One of the most outspoken representatives of the first American Rock Culture of the mid-50s, Kay Wheeler formed the very first documented National Elvis Presley Fan Club in the world. She was a teen-leader in the early rock & roll movement who stepped out in the media and dared to represent Elvis and the scandalous new rock & roll to the outraged adults of the boring, sterile Eisenhower generation in the mid-50s. Kay was also a girl friend and a promoter of Elvis Presley in his early career - whom Gladys Presley, Elvis' mother favored as a candidate for Elvis, with the comment "Kay reminds me of myself when I was young."
As if all this excitement was not enough, Kay was imported to Hollywood at the tender age of 17 to make films for American International studios and to be the "Hollywood/West Coast Editor" of COOL and HEP KATS MAGAZINE, a contributing editor to DIG MAGAZINE and MODERN SCREEN MOVIE MAGAZINE, among others.
But above all, Kay loved to dance--developing her own style of rock & roll dancing, she called, the "ROCK & BOP - with dance steps that she taught to the early Elvis himself (who was then only known for shaking his leg) when they met at San Antonio, Texas. Kay was the VERY FIRST WHITE FEMALE TO EVER DO A ROCK & ROLL TOUR when she traveled with the Johnny Carroll band in a promotional tour in major Texas cities for the movie, ROCK BABY ROCK IT. Kay had a center stage dance number dressed in hot pink velvet pedal pushers with a blue spotlight - while Johnny Carroll sang!
But before all the notoriety and media whirlwind hit Kay's life - in 1955, she discovered rock & roll when she first heard "Little Mama" by the Clovers and "Sexy Ways" by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. Later that year, Kay transferred from the elite (and very boring) Highland Park High School (called a tea-sipping school located in the more exclusive area of Dallas) to attend Dallas' version of a "Blackboard Jungle" High School, Crozier Tech, in order to be closer to her "greaser" 50's boyfriend (who had been kicked out of every other High School in Dallas).
During this time of "Rockabilly Heaven" in Texas, when Elvis was knocking them dead in country & western juke joints in places like Gladewater, and other rockabilly greats like Gene Vincent and Roy Orbison were just getting started, Kay hosted several teenage local TV shows as well as an "All Elvis" DJ show on radio station WRR in Dallas. She had a very high profile in the media with newspapers articles on her appearing in associated press national stories published throughout America. One national newspaper story in particular angered Colonel Parker when Kay called Waco, Texas - "The Squarest Town In America", because they hardly clapped or screamed for Elvis during his concert there in 1956. The screaming newspaper headline stated, "ELVIS HEAD HITS AT SQUARES." Waco was in an uproar over Kay's proclamation. Colonel Parker rushed Tom Diskin, Elvis' road manager, to Dallas to get Kay to apologize to the city of Waco. But Kay refused - even though Parker sent Kay one of Elvis' shirts, a type of bribe. Diskin made the comment, "WE CAN CONTROL ELVIS, BUT WE CAN'T CONTROL YOU!" This Waco escapade signaled the break in the relationship between Kay and Colonel Parker.
All this media attention attracted Gene Vincent to Kay when he played the Big D Jamboree in Dallas. They became friends and he visited her house on several occasions. Later in Hollywood, in 1958, she was featured in a rock & roll movie with Gene called HOT ROD GANG, produced by American International Films.E, Kay also designed Elvis Presley products, prepared national advertising for teenage products, did A&R work for record companies and appeared regularly on the local KCOP television talk show. She met Ricky Nelson in Hollywood as well as Eddie Cochran. Elvis was also in Hollywood at that time completing "Jailhouse Rock." Kay attended the press premiere of "Jailhouse Rock" with Elvis Presley.
When asked about her background, Kay likes to say that she was born at age 15 when she heard her first rock and roll record! It was the Clovers singing "Little Mama." However, in the world outside of rock and roll, Kay was actually born December 22, 1938, in Houston, Texas, the largest city in the southwest which is the hometown of original blues and rock pioneers such as Johnny Ace, Big Mama Thornton, Lightning Hopkins, among others. Kay's musical heritage is rooted in listening to her mother's favorites like, Fats Waller playing boogie woogie, King Cole Trio, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, etc... However, her father favored the raucous country and western honky tonk music. Kay's father moved the family away from Houston when Kay was a baby. For the most part, the family settled in Dallas where Kay , the eldest, and her two sisters and brother grew up.
She has written her autobiography titled GROWING UP WITH THE MEMPHIS FLASH which was published in Europe and sold out immediately. Kay tells her story in kodachome detail of what it was like to grow up in the days of Rockabilly heaven! A U.S. publisher is currently being sought to publish the book for distribution here. A screenplay has also been written of Kay's story titled, "That's All Right Little Mama" - which Kay hopes will be the most exciting, authentic, true rockabilly story of all time with the real life characters including Gene Vincent and the King himself - and a soundtrack made in Rock & Roll heaven!
But for now, Kay Wheeler is alive and well and living in Northern California. She has raised a son and a daughter. She has been through 2 marriages and is presently single because she says, "I think I'm just too darned independent - that's just the way it is - plus I still play my record player too loud. It would plumb kill anyone else my age!" She still loves rock & roll and has an extensive collection of early 50s memorabilia. She was recently featured in a 1997 Hollywood movie called "Elvis Is Alive". Kay's comment on her life during the beginning of rock & roll and Elvis - "There will never be another time like that--I promised myself back in the 50s that I'd never be a square and that I would always be--COOL UNTIL THE LIVING END. I hope I've kept the promise!"