By Matt DeReno
CoverUps.com Staff Writer
Since the the day Elvis Presley was proclaimed dead due to a drug overdose on August 16, 1977, rumors and conjecture have hypothesized that he is still living. Some claim he is living in secrecy, escaping the life he had created for himself as arguably the most popular and influential American musician of all time.
Elvis at the White House, 1970
Is it that Presley fans simply can’t let go, or is there truth to the unquenchable rumors that he faked his own demise to gain the privacy and peace he lacked during his stardom. CoverUps.com takes a look at the King, the legend and the enduring mystery of his death. Was there a cover-up behind it?
Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. Despite his later status as a legendary musician, his family lived near poverty during his childhood. Elvis was reared as an only child (his identical twin brother was stillborn) and was very close to his mother. It was his mother that encouraged Presley to buy his first guitar, as opposed to the rifle he really wanted to buy. Once he possessed his guitar, he was rarely seen without it. The Presley family attended the Assembly of God church, which was later to have a large influence on his music and the unique sound he would become famous for.
As Presley got older, he would play anywhere he could, gradually making a name for himself in Memphis along the famed Beale Street. Even today, B.B. King recalls Elvis “hanging around” before he became big.
Rise to Fame
It was initially difficult for Presley to rise to immediate stardom because most music producers at the time were not sure if his “sound” was marketable. After all, he was a white man playing "black" music, and many producers thought that made him unattractive to listeners of either ethnic persuasion; turns out just the opposite were true. His mixture of black gospel sounds and rhythms, and provocative hip-gyrating performances rose him to immediate fame. The rest, as they say, is legend.
As Presley gained in popularity, he acted in movies (many of them simply to promote his music) and performed live concerts nation-wide. His live concert in Hawaii was the first concert to be broadcast via satellite, and it reached an estimated 1 billion people. Many musicians today credit Elvis as their inspiration to get into music. John Lennon was reported to have said, “Without Elvis… There would be no Beatles.”
As Elvis became more and more famous however, he also became increasingly withdrawn. There was emptiness to his fame; something he could not quite come to terms with, and it would ultimately prove to be his undoing. He turned to drugs to find solace.
Presley divorced his wife Priscilla Beaulieu in 1973, and consequently became increasingly isolated and overweight. His drug usage was taking a heavy toll on his health, mood and his stage act. It was reported that Presley began experimenting with drugs while in the Army stationed in Germany.
Despite his weight gain and drug problem, Presley was still capable of putting on critically applauded, great performances and the numbers back this up. His concerts were continually sold out and his records continued to produce hits despite the fact the contemporary music scene was moving in a different direction with the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin. As time progressed however, Presley became more obese. He would diet excessively and then binge eat. Evntually all desire to keep himself physically fit was gone.
The 42-year-old-Presley was found face down on the floor of a bathroom at Graceland , his 18-room mansion, at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 16. He was last seen early that day playing racquet ball with members of his entourage. According to the medical investigator, Presley had "stumbled or crawled several feet before he died." Elvis was officially pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m. at the Baptist Memorial Hospital. The cause of death was heart disease but many speculate that the combined amount of prescription drugs--at least 10 over all--in his system could have played a role.
His funeral was a national media event.
Hundreds of thousands of fans, the press and celebrities lined the streets hoping to see the open casket in " Graceland " or to witness the funeral. For the record, Presley's last performance was in Indianapolis at the Market Square Arena on June 26 of that year.
Was Elvis' Death a Hoax?
Many strange facts surround his final days and even today, fans of Elvis claim he lives and was simply running away from the public. If so, his fake death is one of the all time great CoverUps. What follows are some of the more popular theories that support his death as a hoax:
Elvis joined the Witness Protection Program
Elvis once had a famous meeting with President Richard Nixon. According to some sources, during this meeting Nixon issued Elvis Presley a DEA badge. Bizarrely, Elvis was said to have presented Nixon with a hand gun as a gift.
