Motorcycles and Mississippi mamas: The unlikely camaraderie of Elvis Presley and John Phillips

“Somewhere down the beach she has a house of her own alone, out of reach she won’t even answer the telephone, and I’m alone:” On a Malibu beach a boy fishes, a young woman jogs, a golden retriever waits patiently, and John Phillips, nicknamed the “Wolfking of L.A.,” is incongruously bedecked in a fur coat, scarf, white top hat, and tall brown boots. This is a circa February 1970 outtake from the cover photo shoot for the founding Mamas and Papas songwriter’s self-titled debut solo album released on Dunhill Records. Photography by Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal
As Navajo rodeo rider and devout ladies man Joe Lightcloud, Elvis Presley dodges Quentin Dean’s irate pistol-packin’ mama Joan Blondell in director Peter Tewksbury’s “Stay Away, Joe,” a slapstick comedy western released on March 8, 1968, to withering critical notices. At least the cast and crew had a fun time making it. Incidentally, that’s a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle temporarily idling in a water hole in either Sedona or Cottonwood, Arizona. Image Credit: Flickr user “Triumph Brescia” / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
On June 30, 1972, three weeks after an exhilarating weekend spent conquering Madison Square Garden, 37-year-old Elvis Presley waits on a red light aboard his 1971 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle at the corner of South Parkway and South Bellevue Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee. For 27 years the identity of Presley’s female companion remained unknown until her mother divulged that her name was Mary Kathleen Selph. A 20-year-old dancer and singer at the Whirlaway Club, Mary tragically lost her life on July 18 of that same year in a single-car accident. Photography by Dave Darnell / The Commercial Appeal
Fashion model-actress-singer Geneviève Waïte and soon-to-be second husband John Phillips ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle along a winding driveway, possibly leading to Phillips’ home at 695 West Stevens Road in Palm Springs, for the August 1, 1970, issue of Vogue magazine. Waïte is eye-catching in a purple hat and blue velvet coat embroidered with yellow stars. The long coat was designed by Seemon & Marijke [aka the Fool Design Collective] for the Summer Sunday fashion line. The golden retriever in the foreground is accustomed to his idiosyncratic masters. Photography by Maurice Hogenboom / The Liz Eggleston Collection
In 1968, a four-string bass guitar, red and white Fender Stratocaster, and psychedelic floor pillow enhance the home recording studio of primary Mamas and Papas vocal arranger John Phillips at 783 Bel Air Road in Los Angeles. The quartet’s penultimate album, “The Papas & the Mamas,” contains “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “Twelve Thirty [Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon]” and was waxed to vinyl there with producer Lou Adler. Phillips and second wife Michelle called the Tudor-style property home from 1967–1969. Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone bought the digs in 1970 about a year after the couple had gone their separate ways. Photography by Baron Wolman
A close up portrait of “John Phillips [John, the Wolfking of L.A.],” circa February 1970. Photography by Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal
Elvis Presley commands page 237, which serves as the debut of the “Man on the Moon” chapter of “Papa John: An Autobiography — A Music Legend’s Shattering Journey Though Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll,” written by Mamas and Papas co-founder John Phillips alongside Jim Jerome in 1986 for Doubleday. Image Credit: Penguin Random House
Pages 238 and 239 continue John Phillips’ fascinating, if at times sordid, anecdotes of Elvis Presley in “Papa John: An Autobiography — A Music Legend’s Shattering Journey Though Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll.” Image Credit: Penguin Random House
The 2006 reissue liner notes for “John Phillips [John, the Wolfking of L.A.],” written by Richard Barton Campbell and Jeffrey A. Greenberg. Image Credit: Varèse Sarabande

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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