Back to mainpage
Memphis Press-Scimitar, June 11 1975
He Rocks 'n' Puffs Along While Fans Love Elvis Tenderly
by Henry Bailey

A little puffier and lot more talkative, but it was still the Essential Elvis Presley - they gyrating, singing genius the Sunday Times of London listed in 1970 as one of the sharpers of the century - who held forth before a capacity crowd at the Mid-South Coliseum.

"We love you, Elvis!" was the shrill, femenine cry heard more than once, perhaps closer to several hundred times among the 12,367 well-scrubbed, screaming fans, friends and curious who greeted Whiteheaven's most famous homeowner. Whoever said life begins at 40 right in Elvis' case: his steady pulse on the life blood of American popular music tastes continues unabated after 20 eventful years.

It was Elvis who, if not the inventor of rock 'n' roll, was the energizer who made it something highbrow critics and pundits could critize but not longer ignore. Along with his longtime admirers, there are culture who now realize the significance of his "survival" in the face of American buyer power. All those humiliations at the hands of Ed Sullivan's reluctant cameras, known it all reviewers, Army barbers and 31 mediocre Hollywood movies have no effect.

"You just can't deny a man who's managed to stay as long as he has", said Corky Carrell, 19, of Kansas City, who arrived with a friend. "He is wonderful; and I listen to everything. Acid rock. Hard rock. But Elvis, he was the first rock with style the first to give audiences something to look forward to".

Steve Fransioli, 62, who manages a service station at Highland and Walker is also an Elvis fan.
"He's kept his nose clean, so more power to him", said Fransioli, who bought nine other $10 tickets for his wife and eight friends. Not unlike many others; he had seen one of Elvis' five Memphis concerts last March - the singer's first local appareances in over a decade - and couldn't stay away from this one.

County Court Squire Joe Cooper saw four of the five sell-out shows at the Coliseum last year with fellow Squire Billy Ray Schilling, brother of an Elvis bodyguard. Cooper said he was ready for more of the same. "Billy and I flipped to see who'd pay for this one, and he lost, so he's footing the bill for me as well as his own son. Out of his own pocket, of course," said Cooper.

Despite the hucksterism that characterized the show's non-musical moments (consider the "Van Gogh-like grandeur" of a glossy , 8 by 10 color Elvis photo, says a rotund announcer from the stage), the predominantly white audience was only there to see the form, hear the music, and feel the presence of their - emphasis on THEIR - rock star.

And finally, after Canadian comic Jackie Kahane, the more pleasant musical interludes of Voice ( a new three-man vocal support group) and the soul sound of the Sweet Inspirations, Elvis himself appears to the expected chorus of shouts and a rash of exploding flash bulbs.

Schematically, Elvis' 75-minute show was mostly a rehash of his early Memphis shows, which were based on his internationally televised Hawaii concert in 1973. He offered some eye filling views of a tight-fitting, white jumpsuit laced with Indian-style embroided and spangles.
What there was of a rehash the audience didn't mind, and they greedily gobbled up such surprises as hi versions of Diamonds' 'Little Darling' and Olivia Newton-John's 'Let Me Be There'. For those observers of tradition there were vintage tastes of 'Hound Dog', 'Don't Be Cruel', 'Teddy Bear', and 'All Shook Up'.

It takes an artist of some range - beset with sreaming females and dispensing karate jabs and scarves as best he can - to render justice to the saccharine Love Me Tender and do the same for the boisterous 'Tiger Man' with such redoubtable lyrics as, "I'm the King of the jungle, they call me Tiger Man When you cross my path you take your own life in your hands".

A favorite with the audience was the stirring 'How Great Thou Art' sung with strident fervor by Elvis with some excellent background vocals by J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet.

The normally reticent Elvis offered a number of gentle barbs at his associates, especially scarf-giver Charlie Hodge, after he dropped the superstar's guitar. And there was great applausewhen he introduced his father , Vernon Presley recovering from heart problems suffered earlier this year.

And few could deny the human drama of a man, bending over too far to kiss a wild eyed fan, splitting the seat of his pants, and then joking about it. After a brief rest , Elvis plans to go on an eight-state Northern tour July 8 which will include appareances in New York and Massachusetts.