Re-Writing the Death of Elvis

What, indeed, is the relation between the things we can’t remember and the things we can’t forget?

The question has been nagging me in the past three days as I began to read the flurry of news reports relating to the death of Elvis Presley.  While the “King of Rock and Roll” passed away more than thirty years ago, a new book is alleging his death was not due to excessive weight, heart disease, or drug abuse.  A “longtime friend” of the King himself instead says he died from constipation.

And who is this “long time friend” who is also the author of the forthcoming book?  It’s George “Nick” Nichopoulos, Elvis’ former personal physician.

The man known as “Dr. Nick” to Elvis and the Memphis Mafia is the author of “The King and Dr. Nick,” in which he describes his theory of Elvis’ death as being the result of complications due to bowel paralysis.  The most shocking thing about this claim is that it comes from Dr. Nick, the only person to have faced charges relating to the death of Elvis.

When Elvis died on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42, investigators learned that Dr. Nick and his wife were heavily indebted to the King for an estimated $300,000.  They learned that he has become a close associate of Elvis, as well as his entourage and other notables in the regional music industry (such as Jerry Lee Lewis).  They also learned that Dr. Nick had prescribed more than 5,684 narcotic and amphetamine pills and vials to the King in the seven months before he died. Dr. Nick prescribed Elvis an average of 25 doses of drugs a day.  The day he died, Elvis filed a prescription for 8 medications from his “longtime friend,” Quaaludes, Percodan, Desadrine, Dilaudids, among them.

If Elvis was constipated, the above concoction would be a great start to determining the source.

In January 1980, Dr. Nick–who acted as one of the King’s pallbearers–had his medical license suspended by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for his overprescription of Elvis.  The suspension lasted but three months, but Dr. Nick also faced a jury for his actions.  They acquitted him of malpractice and unethical conduct.  I doubt they would do so today.

George Nichopoulos has a vested interest in floating a different version of the King’s death, because he in the person most implicated in contributing to it!  This fact–and the ones mentioned above–are absent from any of the news stories I have seen.  Indeed, most focus on the “new” theory of the death of Elvis without even a questioning gaze turned back to the source.

Oh, the sorry state of journalism!

Les Paul: the man you didn’t known you had to thank

Les Paul–the man who played the most influential role in the invention and innovation of the electric guitar–died today.  He was 94 years old.

Most of the traffic that comes to this blog is the result of targeted searches. This post won’t rank within the top one million for “les paul” searches today.  The rest of my regular readership are primarily friends and a few former students.  I suspect my friends already know who the man was, as well as his passing, so this is just a quick encouragement to my other readers to go find out more.

This biography from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of which Les Paul was an inductee (1988), is a great start.  This thoughtful and comprehensive obituary by Gibson–the company who popularized the Les Paul model guitar–is also a must read.

Les Paul was one of those people who just about everybody you’ve ever admired in popular music had heard of, even if you hadn’t. The only thing that diminished that trait was the fact that he lived so long, longer than most of the pioneers of modern American music who knew, first hand, the debt they owed to this talented and inquisitive man.