Was this a clue that Elvis was helping investigators with a major case and later had to enter the federal witness protection program? This seems highly unlikely.
Weird looking photos of the corpse
In 1977, the National Enquirer allegedly paid a third cousin of Elvis to smuggle a camera in to Elvis’ funeral viewing and snap a few photos. The resulting pictures raised many questions: the eyebrows chin, and fingers all looked unlike Elvis. Then again, dead guys don’t look so good.
Wax dummy in the coffin?
Other sources say the coffin weighed 900 pounds. Elvis is known to have been overweight at the time of his death, but he wasn’t that big. The theory here holds that the weight was due to an air conditioner installed inside to keep a wax dummy of Elvis from melting. That is one heavy wax dummy.
The misspelled name on his tomb
Elvis’ father, Vernon , misspelled Elvis’ middle name on the grave: Aaron instead of “Aron” as his mother named him. Did Vernon Presley know his son was alive and not in the tomb? However, existing evidence does suggest there was confusion as to the proper spelling of his middle name.
The bizarre quote of Col. Tom Parker
Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, said in a press conference shortly after his death: “Elvis didn’t die. The body did. We’re keeping up the good spirits. We’re keeping Elvis alive. I talked to him this morning and he told me to 'carry on.’”
Is it possible we were to take him literally?
New recordings from the 90s?
In 2000, an independent label released a CD entitled “Kingtinued” featuring “the voice of Elvis.” In it, at least fourteen well known songs are crooned by the voice, which allegedly is an exact match to that of Elvis. However, Tears in Heaven, La Vida Loca, Sweet Home Alabama, Have I Told You Lately, and Candle in the Wind were not written and did not exist prior to August 16th, 1977. Was it really The King?
Not so says the producer of the record, who credited Doug Church as the “voice of Elvis.” However, some conspiracy buffs claim to have compared the voice on Kingtinued with a sample of Elvis’ original recordings and they say it is an exact match and it is really the King singing incognito. You be the judge. Buy the record on Amazon.com.
Inconsistencies surrounding death
The circumstances of death are described in conflicting ways. Witnesses disagree as to how the body was found and what Elvis was wearing, when the body was found, whether it was dead already, when death was declared, and what techniques were tried to resuscitate him. It does not appear clear if it was the mix of drugs in his system or coronary disease that was the main cause of death.
Other weird behavior
• Elvis did not order new costumes for a new tour that was slated to begin on August 16th, 1977.
• He fired several old friends shortly before his death? Was it because of a book they wrote about him?
• During his last tour he sang Blue Christmas although it was summer.
• Allegedly, five months before, family members were suddenly cut out of his will. Did he realize he needed to have that money as a resource to live incognito?
Mysterious “John Burrows” leaving Memphis
One day after Elvis’ death, a ticket to Buenos Aires was purchased at a Memphis airport. The man supposedly looked a lot like Elvis and used the name “John Burrows.” Supposedly, this was the same name Elvis frequently used when making hotel reservations for the Elvis entourage.
The CoverUps.com Conclusion
Elvis Presley continues to be an enduring American icon that has transcended the role as a mere musician. His death, while arriving at a premature age, seems to cement his status as a legend. But, what if Elvis wanted out of the life he created and thought faking his death was the best way to do so? It would have seemed plausible.
He was tired, overweight and seemingly displeased with the direction his career was going. He had the reason to disappear from the public eye. If so, why not just quit? Why not lay the guitar down and slip back into the fold of everyday life? After all, time would move on and new music stars would take the limelight.
Until it is proven it is not Elvis lying in the grave in Memphis we will never know. But one thing is beyond a doubt, Elvis was a once in a lifetime kind of musician that took rock and roll in a whole new direction. His legacy is perhaps as great as any in the annals of American pop culture and rock and roll. In that sense Elvis is indeed alive.
Still In The News
Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley
Guralnick, Careless Love
Albert Goldman, Elvis: The Last 24 Hours
Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me.