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Elvis Express Radio brings news of Elvis releases and provides free online entertainment & news to fans around the world. I knew that one day I would have to write this but still it is none the less heartbreaking for me to sit down and write on my website that John Wilkinson, one of the true legends of the Elvis world, a genuine gentleman and a dear and much loved friend has lost his long term battle against Cancer and has sadly died at the age of just 67.Those of us who are lucky enough to have known the private and personal side of Johnny will all be united in our grief and will all say the same thing, and that is John really was one of the nicest people we have ever had the honour of knowing and to have been able to have called our friend. What follows is a tribute to my friend, John Wilkinson.John Richard Wilkinson was born in Washington DC on July 3rd 1945. While Elvis was John's main priority and commitment, John did lend himself to other projects between Elvis tours. And then in a quick succession, came many other folk groups like "Peter, Paul and Mary, the Lime Lighters, Gordon Lightfoot, way too many to name.
John used to tell me how much Elvis loved the song, but for the longest of times, John was just about the only band member not to be asked to do a solo when Elvis introduced the band on stage. Upon his return from Memphis, John wrote to me about his health, Memphis and mentioned Cricket Coulter who was making fictitious claims about Elvis and John himself.
Johnny with Lana (August 16, 2004), for her birthday, Johnny gave her a beautiful set of ear-rings & necklace.
Being the last concert of the tour and with Elvis trying to impress the somewhat subdued Ashville audience, Elvis is astonishingly good. It became a challenge for him to electrify the crowd and Elvis always responded to challenges.
A few days earlier Elvis on-stage had said some unpleasant things to both Kathy Westmoreland & the Sweet Inspirations and, feeling guilty, it was also in Ashville that Elvis tried to make amends. While Elvis was still seeing his girlfriend Linda Thompson, he was also seeing another beauty queen Melissa Blackwood.
The 16 page booklet is nicely designed with good photos of Elvis (though I’m personally not sure about the look of the Indian Feather suit) along with plenty of interesting details about this unusual tour. Shockingly it takes just 5 seconds for Elvis to decide to do ‘Return To Sender’ as his next request! This night Elvis introduces everybody nicely without any off-hand remarks having obviously made up with the group. Elvis introduces Vernon to a rapturous crowd explaining that he has been sick saying that he is going to sing Vernon’s favourite song from his last LP.
His gratitude to crowd is heartfelt as he says, "Thank you very much, you’re fantastic.
Verdict.- While this is of course, disappointingly, only an audience recording there was a real slice of pure Elvis magic captured that night in Ashville. Note - EIN does not support bootleggers since they do deprive songwriters & musicians of their well-deserved earnings, but the hope is that something like this will inspire FTD to consider a similar release. The band performed the songs of all those who had and were influencing John such as the Wilbur Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs (Scruggs inspiring him to play banjo), Johnny Cash and of course Elvis Presley. There is also a touching moment on the DVD where John is learning all about the hospice and he gets very emotional.John spent a week with us, shared time with my family, had a traditional Sunday roast, spent time with my father who was suffering from Cancer, and being a life long Elvis fan, brought him so much happiness. But at the age of just 11 months his Mother & Father moved to Springfield Missouri, where he grew up.
Over the years, it became John’s signature song and Elvis would always get John to play it during his introductions of the band and even on a couple of rare occasions, get John to sing the song on stage as well.
While it was nice to be back doing what he had loved for so long, it was not as much fun anymore without Elvis and John just did not enjoy having someone else standing centre stage where Elvis should have been.John returned home from Switzerland on April 13th 1989, and feeling totally warn out he slept right through the 14th finally waking around 9am on the 15th to find his life would never be the same again. John had an uphill struggle and had to re-learn everything from walking to dressing himself. John told me we had to visit him because he had a special something that he wanted to give me?Sadly, I never got to take up his offer and my friend is now gone forever, but he will never be forgotten.
They cannot do Chemo because his body would not survive it", Terry then revealed to us that Doctors have given our dear friend Johnny just 1 to 2 months to live.

