The King Is Dead: Long Live The King
There are four events in my life that I remember exactly where I was when they occurred. Those four events are The Moon Landing, The Kennedy Assassination, September 11, 2001 and The Death of Elvis Aaron Presley.
Growing up in the late 50’s and early 60’s was a life changing experience. The birth of Rock N’ Roll, hot rods, war protests, the hippie movement, the drug culture, the British Invasion (Beatles and others) and Elvis.
Only The Good Die Young
The words to the Billy Joel song are especially fitting for the death of Elvis Presley. His 24-year career ended on this date in 1977 — he was 42. I was having lunch at a restaurant near my work at the time when someone came in a told one of the waitresses that they had heard about Elvis’ death on the radio.
Elvis Presley changed the face of American music like no one before him and few after. Only Madonna and The Beatles can come close to matching the number one singles and albums by Elvis Presley. Here are some notable dates in an amazing career.
- Born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. The second of twins. His brother was stillborn.
- Elvis pays $7.90 for his first guitar purchased at a Tupelo Hardware store in 1946. ($94.64 in 2013 dollars)
- After submitting a demo record Elvis signs a contract with Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage his career for the next 20+ years. Sun Record contract sold to RCA in 1955.
- First number one hit comes out in 1956, “Heartbreak Hotel,” sells over 1 million. “Elvis Presley” album goes to number one on Billboard. Ed Sullivan appearance highest rating ever for a variety show.
- In March of 1957 he buys Graceland in Memphis.
- One year later in March of 1958 he’s drafted and stationed in Germany. Decides to be a regular soldier rather than doing USO shows which was an option.
- In 1967 Elvis marries Priscilla Beaulieu. They met when she was 14 and married after a seven and a half year relationship. Daughter Lisa Marie, future wife of Michael Jackson, born February 1, 1968.
- In 1969, Elvis sets attendance records when he returns to live performing at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. Produces his first live album.
- 1970 marks the first appearance of Elvis’ famous jumpsuits and capes.
- In 1972 Priscilla has a affair with her Karate instructor who was recommended to her by Elvis. She moves out and they are divorced in 1973.
- Elvis makes history again in 1973 with “Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii” seen via satellite in 40 countries by over 1 billion people. It would be his last number one album.
- In 1973 Elvis begins a steady stream of hospital stays due to prescription drug dependency. More stays in 1975 and 1977 continue the downward spiral.
- June 26, 1977 - Elvis makes his last performance at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, IN.
- August 16, 1977 – Elvis is ready to begin another tour and will be flying out of Memphis that evening. That afternoon, his fiancé Ginger Alden finds him on the bathroom floor at the Graceland Mansion, unresponsive. He is pronounced dead at 3:30 PM at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis.
Some Final Thoughts
The funeral was held two days late on Thursday, August 18th. Two women were killed and another critically injured when a car slammed into a group of fans. Elvis was buried next to his mother in Forest Hill Cemetery.
Some 80,000 fans lined the route to the graveside. After an attempt to steal Elvis’ body from Forest Hill Cemetery both he and his mother were moved to Graceland’s Meditation Garden on October 2nd.
As Elvis’ career unfolded most of us who grew up during that time thought that Elvis would be the next Sinatra. He’d end up in Vegas make a movie every now and then and be a national treasure. But in the end celebrity and pressure got the best of him.
I visited Graceland and the burial site in the summer of 1978. It’s quite a place and the lines were long then as you can imagine with the death just a year earlier. It’s the second most visited house in the US next to the White House in Washington, DC. I think I’ll head over to YouTube and catch some Elvis footage. Did I mention I’m pretty sure I saw Elvis looking at music in Walmart the other day?