You’ll Never Walk Alone
my connection with Elvis through Jerry Schilling
This is a story of fate and how everything happens for a reason and my connection with one of Elvis’ favorite gospel songs “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” My connection started in 2009, and I didn’t even know it. Through the years it has touched various parts of my Elvis life, which I didn’t even realize until recently. Now I have put it all together.
My story starts with my love for Jerry Schilling and a painting by Joe Petruccio. During Elvis Week 2009, I first saw Joe Petruccio’s beautiful painting of Elvis and Jerry Schilling. At the store next to where the Rock n Roll Cafe used to be in the old shopping center Graceland Crossing, I saw this beautiful painting for the first time. I spoke with Joe who was debuting his new painting of Elvis and Jerry Schilling (and I love me some Jerry!). I loved the painting, but could not afford to buy it, so Joe graciously allowed me to take a photo of it if I promised not to put it online, which I never did. I kept that photo and stared at it for eight years until I could own it. I did not know anything about the painting or that it was named “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” I am not sure why I did not recognize it from the photo on the cover of Jerry Schilling’s memoir.
Fast forward eight years to the opening of the new Elvis Presley’s Memphis in March of 2017. This is what I wrote about it … “We had been at EPM since 8am and it was almost 6:30pm and we still had not seen the new museums yet – just the quick walk through before lunch. We started in the VIP lounge and exhibit. I was very excited to see my favorite Joe Petruccio painting on the wall – the one with Jerry Schilling and Elvis (autographed by Jerry!). I have admired this painting since 2009 when I met Joe right after he painted it and was showcasing it at Graceland Crossing. Joe painted it from a photo that Jerry used on the cover of his memoir… The next day I walked over to the VIP Exhibit where the Elvis Fashion store is to see if I could buy that Joe Petruccio Jerry and Elvis painting. And yes it was for sale, and just a little over what I was willing to spend, but I bought it anyway. I had wanted that painting for eight years. I am SO excited! They are shipping it to me. As much as I wanted to take it with me, it was just too big to take on the plane and not get damaged.” This painting called “You’ll Never Walk Alone” now hangs proudly on my wall, and I admire it everyday. Joe told me it was the last one in circulation. I have number 18 out of 25. Jerry of course has the number 1, and it is hanging on the wall in his house. Joe did paint it from a photo taken back stage in 1972 (the year I was born) of Elvis and Jerry that Jerry included on the cover of his book.
Two years later I made a few “Jerry’s Girls for EP” shirts, which I wore during the the 84th Elvis Birthday Celebration in January of 2019. One of the shirts included the photo from which my “You’ll Never Walk Alone” painting came. It was during that time I was fortunate enough to take a tour of Graceland with Jerry Schilling as our tour guide. Jerry told us the story when he walked into the living room / music room and saw Elvis by himself playing the piano and singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Elvis just winked at Jerry and Jerry walked away to leave Elvis alone to continue playing one of his favorite songs. Eight months later during the Candlelight Vigil at around 1:45am, I was walking back down the driveway from the Meditation Garden and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was playing as I was walking down the driveway alone. I teared up and it was at that moment I put it all together. There was something with me and that song, a connection between myself and Jerry and Elvis and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” There was a reason Jerry and Elvis were friends and a reason I love Jerry and a reason the painting of Jerry and Elvis is named “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and a reason that song played as I walked down Graceland’s driveway alone in the wee hours of August 16, 2019. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is my connection to Elvis through Jerry Schilling, as least that is how I feel.
Two years later as the pandemic was winding down in the Spring of 2021, I decided to finally become a Founder at the Guest House, which included a Founders Plaque. On it we can choose a few words to put on it. Of course I wanted my name, but was struggling with what else to put on it. Then it finally hit me … my story, my connection … “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” In May, I made my first trip back to Memphis and to Graceland since January 2020. I wore my “You’ll Never Walk Alone” Jerry’s Girls for EP shirt along the Founders Path to the Meditation Garden during Morning Walk Ups. Then on the morning of July 4th, I saw my Founders plaque for the first time as it had just been put up with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” on it and my name under it. And just this week, thanks to my friend Mary, I ordered a “You’ll Never Walk Alone” candle holder from 1987 that I will take to the Candlelight Vigil this year.
Plus U2 played a snippet of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the end of “Walk On” on their 360 tour in 2011, of which I went to all 16 US shows. And in the month after Olivia Newton-John’s passing, I discovered she also recorded “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” I’ve loved Olivia longer than U2 and just as long as Elvis, my whole life. So my three biggest passions, Elvis, Olivia and U2, are brought together by “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
What a wonderful connection, I never put all of it together until reading this. Very special Deena! So many special memories!
Thank you Julie!!!
Great story and thank you for sharing this. It is from the heart. That song has always been one of my favs. I am happy it has touched you and brought all of this together. TCB.