George Klein, a longtime friend of Elvis Presley and a member of the King of Rock & Roll’s “Memphis Mafia” entourage, died Tuesday in a Memphis hospice after a two-week illness, which included pneumonia. Priscilla Presley, Elvis’s former wife told the Associated Press she had been in close contact with Klein during his illness. “Their friendship was golden, truly golden,” she said in a phone interview with the AP on Tuesday night. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard George say anything bad about anybody.” Klein was 83.
George Klein and Elvis Presley first met in 1948 at Humes High School in North Memphis when Presley was in eighth grade. Later, Presley served as Klein’s best man at his wedding, and Klein was a pallbearer at Presley’s 1977 funeral. Klein, whom Elvis nicknamed “GK,” appeared in bit parts in several of Presley’s films including 1957’s Jailhouse Rock. When the entertainment icon was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Klein gave the acceptance speech.
Born in Memphis, Klein was also a popular radio host for several years, hosting WHBQ-TV’s Talent Party and George Klein’s Rock & Roll Ballroom on WMC radio. In his role as disc jockey, he would be the first to play a record on-air by a then-unknown Louisiana piano player named Jerry Lee Lewis. In his later years, Klein was one of the hosts on SiriusXM’s Elvis Radio channel. His broadcasting career spanned more than 50 years. He was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2018.