Friends and musicians remember Memphis legend George Klein: ‘A real Memphis icon’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Friends are remembering Memphis radio legend George Klein, who died Tuesday at the age of 83.

Klein had been in deteriorating health but stayed active by promoting the Memphis music scene and hosting a national radio program on Sirius XM that featured Elvis Presley music.

Expressions of sympathy have been posted on social media by Priscilla Presley, congressman Steve Cohen and many others.

Memphians who knew "GK" as he was called, say his death is the end of an era.

Kevin Kane, President of The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, was also a close friend to Klein.

He says Klein's death silences more than the voice of a legendary radio DJ.

"A real Memphis icon. A sweet spirit. Just an all around great guy, and he touched a lot of people," Kane said. "You think of the impact of radio, what it had on early days of music. Really and truly he spanned so many decades it is a little of an end of an era."

From his place behind the microphone, George Klein spun 45 RPM records and helped launch countless careers.

"His delivery, the whole 'Geeker in your speaker,' the way that he launched rock and roll on WHBQ radio," John Doyle, Executive Director at Rock N Soul Museum, said.

Of course, Klein's legacy will always be closely tide to the "King of Rock and Roll" Elvis Presley.

The pair met while attending Humes High School in Memphis and formed an indelible friendship.

"Everyone thinks of George Klein and Elvis Presley. I mean, who else can claim that the "King of Rock and Roll" was the "best man" at their wedding?" Doyle said.

Aside from Klein's connection to Elvis and the "Memphis Mafia," Doyle says Klein was a consumate promoter, using his outgoing personality to jump start local talent.

"Despite the fact that he's a face that we will always remember, a voice that we certainly will always remember, he was always about promoting other people," Doyle said.

James Alexander, an original member of the Bar-Kays, recalls during the late 1960's Klein embraced the group and was "color blind" when it came to playing their music.

"He was one of the few people who would play our music. Our first record, when it came out, 'Soul Finger.' He said, 'Hey. This is definitely a record I'll play over and over again. And that was definitely music to my ears," Alexander said.

Klein also invited them to perform on his popular TV show "Talent Party."

"He said, 'Hey. Why don't you guys come down here and film and do my show, 'Talent Pary?' The relationship just developed from there," Alexander said.

Over the years, Klein's annual Christmas Charity Hop raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the needy. He continues promoting Memphis music through his weekly library channel program and hosted the "Elvis Hour" on Sirius XM radio.

In 2013 he was inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame and in 2018 was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

"It was an easy thing for the nominating committee for him to go into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. It needs to be as easy a decision for him to go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or any other hall of fame that's associated with music," Doyle said.

His presence as an ambassador for this community was literally felt world-wide. He was certainly a spokesperson for all things great about Elvis and so many other subjects as it related to music that touched Memphis.

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