Sonny West Tours Australia:
On Sunday 22 May 2005, I met Sonny West whilst he was touring Australia. I must say that I approached this meeting with some trepidation, as Sonny’s reputation does preceed him.
However, on meeting him, his early reputation proved to be unfounded. He was approachable, down to earth and very friendly.
I had the opportunity, with Club member Jim Gardiner, to sit down and chat with Sonny for about thirty minutes.
During our talk, his straightforward answering technique was a delight and made it very easy to get an opinion off him. We talked about a number of things, from Elvis to the people around him. Each question was answered quickly and without reservation. Sonny was able to qualify all his answers by giving background information.
Jim Porter (JP):
What have you been doing over the past twenty-eight years?
After leaving Elvis, I worked as Head of Security for the band Alabama and then Salem Country Gold ’82. After that, I became a booking agent in California and now my wife and I own a construction service in California.
JP: How did you meet Elvis?
Sonny: I first met Elvis in 1958, just before he left for Germany at a party he held in a Memphis skating rink. I was invited along with my three sisters and was introduced to Elvis by my cousin, Red.
JP: What was your job at that time?
Sonny: I had a job fixing washers and dryers.
JP: When did you start work for Elvis?
Sonny: In 1960, just before Elvis went to Hollywood to film “GI Blues”.
Jim Gardiner (JG): In regards to the book “Elvis – What Happened” do you feel vindicated after all these years over its publication?
Sonny: No, I’ve not been vindicated, but I did it and I’m not ashamed for doing it. We wanted Elvis to realise that he had a problem and it needed to be addressed. I believe we did the right thing. My only regret is that we did not pick Dunlevy to be the ghost writer – Rupert Murdock did. Dunlevey had no compassion and I have not spoken to him since. Also, my only other regret is that I did not get to say goodbye to Elvis before he died.
JP: What do you think about the sale of Elvis Presley Enterprises?
Sonny: I think it’s a good thing. Bob Sillerman, who has bought it is no dummy and he will turn EPE into a billion dollar organisation, unlike the previous management who have let it run down.
JP: What do you think Elvis would think of Lisa Marie and what has happened in her life since he died?
Sonny: Elvis would be ashamed of her … on the grounds of both marrying Michael Jackson and definitely over her use of language and profanities whilst on stage.
JP: What were your favourite times with Elvis?
Sonny: The movie years and getting the chance to play bit parts in movies like “Flamming Star” and “Wild In The Country”. Things were very easy as a security guard with Elvis, until the Manson killings. We all started carrying guns and got suspicious of anyone that came close who we didn’t know.
Sonny’s tour of Australia was not an outstanding success. Those who did attend had varying views of what he was like and how he came across. This is simply a portrayal of how both Jim Gardiner and I found him on the night we met him.