As fans of Elvis Presley gather at Graceland, Pat Boone, now 83, recalls his friendship with Elvis Presley, and the secret of his long life
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
LA MIRADA, CA (ANS – August 17, 2017) — Wednesday, August 16, marked the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, known to the world as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Presley, who was the first rock ‘n’ roll superstar, was just 42 years old when he passed away on August 16, 1977 at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, from a heart attack.
Thousands of Elvis fans of gathered at his iconic Memphis home, Graceland, on Tuesday to honor his life a day prior to the 40th anniversary of his death.
The vigil was attended by Elvis’ former wife Priscilla Presley, 72, who was seen mingling with attendees in the afternoon.
According to People Magazine, Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’ only child, was also at the memorial alongside 10-year-old twin daughters Harper Lockwood and Finley Lockwood. The 47-year-old rocker lit candles with mourners, joining them for a procession throughout the grounds of the 13.8-acre estate — which includes the graves of Elvis, his parents and his grandmother.
At a much smaller event, held at Biola University, La Mirada, California, dubbed as “Icons of Aging,” and staged as part the Season of Life conference series (http://seasonoflife.net/) founded by well-known gerontologist, Di Patterson, Pat Boone, now 83, Elvis’s friend, and one-time musical rival, agreed to talk with me before going on stage to sing his hit from 60 years ago, “Love Letters in the Sand.”
His daughter, Debby Boone, also sang her huge hit, “You Light Up My Life,” at the same event. See my story on her interview at https://assistnews.net/index.php/component/k2/item/3182-debby-boone-still-lighting-up-our-lives-after-all-these-years
Charles Eugene “Pat” Boone (born June 1, 1934), has had an amazing career in which he sold more than 45 million records, had 38 top-40 hits, and appeared in more than 12 Hollywood films, looked astonishing well when we met.
According to Billboard, Boone was the second-biggest charting artist of the late 1950s, behind only Elvis Presley, and was ranked at No. 9 in its listing of the Top 100 Top 40 Artists 1955–1995. Boone still holds the Billboard record for spending 220 consecutive weeks on the charts with one or more songs each week.
I asked Pat how it was that Elvis died all those years ago, and yet he has continued with his long career, so I what went right for him and what went wrong for Elvis?
“Well I think a couple of things,” Boone said. “Firstly, there’s such a thing as self-programming your life, both unconsciously and subconsciously, and it began going wrong for Elvis when his mom, Gladys, died [on August 14, 1958 at Graceland] and sometimes it’s hard for anybody, including Elvis, to project his own life beyond that of his mother.
“He died when he was just 42, but his untimely death was, in my opinion, aided and abetted by doctors who allowed him to have any kind of prescription medication he wanted; to sleep or wake up, to have energy, to diet, and in the end, he was he just was a bag of prescription medication; and they took their toll on his physical health.”
Tragically, Elvis was found in the bathroom of his home in Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee and his cause of death was ruled as a heart attack.
“So,” said Boone, “he just didn’t wake up; and it’s only because he’d been in some drug rehab, not from hard drugs, but from prescription drugs. And so those things took their toll and it’s a shame because I often wonder I enjoy wondering he was my friend what would we be doing together.
“Would he still be performing like I am? Would he have written several books like I have? And would he still be making movies, playing old guys like I am? Or, would he be retired? I just don’t know. We’ll never know because he, and James Dean, and two or three other great performers died young. So as far as we’re ever aware, they’ll always be young. There’s something to be said for that, but I’d rather be where I am.”
I mentioned to Pat if part of the problem for Elvis was that he didn’t want to listen to any advice from those who loved him.
