Jerry Summers: Cas Walker - When Elvis Died

Sunday, November 1, 2020 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

Only Cas Walker could come up with a scheme to make a profit out of the death of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock N’ Roll.  As stated in his, “Cas Walker, My Life History”, the master grocery promoter from Knoxville, Tennessee displays his genius in spite of having a limited education. 

Upon learning of the death of Elvis, Cas had an employee go to Memphis and be at the Shelby County Courthouse at 8:00 a.m. when it opened.  She was instructed to tell the Deputy Clerk in the Probate Division that she was a reporter from the “Watch Dog” newspaper and that she wanted to purchase a copy of Elvis’ Will which had already been filed for Probate. Since Elvis had died its contents became public record and available for purchase. (The Watchdog was Cas’ newspaper that he distributed free to his customers and was the forerunner to The Inquirer that was based on sensational facts and sometimes rumors)

Cas’ agent was able to purchase five or 10 copies of the Will and then went immediately to the funeral home where Elvis’ body was being prepared for transfer to Graceland.  The enterprising employee represented that she was Elvis’ niece and convinced the funeral home staff that she should get to ride in the limousine to the late singer’s home.  Supposedly “they let her ride over, let her open the casket and let her set the casket like she wanted for people to look at”!

She took the cover off Elvis’ face and took a picture of him in the casket.  The picture of Elvis was on the front page of the “Watch Dog” that week.  According to Cas he reproduced 10,000 copies of the Will and sold them for $1.00 a piece with every $10.00 grocery order.  All were sold out that week so he had another 10,000 copies to be distributed at his out of town stores in Virginia and North Carolina.  After those 10,000 were sold, Cas had more printed to take to Georgia and South Carolina and sold them to an individual for $1.50 each.  Finally Cas sold additional copies for $2.00 with a $20 grocery order.

Cas proudly claimed that it was one of the biggest deals that he had done and was “one of his greatest promotional ideas”!  Although he would get sued for libel a few times for outrageous things he printed, no lawsuit was ever filed about the Elvis Will caper.

The Watch Dog would eventually go out of business when a police officer got a large judgment in a libel suit.  Bizarre as it may seem it was a great idea and promotion by Cas Walker.

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)  

Cas Walker
Cas Walker

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