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The Unexpected Celebrity Who Crashed Elvis Presley’s Funeral

When Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977, the world was washed in a hazy, late-summer fog of shock and grief. Throngs of mourners traveled to Memphis to pay their respects to the King of Rock and Roll, from close family, friends, and colleagues to fans.



Presley died at his famous Graceland estate, which was opened to the public for the first time the following day for a viewing of the star. The viewing preceded the final ceremony and burial at Forrest Hill Cemetery, where Elvis’ mother was laid to rest 19 years earlier, almost to the exact day. He was later moved to Graceland, where both Lisa Marie Presley’s son and Lisa Marie, who was never the same after Elvis died, would also be interred.



While sources’ exact number varies, it’s estimated that up to 100,000 people showed up to the Graceland gates to see the King off — including a young actor cutting his teeth and climbing the ranks of comedic stardom over at “Saturday Night Live.”
From NYC to Memphis on a standby plane ticket

“Saturday Night Live” alum Bill Murray explained his attendance at Elvis Presley’s funeral proceedings in a “Today” interview with Savannah Guthrie in 2018. The “Ghostbusters” actor said that after he heard the news of Presley’s death, he felt compelled to attend the funeral, so he put himself on a standby list for a plane ride to Memphis. Despite holding the 27th spot on the call list, he got a seat on the plane.



“I just went right to the house, and they had just ended visitation,” Murray recounted. “I met a fella that I knew that was a photographer, and the next day, I ended up on the bus in front of the cortège. It was an amazing thing to see, extraordinary thing to see, hundreds of thousands of people standing in a really hot day and waiting underneath overpasses in the shade because it was so hot.”

Murray’s bus arrived at the cemetery early, passing crowds of people trying to enter Forrest Hill. The actor recalled running across the cemetery to see Presley’s gravesite only to be met by a group of intimidating motorcycle cops. It wasn’t until Murray noticed passersby pointing at the scene that he realized he had inadvertently run to the burial site of the singer’s mother, Gladys.



Bill Murray continues to keep the spirit of Elvis alive

Elvis Presley, born in 1935, was breaking into the music scene while Bill Murray, born in 1950, was still a kid. Presley’s debut single, “That’s All Right,” was released when the actor was only 4, and the musician’s iconic, best-selling single, “Hound Dog,” was released two years later. Like so many other children growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, Murray watched Presley transform from a Tupelo-born musician to an international music icon before their very eyes.



But Murray’s love for Presley goes beyond his incredible story of an impromptu flight. The “SNL” alum has been spotted several times keeping Presley’s spirit alive with his renditions of the musician’s catalog. Murray performed “Blue Christmas” with Norah Jones at The Bell House in Brooklyn. And when Murray crashed a lucky group’s karaoke room at New York City’s Karaoke One 7 in 2011, he opted to sing Presley’s “Marie’s the Name” on his turn at the mic.

Murray even donned a classic ’70s Elvis jumpsuit — complete with bejeweled panels, a cape, and a plunging neckline — for a 2007 cover of Condé Nast’s music and movie magazine, Movies Rock. Three years later, he revisited the look while performing at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, embodying the spirit and style of the man he saw laid to rest all those years ago.

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