ELVIS PRESLEY – American Trilogy Live (Aloha from Hawaii 1973)
Elvis died in his bathroom at 1.30pm in the afternoon of August 16, 1977. Graceland was always full of people. Elvis’ fiancee Ginger Alden was in their bedroom and the house always had day and night staff on call to cater to The King’s every wish. The Memphis Mafia (Elvis’ old core group of friends) plus his security guards and his step-brothers, cousins and other family were all constantly close at hand or a phone call away. His father Vernin lived next door, their gardens sharing a fence. So why was he totally alone for the last four hours of his life? We break down the final 24 hours of his life.
Monday, August 15, 1977, at 4pm: Elvis woke up at home in Graceland.
He spent the day with daughter Lisa Marie and Ginger. His fiancee had refused his offer to move in together. She later recalled: “He had asked me to move into Graceland but I never did and he said, ‘I respect you for that.’ I just didn’t at the time. It wasn’t my way,”
Monday, August 15, 1977, at 10.30pm: Elvis and Ginger went to see his dentist, Lester Hoffman, about persistent tooth pain.
Elvis had a personal dentist, doctor and nurse practitioner on call day and night, often to prescribe pain killers, sleeping pills and other cocktails of medication.
Elvis Presley death: His final recorded show in June 1977
Elvis Presley death: the final 24 hours with Ginger
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 12.30am: Elvis and Ginger returned to Graceland.
Driving back in through the gates, Elvis waved at fans, one of whom snapped the last ever picture of the star. Elvis was wearing a black jacket over a light blue shirt. Even though it was night and he was at the wheel, he was wearing large black sunglasses.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 2.15am: Elvis called his personal physician, Dr Nichopoulos to ask for pain killers.
He was prescribed six Dilaudid tablets and sent his stepbrother, Ricky Stanley, to get them from the all-night pharmacy at Baptist Memorial Hospital. Elvis took the pain killers.
Elvis death: His Graceland sitting room
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 4am: Elvis telephoned his cousin Billy and wife Jo and asked them to come over and play racketball on the court at his house. Despite the hour, this was not unusual. Everyone around Elvis, who were either paid by him or enjoyed his largess, was always available.
It had been raining and when they arrived, Billy told Elvis he wished it would stop. Apparently, The King held out his hands and replied: “Ain’t no problem, I’ll take care of it.” Miraculously, the rain stopped and Elvis added: “If you have a little faith, you can stop anything.”
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 4.30am: After a short game, they went to a piano behind the court and Elvis played two gospel songs and then the ballad Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.
Elvis with his father Vernon two months before his death
Elvis Presley death: His Graceland bedroom
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 5:00 am: Elvis and Ginger went up to Elvis’ bedroom. He took a package of prescription drugs put together by ‘Dr Nick’ for twice-daily use.
The doctor would regularly leave these drug cocktails with Elvis’s nurse Tish Henley. They were intended to help the star sleep. After Elvis’s death, the doctor was investigated over the extraordinary amount of drugs he prescribed to the star and eventually disbarred.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 7:00 am: Still not able to sleep, Elvis took a second full package of the pills. They were handed to him by Ricky who was ‘on duty’ to noon that day. Elvis needed to sleep because he was due to fly out at 7pm to Portland, Maine for a concert on the 17th and then continue from there straight on with his current US tour.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 8:00 am: Desperate to sleep, Elvis called Ricky to bring more medications but he could not be found. Angry, Elvis called his aunt Delta Mae Biggs and asked her to telephone Dr Nick. Nurse Henley was at the office but reluctant to hand over any more pills. Eventually, she gave a third, smaller, package of the pills to Delta Mae containing two valmids, used to treat insomnia.
Elvis’ stepmother Dee and stepbrothers including Rick (far right)
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 9.30am: After taking the previous pain killers and three separate packages of pills, Elvis told Ginger he was going to the bathroom.
Dressed in gold pyjamas, he took the book Frank Adams’ The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus with him. The star famously suffered from extreme constipation and would spend long periods in the bathroom. Ginger later revealed she warned him not to fall asleep in the toilet and Elvis’ last ever words were, “I won’t.”
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 2pm: Ginger woke up in bed and realised Elvis was not there.
It seemed a little strange but no cause for alarm. She called her mother for a chat, dressed and put on her make-up. Eventually, she went looking for Elvis and finally opened his bathroom door to find him lying on the floor and suddenly realized something was terribly wrong.
Elvis Presley’s Dr George Nichopoulos confirms his death
Elvis was unmoving, surrounded by vomit with his pyjama bottoms still around his ankles. He had clearly collapsed and suffered some sort of attack on the toilet. At the time, Ginger thought Elvis had fallen and hit his head and passed out.
Ginger called out for Al Strada, the person on afternoon duty at the house.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 2.33pm: They called emergency services. Before they arrived, the ambulance crew thought it was just another regular case of an over-excited fan fainting.
A statement at the time said; “A Memphis Fire Department ambulance from Engine House 29 at 2147 Elvis Presley Boulevard responded to the call at 2:33pm and by 2:56pm had taken Presley to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital, seven miles away from his Whitehaven home.”
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 3.30pm: Elvis was pronounced dead and at 4pm the world’s media was informed.