*During Elvis Presley’s singing, recording, and performing career, one that stretched parts of three decades, there were countless stories that he didn’t particularly like Black people, especially if they were not in music. He did like many well-known Black singers, especially, according to some music historians, if he could copy and use their vocal and musical stylistics to further his own career.
The late Myrna Smith, who was a member of the Black singing group “The Sweet Inspirations” refuted claims that Presley was a racist. Smith, who with Cissy Houston (mother of the late Whitney Houston), Sylvia Shernwell, and Estelle Brown, formed “The Sweet Inspirations,” which provided background vocals for Presley, also known as “The King,” at concert performances and for recording sessions from 1969 to 1977.
The group caught the attention of Presley after they recorded the song “Sweet Inspiration” in 1967, which became the group’s signature hit. Elvis was said to have loved the singers -especially Myrna Smith – and he loved their hit song so much that he hired the group of four Black female singers to do backing vocals for him. At times, the group opened for Presley. And there were times Smith provided backing vocals alone, minus her group.
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According to Smith, Presley always treated her and the group well, wherever he performed nationally and internationally. In a documentary called, “This Time,” Smith said Elvis continuously tried to pursue a sexual relationship with her. The two were always flirting with each other. Smith said that she and Presley shared a special type of relationship, but that nothing sexual ever happened between the two.
“He wanted something to happen,” said Smith. “but I wanted to keep our relationship about the business on stage and in the recording studio.”
Smith eventually married Jerry Schilling, Presley’s longtime business associate and close friend. The interracial couple was married from 1982 -1987. Presley died in 1977. Smith died on December 24, 2010. She was 69 years old.