Like a prince from another planet and Elvis rocks Canada--April 2,1957
LIKE A PRINCE FROM ANOTHER PLANET
by elvisblog on Sun 16 Jul 2006 05:59 AM EDT
Everybody knows the two signature events of Elvis’ latter career were the ‘68 Comeback Special and the Elvis Aloha From Hawaii worldwide TV broadcast. Do you know there was one other event that was a very big deal at the time but has faded a bit from memory? I am referring to the four-show block of concerts Elvis gave at Madison Square Garden on June 9, 10, and 11, 1972. If they had been preserved on film, they would probably rank up there with Aloha and the Comeback Special.
It’s hard to believe Elvis never gave a concert in New York City prior to this, because he had spent a lot of time there. He was in town to do TV broadcasts for six Dorsey Brothers Shows, one Steve Allen Show, and three Ed Sullivan Shows. He also had two recording sessions at RCA Studios that gave us “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” In 1958, he departed for Army service in Germany from New York Harbor before a huge crowd of fans and members of the media.
But Elvis did no live shows in New York City during the 50’s and none during his first three years back on the road after the movies ended. It has been suggested this strange absence can be traced to Col. Tom Parker’s management. He had a long memory of the brutal treatment the New York press gave Elvis in 1956.
By 1972, Elvis’ concerts were huge successes in Las Vegas and dozens of other cities. Parker probably figured the time was right for Elvis to conquer New York – and Elvis certainly did. The Colonel originally planned to do three shows at Radio City Music Hall, but when he got a sense of how big these concerts would be, he switched to Madison Square Garden. The single show on Friday and the two on Saturday sold out so quickly that a Sunday show was added. And, it sold out. 80,000 very happy New York fans were going to see Elvis live. There was a noticeable buzz in the city leading up to Elvis visit.
Elvis and company blew into town on June 8 in three leased airplanes. The troupe was seventy-five people strong: the TCB Band, an orchestra, The Sweet Inspirations, JD Sumner and The Stamps, Kathy Westmoreland, tech people, equipment handlers, stagehands, and assorted buddies.
The next day, Col. Parker staged a press conference in the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton five hours before the first concert. Elvis was in a buoyant mood, and had a grand time sparring with the reporters. Every newscast in the city that night carried a segment on Elvis’ press conference. The King and The Big Apple. It was meant for greatness.
Elvis was in good health, he was psyched to do super concerts for the New Yorkers, and he turned on the power. The concerts were superb. TCB pianist Glen Hardin said afterwards, “Elvis never sang better than he did at Madison Square Garden.” Billboard magazine gushed, “Elvis has transcended the exasperating constrictions of time and place.” The same New York Times that cruelly dismissed Elvis in 1956, now said, “He stood there at the end, his arms stretched out, the great gold cloak giving him wings, a champion, the only one in his class… He looked like a prince from another planet.”
There are more stories to tell about Elvis performing at Madison Square Garden. For now, let’s end with a question. If they filmed the press conference, why didn’t they film the concert? It would have made one heck of a DVD.
© 2006 Philip R Arnold:D(y):king:(y)
ELVIS ROCKS CANADA -- APRIL 2, 1957
by elvisblog on Sun 14 May 2006 05:52 AM EDT
I am no longer amazed at some of the stuff I find while surfing the web on the trail of Elvis links. However, I was very pleased to run across the full text of a 49 year old news report in the Toronto Star covering two Elvis shows at Maple Leaf Gardens. The article was like a time capsule, revealing what went on during the height of Elvis-mania.
The stories of mass hysteria at previous Elvis performances must have been well known to the promoters of his Toronto concerts, because they supplemented the regular Gardens security staff with 90 special constables. This worked out fairly well at the first show, which had a crowd of 8,000 teenagers. I like this quote in the news report: “Whenever a youngster bounced up in his seat, a policeman would reach over and plunk him down again. This sometimes gave the Gardens the appearance of a large jack-in-the-box.” Can you picture it?
The later show had 15,000 fans in attendance, making it the largest crowd at an Elvis concert up to that point. It was a considerably wilder event than the first show, partly because of the antics of local disc jockey Josh King, who acted as Master of Ceremonies. First he announced that Elvis was coming. Then he had an attendant rush up on stage with the news that Elvis wasn’t coming. The MC announced, “Elvis doesn’t think you are making enough noise.” Uh oooh. Bad move. According to the Toronto Star report, “From the time Elvis … walked on stage and smiled until he gave his last bump nearly an hour later, nearly every teenager in the place screeched, at the top of his lungs. Despite a good public address system, Elvis managed to get across only the occasional note the audience could hear.” I guess it was worth the price of admission to see Elvis, even if they couldn’t hear him.
The news account of Elvis’ stage mannerisms is what you would expect. “He cuddles the mike as he sings, tilting it at weird angles and dragging it along behind him, and he wanders back and forth across the stage.” “The much publicized pelvis was plainly in action, too. Elvis rocks his hips back and forth. He shakes his knees and wobbles his legs and bumps like a fan dancer.” “Every time Elvis reached out his arm in one direction or turned to smile in another, all the crowd in that section would screech with ecstasy.”
Elvis wore the famous gold lamé suit for both shows. He had introduced it just five days earlier at a Chicago concert. Elvis didn’t like the look of the pants, and the gold was wearing off the front because he frequently got down on his knees while performing.
In subsequent concerts, he would wear the coat with a pair of black pants.
Some of the songs he sang at the Toronto concerts were mentioned in the article: “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “That’s When Your Heart Aches Begin,” “Love Me,” “Blueberry Hill,” “Too Much,” and “Butterfly.” You and I have never heard Elvis’ rendition of “Butterfly,” the great Charlie Gracie hit. The only time Elvis sang the song was this concert in Toronto. Too bad it wasn’t recorded, but if it had been, probably all you would hear is screaming.
One thing about the shows seems wrong. Here was Elvis at the height of his popularity, packing 23,000 people into the venue, and who did he have as supporting acts on the bill? Frankie Trent, a tap dancer; Pat Kelly, a blond singer (one song); Rex Marlow, a comic; and Jimmy James, a banjo player. I’ll bet the kids wouldn’t have cared if they were all left off the show. Of course, knowing how Col. Parker operated, he probably made all four acts pay him for the right to be on the bill with Elvis.
© 2006 Philip R Arnold:D(y):king:(y):king:(y)