Did Vernon Presley write the letters he sent to Elvis’s fans? The answer to this question takes us to another question, and that is whether Vernon had his full mental faculties in the last few years of his life. Let’s look at two letters that Vernon sent, the first from sometime after March 1979, and the second from August 6, 1977 (about a week-and-a-half before Elvis died):
Reference: Letter #1 (above) begins: “It is true that Dick Grob was recently dismissed…”
Reference: Letter #2 (above) begins: “Recently we’ve been recieving [sic] a lot of letters…”
NOTE: The original version of Letter2 includes the notation in the lower left corner, “VP/pmp,” which tells us that Vernon Presley presumably wrote the letter, and that Patsy Presley presumably typed it. But did Vernon really write this letter? Did he really write either of these?
If we start with Letter1 [L1], you will notice the reference to “(Psalm 37).” In this letter, the parenthetical citation is inserted *before* the quoted passages, whereas typically we would find a citation *after* the quoted passages. For example, this is correct:
“Don’t be cruel, to a heart that’s true.” (“Don’t Be Cruel,” 1956)
While this is incorrect:
(“Don’t Be Cruel,” 1956) “Don’t be cruel, to a heart that’s true.”
Yet, this incorrect grammatical convention is what we see in this 1st letter supposedly written by Vernon Presley. Now, looking at the other letter, which begins, “Recently…,” you will see in the last paragraph this same “(Psalm 37)” citation, but notice where it is placed: *after* the quoted passage. This leads us to the critical error: the writer of this letter does not include the actual passages from Psalm 37, and instead mistakenly assumes that the previous sentence (referring to motives and greed) is the passage being cited/quoted. This clearly tells us that the person who wrote this letter copied this section from the first letter, and correctly assumed that the citation would be *after* the quoted passage. But look at what the person wrote as the cited passage. This is *not* part of Psalm 37. In fact, the writer cites Psalm 37 here, but there is actually nothing from Psalm 37 included in this second letter. This would be akin to writing:
“The chicken crossed the road. (“Don’t Be Cruel,” 1956) The dog also crossed the road.”
See? There is a citation but there is nothing included from the cited passage/text. The person who wrote this letter misunderstood the way that the first letter was written, and where the Psalm 37 passage citation was placed, and then incorrectly tried to mimic it in the 2nd letter, presenting the part about motive and greed as the quoted/cited passage.
To emphasize this point: The first letter has a passage from Psalm 37 that is incorrectly cited, while the 2nd letter has the citation but references the wrong passage and leaves out the actual passage.
This indicates that the person who wrote this letter [L2] was simply copying parts of the first letter [L1], and we must assume that this person was not Vernon Presley.
Further points to consider:
In contemporaneous letters from Vernon Presley, he writes very much like he speaks: he is almost understated in his writing, and he is not prone to flowery prose or complex verbiage. He speaks and writes in a halting manner, and comes across as lacking confidence in both presentations. In the first letter, note that there are no exclamation marks, and the tone is very even, almost subdued. Then, in the 2nd letter, there are multiple exclamation marks (5 examples, one of which is doubled), and the tone is more energetic and confident.
Also note the placement of the closing and signature: they have been moved to the far right. In every example of letters written by Vernon Presley I could find, the closing and signature are just off-center to the right, with exact or very similar spacing (some official documents have the signature on the far left, but we are looking only at personal letters). In the 2nd letter, this section has been moved. The original of this letter is consistent with other VP letters, regarding this placement, but why did someone make this adjustment/change?
Most of the letters written by Vernon Presley are dated; these two letters are not, or the dates have been removed. The spacing along the top (between the heading and the opening text) changes in these examples, as well.
Finally, the following words/sentences/constructs are copied from the 1st letter into the 2nd letter:
“…overseas papers.” [L1]
“…Overseas papers.” [L2]
“It isn’t worthwhile to try to go through all the many ridiculous allegations in their little ‘expose’.” [L1]
“It doesn’t seem worthwhile to try to go through all the many ridiculous allegations in this little ‘expose’…” [L2: note that in this example, the word “expose” includes the accent mark over the terminal “e”]
“Dick is FULLY aware.” [L1]
“These men were FULLY aware.” [L2]
“Of course, there were several problems with their work…” [L1]
“Of course, there were several problems with their work…” [L2]
“…Elvis was tremendously hurt that his supposed ‘good friends (?)’ (’employees’)…” [L1]
“…Elvis could have felt hurt too that supposed ‘good friends (?)’ would rely on his loyal nature to keep them employeed.” [L2: note the misspelling of “employed”]
“Please don’t worry as these sort of things done for ulterior motives; whether greed, pseudorevenge or justifying a guilty conscience, never really prosper.” [L1: note the terms that do not fit with VP’s style of speaking/writing]
“Please don’t worry though, these sort of petty things done for ulterior motives; whether greed, pseudorevenge or justifying a guilty conscience, never really prosper.” [L2]
“Again, we do want you all to know that we appreciate all your concern and prayers at all times.” [L1]
“Again, we do want you all to know that we appreciate all your concern and prayers at all times.” [L2]
I believe it is possible that Vernon Presley did not write these letters, notably Letter2. The language and style do not fit with his speaking voice, nor with previous examples of his writing, and it strikes me as very odd that the author of a letter would borrow so liberally (and word-for-word) from his own writing. I suspect that Patsy Presley was, by this time (after March 1979 on the first letter), writing all of Vernon’s letters, even though she noted that Vernon was the author (“VP/pmp” seen on letter 2). I believe that Patsy wrote these and then had Vernon sign them. While this is not a big issue in and of itself, it does bring up the question of Vernon’s health in the two years after Elvis died, and whether Vernon handled much (or any) of his own affairs. Recall that his health was already declining by August 1977, and he lived only 2 years after Elvis’s passing (minus 7 weeks or so), so was Vernon still handling Elvis’s business affairs from August 1977 to June 1979? If he could not write his own letters, for whatever reason, why was he still running the airplane lease/buy-back operation? Was Vernon, in fact, at full mental capacity, or at least to the level of responsibly representing Elvis and managing the estate? When and under what circumstances were all his important papers signed?