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Elvis and the Cops


Nearly 30 years after the death of Elvis Presley, you'd think every possible book had been written about the late King of Rock-and-Roll.

And you'd be wrong. Retired Memphis Police Department Captain Robert Ferguson has compiled Elvis: In the Beat of the Night, an interesting book that focuses on Elvis' friendship — some might even call it an obsession — with police officers. The entertainer liked to hang out with policemen, collected police badges wherever he traveled, and enjoyed being made an honorary policeman in any city where he performed.

Ferguson explains that shortly after Elvis’ death in 1977, he began taping video interviews of many of the local officers who knew Elvis, from officers who met him at the beginning of his career to those who helped at his funeral. Those tapes might have remained hidden forever, but when biographer Peter Guralnick interviewed Ferguson for Last Train to Memphis he persuaded the former policeman to compile the interviews into the self-published book.

In his introduction, Ferguson says, "Everybody who lives in Memphis has an Elvis story. So I decided to document mine." Ferguson met Elvis at one of the King's first concerts in 1954, and became a police officer in 1958. He began hearing stories about how Elvis enjoyed hanging around cops; Elvis, it seems, actually thought of himself as a police officer. Several times, says Ferguson, the singer even rode along with police officers as they made their rounds.

The book includes photographs, maps, and interviews with dozens of officers who met and worked with Elvis from the late 1950s until his death in 1977. "The interviews are mainly from the rank-and-file officers," says Ferguson, "since they are the ones with whom Elvis had the most rapport. Elvis didn’t want to be a chief or a sheriff; he wanted to be a policeman, and this identified himself with the patrolmen on the force."

Elvis: In the Beat of the Night presents a side of Elvis that hasn’t really been told. "Elvis was a down-to-earth person in our presence — a man who just happened to be famous," says Ferguson. "He actually appeared to be in awe of us, rather than the other way around. It was a special time that none of us will ever forget, and I'd like to share it with you."

The book is available for $14.95 from Davis-Kidd Booksellers and Borders, or it can be ordered directly from Robert Ferguson, 901-380-8411.

— Michael Finger

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