A MOTORCYCLE MYTH CONFIRMED
- The ultimate biker gift - Nine ’64 Triumph motorcycles bought in 1965 by Elvis Presley for him and his Memphis Mafia
- Help us find the Memphis Mafia Triumphs - Are these historic motorcycles lost to time?
- A unique opportunity to own a one-of-a-kind ‘Elvis Presley’ Triumph and matching guitar - Raising money for the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation
Triumph Motorcycles has uncovered the truth behind a famous motorcycle myth – that Elvis Presley gave an extraordinary motorcycle gift to every member of his Memphis Mafia in 1965.
With the discovery of the original checks in the Graceland archives, signed by the man himself, as well as recollections from Jerry Shilling, a close friend of Elvis, it can be confirmed that Elvis bought nine Triumph motorcycles as gifts, so he and his closest friends could ride together in the hills of Los Angeles.
Elvis Presley is an enduring music legend and a cultural icon. The best-selling solo artist in history and a genuine movie star, making 31 films during his career in Hollywood. He was also a passionate motorcyclist, riding bikes in several of his films including a red and silver Triumph 650 Bonneville ‘Desert Sled’ in the 1968 comedy western “Stay Away Joe”.
But, Elvis’ introduction to Triumph motorcycles came several years earlier, with this story, which is as rock and roll as the man himself.
In June 1965, Elvis had been on the set of the musical ‘Frankie and Johnny’ at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, Hollywood. Taking a break from filming, Elvis spent his down time with his closest friends, known as ‘The Memphis Mafia’ at his Bel Air home.
Jerry Schilling, friend of Elvis and member of his famous ‘Memphis Mafia’, put a down payment on a new Triumph T120 650 Bonneville at Bill Robertson & Sons on Santa Monica Boulevard. When he brought the bike home, Elvis asked to take it for a ride around the Bel Air neighborhood. Jerry, of course, obliged and Elvis jumped on the bike. He was impressed, and in fact when he returned, he told his transportation manager, Alan Fortis, to “order one for all the guys, but… it has to be tonight!”
Bill Robertson & Sons managed to deliver seven Triumphs that night, a mixture of 650 TR6’s and the high-performance, twin-carbureted 650 T120’s. They rode together around Bel Air, riding late into the evening, only stopping when neighbors called the police to complain. The remaining bikes arrived two days later and the nine of them made sure they made the most of down time from filming, riding the Pacific Coast Highway together on Sundays.
Jerry Schilling, a close friend of Elvis recalls: “Elvis loved to ride and I knew that when he saw my new Bonneville he’d want to try it...and when he did, he wanted all the guys to have one so we could ride them together!”