As Told By..... MYRNA SMITH
Jerry was probably more aware of the changes in Elvis than I was.
I knew he wasn't himself some nights when he came onstage; he wasn't quite awake yet.
He slept all day and didn't get up 'til late afternoon.
That's when he ate breakfast.
Then he got ready for his show.
And sometimes when he came down, he would still seem half asleep.
Even when he first walked onstage, he'd be half asleep.
But he'd just be doing his show, you know, because he knew it so well.
During the course of his show, whatever he'd had kicked in, and he woke up.
I've seen those times when he was having a hard time, but I'd be pulling for him so hard!
He looked to us for a lot of inspiration.
If you watched his shows you'd sometimes see him looking over at us, pleading with those eyes.
We'd be pulling for him.
We'd make more racket, trying to get him going, you know.
He'd pull it through somehow.
I've seen him sometimes when it was scary; when he was glassy-eyed and not really awake.
It was frightening to me 'cause I thought, "He is gonna fall."
I saw big changes in Elvis toward the end.
There were nights I sensed he was so tired or so down I felt like I had to physically hit the drums much, much harder than I had before.
There were times I would say to him in my mind, "Let's get up.
Let's get going!" just like he would mentally "say" things to me at times.
Sometimes he'd get my signal and he'd understand, but there were some nights when he just seemed so out of it, so down.
Also there'd be certain nights when the people were either too courteous, or too in awe, or too conservative, or whatever you want to say, but the audience wasn't responding like normal, or like what he was used to.
He'd get frustrated and turn around and say, "Let's get the hell out of here!" I mean, he'd do his show - he always respected the public in that sense - but he certainly wasn't going to stay on and do extra encores or work quite as hard.
The band included the rhythm section, about twenty backup singers, and about twelve horn players.
It was a big entourage.
We'd sit around back there in the dressing room and talk about the situation: "Why can't somebody get through to Elvis?"
"We should get Elvis on a health kick."
"I wish we could help him."
We'd say, "Ronnie Tutt, you know him really well.
Why don't you go talk to him ?"
But we all knew it was hopeless because Elvis was surrounded by that little circle of people, you now, all those so-called friends and all those bodyguards.
If you dared to ask, "Can I have five minutes alone with Elvis ?" the answer would be, "Absolutely not!"
They probably figured you were gonna ask him for a Cadillac or something.
If you did get five minutes with him, most likely they'd be opening the door, constantly checking to see what was going on.
It was totally unrealistic to attempt to get thirty minutes alone with him so you could say, "Elvis, man, you could go on a program and clean yourself up, lose some weight.
Man, you'd feel much better."
Those kind of conversations could never have taken place because when we got around Elvis, he controlled the conversation with idle chitchat.