Sonny West (79) was a man who once had the pressure of the world on his shoulders with the job of protecting Rock n Roll legend Elvis Presley for sixteen years as a bodyguard. Sonny West passed away from cancer on May 24, 2017, at his home in Nashville, Tennessee. He had small parts in Elvis films such as (Kid Galahad) and often stood in as a stuntman for any action sequences. Sonny West married his wife Judy in December of 1970, Judy had acting roles in TV shows such as “The Jackie Gleason Show” and “The Beverly Hillbillies”. Sonny was even at the famous “Nixon/Elvis” meeting on December 21, 1970; this meeting was the product of Elvis’ obsession with law enforcement badges. President Nixon issued Elvis a badge from the “Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (now known as the DEA).
(Nixon (left) Sonny West (middle) and Jerry Schilling)
Sonny left behind a legacy that is controversial within the Elvis fan base due to the book “Elvis, What Happened?” The book gained traction because of the testimony from three former bodyguards Sonny West, his cousin Red West and Dave Hebler. Sonny, Red, and Dave were fired in 1976 and wrote the book to “Bring Elvis back to his senses.” The tell-all was one of the last books Elvis read, the book was published at the start of August 1977 and Elvis died August 16, 1977; statements from family members of Elvis claimed the book sent him into a depression and that he felt betrayed. Sonny West insists the book was written with good intentions and that Elvis was in a downward spiral and had been for years.
(Sonny West with Elvis)
In 2007, Sonny West set-the-record-straight with his book “Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business” which is a personal standpoint that focuses more on the emotional aspect Elvis had on Sonny’s life. A book signing at the vintage store “Lost In The 50’s” in North Augusta, South Carolina took place in 2007; surrounded by Elvis Gold Records, poodle skirts and Grease memorabilia, Sonny felt right-at-home. Patrons of the signing described Sonny as “Full of stories and laughs” and “His demeanor was that of a man who carried the death of his best friend with much grief/regret but the new book was his way of making peace with what had happened with the bad publicity of “Elvis, What Happened?”
The stories and laughs provide the good memories and Sonny West clearly loved Elvis in his own way. Sonny felt that “Elvis, What Happened?” was his way of protecting The King when he no longer could physically as a bodyguard; the Memphis Mafia lives on. Check out an interview with Sonny West—
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