When Elvis Presley died August 16, 1977, it was front page news for days. He had just played before a crowd of 13,000 at the Greensboro Coliseum a few months before, and was scheduled to play in Fayetteville and Asheville later in August.
One Fayetteville native, Milton Smith, was about to get the chance of a lifetime as a member of Presley's backup band.
Smith, a former teacher at the Cape Fear High School, was supposed to play the piano for Presley's backup band. The band was supposed to fly out of Nashville Tuesday to go to Portland, Maine, the first stop of Presley's next tour.
Instead, said Smith, he and the Stamps, Presley's backup band, will play at the funeral.
"When we got to the airport, Felton Jarvis, producer and close friend of Presley, got us in a circle and said, 'The Colonel (Col. Tom Parker, the singer's manager) just called and said the tour has been canceled because of an act of God.'" -- The News & Observer 8/18/1977
Area radio stations quickly rearranged their schedules to play tributes. WKBQ (1000 AM) in Garner alternated Presley hits with hymns.
... WKIX was hastily revamping a 15-hour Elvis Labor Day special that had been planned before his death. The Colony Theater rushed in, scheduling a noon-to-midnight showing of four Elvis movies ...
There was a strong demand for extra copies of the News and Observer and the Raleigh Times from souvenir hunters. One man who bought the last of Wednesday's N&O editions got an offer to sell them before he left the company building.
"This is the most reader interest we've had since the Kennedy assassination," said circulation director Frank Arnold. -- The News & Observer 8/18/1977
Arenas where the upcoming concerts were scheduled made plans to refund ticket money, but recognized that many ticket-holders would prefer to keep the souvenir and "would rather cherish the tickets than have the money back."