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 Post subject: John Wilkinson!
PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:20 pm 
Jewel in the Lotus
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Johnny Wilkinson: Elvis's Right-Hand Man; In 1956 a 9 year-old Johnny Wilkinson met Elvis for the first time at the Shrine Mosque Springfield. Wilkinson didn’t know it yet, but the circumstances that came together that Saturday in 1956 would prove to be life-changing.
After exchanging some pleasantries, Wilkinson told Elvis why he was really there. With his characteristic boldness, present even at 9, he said: “There’s a reason I come looking for you today. I come to tell you that you can’t play guitar worth a damn.”
Wilkinson had watched Elvis enough on television to determine that he was a better guitar-player than Elvis. Taken aback, Elvis pointed to his Gibson guitar in the corner and told Wilkinson to show him how it’s done.
In 2011 Wilkinson now lives in the same home he grew up in, but he’s been just about everywhere else in the 40 years between. He returned to Springfield just a few years ago, and his playing days are over due to a stroke in 1989, which forced him to exchange his guitar for a cane. The screaming fans are gone, but in their stead he has two equally adoring dogs, Pugsley and Sammy. To meet Wilkinson now, there are just hints to his rock ’n’ roll past. His sideburns and mustache remain, as well as his gold necklace featuring Elvis’s band name, TCB, with its characteristic lightning bolt.
It wasn’t until 1968 that Elvis called on Wilkinson again in 1968. After a couple of phone calls, the first of which ended with Wilkinson hanging up on Elvis thinking it was his friends prank-calling him, Wilkinson went back to Elvis’s house to jam.
Elvis asked him to be his rhythm guitarist, but Wilkinson expressed some hesitations, as he was more of a folk picker than a rock ’n’ roll guitar-player. “Elvis pulled out a piece of paper, wrote something on it, handed it to me, and it was a money figure. He said, "Now will you be my official rhythm guitar player?’” With eyes wide, Wilkinson explains in a way only he can, “I looked at it and said, ‘You bet your ass.’”
For the next nine and a half years, Wilkinson traveled the world as a member of the TCB Band, compiling inimitable experiences and seeing an Elvis few people got close to. “He was a wonderful guy,” he says. “Don’t ever let anybody tell you different. He had his faults like everybody else. But he was a wonderful, nice, caring, compassionate and giving person. Outside of my own father, he was probably the most compassionate, giving and caring guy I ever met in my life.” He hasn’t forgotten the time in Memphis when Elvis saw a woman on the sidewalk longingly staring into the showroom of a Cadillac dealership. Elvis jumped out and bought the woman a car on the spot. Wilkinson also remembers Elvis as a prankster who once shot a water pistol at him while playing electric guitar, accidentally sending 1,200 volts of electricity through his body.
Over the years, Wilkinson developed a friendship with Elvis, making his death in 1977 that much more devastating. “Even to this day, Elvis’s death still hurts me,” he says. “I’m sorry he’s gone, not just because he was my employer. He was my friend. He was like the brother I never had.” Reflecting on it all, Wilkinson says: “If everything just all of the sudden ended today, and I dropped over dead, I would not have a regret in the world. I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m happy.”
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