Beatles protégé Ken Mansfield recalls the Elvis Presley summit that never was
Ken Mansfield may not be a household name, but the artists he spent extensive quality time with most certainly are. As the former U.S. manager of the Beatles’ Apple Records, Mansfield multi-tasked incessantly during his creative peak in the ’60s and ’70s, alternately promoting, producing, or writing for such luminaries as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell, and “Ode to Billie Joe” chanteuse Bobbie Gentry. Incidentally, Mansfield produced Jennings’s wildly surging outlaw rendition of Marshall Tucker’s “Can’t You See.”
In an exclusive phone interview plugging the release of Rock and a Heart Place: A Rock ’n’ Roller-coaster Ride from Rebellion to Sweet Salvation, a captivating Christian tome depicting the epic rise, fall, and redemption of 15 music icons in their own words with accompanying contextual narrative, the five-time author and motivational speaker regaled this writer with the tale of his extremely close encounter with the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.
The Ken Mansfield Interview, Part Three
Since you were good friends with the Beatles, did you have an opportunity to meet Elvis Presley?
Unfortunately I didn’t. Ringo Starr, who I met during my Capitol tenure and later befriended when the Beatles personally asked me to oversee Apple, called me from London and said Elvis was performing at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.
This happened during the last weekend of January 1970, just six months after Elvis’s triumphant return to live performances. By then I had resigned from Apple and joined MGM Records as vice-president.
Ringo hadn’t seen Elvis since the Beatles’s historic summit at the singer’s exotic Perugia Way home in Bel Air [August 27, 1965]. Ironically, I had also spent that day with the Beatles at their rented house in the Hollywood Hills. The day ended with them getting ready to go to Elvis’s house.
Ringo said, “If I fly in, can you take care of us and arrange seating arrangements at one of Elvis’s shows?” Of course, I jumped at the opportunity as I was a serious Elvis fan. I thought, ‘Great, I’m going to get to meet Elvis because I’m going to be with Ringo’.
Long story short, we snuck Ringo in the back of the hotel and into the showroom. Afterwards, Elvis sent for Ringo to visit his penthouse suite, but his people wouldn’t let me go up with him. They only let Ringo go up. I was really disappointed.
I knew the musicians in Elvis’s TCB band, including drummer Ronnie Tutt and guitarist James Burton. And I ultimately worked with the Imperials, a superb vocal quintet best known for backing Elvis, on their Big God album . By then, Armond Morales was the only member still in the group who had worked with the star. Believe me, I asked him plenty of questions about Elvis [laughs].
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