ Humor, is a clever release and an important one. This is achieved despite most of the book containing nothing that is original (apart from its opening and final chapters - more on these later), but thematically it is very original!
Oxymoron you say? Well, what Bo Keeley has done that is so clever is that he has mined the available printed and online record on Elvis and interviewed some of those who knew him, to compile a very impressive 290 examples of Elvis’ humor. Each account has its discrete title and all include source details including the relevant page number.
Elvis’ Humor is laden with funny situations, unusual characters and inanimate things including midgets, elephants, Scatter the chimpanzee, a tricky thermometer, Elvis doubling as the Lone Ranger, sport, Elvis kissing a woman while his face was covered in shaving cream (what a smooth guy Elvis was) and one incident, that while funny, also had a serious underside to it, the Colonel’s ticket scam. The result is a literal pot pourii of fun things that bring a smile to your face.
From chirping crickets that Elvis knew were Pat Boone fans and the Colonel’s state-of-the-art radio made out of a pineapple, screwdriver and electrical cord, to snakes up a tree, “little Elvis” saluting and the day Elvis faced off against the late Muhammad Ali, Elvis’ Humor is chock full of what many would say are only anecdotal minutiae, but which, as a whole, reflect something much more important than minutiae – they symbolise a very important part of who Elvis Presley was as a person (hence why this release is, itself, an important one)!
Here is a small (edited) sample of the smile inducing delights inside the more than 400 pages of Elvis’ Humor:
Violets are Pink - Bill and Elvis were the show. Scotty just stood alongside Elvis and did what he did best – play his guitar. Elvis and Bill had a regular shtick, the standard for country bands, where the bass player was the comedian.......Elvis was a natural foil, and in one act Bill walks over to Elvis’ microphone...
‘Roses are red and violets are pink,” Bill says.
“No- roses are red and violets are blue,” Elvis corrected.
“No, No, man. Roses are red and violets are pink.”
“Naw, you’re wrong, Bill.”
“I know Violet’s are pink,”he says, at which point he yanks a pair of pink panties from his back pocket and holds them up for the crowd to see.
“I know Violet’s are pink ‘cause I got them right here.” (Scotty Moore, Scotty and Elvis: Aboard the Mystery Train)
On Stage Anything is Possible - A fan gave him [Elvis] a water pistol while he was on stage. The fans had been playfully shooting each other with a few water pistols earlier during the show.....When Elvis was given his water pistol, he too decided to play with it, shooting J.D. Sumner and Charlie Hodge. Then he decided to shoot the audience with it. All hell broke loose. At least ten other water pistols appeared from nowhere, and they starting blasting away at Elvis. It was shoot out at the O.K. Corral! (Ed Parker, Inside Elvis)
Kiss or Scarf? - I remember a little girl from Japan who got up on stage, Elvis turned to her and said ‘what do you want honey, scarf or a kiss?’ She looked at him and said ‘no’. Elvis asked her again what she wanted and she said ‘James Burton’. Elvis roared with laughter...(Charlie Hodge, Me ‘n Elvis)
Upstaged - On our way back from the bathroom, we were were walking even faster than we had before. We passed a little lounge where a cover band, and “Irish” show band, was playing. Their lead singer was a big burly guy who happened to be in the middle of singing an Elvis Presley tune. The big guy wasn’t bad, but he was overdoing the Elvis vibrato just a bit. Without breaking stride, Elvis said, “Jerry, wait here,” and stormed into the lounge. He walked right up on the stage, hoisted his cane like he was going to clobber the guy and said, “If you you’re gonna do it, do it right!” He gave the crowd in the lounge a great big wink, hopped off the stage, and zoomed right out of there. But the big singer didn’t see the wink – he’d been so startled that he’d fallen over on the stage......Elvis leaned over to tell me: “Jerry, go back and invite that guy and his band to come up to the suite after the show.” (Jerry Schilling, Me and a Guy Named Elvis)
Black Ear - Bill Reynolds, a younger brother of actress Debbie Reynolds, was Elvis’ make-up man for the 1968 Western Charro! After finding out that Elvis loved to play pranks on others, Bill painted the receiver of Elvis’ phone with black shoe polish. To put the trick in motion, he went to Elvis’ dressing room and told the star that he had a call from the Colonel. Elvis ran to the phone, put the receiver to his ear, and said hello to his manager. When he heard no response, he asked if anyone was there........Elvis walked around the movie lot all day with one ear covered with black polish. He eventually bumped into one of his actor friends, who began to laugh as Elvis drew closer to him.......When he touched his ear, Elvis was stunned to find his hand covered with shoe polish......Elvis yelled at the make-up man and then shook his hand and thanked him for playing the best and most successful prank on him. (Jim Curtin, Elvis: Unknown Stories Behind the Legend)
Elvis talking to Wanda Hill - Now ah get mad, cause it’s a woman [in my bed] and she’s in my bed and ah never told ‘em to do that and I’m not feelin’ like messin’ ‘round see, so ah tell her to get out. She keeps on talkin’ low and sexy and ah tell her louder ... nothin’, she just keeps talking. So ah walk over and hit the bed and yell at her ... and nothin’ – she ignores me ... so ah grab her long blonde hair and her whole body lifts up ... light as a feather ... it’s a blow-up life size doll! You know, with one of those tape machines in her ... it’s ... whatever ... belly with sexy tapes. (Wanda Hill, We Remember Elvis)
Despite its title, Elvis' Humor is just not about Elvis having fun. It is bookended by two stimulating chapters, each with more serious intent. The opening chapter is The Psychology of Elvis’ Humor, a considered and thought-provoking exploration of its titular subject matter (where, for instance, we learn about Benign Violation Theory), though it is not without the occasional dollop of tongue-in-cheek commentary:
Elvis’ closest chum was Scatter. He could almost sign, “I am Elvis’ chimp impersonator”.
The concluding chapter is a very interesting 26 page reflection on Elvis’ love of a particular sport (remember Presley Center Courts?) and is titled, Elvis and the Memphis Racquetball Mafia. Bo Keeley has a particular interest in the subject as he was a National Champion and touring pro during the sport’s boom in the 1970s. The chapter contains a number of b&w visuals including several that are Elvis related.
Verdict: Elvis’ Humor Girls, Guns & Guitars is a hoot of a read. The author has done fans (and EPE) a great service by assembling nearly 300 examples of Elvis’ humor in his book. It is a fitting record of an important and often neglected aspect of Elvis’ personality, and when you read it I guarantee you will smile, laugh, and think about why Elvis is important to you!
About Bo Keeley: Steven “Bo” Keeley has achieved the odd thing or two in his life (gross understatement intended).
He is a veterinarian, naturalist, holistic healer, author (of more than 20 books) and professional athlete who has travelled to 105 countries on a shoestring (to name but a few of his accomplishments).
Bo is also an adventurer whose Wikipedia page reads like Indiana Jones.
Coming in July: Bo Keeley talks to EIN
Review by Nigel Patterson.
-Copyright EIN June 2016 -
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