When Elvis Presley hit the road in June 1977, he was an absolute mess. He was only 42, but years of prescription drug abuse and horrifying dietary habits had left him bloated, depressed and near death. He had an enlarged heart, an enlarged intestine, hypertension and incredibly painful bowel problems. He was barely sleeping and should have probably been in the hospital, but he was still a huge draw on the concert circuit and the money was too good to turn down.
It had been over a year since Elvis last released a studio album, and manager Colonel Tom Parker was determined to get more product into the stores. Despite Elvis’ horrid shape, Parker arranged for a camera crew to film the June 19th show in Omaha for a planned TV special and live album. It eventually aired on CBS two months after Elvis died, and has yet to resurface in any official capacity. This isn’t the Elvis that his estate wants the fans to remember.
Two days later, the cameras were still rolling when the tour hit Rapid City, South Dakota. It was another weak and sad night until Elvis sat down at the piano near the end to deliver a spellbinding rendition of “Unchained Melody.” As guitarist Charlie Hodge held a microphone, Elvis dug deep and poured his heart into the song. His body was falling apart, but his voice remained almost as powerful as ever. Without any doubt, it’s the last great moment of his career.
The tour limped along through five more shows, wrapping up June 26th at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. The show ended with “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” He died less than two months later.