Written by General Jabbo
Jerry Schilling first met Elvis Presley when Presley was a mere 19 years old and a mostly unknown singer. While Schilling was only 12 at the time, the two hit it off and formed a 23-year friendship that lasted until Presley’s death in 1977. During this period, Schilling traveled with Presley, lived with him, acted as a stunt double in Charro! and worked creatively with him on such projects as Elvis On Tour. Not wanting to be known just as an “Elvis man,” Schilling got into film editing and served as the Executive in Charge of Talent on the 10-hour The History Of Rock ‘n’ Roll documentary. He also got into management, serving as a tour manager for Billy Joel and as a personal manager for the likes of the Beach Boys and Jerry Lee Lewis. Suffice to say, Jerry Schilling has led a very interesting life.
I spoke with him about Elvis’ 75th birthday, the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Elvis On Tour that recently played in 460 theaters across the country and about Schilling’s life in music. This is what he had to say.
What was your role in the original version of Elvis on Tour?
I was on tour with Elvis and by the time we did Elvis On Tour, I had enough knowledge of film editing that (directors) Bob (Abel) and Pierre (Adidge) hired me. I worked with the producers for a year. I’m in the footage. I got to work with him (Presley) on a creative level, which was a great thing for him and for me. It’s one of the first movies after Woodstock with multi-panel images. It was a really great experience working with young filmmakers, Marty Scorsese (Scorsese supervised a montage sequence in the film) and the directors. It is the best insight on film into Elvis that there is.
Why was “Johnny B Goode” replaced in the opening sequence by Don’t Be Cruel?
It simply came down to the fact that nobody was able to get a hold of Chuck Berry or his representatives. It wasn’t the price — we were never given a price. Chuck Berry is a very smart man. He kept his publishing from the beginning.