Carol
Hunter

Charles Stone, left, David Stanley, Elvis' stepbrother, centre, and Elvis

Charles Stone, front, with Elvis

Col. Parker with Charles' daughter Lindsay..on a visit to Charles' home in Dallas, TX

ETA Kraig Parker with Loanne Parker, Colonel Parker's wife

Charles Stone and Loanne Parker

Elvis Tribute Artists Radio

Ladyluckmusic.com

To begin with, I asked Charles to tell me what his role was in the production of Elvis’ tours in the l970's.

“My job was to liaise with Colonel Parker and, when we toured I would book the arenas and route the tours so the sound men and equipment could get there by driving if possible...as the show involved planes and we all flew to the cities the tours were booked in.


I would price the tickets and then hold a press conference in most cities and announce the show date and the time tickets would go on sale. I would oversee all ticket sales until the venues were sold out. I arranged the security, rental of some equipment and staffing of the arenas – this was all done approximately 60 days in advance of the dates. By the time we actually went on one tour, we would have another one already booked and ready to go on sale. The Colonel was a numbers man and I had to have the figures available for him at all times–as I was the one who knew how much each venue grossed and how much the expenses were. On the tours, I would meet the Colonel one or two days in advance or even fly with him to the first city. When the tours started in any city east of the Mississippi river, Colonel and Sonny West and staff would stop in Dallas and pick me up and continue to the first city. When we arrived, I would call the police chief or his designated officer assigned to our security to meet with Colonel and Sonny. They would go over the arrangements for Elvis’ personal security at the hotel. I handled all security at the venues. On a typical show day , I would have breakfast with the Colonel, Sonny, Tom Hulett (Concerts West promoter), and Al Dvorin to go over future dates. Colonel would leave for the next city around noon. I would go to the arena at noon for stage call to make sure all was in order to set up. I would meet with the arena manager to go over all security, ushers, etc., for the show and make arrangements to settle the bills. I would usually go back to the hotel around 4 pm to pack and have dinner, and return to the arena at about 5-5:30 pm to oversee the show. Backstage security was my responsibility and sometimes it wasn’t easy as the Elvis show allowed no one backstage, unlike other rock shows, so it was a learning experience for the arenas the first time we worked in each one. I made sure the arena opened on time and settled any outstanding accounts before intermission. During Elvis’ performance, I would be working out in the arena making sure that the police kept the aisles and the front of the stage clear.


When the show was over, I would go with the Elvis bus to the airport and fly on the Lisa Marie to the next city where we were met by the Colonel and we would start the exact same process all over.”


How did you become involved with Colonel Parker and with producing Elvis’ tours?

“How I got started with the Elvis show? This is something I will never forget. I was in Providence, RI working on a Frank Sinatra tour when I was called backstage by my boss, Tom Hulett. He told me to be in Montgomery, AL the next day and that tickets for an Elvis show would arrive by Federal Express. Since I was the only person in the company who had sold tickets to a concert there (remember there were no computer tickets in those days), I was assigned the job of selling the tickets the next day. I arranged all the sellers and the next day we were sold out in a few hours. I called Vegas and reported the sell out – now keep in mind that I had only worked with rock concerts up until this time, and I had heard stories about Elvis and the Colonel (that the Colonel was a tyrant, etc., which, later on, I found to be untrue -- he was a kind and gentle man and most of all very fair). Well, Colonel answered the phone and, after I found the strength to talk, he asked me if all the tickets were sold. I said yes. He told me to open each drawer and look again. I took this to be an insult as the money and tickets balanced, but I did as he asked. I told him all were empty and informed him of the amount of the money we’d taken in. He said, “Charlie, come to Vegas.” I said I couldn’t because I had to rejoin the Sinatra tour. He said, “Just a minute”...Tom Hulett got on the phone and said that no matter what, to be in Vegas that evening. Well, I arrived at the Las Vegas Hilton late that evening and I met the Colonel at breakfast the next morning. As I recall, no business was discussed at breakfast, but afterwards we went to his office in Suite 350 and started booking another tour. I was still there 9 days later! I guess the Colonel liked me because from that time on I was only involved with the Colonel -- sub-contracted, you might say, from my bosses Jerry Weintraub and Tom Hulett (of Concerts West). The Elvis tours were so important to our company that I was only to work with the Colonel from then on.”


What are some of the highlights you remember -- meeting Elvis, favourite show, memorable moments....?

“After I started working the tours, one part of my job was to meet Elvis at the back door of the venue and escort him to the dressing room. I was told not to start a conversation with him under any circumstances, so I just spoke to Joe Esposito. This went on for 8 or 9 months, until one day Elvis stopped outside the dressing room and said, “Hello, I’m Elvis” and shook my hand. I said, “Hi, I’m Charles.” That was my first introduction to Elvis.


