It was 41 years ago tonight (October 3rd, 1977) that CBS aired Elvis Presley's final concert special, Elvis In Concert. The show, which was broadcast six weeks after Elvis' death of a heart attack at the age of 42, featured a heavily made up and obviously ill Elvis, looking bloated and sweating profusely. Sadly, in pop culture circles, the show is best known as the “Fat Elvis” concert. After its initial airing and several repeats, which were allowed as part of the original contract with CBS, the Presley estate has never permitted any further showings of the full special, which showed Elvis at his worst.
Although he was physically in bad shape, his voice was able to carry the special, which featured footage taped on June 19th, 1977 in Omaha, Nebraska and on June 21st in Rapid City, South Dakota. Although many have referred to the performance as Elvis' final show, his last concert actually took place on June 26th, 1977 in Indianapolis.
Among the high points of the show were a near operatic version of his cover of Timmy Yuro's “Hurt,” 1970's concert staples such as “You Gave Me A Mountain,” and such '50s and '60s hits as “It's Now Or Never,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Teddy Bear,” “Don't Be Cruel,” “Can't Help Falling In Love,” and his version of the Frank Sinatra standard “My Way.”
Pete Townshend says that the enormity of pressures surrounding Elvis is what ultimately led to his death at such a young age: “That's a terrible tragedy when you think what a decent kind of guy he seemed to be when you read the stuff. Y'know he came to pieces at the end. And it's easy to blame Vegas, but it wasn't about Vegas, it was just about the load.”
According to Schilling's recent memoir, Me And A Guy Named Elvis, he took Elvis' manager Colonel Tom Parker to task for allowing Presley to appear in such bad shape before the cameras. Parker reportedly told Schilling that he tried to stop the deal due to Presley's poor health, but that Presley demanded that the special go ahead as scheduled.
The soundtrack album to the Elvis In Concert special peaked at Number Five on the Billboard 200 album charts and went all the way to Number One on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts.