April 26

The Last Hit of The King, “Way Down” by Elvis Presley

The Last Hit of The King, “Way Down” by Elvis Presley 1
Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi
Sept 26, 1956
© 1978 Roger Marshutz—MPTV

The Final Chapter of the Life of the King of Rock

Back in 1977, the music and film star who had thrilled women as Elvis Presley did had deteriorated into an overweight reminder of an earlier era. However, his concerts still sold out consistently. Not only that, the King gave plenty of shows until June 26, 1977.

That night, he performed at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana but that concert proved to be the last performance of Elvis Presley’s legendary career.

One day earlier, a new song by Elvis Presley called “Way Down” debuted on the Billboard’s Country Singles Chart.

In late July of ’77, several of Elvis’s former bodyguards released a book called “Elvis: What Happened?” accusing The King of a drug addiction, among other things. Elvis Presley was hurt by the book, but he continued to enjoy success with his latest single, “Way Down.”

On August 16, 1977, he played racquetball with several associates, including girlfriend Ginger Alden, but at 2:30 that afternoon, she found Elvis’s lifeless body on the floor of the bathroom, adjacent to his bedroom at Graceland Mansion. Resuscitation efforts proved futile.

Elvis Presley’s death at age 42 came as a shock to an adoring public, and thousands flocked to Memphis overnight to pay homage to their deceased hero. More than 25,000 people viewed his body, standing in line for hours through first, a light rain, and later the grueling heat of summer.

The Success of His Last Hit

Four days after Elvis Presley’s death, “Way Down” reached the No. 1 position on the August 20, 1977 edition of Billboard’s Country Singles Chart. The song had initially peaked at only No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart dated August 6, 1977, and had fallen to No. 53 for the week ending August 27th. However, it reversed direction and reached an even higher peak of No. 18. A few weeks later, “Way Down” topped the United Kingdom’s singles chart, the only Elvis record to do so since 1970’s “The Wonder Of You.”

Upon his death, record stores immediately sold out all of their existing Presley stock, and RCA kept its Indianapolis plant open 24 hours a day, pressing only material by The King to meet the demand. Meanwhile, producer Felton Jarvis was already at work enhancing material recorded during Presley’s final concert tour for release as a two-record set, “Elvis In Concert.” Beginning September 3rd of the same year, Elvis Presley occupied the top spot on Billboard’s country album chart for fifteen consecutive weeks. The “Moody Blue” album held the position for the first ten weeks, followed by the live LP.


Elvis Presley

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