Murray Silver seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Because of this gift, the Savannah native has had some extraordinary experiences and met some amazing people.
In 1982, he published his first book, Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis. Silver also is the author of Behind the Moss Curtain and other Great Savannah Stories. His latest book is When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama, and in it he recounts personal favorite stories from his own life.
That includes telling how, at the tender age of 16, Silver began promoting rock concerts in Atlanta. Along the way, he would bring future supergroups (then barely known) such as Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers, Sonny and Cher and Paul Simon to Atlanta.
It includes the story of meeting -- by chance -- Myra Lewis, ex-wife of Jerry Lee Lewis. That led to meeting The Killer himself and telling his story in a book, which in turn led to a motion picture.
When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama also tells how Silver’s very life was threatened when he agreed to write the autobiography of Dr. George Nichopoulos -- the notorious “Dr. Nick,” who was the personal physician to Elvis Presley at the time of the singer’s death.
There are other outlandish -- and hilarious -- episodes in the book, including the stories of wrestler Harley Race and pornographer Gail Palmer. The book closes with the author’s story of his association with the Tibetan Buddhist monks of Depung Loseling Monastery.
Along the way, Silver has met luminaries such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, actors Richard Gere, Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder, poet Allen Ginsberg, and many, many more.
Don’t believe it? Just wait -- Silver has about a million photographs to prove it, and several are in his book.
Why would a 52-year-old write his memoirs? “I want to clear the decks,” Silver says. “I’ll never forget when I wrote the Jerry Lee Lewis biography. Myra Lewis was not yet 50 years old. She said, ‘This has set me free.’ I realized that once you put the past in the right place, you’re able to move on.”
Silver also wanted to answer, once and for all, the questions he is often asked by others. “People still ask me about Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis. When I meet people, it’s not long before they say, ‘You’ve lived an interesting life,’” he says.
“I wrote down all my favorite stories, but there is not much stuff in the book about me,” Silver says. “It’s really about the people I’ve encountered. It tells the life stories of other people I’ve met.”
The book was printed locally by Bonaventture Books. “When I first sent it out to agents and publishers I had worked with, they rejected it because they said it was fiction and poorly written, at that,” Silver says. “That’s why I put the photographs in -- to prove these things happened to little old me.”
An example: Silver began promoting concerts while he was still in high school in 1969. “I told my father there was money to be made bringing rock concerts to Atlanta,” he says.
So his father (a lawyer-turned-author who also is named Murray Silver) agreed to back him in a venture to bring concerts to Atlanta on a weekly basis.
In December, 1969, Silver found a five-man blues band from England that was called Fleetwood Mac. Hold on, it gets even better. On the same bill was another group called Grand Funk Railroad.
“Tickets were $3,” Silver says. “I couldn’t find a theater, so it was held at Oglethorpe College Field House. At the end of the night, there wasn’t even enough money to pay the bands.”
So Silver took the members of Fleetwood Mac home, because they not only could not get to their next gig in Chicago, they couldn’t pay their hotel bill in Atlanta. To raise money to pay the bands, he promoted a second concert.
“I went back to school and passed out a ballot in homeroom,” Silver says. “I asked my classmates who they wanted to hear.”
They voted for Joe Cocker, Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago Transit Authority. So Silver promised them a show with those performers, even though none of them were touring at the time -- and an opening act called Fleetwood Mac.
“I sold every student a ticket,” Silver says. “It was a sold-out show. The entire school turned out to see it.”
By the time Fleetwood Mac finished, most of the students had to leave because of a school-night curfew. However, when Silver attended his 20-year class reunion, his old classmates were still talking about seeing a concert that didn’t really happen.
“You can walk out the door and your life will never be the same,” Silver says. “I was a nice Jewish boy from Savannah who ended up being a special assistant to the Dalai Lama. Wonderful things can happen.” ç
When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama costs $24.90 and is available locally or from www.Bonaventture.com. The author’s website is www.whenelvis.com.