Next Score View the next score

    Eddie Bond, 79; told Elvis he’d never make it as a singer

    Mr. Bond never had a major hit as a singer, but he wrote many songs that were popular in Tennessee.
    Mr. Bond never had a major hit as a singer, but he wrote many songs that were popular in Tennessee.

    NEW YORK — Eddie Bond, a rockabilly singer and radio host who once told a teenage Elvis Presley that he would be better off driving a truck than trying to make it in music, died Wednesday at his home in Bolivar, Tenn. He was 79.

    His death was confirmed by his daughter Lisa Seawright, who said his health had been failing since a fall in 2011.

    Mr. Bond was almost 21 and already established on the music scene in Memphis when a fellow band member, Ronnie Smith, invited Presley to audition to sing with the group in May 1954 at the Hi Hat Club on South Third Street. Presley, 19, drinking a Coke with his girlfriend, Dixie Locke, waited nervously to go on.


    Mr. Bond ‘‘came over to the table to say hello,’’ Peter Guralnick wrote in ‘‘Last Train to Memphis,’’ the first volume of his two-volume Presley biography. ‘‘He asked Elvis what he did for a living, and Elvis said he drove a truck for Crown Electric, but Dixie was embarrassed for him because he couldn’t stop drumming his fingers on the table.’’

    Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
    The day's top stories delivered every morning.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    Presley soon took the stage and sang two songs, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Afterward, he and Mr. Bond spoke out of earshot of others. Presley did not get the gig, though the following year he and Mr. Bond briefly toured together, along with Johnny Cash and others. A few years later, Mr. Bond told a friend about the night at the Hi Hat. He said he had told Presley to stick with his day job, ‘‘because you’re never going to make it as a singer.’’

    Mr. Bond told many people that he was simply conveying to Presley the assessment of the club owners, but the conversation apparently stuck with the future king of rock ’n’ roll.

    In 1957, as Presley was about to film ‘‘Jailhouse Rock,’’ he told a friend that Mr. Bond ‘‘broke my heart.’’ Traveling by train to Hollywood, he said, ‘‘I wonder what Eddie Bond thinks now.’’

    In addition to his daughter Lisa, Mr. Bond leaves his wife of 59 years, the former Gladys Stephens; another daughter, Becky Collins; his sisters, Gussie Smith and Barbara Greenlee; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His son, Eddie Jr., died in 2002.


    Mr. Bond never had a major hit as a singer, but he wrote many songs that were popular locally, including several about Buford Pusser, the former sheriff of McNairy County, Tenn., whose efforts fighting crime inspired the 1973 movie ‘‘Walking Tall.’’ Pusser died in 1974. That year, Mr. Bond ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Shelby County, which includes Memphis.