Robert Gene West was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1936 to Lois and Newton Thomas West. An excellent athlete and former U.S. Marine, West played football for his high school and junior college teams and was a boxer in the Golden Gloves championships.
He was a close high school friend of rock and roll singer Elvis Presley and became part of his entourage. In 1976, West was involved in a series of heavy-handed incidents in Las Vegas with aggressive Elvis fans that got out of hand, drawing criticism by the media. Also, West was becoming more vocal about Presley’s drug problem and how he needed help. As a result, West, his cousin Sonny, and a third bodyguard named David Hebler were fired by Elvis’s father, Vernon Presley, who hated most of, if not all, the members of his son’s entourage.
West then helped write Elvis: What Happened, which was published weeks before Presley’s death. The book, according to West in the book, was an attempt to help Presley, but believed by some to be an attempt to retaliate and earn an income after being fired.
Red West contributed to several songs written by Elvis Presley in 1961 and 1962. He received help from Elvis Presley in writing two songs in the early 1960’s, which were collaborations: “You’ll Be Gone” and “That’s Someone You Never Forget.” “You’ll Be Gone” was also co-written with Charlie Hodge, and appeared on the Girl Happy soundtrack album and as a 45 single in 1965. The single reached number 35 on the Canadian singles chart in 1965.
“That’s Someone You Never Forget” was the final track on the 1962 album Pot Luck and was released as a 45 B side single in 1967 and was featured on the Artist of the Century compilation. Red also co-wrote “If You Think I Don’t Need You” with Joey Cooper for the motion picture Viva Las Vegas. He teamed up with Joey Cooper again on “I’m A Fool”, which Ricky Nelson recorded. “I’m A Fool” later became a hit for Dino, Desi and Billy, the partnership of Dean-Paul “Dino” Martin, Desi Arnaz Jr., and William “Billy” Hinsche.
Red West also co wrote the song “Separate Ways” for Elvis in 1972. The song was the title of an Elvis album released on RCA’s budget album line, Camden, in Jan. 1973. The song “Separate Ways” was the B side release of the single “You Were Always On My Mind” in November 1972. The single reached #20 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It reached #16 on the Country Music Billboard chart. Again, largely due to the success of “Always On My Mind”. Both songs struck a sad, melancholy tone thought to largely depict Elvis’ mood and outlook following the recent separation of him and his eventual ex wife Priscilla.
When Presley was making films in the 1960’s in Hollywood, Red West appeared in small roles in sixteen of the star’s films. 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. 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.
In 1984, West co-starred in the film Hard Knox with Robert Conrad before stringing up am impressive tv credentials list that began with playing Master Sergeant Andy Micklin on Baa Baa Black Sheep. He guest starred twice on the CBS hit detective series Magnum, P.I. as different characters, as four different ones on The A-Team, the Knight Rider pilot episode “Knight of the Phoenix”, on The Fall Guy and in The Once and Future King (The Twilight Zone). As well as appearances in Battlestar Galactica, The Greatest American Hero, The Six-Million Dollar Man, Hunter and The Legend of Grizzly Adams.
In 1989 West appeared in the action film Road House with Patrick Swayze as Red Webster, the auto parts store owner. Since then West had made film/tv appearances in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, The Rainmaker, Memphis Beat, The Riches, Goodbye Solo, The Last Generation To Die, Rectify, Safe Haven, At Any Price, The Black Dove, and Nashville.