John Smith is the secret love child of Elvis Presley. And he has, he swears, the DNA evidence to prove it.
No, really. Smith, a sometime country singer and songwriter who lives in Scottsdale, says he's coming clean this month in a new book detailing his hush-hush life as the unheralded Prince of Rock 'n' Roll. Let the Boy Sing: Elvis Is My Daddy, from a tiny, pay-to-print publisher in Oklahoma, reveals everything the world wants to know about the perks of being Elvis' tug-of-love: The trust fund, set up by Elvis for Smith when he was born. The music gigs, playing with John Denver and Lawrence Welk, and the recording contract with Elvis' label, RCA Records. The chance to write songs for country superstars like Kenny Rogers and to record an album with music legends who also recorded with Elvis. All these cushy thrills, according to Smith's new book, were arranged by Elvis himself, who kept tabs on his boy via a network of people who did the King's bidding.
And that's because John Smith is, he says, the son of the King. "I've known that Elvis is my daddy since I was 27 years old," says Smith, 51. "And there's no one word that describes how it feels to finally tell the world the truth about me."
"The correct word is scary," according to Presley historian Cory Cooper, who's known in pop culture circles as "The Elvis Expert" and who recently served as technical adviser on director John Scheinfeld's Fame and Fortune, an adaptation of Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business, a 2008 bestseller by Presley's former bodyguard. "These people show up every few years, claiming to be Elvis' son or daughter. The sad thing is that some of them actually believe it. Maybe they've been fed a story all their lives about a one-night stand their mom had with Elvis, and they think it's true. Whatever the story, they always have two things in common: They all swear they have birth certificates or DNA evidence to prove their claim, and they all have a story about why they can't show you those things. And, of course, the real reason they can't is because they don't have them. Their story isn't true."
True or not, Smith's book provides a fascinating read — perhaps not for Presley fanatics or anyone who actually cares whether Smith is the out-of-wedlock son of the world's most famous dead rock 'n' roller, but most definitely for fans of unadulterated gall, tall tales, and lousy fact-checking. Because Smith's story — in which he makes bogus claims about his life and career that three minutes' worth of Googling can refute — proves to be, with very little digging, a hunk-a hunk-a burning crapola. Almost everything in the book is a story either wildly exaggerated or completely made up. The album deal with RCA Records turns out to be a pair of 45s released on a tiny indie label. The songs Smith says he wrote for famous artists clearly were penned by others. His claims about performing on recordings by John Denver appear also to be untrue, as Smith's name appears in none of the liner notes for any Denver recording. Nor does Smith cough up any proof of an Elvis-sponsored trust fund. Filled with inaccuracies, extrapolations, and flat-out lies, Let the Boy Sing is to literature what Harum Scarum is to the fine art of cinema.
And the DNA evidence? Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. failed to respond to questions about Elvis' lineage, and phone calls and e-mails regarding Smith's claim sent to Graceland, Lisa Marie Presley, and the Presley family's genealogist went unanswered. So, too, did repeated requests made to Smith's publisher requesting proof of his DNA evidence — requests that were likewise ignored by Smith himself. (Smith's ghostwriter, Rich Carlburg, explains Smith's failure to answer e-mails and phone messages with various excuses: His computer crashed; he's snowed in at a Smith gig in North Dakota; he has no cell phone reception. Mostly, though, Carlburg just joins Smith in refusing to answer questions about recordings, DNA evidence, and the like.)
After repeated requests, Smith does finally provide a PDF of a copy of a birth certificate that shows his birth name as John Dennis Roach and his birth parents as Elvis A. Presley and Zona Marie Roach. The document, which could easily have been doctored in a graphic design program, shows Smith's birthdate in July 1961, but it was issued in 1985. The Texas Department of Health didn't return phone calls regarding the veracity of the document.
"A phone call wouldn't have done any good," says private investigator and former journalist Rich Robertson, who's investigated hundreds of complex criminal and civil cases. "Smith would have to have sent a signed, notarized waiver to the Bureau of Vital Statistics and have them send you a copy of his birth certificate. Which, if he's who he claims to be, is in his best interest to do."