Do you remember where you were the day Elvis Presley died? I not only have the memory, I have my audio of that day. I was working at KCBQ in San Diego and just happened to have threaded up a reel of tape to record that afternoon’s broadcast. I did that randomly to critique myself. For me, August 16, 1977, started off as just an average day that quickly turned into something quite different. Today, three and a half decades later, was the first time I listened to the entire tape, and one thing struck me about how it was handled at the station I was working at. As you listen, keep a few things in mind.
After the newsperson burst into the control room with the bulletin in her hand, this was long before the internet and instant news, I was told to hold up in making the announcement to make sure it was real. Elvis’ death wasn’t something anyone thought was possible, especially at such a young age. So I sat on the bulletin while calls were made to Memphis for a second verification. I was so shaken I even introduced Shaun Cassidy’s “Da Doo Ron Ron” as being sung by his brother David Cassidy. What you will hear after the announcement was made about 10 minutes after I was handed that piece of paper from the newsroom, is very little talks between songs, as pandemonium was breaking out behind the scenes. It was business as usual over the air, but certainly not so in the building, as everyone at the station went into disbelief and an almost manic mode to find out more information. A full wrap up wasn’t made until around 5:30 – about 3 hours after we first got word.
It wouldn’t happen that way today, but that’s exactly how it happened 36 years ago today.
And here’s how it sounded.