My favorite concert was one in Asheville, North Carolina. This show was special because Joe called the venue ahead of time and said that Elvis wanted to do a request show. We passed a large bucket around and people put pieces of paper with their song requests in it. Well, needless to say, most of the songs requested were the early ones. Elvis knew some and some he just faked...the band knew them all! This was a great show!! At least to me it was, maybe because the other shows were all the same. Keep in mind I was an Elvis fan before I started working the tours so I really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved, and there were very few people who were able to do what I did.


The most memorable concert for me was a show in Madison, Wisconsin. When I arrived at the venue in the early afternoon, everything was normal.... piano was there, tuned... drums there, etc. It seemed like another day at the office. Well, not so fast.... about 5 pm when I asked for the chief of security for the stage, I was informed that no security had been ordered for the show. This was the first time we had worked this venue and I had gone over this with the venue manager but at 5 pm the day of the show with doors opening at 7 what did or didn’t get done was really not so important at that moment. What was important was that I find some security from somewhere... and the police (our usual security) could not put it together in time. Luckily, the manager and I did find enough private security to get by. I told Dick Grob that we had a small security staff and to be careful. Fortunately for me, the show went off without any problems, but that was the scariest moment I had at a show. And the Colonel never did know about it....only Dick Grob.


Another time, in a venue which I won’t name, the fire marshall came back stage and the Colonel just happened to be sitting there in his chair smoking a cigar. The fire marshall said there was a bomb scare and he had to empty the building -- this was at intermission with a sold out house and Elvis expected in a few minutes! The Colonel told the fire marshall that he couldn’t make all these people leave and then have them come back later that night to see the show after he’d searched for a bomb.... the fire marshall said yes he could and would.....Colonel said to me and Tom Hulett and all others in the show, “Let’s go.” He got up and started out the door and said to call Elvis and tell him not to come. The fire marshall asked where he was going. Colonel said if there was a bomb in the building he was leaving and canceling the show. Guess what.....the fire marshall said maybe he wouldn’t have to empty the building after all and maybe the threat was a hoax. This is how the Colonel handled a fire marshall who most likely wanted to get money for allowing the show to go on!!”


Looking back now, how do you remember Elvis as a person and human being?

“I remember Elvis as an individual who truly thought he could do most anything . He was very humble and always polite to me. He was the most talented individual I have ever known. His charisma was something words cannot describe.”


You’ve recently become involved in the ETA world ...can you tell us a bit about that and the ETA who has impressed you so much?

“I was asked to judge an Elvis contest at the Hard Rock Café in Dallas, TX last August. In the past, I have always declined to be a judge, but I accepted this time because some of my friends are Elvis fans and wanted to go. Kraig Parker was the headline performer of the evening and we stayed after the contest to watch his show. After 25 years of not having any interest in an impersonator, I was absolutely amazed at his show. This was the closest thing to the real thing I have ever seen. I went to see Kraig perform a few more times after that -- he was singing to track music but he had the entire house rocking. I approached him to help with his career, and -- here we are today!


[On this page, there are some recent photos taken in Las Vegas...here, Charles explains:]

Recently, while in Las Vegas at a fair and exposition convention, I introduced Kraig to Dick Grob, Elvis’ chief of security. Dick Grob stayed in our booth for most of the convention to help. One evening, I also took Kraig to dinner with Mrs. Parker, Colonel’s widow, and for the first time she allowed conversation about Elvis and the Colonel with someone she didn’t know well. Kraig was able to ask anything he wanted and got answers. Needless to say, Kraig very much enjoyed the time he spent with Mrs. Parker and with Dick Grob.”


Many thanks to Charles Stone for sharing some of his great memories and stories with us and for providing us with the photos you see on this page.


For more on Kraig Parker, see this month’s article on Kraig

and be sure to check out Kraig’s website: www.thekinglives.com


Charles, left, Rick Stanley, Elvis' stepbrother, centre, and Elvis

Charles Stone and Colonel Parker

Dick Grob, Elvis' Chief of Security, ETA Kraig Parker, and Charles Stone

Charles and Elvis

This month’s column profiles Charles Stone, from Dallas, Texas, who, in the l970's, worked with Elvis, Colonel Parker, and the rest of the Elvis crew to produce Elvis’ tours and to arrange his touring schedule and security. In this column, Charles shares some of his memories of the eight years he worked with Elvis and Colonel Parker...and he also tells us about his current involvement in the ETA world and his association with tribute artist, Kraig Parker.