Following his split from girlfriend of four years Linda Thompson, Elvis Presley dated his final lover Ginger Alden, who he proposed to and who would tragically find him dead on August 16, 1977, after a heart attack on the toilet. Physically out of shape and doped up on too much prescription medication, The King, who was 42 when he died, struggled through his final concerts, with his dire state on full display in the never officially released Elvis in Concert film from his last summer. Howard Hughes-like, the star would spend much of his finals months hidden away in his bedroom upstairs at Graceland, buried in his spiritualism books and paranoia.
Memphis Mafia members Red and Sonny West and David Hebler had been fired the previous year, with the reason given being to save money. However, it was suspected that their dismissal was over their criticism of Elvis’ drug dependency.
In July 1977, they would publish their tell-all memoir Elvis: What Happened?, detailing his addiction.
The King was devastated at the publication and unsuccessfully offered money to stop it, as he struggled with his other health issues from an enlarged colon and glaucoma to liver damage.
Meanwhile, the smaller inner circle, including the star’s cousin Billy Smith and his wife Jo, would continue to keep him company. They’d all sit together in the middle of his bed, talking for hours on topics like religion, UFOs and even recounting his favourite Monty Python sketches.
Billy’s son Danny was Lisa Marie’s playmate and has shared his memories of The King during his final years on his YouTube channel Memphis Mafia Kid.
He said: “In the later years Elvis was still Elvis. The last couple years he did change somewhat. He still did things, enjoyed things. Just maybe didn’t quite get into some of them as much as he had before. He got there toward the end where he just wanted very, very few people around.”
He also shared memories of the star’s last Christmas at Graceland in 1976, which went on well into the morning, after the party began on the evening of December 24.
Elvis performing in 1977, the year he died (Image: GETTY)
By the early hours of Christmas Day, most of the Memphis Mafia had gone home to bed, while Billy, Jo, Elvis’ father Vernon and his girlfriend Sandi Miller were still upstairs.
Danny shared: “Pretty much it ended up just up in his room. Mama and Daddy and Vernon and Sandy and then us kids. Lisa, Laura, Rory, me, Joey was downstairs and running all over the house.”
That Christmas, The King gifted his daughter Lisa Marie her very own golf cart.
Elvis’ relative concluded: “And in the last couple years he just wanted just certain people around, but I mean at times he was still, the same old Elvis too.”
Danny was also asked about his relationship with Linda Thompson and shared how they’re still in touch to this day.