The last few years of rock n’ roll icon Elvis Presley are becoming demystified, thanks to a new book by local music author and Capitol Hill resident Gillian G. Gaar.
Her book, Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback, chronicles the last years of the legend and gives some new insight into what might have contributed to his tragic death in August of 1977.
“You could say he lived out the American dream but it turned into a nightmare for him,” said Gaar. “He was poor as he could be and went on to achieve these great heights but wasn’t able to hang on to it.”
Gaar is reading from her book and signing copies at Elliott Bay Book Co. this Sunday, June 20th at 4 p.m. She is an established music journalist and author of She’s A Rebel: The History Of Women In Rock & Roll; Green Day: Rebels With A Cause; Nirvana: In Utero; and The Rough Guide To Nirvana.
Her book looks at Elvis’ fated comeback tour and the the events of the last few years of his life. She interviewed family, friends and longtime King enthusiasts to build the story.
“There is probably some stuff in there that you haven’t heard before, but the book concentrates more on the music and what he accomplished artistically,” said Gaar. “It’s not a particularly gossipy book.”
By 1967, the King was fading fast with unimpressive record sales and lame movie roles. But then came the ’68 Comeback Special, which aired on NBC during the holiday season and brought life back into his career. He went on to perform almost 1,100 concerts between 1969 and 1977 before he died at age 42.
One of Gaar’s favorite sources for the book is the man who set up Elvis’ infamous meeting with Nixon – UW law school alum and former administration official Egil “Bud” Krogh. Gaar said that when she first contacted Krogh, she was surprised to learn he had at one time the same Seattle ZIP code as her and hadn’t been interviewed much about Elvis.
“[Bud] was an Elvis fan, if he hadn’t been, that meeting probably would never have happened,” said Gaar. “When Bud got the letter from Elvis requesting a meeting, at first he thought it was a joke. His friends at the White House would play practical jokes on each other. But when he arranged to meet with him, he realized he was being serious.”
Elvis asked Nixon if he could become a member of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. He gave Nixon a pistol, and Nixon gave him a “Federal Agent-at-Large” badge.
His fame has lived on and caught fire with a new generation. But while Elvis’ iconic status is undisputed, Gaar believes it’s still unclear how he perceived himself in those final years.
“I was surprised at how insecure he could be, how he bowed to his managers so much when other [artists] didn’t,” said Gaar. “You don’t get a sense he necessarily took control of his career.”
Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback is published by Jawbone Press, is available on Amazon and Elliott Bay Book Co. Gaar will be signing books on June 20 and will have some fun Elvis memorabilia to pass around during her reading. Check out the book’s Facebook page and join the Elvis discussion boards and to learn more.