Elvis Presley: The King’s TV Specials Are Remembered 40 Years After His Death

Elvis Presley’s death on August 16, 1977, shocked the world. Forty years ago, the hip-swiveling King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, known for his hits like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog,” died suddenly of a reported heart attack at age 42 at his Memphis mansion, leaving behind a vast library of music and film work.

While he was best known for his music and movies, Elvis Presley was no stranger to TV, either. He appeared on all of the obligatory variety shows in the 1950s and ’60s, including Texaco Star Theater, The Milton Berle Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show, and he headlined Elvis, his famous 1968 “comeback special” on NBC, as well as the 1973 TV special Aloha from Hawaii.

Ahead of the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death, AXS TV got a jump start on paying tribute to the King with a month-long programming block featuring various Elvis-themed movies and programs. On August 16, the actual 40th anniversary of Presley’s death, AXS TV will show a Presley-themed episode of the Classic Albums series that examines his self-titled debut album, followed by an encore screening of Elvis Lives! More Elvis-themed programming will continue on AXS on Tuesday nights through the end of August.

Elvis Presley himself made 17 major TV appearances during his lifetime, starting with bandleader Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s Stage Show in 1956 and ending with the 1973 Aloha special. Presley’s 1968 “comeback special” attempted to show a hip side of him as younger acts like the Beatles began to move in on his fan base.

But there was one final Elvis TV appearance after his death—and it wasn’t pretty. Released two months after Elvis Presley’s death, CBS’ Elvis in Concert was deemed controversial because it showed the onetime King in an unflattering light in concerts taped just weeks before he died under mysterious circumstances.

Elvis Presley donned a studded jumpsuit for the CBS concert special, which was edited together from June 1977 concerts in Omaha, Nebraska, and Rapid City, South Dakota. A struggling Elvis delivered performances that were so poor that CBS producers considered shelving them in favor of shows from a future tour, but after Presley was found dead on August 16, they opted to air the special.

According to Rolling Stone, Elvis in Concert contains the last known film of Presley ever filmed as he received a gold record from RCA executives on June 26, 1977, the day of his final concert.

You can see a promo for Elvis Presley’s final TV concert special below.

[Featured Image by File/AP Images]