“Well, actually, he did want advice. I know that because he spoke with me once about that privately when he was at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, and we went back in a big walk-in closet. Elvis turned to me and said, ‘You know Oral Roberts?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’ He then said, ‘I’d like to talk to him some time.’ I was astonished and told him, ‘Let me give you a clue. Your name is Elvis Presley. Call O.R.U. in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and say “I’m Elvis Presley, and I’d like to talk to President Oral Roberts” and, in 30 seconds, he’ll be on the phone. ‘Oh I couldn’t do that,’ he responded. ‘I don’t know him, but I thought maybe you could tell him I’d like to talk to him.’ So I said, ‘Well, I will.’
“And I did call Oral, and in two or three days, he was out there meeting privately with Elvis, who was looking for spiritual guidance, counsel, and just spiritual support because he grew up in a church.
“His mom and dad and he went to an Assembly of God church when he was a young boy and they enjoyed the singing and the sermons and the worship and all of it. He missed that so much and so, after his shows — he would do two in Las Vegas, or one huge concert somewhere else — and keep his musicians afterwards and then sing gospel songs until three or four in the morning because he loved the songs.
“Rex Humbard once told me that he also met with Elvis and said that he was hungering for fellowship as he didn’t have much in the way of Christian fellowship.”
Boone said that when Presley was making his movies in Hollywood, he invited him to a Bible study in his Beverly Hills home.
“Priscilla did eventually come, but not Elvis,” Pat said. “The people around him were nominally Christian, but they were also curious about eastern religions. They actually took Elvis to a Self-Realization Fellowship kind of meeting somewhere in Santa Monica. He was looking for guidance and that sense of belonging to God and to fellowship with Christians, but that probably was the best place to find it.
“Charlie Hodge, his guitar player, told me on one occasion, that Elvis, in his last days, was seriously considering turning his concerts into a sort of expanded evangelistic outreach, where he would do a lot of his hit songs and then sing the gospel songs he loved, and then offer some sort of an altar-call for people to come to God — however they perceived him or her or them to be– which was going to be very confusing to people who were Bible-oriented, but it was not going to be. He was trying to incorporate everybody’s religious ideas into one homogenous thing and that is not what Jesus said when he stated, ‘I am the way, the truth, the life, no man comes to the father but by me.’
“If I had known that Elvis was planning this, I would have certainly tried to get with my buddy and say, ‘Wait a minute, Elvis. You’ve got to be aware that not everybody’s ideas are acceptable to God. We’ve got to go to Him for His ideas, and then commit ourselves to those. I think Elvis would have gotten it. So I’m just telling you he was hungry spiritually.”
He added, “He only got three Grammys because he, and I, preceded the Grammys. There were no Grammy awards at that time, but he got three posthumously for his gospel recordings. Those were the only Grammys Elvis ever got. The greatest recording artist of all time and he only got three Grammys for his gospel music.”
I concluded the interview, which will be part of an upcoming “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com) that will also include daughters Debby and Lindy, by asking him why he was still around after so many people in the music business, and in Hollywood, had lost their lives.
“It’s got to be my relationship with God, because I can’t take credit for it,” he replied. “I was born with a healthy body, with a high IQ, and I didn’t have anything to do with either one. And yet I tried to be healthy and I tried to guide my life, as I’ll share here today, by Biblical principles, because they work. I mean it is a practical way to live and I’m getting the benefit of it.”
Note: I’d like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.
Photo captions: 1) Happier Days: Elvis Presley with his wife, Priscilla, and their daughter, Lisa Marie. 2) Elvis in his later years. 3) Pat Boone, the teen idol. 4) Elvis Presley and Pat Boone with a friend. 5) Pat Boone singing “Love Letters in the Sand” at the event at Biola University. (Photo: Dan Wooding). 6) Dan Wooding with Pat Boone, after the interview.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 54 years. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books and has two US-based TV programs and also a weekly radio show. Dan’s most recent honor was a top humanitarian award at a film festival in Beverly Hills, California, for his long-standing reporting on persecuted Christians around the world. It was presented to him by his son, Peter Wooding, who also read out a letter of support for Dan receiving the special honor that was written by Pat Boone.
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