Elvis Presley: Heartbreaking tribute song launched career of country music star

Elvis Presley's father thanks fans for sympathy cards

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After almost 30 years in the music industry, Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. The King suffered a cardiac arrest and was found dead at his home, Graceland, by his fiancée at the time, Ginger Alden. The star’s death sent shockwaves through the industry as many mourned his death, but one fan was moved to create art inspired by the legendary singer.


Ronnie McDowell was a dedicated fan of Elvis and was truly moved when the star unexpectedly died.

To pay tribute to his hero, Ronnie wrote and released a song titled The King Is Gone.

The emotional song begins: “I was barely six years old when I first heard him sing / But somehow I knew, from that moment on / That it would be a lifetime thing / And I’d stand in front of a mirror / Day and night / And I’d listen to every one of his records / And I’d repeat every word / And every note / til, somehow, I finally got it right.”

On this day, October 22, in 1977 – just two months after Elvis’ death – Ronnie’s song reached number 13 in the US singles charts.

The immensely successful song also sparked demand for Ronnie to perform the tribute song live at “American Bandstand” (Via On This Day)


In January 1978 Ronnie then performed the track on the NBC TV special dedicated to Elvis, titled Nashville Remembers Elvis on His Birthday.

The track eventually sold more than five million copies worldwide.

Ronnie’s relationship with the King didn’t end there, however.

The star was later commissioned to cover a number of Elvis’ songs for the soundtrack of the 1979 TV biopic “Elvis” – which starred Kurt Russell and was directed by John Carpenter.

Ronnie also sang Elvis’ vocals in the 1981 TV series “Elvis”.

In 1978 Ronnie released another album, titled A Tribute to the King.

In 1997 the star was also included in a memorial album titled Elvis: A Tribute to a King.

On the record, he sang Love Me Tender as well as Tupelo’s Too Far.

Elvis Presley: Fans gather at Graceland for funeral in 1977

Aside from covering and singing about Elvis, Ronnie has achieved two number one singles.

In June 1981 the singer released Older Women, which shot straight to the top of Billboard’s Country Singles Chart.

The song spent ten weeks atop the list, becoming his first number one of all time.

Two years later, the star did it again.

Ronnie released You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation in 1983 from his album Personally.

The song arrived on the Billboard’s Country Singles Chart at number one.

Ronnie’s second single of the year stayed atop the chart for twelve weeks.


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