Red West

Robert Gene "Red" West (March 8, 1936 – July 18, 2017) was an American actor, film stuntman and songwriter.[1] He was known for being a close confidant and bodyguard for rock and roll singer Elvis Presley. Upon his firing, West wrote the controversial Elvis: What Happened?, in which he exposed the singer's dangerous drug dependence in an attempt to save him.[2]

Red West
Robert Gene West

(1936-03-08)March 8, 1936
DiedJuly 18, 2017(2017-07-18) (aged 81)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Alma materJones County Junior College
OccupationActor, stunt performer, songwriter, author
Years active1959–2015
Pat Boyd
(m. 1961)
RelativesSonny West (Cousin)

West was probably best known to American film audiences for his role as Red in Road House, alongside Patrick Swayze. West appeared to critical acclaim in the 2008 independent film Goodbye Solo as William.[3]

Early lifeEdit

West was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Lois and Newton Thomas West.[4] West was the cousin of actor 'Sonny' West.[5] While attending high school in Tennessee, West and Sonny met with Elvis Presley.[6]

An excellent athlete and U.S. Marine, West played football for his high school and junior college at Jones County Junior College teams and was a boxer in the Golden Gloves championships.[7]

In 1961, West married his wife Pat Boyd.[6] Together, they had two children.[7]

West and PresleyEdit

Songwriting careerEdit

West collaborated with Elvis Presley on several songs in 1961 and 1962,[7] including "That's Someone You Never Forget" and "You'll Be Gone".[8]

"That's Someone You Never Forget" is the final track on the 1962 album Pot Luck. The song was released as a 45-rpm B-side single in 1967 and features on the Artist of the Century compilation.[9] "You'll Be Gone" is a bonus track on the Girl Happy soundtrack LP. West co-wrote "If You Think I Don't Need You" with Joey Cooper for the motion picture Viva Las Vegas.[8] He teamed up with Joey Cooper again on "I'm A Fool", which Ricky Nelson recorded,[10] and which was later a hit for Dino, Desi and Billy (the partnership of Dean-Paul "Dino" Martin, Desi Arnaz Jr., and William "Billy" Hinsche).[10]

West co wrote the song "Separate Ways" with Richard Mainegra for Elvis in 1972,[11] and "If You Talk in Your Sleep" with Johnny Christopher for Presley's 1975 album Promised Land.[12] Red wrote "If Every Day Was Like Christmas", recorded by Presley in 1966.

In addition to writing for Elvis, Red had songs recorded by Pat Boone, Rick Nelson, Johnny Burnette, Johnny Rivers, Dino, Desi & Billy, Petula Clark, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra, and Little Milton, amongst others.

Elvis' entourage and firingEdit

In 1976, West was criticized in the media for his involvement in a series of heavy-handed incidents with aggressive fans in Las Vegas.[7] He was also becoming vocal about Presley needing help for his drug problem. Elvis's father, Vernon Presley, who hated the members of his son's entourage, fired West, his cousin Sonny, and bodyguard David Hebler.[5]

The three subsequently wrote the book Elvis: What Happened?, claiming to be an attempt to warn and obtain help for Elvis. Some suspected it was a retaliatory money-making exercise, but with Elvis' death within weeks of publication the book's claims proved accurate.[11] Presley had offered the publisher $1million to stop printing the book.[2]

Acting careerEdit

When Presley was making films in the 1960s in Hollywood, Red West appeared in small roles in sixteen of the star's films.[13] During this time, West became good friends with actor Nick Adams and his physical abilities got him hired on as a stuntman on Adams' television series, The Rebel.[4] From there, West went on to do more stunt work in film as well as developing a career as an actor in a number of motion pictures and on television. He was often on screen as a henchman in the television series The Wild Wild West.[14]

West also played the role of Sheriff Tanner of Alcorn County Mississippi in the 1973 Bing Crosby Production movie Walking Tall and also played the role again of Sheriff Tanner in the 1975 Movie Walking Tall Part 2 about Sheriff Buford Pusser of McNairy County Tennessee

West also played the ornery, sometimes violent Master Sergeant Andy Micklin on Baa Baa Black Sheep.[15] He guest starred twice on the CBS hit detective series Magnum, P.I. as different characters, as five different ones on The A-Team, the Knight Rider pilot episode "Knight of the Phoenix", on The Fall Guy, Simon & Simon and in "The Once and Future King", an episode of The Twilight Zone which concerned Presley.[6] In 1989 West appeared in the action film Road House with Patrick Swayze as Red Webster, the auto parts store owner.[2]

West played the lead role in the 2008 independent film Goodbye Solo as William, an elderly depressed man who befriends a Senegalese man in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.[3] The film received positive reviews and critic Roger Ebert remarked that "West isn't playing himself, but he evokes his character so fully that he might as well be. West's face is a map of hard living".[3]

His last film role was in the 2013 film Safe Haven as Roger, an elderly store clerk in Southport, North Carolina.[16]


West died on July 18, 2017, aged 81, from an aortic aneurysm, at the Baptist Hospital in his native Memphis.[13]

His death occurred less than two months after the death of his cousin, actor Sonny West, in May 2017.[5] His funeral and burial at Memorial Park Cemetery was held on July 24 in Memphis.[17]

In popular cultureEdit

In John Carpenter's 1979 film Elvis, West was portrayed by Robert Gray. West was also portrayed by his son John Boyd West in the 2005 Golden Globe winning CBS mini-series Elvis.

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ Daily Telegraph Issue no 50,439 dated Friday 21 July 2017- "Long-serving member of Elvis Presley's entourage who wrote a shocking exposé about his boss"
  2. ^ a b c "Red West, Longtime Elvis Confidant, Dies at 81". Chicago Tribune. July 20, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Roger Ebert (March 25, 2009). "Goodbye Solo Movie Review". Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Red West profile". Retrieved November 15, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "Sonny West of Elvis' Memphis Mafia dies at 79".
  6. ^ a b c "Red West, Longtime Elvis Confidant, Dies at 81". Fox News. July 20, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d "Red West, Songwriter and Actor Who Was Elvis Presley's Confidant, Dies At 81". The Hollywood Reporter. July 20, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Red West Dies: 'Road House' Actor, Stuntman & Songwriter Was 81". Deadline. July 20, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  9. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 892. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ a b "I'm A Fool Facts". SongFacts. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Interview with Red West". May 29, 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  12. ^ "If You Talk in Your Sleep - Elvis Presley | Song Info | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Beifuss, John (July 19, 2017). "Red West, Elvis friend and actor, is dead". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  14. ^ "Red West Interview". ElvisInfoNet. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  15. ^ Ken Sharp (June 24, 2017). "Red West Remembers Writing For The King". Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  16. ^ Roeper, Richard (February 12, 2013). "Safe Haven". Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  17. ^ John Beifuss (July 20, 2017). "Red West: Services set for Elvis friend, actor". Commercial Appeal. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
  18. ^ a b c Kate Feldman (July 20, 2017). "Red West, actor and longtime friend of Elvis Presley, dead at 81". The New York Daily News. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  19. ^ Tony Scott (November 9, 1995). "Review: 'Nbc Sunday Night at the Movies Her Hidden Truth Sun.'". Variety. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  20. ^ "'The Black Dove' film premiered at AMC Newport Sunday". WTOL. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  21. ^ David Rooney (August 30, 2012). "At Any Price: Venice Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 20, 2017.

External linksEdit