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George Klein (1935–2019), Memphis DJ and friend of Elvis Presley

by Linnea Crowther

He met Elvis in high school and the two remained lifelong friends.

George Klein was a Memphis radio DJ and television host, and Elvis Presley’s best friend. Klein and Presley met while they were attending Humes High School in Memphis and became lifelong friends. While Presley achieved international fame as a musician, Klein helped spread the word about rock and roll on WHBQ radio and on Memphis TV’s “Talent Party” program. But the two remained close: Each man served as best man at the other’s wedding, and Klein was a pallbearer at Presley’s funeral. Presley nicknamed his friend “GK,” and that nickname led to Klein’s DJ moniker, “The Geeker,” used even in recent years on his Sirius XM show, “Elvis Time.” A fixture of the Memphis music scene with a 64-year career on the city’s airwaves, Klein was a member of the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.  

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Died: February 5, 2019 (Who else died on February 5?)  

Details of death: Died in Memphis of complications of dementia at the age of 83.  

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A true rock and roller: Klein was dedicated to rock and roll as one of the first DJs to play the newly popular music in the 1950s. He was so devoted to the music that he was fired by one Memphis radio station for playing too much of a genre that the station owners were sure wouldn’t last. But Klein bounced back and became the city’s hottest DJ. When he brought the music to television on “Talent Party,” he played a big role in integrating rock and roll: He invited Fats Domino to perform on the show and cleared the way for his appearance. Domino would become the first black musician to perform live on local television in the birthplace of rock and roll. Other black musicians followed, thanks to Klein’s opening the door.  

Notable quote: “Personally, Elvis was a great friend to me. You know, I never saw Elvis refuse an autograph. I never saw Elvis refuse a handshake. I never saw Elvis refuse to take a picture with anyone.” —Klein in his speech accepting Presley’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  

What people said about him: “Their friendship was golden, truly golden. I don’t think I’ve ever heard George say anything bad about anybody.” —Priscilla Presley in a phone interview upon Klein’s death  

“One of the coolest things to me when I started in radio was bumping into George Klein in the hallways. RIP to a Memphis legend.” —ESPN radio producer Bennet Doyle on Twitter  

Full obituary: Daily Memphian

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