Graceland: Take a live virtual tour of Elvis' Memphis home
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In July 1977, just a few weeks before his untimely death at 42, Elvis Presley released his 24th and final album Moody Blue. A mixture of live work and studio sessions, six tracks were recorded in Graceland’s Jungle Room. The King’s record company RCA parked their trucks just outside the Memphis mansion and had cable trailing into the building.
The final Moody Blue recording session in the Jungle Room took place in October 1976.
And now Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith and his wife Jo have shared their memories of the special time at Graceland.
Appearing on the Memphis Mafia Kid YouTube channel, they said how good the session was and how quilts had been hung up presumably to help with the sound.
Interestingly, the green-carpeted ceiling of the Jungle Room, a trend in the seventies, made the room great for recording.
Being a night owl, the session would start at around 2am with the TCB band waiting downstairs for The King’s arrival.
Billy remembered: “I know once he was recording one of the songs [and] the phone in the kitchen went off. That set him off!”
In response, Elvis simply picked up the telephone and threw it up in the air to stop the ringing.
The King’s cousin added how hearing the star with the rhythm section was an “awesome time, awesome feeling!”
On the Jungle Room recording session for 1976 album From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee, Billy said: “I remember Elvis wanted to play the bass guitar on Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.
“I know he played it but I don’t know if him playing the bass was on the original one that came out.
“I couldn’t tell you that because I really don’t know. I know he had to go over it two or three times.”
That track’s bass part on the album is credited to Norbert Putnam, who Elvis tells to “wake up” in his cover of Merry Christmas Baby.
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Billy Smith was with Elvis in the early hours of the morning he died on August 16, 1977. The King had invited him and his wife Jo over to the Graceland racquetball court around 3:30am for a game with him and his final girlfriend Ginger Alden.
After playing, Elvis sat at the piano in the lower lounge area while his cousin witnessed the singer give his final performance.
Billy remembers the star singing Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain and Unchained Melody, the latter of which opens the Moody Blue album.
Around 6:15am, the two couples left the racquetball court and returned to the mansion, where Elvis had a chance to give a final goodbye to his daughter Lisa Marie.
Afterwards, Billy remembers being upstairs in Elvis’ bathroom helping dry his hair, with The King sounding hopeful for the tour he was set to head off on beginning in Portland, Maine.
Elvis said to him: “This is going to be the best tour ever.” Billy replied: “All of them to me are great. I know you’ll do everything you can to make it as good as you can.”
And Elvis said to his cousin: “Well I appreciate it. Sometimes I don’t think they live up to what I think they should. But I always try my best to give the best performance I can.”
Calling it a night at around 7am, Elvis told Billy and Jo he loved them and added: “We’ve got big things to do, we’re going to do big things.” Tragically, just a few hours later, he suffered a fatal heart attack on the toilet in that upstairs bathroom.
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