Maybe they should have loved him more than they could have, states the PBS series “American Masters” in trying to explain why Elvis Presley died at age 42 some 35 years ago on Aug. 16, 1977. While PBS has produced more than 40 different Elvis TV shows since Elvis broke on to the world stage in the late 1950’s, it’s the American Masters TV episode “Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records." The program first aired in 2001, but Elvis fans today really appreciate this documentary “because it features Elvis just talking about his future as a singer with Sun Records owner Sam Phillips,” explains an overview for this American Masters tribute to Elvis at the start of his career in Memphis." Meanwhile, the show now helps honor this Aug. 16 anniversary of the King’s passing 35 years ago; while fans can watch this TV story on demand by simply going to the American Masters website that also features an image of a very young Elvis in a publicity photo for the 1957 film “Jailhouse Rock.”
Elvis featured with "brown hair" back in 1954
Now in its 25th year, American Masters has produced an exceptional library of more than 160 television programs; including this rare look at the young Elvis when – during this documentary about Elvis working at Sun Records – this brown-haired young man (the footage is from before Elvis dyed his hair black) talks about his hopes for the future at a time in 1954 when he was not yet one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century.
Still, by the show’s end, it’s clear that with such talent – as expressed by his old boss Sam Phillips – he morphs into this cultural icon who is commonly known by the single name Elvis, or the “King of Rock and Roll” or simply “the King.”
What’s also interesting for fans of Elvis – as they honor the 35th anniversary of his passing on Aug. 16, 1977 – is how the young Elvis of 1954 seemed to strike a chord in the hearts of his female followers who were then, just fellow high school class mates from Memphis. Thus, this American Masters documentary about Sun Records is, in fact, a first look at the sensitivity and tenderness of his young Elvis with a personality and passion that was, in 1954, all about his music.
Fans remember Elvis on August 16
A local ABC TV news report from the home of Elvis in Memphis, Tenn., noted how “thousands of devotees converged on Graceland to mark the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death and got a surprise welcome from the King's former wife and daughter, the first time Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley have appeared together at the annual gathering.”
It was back on Aug. 16, 1977 that Elvis died from a heart attack at his Graceland home after media stated he was “battling prescription drug abuse.”
For this 35th anniversary of his death, ABC in Memphis reported how “fans held up lit candles, illuminating their faces in orange light as they stood in the street outside the gates of Graceland, Elvis' longtime home and his burial place.
"You should see this from our point of view. It's amazing," Priscilla Presley said, standing alongside Lisa Marie. "The candles are lit. It's truly a sight to behold.
ABC also noted how “Mourners walked slowly through the tomb area, their candlelight casting shadowy figures against a stone wall. Some teary-eyed fans laid flowers on the gravesite, where Presley's father Vernon, mother Gladys, and grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley also are buried. ‘This is something that Elvis would never, ever have believed could have taken place here,’” said fans.
Meanwhile, PBS and its “American Masters” series must be up there with the long list of Elvis admirers since no other TV or other entertainment medium has done so much for so long to help keep the memory of the King’s life alive in the hearts and minds of fans worldwide. Thus, the abrupt death of Elvis at 42 still shocks legions of fans who are still mesmerized today by his singing, sex appeal and on-stage charisma.
Image source of Elvis as seen on the PBS “American Masters” website from a publicity photo for the 1957 film “Jailhouse Rock.” Fans worldwide remembered the 35th anniversary of the King’s passing on Aug. 16. Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley