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Passings: Robert "Red" West, Actor, Songwriter and Associate of Elvis Presley (1936 - 2017)

by VVN Music

Robert "Red" West, the close associate of Elvis Presley, died on July 18 at the Baptist Hospital in Memphis after suffering an aortic aneurysm. He was 81.

Born in Memphis, Red and his brother, actor Sonny West, met Presley while they were all still in high school at Humes High School. Red, who was a football player, protected Presley when he became the target of bullies in the school.

Early in Presley's career, West drove him to live appearances and continued to act as a bodyguard for the next twenty years as a member of the "Memphis Mafia". That all came to an end in 1976 after West was aggressive with a number of fans in Las Vegas leading to both he and his brother along with another bodyguard, David Hebler, being fired.

Even before his firing, West had been fairly vocal about Presley's drug use, which may have been another contributing factor to his being released. Red, Sonny and Hebler collaborated with Steve Dunleavy for the best seller Elvis What Happened? which detailed Elvis' drug problem. Two weeks after the book's publication in July 1977, Presley was dead.

Even though West was best known as being part of the Memphis Mafia, he had success in other parts of show business. As an actor, he did a decade of uncredited appearances in such shows as Bonanza, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible and many others along with many Elvis films. He finally received billing as "Sheriff Tanner" in the Walking Tall films and played Sgt. Andy Micklin in Baa Baa Black Sheep. He may be best known for his role as "Red Webster" in the Patrick Swayze film Roadhouse.

He also started to write music with his first semi-hit being Johnny Burnette's Big, Big World (1961 / #58) with Gerald Nelson and Fred Burch.  He also wrote with Elvis Presley in the early-60's on the songs You'll Be Gone and That's Someone You'll Never Forget.

Among hits that West wrote:
  • I'm a Fool (Dino, Desi & Billy / 1965 / #17)
  • If Every Day Was Like Christmas (Elvis Presley / 1966 / #9 UK)
  • Let's Give Adam & Eve Another Chance (Gary Puckett / 1970 / #41 Pop / #16 Adult Contemporary)
  • Separate Ways (Elvis Presley / 1972 / #20 Pop / #3 AC / #16 Country)
  • If You Talk In Your Sleep (Elvis Presley / 1974 / #17 Pop / #6 AC / #6 Country / #40 UK)
West is survived by his wife of 56 years, Pat, and sons John and Brent.