When it comes to American music, or even American pop culture in general, few artists are as iconic as Elvis Presley.
With a record setting 129 albums charting on the Billboard Top 100, and 114 singles reaching the Billboard top 40, he is one of the most accomplished and best-selling solo artists of all time. Even as the popularity of his music wanes amongst younger audiences, he remains well-known for his iconic style and legions of impersonators.
The place most synonymous with Elvis is, of course, Graceland – his estate in Memphis, Tennessee that serves as both his final resting place and a museum in his honor. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and as a National Historic Landmark in 2006, Graceland is the second most visited house in the United States, trailing only the White House.
Although Indiana can’t claim the same ties to Elvis as Tennessee or his birthplace of Mississippi, we do have an interesting, if somewhat sad, connection to the King, as Indianapolis played host to his final live concert.
On June 26th, 1977 18,000 screaming fans packed the Market Square Area for a chance to see their idol in action. Elvis reportedly appeared pale and overweight, but this was not uncommon at this stage of his career.
The concert was, by all accounts, par for the course for late stage Elvis, and there was nothing to suggest that this would be his final stop. Audio from this performance was recorded and has been released on CD, though it was not a particularly noteworthy set.
One interesting note about the performance was that Elvis publicly acknowledged a lot of people from both his professional and personal life in between songs. Although some believe that this suggests Elvis knew his days were numbered, it was more likely he was trying to get ahead of the curve on the publication of an upcoming biography referencing interviews with his former bodyguards that was to publicly reference his drug abuse and impact his image.
At any rate, several weeks after the concert Elvis suffered cardiac arrest from a suspected drug overdose at his Graceland Estate and was pronounced dead on August 16, 1977.
Although the final Indianapolis concert is an oft-forgotten historical footnote, Elvis’s death was anything but. Occurring just two weeks after the aforementioned biography was published, his death, and subsequent funeral initiated a media circus. His legacy was famously commemorated by then-President Jimmy Carter, and August 16th 1977 continues to be a topic of discussion even today.
Want to Know More?
Elvis singing “Heartbreak Hotel” during the ’68 Comeback Special’. As good as the King gets…
The IndyStar’s review of Elvis’s final concert, “Elvis Performs in True Presley Style Before 18,000“, written by reporter Rita Rose.