Elvis was alone for the final four hours of his life. He died in the toilet after his fiancee had joked “Don’t fall asleep in there.” She discovered his body at 1.30pm. In the afternoon. Why did nobody notice he had been missing for so many hours during the day? The way he died and the way it went undiscovered for so long are both part of the tragic reasons why The King was lost far too young. As we count down the final 24 hours of his life, the key to understanding those missing hours is the knowledge that Elvis and those around him often lived a very nocturnal existence. Of course, all times are approximate, based on accounts from the family and loved ones who were there.
Monday, August 15, 1977, at 4pm:
Elvis woke up at home in Graceland.
He spent the day with daughter Lisa Marie and Ginger. His fiancee had refused his offer to move in together. She later recalled: “He had asked me to move into Graceland but I never did and he said, ‘I respect you for that.’ I just didn’t at the time. It wasn’t my way,”
Monday, August 15, 1977, at 10.30pm:
Elvis and Ginger went to see his dentist, Lester Hoffman, about persistent tooth pain.
Elvis Presley final 24 hours
Elvis Presley and Ginger in March 1977
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 12.30am:
Elvis and Ginger returned to Graceland.
Driving back in through the gates, Elvis waved at fans, one of whom snapped the last ever picture of the star. Elvis was wearing a black jacket over a light blue shirt. Even though it was night and he was at the wheel, he was wearing large black sunglasses.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 2.15am:
Elvis called his personal physician, Dr Nichopoulos to ask for pain killers.
He was prescribed six Dilaudid tablets and sent his stepbrother, Ricky Stanley, to get them from the all-night pharmacy at Baptist Memorial Hospital. Elvis took the pain killers.
Elvis Presley outside Graceland 20 years earlier in 1957
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 4am:
Elvis telephoned his cousin Billy and wife Jo and asked them to come over and play racketball on the court at his house.
It had been raining and when they arrived, Billy told Elvis he wished it would stop. Apparently, The King held out his hands and replied: “Ain’t no problem, I’ll take care of it.” Miraculously, the rain stopped and Elvis added: “If you have a little faith, you can stop anything.”
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 4.30am:
After a short game, they went to a piano behind the court and Elvis played two gospel songs and then the ballad Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.
Elvis Presley bedroom at Graceland
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 5:00 am:
Elvis and Ginger went up to Elvis’ bedroom. He took a package of prescription drugs put together by ‘Dr Nick’ for twice-daily use.
The doctor would regularly leave these drug cocktails with Elvis’s nurse Tish Henley. They were intended to the star sleep. After Elvis’s death, the doctor was investigated over the extraordinary amount of drugs he prescribed to the star and eventually disbarred.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 7:00 am:
Still not able to sleep, Elvis took a second full package of the pills. They were handed to him by Ricky who was ‘on duty’ to noon that day. Elvis needed to sleep because he was due to fly out at 7pm to Portland, Maine for a concert on the 17th and then continue from there straight on with his current US tour.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 8:00 am:
Desperate to sleep, Elvis called Ricky to bring more medications but he could not be found. Angry, Elvis called his aunt Delta Mae Biggs and asked her to telephone Dr Nick. Nurse Henley was at the office but reluctant to hand over any more pills. Eventually, she gave a third, smaller, package of the pills to Delta Mae containing two valmids, used to treat insomnia.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 9.30am:
After taking the previous pain killers and three separate packages of pills, Elvis told Ginger he was going to the bathroom.
Dressed in gold pyjamas, he took the book Frank Adams’ The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus with him. The star famously suffered from extreme constipation and would spend long periods in the bathroom. Ginger later revealed she warned him not to fall asleep in the toilet and Elvis’ last ever words were, “I won’t.”
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 1.30pm:
Ginger woke up in bed and realised Elvis was not there.
It seemed a little strange but no cause for alarm. She called her mother for a chat, dressed and put on her make-up. Eventually, she went looking for Elvis and finally opened his bathroom door to find him lying on the floor and suddenly realised something was terribly wrong.
Elvis Presley last recorded concert in June 1977
Elvis was unmoving, surrounded by vomit with his pyjama bottoms still around his ankles. He had clearly collapsed and suffered some sort of attack on the toilet. At the time, Ginger thought Elvis had fallen and hit his head and passed out.
Ginger called out for Al Strada, the person on afternoon duty at the house.
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 2.33pm:
They called emergency services. Before they arrived, the ambulance crew thought it was just another regular case of an over-excited fan fainting.
A statement at the time said; “A Memphis Fire Department ambulance from Engine House 29 at 2147 Elvis Presley Boulevard responded to the call at 2:33 pm and by 2:56 pm had taken Presley to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital, seven miles away from his Whitehaven home.”
Tuesday, August 16, 1977, 3.30pm:
Elvis is pronounced dead and at 4pm the world’s media is informed.