By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Smith says he was born in 1961 to Zona Marie Anderson Roach and claims he was adopted by Ira Dee Smith, the brother of Elvis' mother, Gladys Smith Presley, when he was 16 months old. Ira Dee and his wife, Etta, also adopted John's two sisters from one of Zona Marie's previous marriages — a fact that doesn't seem at all unusual to Smith.
"We were a pretty close-knit family," is all he'll say when asked why Elvis' middle-aged aunt and uncle would adopt two little girls who weren't related to the King. "I guess they just wanted to keep us together."
Smith began singing as a toddler and performed in local hoot nights and a talent show called The Louisiana Hayride in his hometown of Shreveport. Later, he joined the live touring version of The Lawrence Welk Show. ("It was quite an honor to be in Lawrence Welk's company," says Smith, who also claims to have been a regular on Welk's TV show, although he appears in none of the published cast credits for any of the show's episodes. "He said I was the greatest singer he ever heard in all time.") After his stint with Welk, Smith recorded a couple of singles and tried his hand at songwriting in Nashville.
Although he was interested in a career in music from an early age and was an adopted relation of a world-famous rock star, he says it never occurred to him to ask if he might one day meet Elvis Presley and maybe chew the rag about getting ahead in the music biz.
"I was a busy little boy, and I was used to being a local child star in my own right," Smith explains, somewhat unconvincingly. "I didn't stop to think about who I was related to or what that connection could do for me."
And yet his singing voice and physical appearance were, he says, constantly being compared to Presley's. "All my life I heard, 'Oh, you look like him! You sound like him!'" In fact, Smith looks more like actor Randy Quaid than he does Elvis Presley, and guys who sing like the King can be found in casino lounges (and white polyester jumpsuits) in most any town.
"There was an effort to keep John and Elvis apart," explains Carlburg, the co-author of Smith's memoir. "If they were seen together, people might start to notice how they looked alike or sounded alike, and there might be questions."
Smith isn't keen on questions. He dodges requests for in-person interviews, consenting only to speak to New Times by phone. During a 45-minute telephone conversation that takes place during a sound check at a bar gig in North Dakota, Smith sets the phone down often to go check his mic and his song list.
"I have always been compared, as a performer, to my daddy," he says, returning to the phone. "Now, if I'd been compared to Tiny Tim, I would have had a problem with that."
Yet Smith has no problem with bending — or at least ignoring — the truth. In Let the Boy Sing, he writes about the thrill of recording and releasing an album in 1980 with top Nashville session musicians and vocals by the Jordanaires, Elvis' renowned background singers. But Smith never tells us the title of the album, and an exhaustive search of ASCAP, BMI, and RIAA catalogs shows only two albums by Smith, recording as John Starr, both released in 2010 on the teeny independent Adonda Records label owned by Smith's longtime manager, Harrison Tyner. Despite his claims that he also once had a recording deal with RCA Records, Smith's only other vinyl output appears to be a pair of Adonda singles, released in 1979 under the name Dennis Smith.
In his book, Smith refers to Adonda as "a subsidiary of Capitol Records." Asked about this, he replies, "Well, I know at one time they were a subsidiary of RCA." Neither is true. Nor is it true that Adonda owner Tyner also managed Elvis, another of Smith's claims. (He also tells readers he's been inducted into the Cowboy Music Hall of Fame, although no such organization appears to exist. There is a National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Texas, but its only inductees are Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Hugh Farr, and Tex Ritter. And there is, of course, a Country Music Hall of Fame, but Smith is not among its many esteemed honorees.)
After his indie singles flopped, Smith, then 19, apparently decided to try his hand at songwriting. A chance encounter with Kenny Rogers in a Nashville diner, he claims, led to a long series of hit records for which other people took writing credit.
"You see, that song that I wrote, it was called 'The Old Man in Our Town,'" Smith writes, "and it was the B-side of the record 'You Decorated My Life,' which was one of Kenny's earliest big hits in country music."
