BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) – When the King of Rock and Roll left the building forty years ago Wednesday, he left behind a fan base that still keeps his legacy alive today.
Elvis Presley played his last Arkansas concerts on September 7 and 8, 1976 at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
“[The center] was brand new, and he was the first person to play there,” Ed Slater said.
Slater attended those last two concerts with a friend, 11 months before Elvis died.
“We went together and it was on a lottery system. We drew fourth row tickets and that’s where I was able to sit and take some great photos,” Slater said.
The ticket price for a fourth row seat was $12.50. Slater said he was lucky to get his for free because that was a lot of money back then.
"Everybody in the convention center had a camera, and I can remember all the flashbulbs going off,” he said. “All the chills that just went through my spine when he walked out on stage. I just had never seen anything like it before."
Slater was so enamored by Elvis’s presence, he made it his mission to go back the second night.
“A lady had one single ticket for sale, and so I went to her house and bought it and went to the concert by myself,” he said.
He said the most memorable moment of the night was when a worker placed a fresh scarf around Presley’s neck – a signature move at his concerts.
“There was a moment of silence when they put a fresh scarf on him,” Slater said. “He turned around, and this lady screamed out ‘I want one! Please give me one!’ So, Elvis turned around and said ‘Who said that?’ and the lady stood up and he could see the cast on her leg. So, they escorted her down, and Elvis got down on his hands and knees and gave her a scarf and kissed her. Very memorable.”
But Slater’s connection to Elvis does not stop at the night of the concert.
"This [photo] was actually given to mean by Elvis' cousin Gene Smith. He was actually a pallbearer at Elvis's funeral," he said.
Slater and Elvis's cousin Jeans became friends after meeting on the job in Stuttgart Arkansas. Slater worked at Kroger and Smith drove a cookie truck. Slater said they would often have lunch together.
"He was not working for Elvis when I met him. But his brother and Elvis's brother worked for Elvis in the 60s. They did wardrobe and drove the tour bus," he said.
So, over the years, Slater acquired a collection of photos with autographs from Elvis's band members. He said he wants the photos to help keep Elvis’s legacy alive by telling stories of how he acquired each individual photograph.
"When I saw him it was a big deal, and I feel fortunate to say I was at his last concert here in Arkansas," he said.
Slater is helping to work on a book about Elvis in Arkansas that will become available on March 24, 2018, the 60th anniversary of Elvis being inducted into the army of Fort Chaffee. Many of the pictures and autographs Slater has acquired will be put into the book for Arkansans to look back on. For more on Elvis in Arkansas, click here.