Elvis had to work extra hard to get his usual response from the audience and they were all memorable shows. He flew in his Memphis jeweler, Lowell Hayes, and Elvis bought a small fortune in jewels & rings as presents.
Whatever the explanation or inspiration, Elvis was in fabulous form for the final show of this tour on July 24th 1975 in Ashville, even throwing two of his diamond rings into the crowd.
Of course this IS an audience recording and not of the audio quality that FTD would release, however with 31 tracks and a packed 80 minutes it is great value for money. Sadly this is actually the only song that Elvis throws away this night, impassioned at points but distracted at others. Elvis sings it nice and slow with an obviously very rich voice compared to a few years earlier. Elvis rocks through it throwing in some impressive karate action before taking a break with the band introductions. The audience goes wild and Elvis knows that Ashville will certainly never forget this night.
Dating back to their years together in high school, George and Elvis were friends to the end. It was during this time John realised he could make some money doing what he loved to do when he earned himself $25 playing his music.Forming his own band at school, 'The Coachmen' he started performing professionally at 13 years of age, earning himself $25.
My Dad died the following year but always told how he loved meeting with John and how kind and special he was. John assured Red that it's not a problem and that there were millions of people who would kill to be in the position he was in, and told him to tell Elvis he was fine with things the way they were.And so Red went away and told Elvis what John had said.
John had suffered a massive stroke, doctors found a clot the size of a golf ball in his head which had restricted the flow of blood to his brain and had it burst, John would have died there and then.
But he did just that, however, he would never regain full motor-function to his left side and the hardest thing that hit him was the dawning realisation that after 39 years of playing guitar and banjo. During his stay, John gave me a gift, a neck scarf which was given to him by Elvis in the 70's. For some reason the 8000 strong crowd didn’t react with standing ovations and despite the exciting atmousphere they were somewhat reserved. He forgets a few words but the response is fabulous and the spontaneity adds an interesting edge.
Oh Lord, have mercy on us!" (Boy the band must have been thinking on their feet that night!).
However Elvis’ idea of the request box worked perfectly here, as well as his own desire to include input from his new LP.
He was there at the beginning of Elvis' music career in 1956 and later accompanied Elvis on tours and movie sets. His influences in music as well as Elvis Presley, were He enjoyed Gospel music too because of the harmonies, influences similar to Elvis'.Fast forward to 1964, John had moved to California to attended university and it would be during this period that he would have his second meeting with Elvis. John was more than ready to join the trio, but only on the condition it was between Elvis' tours as his number one commitment was to Elvis.It's funny how things work out, but in between tours or when Elvis would take some time off because of his health, it just so happened it was during those times that one of the members of the Kingston Trio would also take some time off, and so the leader of the group would give John a call and ask him if he was available for some tour or gig and John would jump at the offer.
John was rushed into surgery and if he wasn't going through enough, in the middle of his operation, there was an earthquake.
After coming to terms with this he decided to go back into music as a singer.One of the first big shows John did after his stroke was in 1992 along with a selection of his former musical friends in Germany. The wonderful gifts he gave to me and my wife Lana, the time we sang songs in an all night get together at our home, the comical email's and the great telephone calls.I am so honoured to have known John Wilkinson and even more honoured to be able to call him one of my dearest friends. I’m feeling much better now than I was last week after being in hospital for three days!
It was a truly wonderful gift that I treasure along with the other things and the amazing memories I have of my friendship with John.

I think I can speak for Peter that the news devastated and I so wanted to be there to give my wonderful friend a hug and to be there for him and Terry.On December 26th 2012, I was able to call Johnny, and apart from carrying my fathers coffin, this has been the hardest thing I have ever done.
Elvis as always rose to the challenge, conquering Asheville and performing one of his best ever concerts of his last 2 years. John had built up an excellent reputation and had established himself as a session musician.
John's wife, Terry, was told by doctors that John had a less than 2% chance of coming through the surgery. Both terry and I came back home from Memphis with colds and we are pretty much over those; thankfully. He was also playing in all the bars around Santa Monica and Hollywood and was even doing some local TV shows.
Btw, the best part of the time that we had while in Memphis was the fact that I didn’t see cricket!!
Then in 2007, John was diagnosed with colon-cancer and had to undergo emergency surgery during which, doctors removed his colon and a large tumour. Johnny"It was wonderful to know he had such a great time, of course, our communications continued until recently when he was spending more and more time in Hospital and we were kept informed on how Johnny was doing thanks to his loving wife, Terry. It was a yes and so John Wilkinson and his band opened for Jefferson Airplane at the Whiskey A Go Go.While performing that night, john noticed that just to the right hand side of stage front, there was a bunch of tables which were roped off, it was really dark but there were candles on the tables and while he was able to see people were sitting there, John could not make out any faces.
And that was that, John Wilkinson was now part of music history and he will always be known as Elvis Presley's loyal Rhythm Guitarist.John was one of Elvis' most loyal employee's and with the exception of Lead Guitar Player, James Burton, John never missed a show and never walked away from Elvis. Anyhow, after the show John went back downstairs and changed into my street clothes and while doing this a huge form filled his dressing room door and I according to John, his first thought was, "Oh! He was however the ONLY member of the TCB band NEVER to threaten to walk away from his boss and friend. Against the wall was an old Gibson J45.He played and sang for Elvis and he was impressed with this kid. However, the conversation was soon interrupted when two burly guys entered the room and wanted to know what John was doing there. Which was nothing, Elvis then invited John to come to the house with them as they were going to have a barbeque and just sit around and have a jam session. I'd really love to hear your voice on the phone, but I’m really not up to taking phone calls right now my friend. But maybe I’ll get lucky again and survive know that I will lose my rock 'n' roll hair! Hope all is well with you Lana and the girls, love to you all my dear friend, Johnny"Once again Johnny was facing another battle for his life and once again he had the love and wishes of all those who knew him as a loved one, a friend and all those who knew him simply as Elvis' Rhythm Guitarist and all that love meant so much to John, it really did.
At this point in time my chemo doctor and radiation doctor feel very confident that the cancer is dead and gone; however, they told me that I shouldn't feel that i am completely out of the woods yet. There are still at least two more pet scans and blood panels to do in the next month or so. Through your efforts the concept of, no fan left behind keeps alive the memories, movies, music, love, and the magic that was Elvis! Lee, please convey my most sincere and heartfelt thanks to all the fans for their continued love and support for me and Elvis.
He had great days and not so great.In 2011 John was able to return to Graceland for the first time in many years, but he had a tough road ahead, but he fought all the way through 2011 and 2012.

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