The only part of this story that Smith got right was the spelling of Kenny Rogers' name. The song he lays claim to is actually titled "There's an Old Man in Our Town," and while it's true that Kenny Rogers recorded it, the song was not the flip side of "You Decorated My Life," which was hardly one of Rogers' early hits. In fact, that song was Rogers' 20th consecutive Top 40 single and was released in 1979 — 20 years after the singer launched his successful recording career. "There's an Old Man in Our Town" was first recorded by Rogers in 1972, while he was still a member of the folk-rock group The First Edition.
In the case of this writer he should get all the facts before he writes another word. In the case of John Smith let him go to court like Alice Tiffin (who submitted DNA) and like Deborah Presley-Brando (who WON in the Tennessee Supreme Court). I believe that anyone who writes a book, or article is entitled to Freedom of Speech as long as they are not libel in their writings. Court documentation especially from Family Court are private. Maybe Alice and Deborah and John don't want to spend their lives proving what is sealed in the courts because of irresponsible writers like this one.
I am very disappointed in Mr. Pela for this worthless piece. For an expose' to be worth the reader's time it needs to make a successful emotional connection between the reader and the subject. I need to either gain sympathy for the subject so his wrong doings will trigger an emotional reaction from myself...or I need to gain sympathy for the subject's victims. There are no victims. And by giving us a history of those before Mr. Smith that had claimed to be the blood of Elvis, there appears to be nothing special about him. There is no reason for me to care. The only thing that could had saved this article was some unbiased hope from the writer that maybe Mr. Smith was indeed the son of Elvis. Every bit of evidence detailed was revoked by Mr. Pela before the reader could absorb it and make a decision for themselves. So basically Robert Pela took a subject that 99.9% doubted in the first place before even reading the first paragraph and by the end of the article 99.9% still doubt Mr. Smith. Congrats! Mr. Pela's expose' impacted no one.
This stupid fake story is still in here?
Don't you have people that can write stories? I say NOT , there is no good stories in the New Times for a long time maybe you should call this paper LONG TIME!
I do hope "In the Shadow of ELVIS, Perils of a Ghostwriter" is as great a read as "My Bad Tequila" by author & writer - Rico Austin!
Seems like a lot of Elvis connections are here in Scottsdale! I dated one just recently. Believe me, Elvis has left the planet 'in pieces' and these guys are probably 'meteorite pieces' of Elvis for sure. Sad, that none of these guys could ever get a real life, and live their entire lives sadly believing People believe them, in hope to hide who they really are....which I find to be, totally uneducated no-bodies seeking public (mainly women's) attention thru their multiple personality disorder and, or, sick fascination to become their idol and most likely the man they wish they could (ahem) .... yuck! YOu should do an article on my story! 'Dating the ghosts of Elvis' . Pretty funny story, which would make a lot of these guys go back into the closet!
With he penchant for lying about his past, it seems Mr Smith is more likely to be Joe Arpaio's love child.
@Rico Austin I want to read your book. Dennis is a pathological liar and has completely lost touch with reality. I know this because I was married to him when he says he met his birth mother. I would have known that if it happened. In the new book, he claims his second marriage was annulled. That is a lie. It took years to find him to get a divorce. He attempted suicide on more than one occasion and was hospitalized in a psych ward. I really feel sorry for him. He needs professional help.
On the facebook page ELVIS ' "In The Shadow Of" they provided a link to this article as if it would give legitimacy to his claim... and it will if no one actually reads it. Well, okay. He has 114 "likes" on the page and there probably is a good chance that no one will actually read the article.
Really? reLLY? REALLY? He doesn't look a thing like Elvis!
Lets see the proof not talk the lie.
Hi, folks: I'M Elvis Presley, and I've been hiding in my trailer home here in Salome for years, and I can tell you all right now, that guy is NOT my kid! Thank you, thank you.
lol the King of Rock 'n' Roll married one time and had one child.
If what this fool is saying IS true thenhe should be required to prove it or shut the fuck up.