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The Vault: Remembering the week Louisville fans mourned the passing of Elvis Presley

WHAS11 News traveled to Graceland where more than 30,000 came out to pay their respects to the "King of Rock-and Roll" following his death in 1977.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It has been 44 years since the passing of rock-and-roll legend Elvis Presley.

WHAS11 anchor Jim Mitchell stood among tens of thousands of fans who flocked to Memphis, standing in the extreme heat and hoped to get a chance to get inside Graceland.

Many of his adoring fans were heartbroken at the news of his passing with some in the crowd even fainting.

"He was my hero. He was the only thing in this whole wide world that mattered to me," a fan described.

Another fan said, "It was heartbreaking to see such a great person die like this." I love him so much he's a fabulous person I don't know what I feel. I feel empty."

Back in Louisville, WHAS11 reporters found their way to local record stores. Fans were buying up his records, also mourning his death.

"I don't know – it’s just sad that we lost him, a fan said.

Credit: WHAS-TV Archives
Elvis fans flock to a Louisville record store to buy his albums following his death.

Mitchell described that to fans, Elvis was not just a singer, but a song and the anthem of the generation that grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.  

The doors to Graceland were closed to the public during his funeral but man celebrities drove in to attend while crowds grew big outside the gates. Some drove hundreds of miles, including Kentuckians. Mitchell asked them why they made the trip.

Some said it was out of love and admiration while others wanted to witness the moment in music history.

During his lifetime, Elvis was no stranger to Louisville.

He performed many of his hits including “Hound Dog” at the Armory, now known as Louisville Gardens. Fans packed the house at the venue in 1956 to see the rock legend.

Credit: WHAS-TV Archives
A billboard promoting Elvis Presley's concert at the Armory in downtown Louisville.

Elvis returned in 1974 performing for thousands at Freedom Hall. WHAS11 News cameras caught the “King” leaving following his performance, waving goodbye to fans.

It was Elvis' long and storied career that led to his popularity and massive turnout on the day of his funeral.  

Elvis was buried in a mausoleum a few hundred yards from where his mother was buried, covered in hundreds of flowers and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some called it a display worthy of the King of Rock and Roll.

"Many people will be saying and writing after this moment we've come to the end of an era. But maybe not. Elvis once made an album called “50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong”. Over the years, their numbers grew and so did their affection. It may be that all though the life of Elvis has ended the legend has not," Mitchell said.

Credit: WHAS-TV Archives
Thousands of Elvis fans line up near Graceland after learning about the "King of Rock-and Roll's" death in Memphis, Tennessee.

Historians report during his time in Louisville, Elvis would stay at the Seelbach Hotel and visit his grandfather, Jesse D. Presley, who owned a small home in southern Louisville.

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