Firemen's Call To Graceland Was Anything But Routine

By: Katherine Barrett - August 17, 1977
August 25, 2006

It was just a routine call. Someone was having difficulty breathing at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Such calls had come in before when people had collapsed on the street as they waited to catch a glimpse of their singing idol. 'The call was received by the normal procedure', said Charlie Crosby, an emergency medical technician. 'We only knew it was his house'. But this time it was different.

When Crosby and Ulysses Jones Jr., the two emergency medical technicians who handled the call, drove their ambulance up the drive to Graceland, they were taken straight to Elvis Presley's bedroom, where he lay unconscious. With him were his doctor, George Nichopoulos and about 12 members of Presley's staff.

From there through the estimated seven-minute trip from the Whitehaven mansion to Baptist Hospital they worked at reviving him with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but there was 'no response', Crosby said.

From the beginning it looked bad.

'CPR is given when there is reason to believe that there is no heartbeat and no breath'. An hour later they returned to their fire station at 2147 Elvis Presley Boulevard, where reporters were trickling in and anxious conversations were being held between men and their superiors about how much they could say.

About 10 fire fighters were watching a medical program on television and were joking among themselves. There was scattered conversation about Presley and some speculation about what had happened. 'He was 42, I know because that's how old I am', one said. The men were as curious about finding out the details as the reporters. Radio stations were already carrying reports that Presley was dead, but the television that the fire fighters were watching had not confirmed the report.

When Crosby and Jones entered the station house, their colleauges asked reporters to leave so they could hear what happened. 'The lieutenant told me I couldn't even tell my mother', Crosby said softly.

Eventually Crosby and Jones were given permission to tell the bare details of their experience. Fire fighters and journalists gathered around tables to hear what little they could while the radio played Elvis Presley songs.

By Katherine Barrett - August 17, 1977

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