Elvis Presley: Why Did the King Surround Himself With a Group Called the ‘Memphis Mafia?

by Halle Ames

Elvis Presley may have been the King of Rock and Roll, but even kings need friends. That’s why the artist had the Memphis Mafia.

With fame come the parasite-type people that want to ride on your coattails. That is why Elvis Presley had a select group of men and women that he trusted and remained loyal to. Known as the Memphis Mafia, the group was continuously changing with either an addition or removal.

“Elvis Presley has a select group of friends he entrusted with his life,” explained one of Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia members in an interview with PBS in 2020.

“He didn’t like to be around new people,” explains another member. “He didn’t trust them. But he trusted us. We were a source of comfort.”

Elvis Presley’s Elite Group

Some members of the group have been with Elvis from the start, whereas others generated friendships with Presley over the years.

The King’s cousins, Junior and Gene Smith, were among the early members, reports a 2020 article from Express. Elvis Presley’s high school friend Red West also made the cut, along with singer Cliff Gleaves. There was one female in the group named Judy Spreckels.

Upon speaking with CBS, she revealed how she became close to Elvis from the early days.

“There wasn’t a crowd then, just a few guys. [I] had nothing to do with being a yes man for him, and obviously, he trusted me.”

Other Memphis Mafia members that Elvis Presley added along the way were Sonny West, Red’s cousin, Billy Smith, Charlie Hodge, Lamar Fike, and Joe Esposito.

Billy Smith was alleged, “the only one still with Elvis after 1976. As all of the other Memphis Mafia members had either left or been dismissed by that time.”

Some members grew their success from being associated with Presley. Jerry Kingsley, a Memphis Mafia member, used his fame via Elvis to begin managing artists. Some of his clients included The Beach Boys and later Lisa Marie Presley.

“According to Patrick Humphries’ Elvis The #1 Hits: The Secret History of the Classics, more names were gradually added to the group, including Alan Fortas, Richard Davis, Marty Lacker, Jimmy Kingsley, Chief Sitton, Mike Keeton, Dave Hebler, and Sam Thompson.”

Coining the name Memphis Mafia

The friend group trademarked the name after a media article called them the Memphis Mafia in 1960 due to their “Mafia-style” black suits.

“We were like a bunch of mob guys,” said a member. “You know, we get in a limousine and take off, get out of the car. It was exciting! I remember we were in Vegas goofing off one time, and I there was a reporter there, or somebody just wrote an article about Elvis in town and all his boys, and they called us the Memphis Mafia.”

However, Elvis Presley and the group called themselves TCB, which stood for “Taking Care of Business.”

The TCB logo Presley had written on Elvis’ private jet and was used in merchandise and memorabilia.