Elvis on Tour

By Uncle Bill - Bill0666@aol.com - January 8, 2005

           What follows is a repeat of a post I did a year or so ago to several Web list. I've updated it with some new info and to reflect this important day. Imagine Elvis at 70 ... Hard to imagine, and maybe that's the way God had it figured. Anyway, this is about my second Elvis concert, and meeting the King. Enjoy.
           Elvis was on tour again. The closest he was coming to Columbus was the Hobart Arena in Troy, Ohio on Saturday November 24th, 1956.
           WTVN, a local radio station was putting together two busses to attend the concert. Prices were steep and there was a rush for the tickets.
           At the time, I was dating a girl named "Judy," who had a good friend named "Alexis."  Her  Father owned a big car dealership in Columbus and had pull at the radio station. Mainly with the top DJ in Columbus at the time whose name was "Maurice Jackson." She got four tickets through her Father for Judy and I, herself and a buddy of mine named "Billy Gilbert." A tough little guy from Kentucky.
           I was, by that time "Elvis reincarnate." I had the whole thing. Long hair, DA's, Goats tail, simulated side burns by pulling down my side hair. "I couldn't grow real side burns until I was almost nineteen." So I decided to make an impression. Or at least show up looking good for the ladies.
           At the time I was working at the State Street Record shop. And making pretty good money for a Kid. So I went on a spending spree. I bought a pair of black tasseled loafers with white suede inserts in the top. A gray and black stripped shirt with black velvet collar and cuffs. New pair of black pleated gabardine pants with a severe peg and a thin silver belt. Buckle to the side, I was all set..
           I don't remember much about the bus trip. Everyone was excited. When we pulled up in front of the Arena, I was shocked to see that it was a Hockey rink. I had never seen a hockey rink before and to even imagine my hero appearing in a concert there was appalling.
           People were milling around everywhere, Alexis grabbed us and said to follow her. She met up with Maurice Jackson, the local DJ who had a small group of people with him. As he led the way past several security guards, we made our way under the stands to a door and into a locker room. It was a surreal scene. There surrounded by a Simi-circle of about twenty people was Elvis Presley. And he was talking and getting dressed. With all these people looking at him. Judy grabs my arm with both hands and starts to mumble. An action she would repeat several times that night.
           Jackson led us through the group and to the very front of the line. Judy is now part of my arm. Elvis is standing in front of a bank of wall lockers, adjusting the collar of his ruffled white shirt. He's wearing the famous sports jacket with zigzag strips and chesterfield, "velvet" collar. It's a very pale blue or "off" color. He was photographed in it many times.
           People are asking questions, taking pictures. He's just battering with them, laughing at jokes and being "nice.
           He turns to face me about eight feet away. Looks at me and starts to walk towards me. Judy is beginning to shake now. I can feel her. She tries to get even closer to me. Presley walks up to me and stops about two feet away and looks me up and down. Head to toe. I was frozen. Judy is shaking so hard that I'm off balance.
           I stick out my hand and say, "Uhbaheleo Elvis." He nods as a sign of approval I guess, shakes my hand and says something. I haven't a clue what he said. Judy and Billy swear that he said, "Say Man."
           Several things I do remember. I was taller than he. His hair was light and dark brown as if lightened by the sun. He had the longest eyelashes I had ever seen on a man. And they were curled up, just like a woman's.
           His side burns were so long that they almost covered his ears. He had them combed back over his ears which made his hair look even longer. I took serious note of all this.
           I have to say that for a man, he was beautiful. For an iron clad heterosexual like me to say that takes some doing, but he was. simply a beautiful man.....
           For about fifteen minutes Elvis talks to people. People give him gifts. A ladies club brought in a cake shaped in the design of a guitar with "Love me Tender" written on it. His first movie had just came out. Someone said something to the crowd which had grown and we were all ask to depart because the show was about to begin. As we were being ushered out, I fell over a little guy dressed in black who cut in front of me trying to get to another door. Billy recognized him as "Nick Adams." A movie star that Elvis had become friends with, and who later made his fame and fortune on TV as the "Rebel." A long running series. He died very young unfortunately.
           The stage at the arena looked like something that was built for the Crusades. A very high wood platform at the far end of the rink. It was ugly and undecorated. Possibly ten feet high. We had excellent seats. Very close and to the far right. Which meant we could see somewhat behind the stage.
           I also noticed that for the first time at any rock show I had attended, there were security guards stationed in front of the stage, and a various places on the floor of the arena.
           Since we knew what to expect for the beginning of the show, I spent most of the time trying to figure out where they put the ice when they weren't using it. Two big differences this time. The first half was shorter with fewer acts.
           The Jordainaires were on longer before intermission and were well received.
           During the intermission, I noticed that a "canopy" was being set up from the back of the entrance to the arena, to nearly the bottom of the stage stairs. It was a half canopy, just overhead with the sides exposed.
           Set up on stage was basically the same as before except there were additional microphones, a piano and a Fender bass with a Bassman amp on the side. Scotty's Amp was again on a chair, into a house mic. It was a Fender this time. Possibly a Bassman.
           The lights went down, crowd was yelling already. Band comes up on stage with a piano player. "Floyd Cramer" maybe? The Jordainaires also come up and take their places stage right, behind Bill Black. Someone comes up and introduces Elvis. There is a few second delay and up he comes from behind the stage. Waving and smiling at the crowd. As he gets to the front of the stage the entire arena turned "blue." From the thousands of flashbulbs going off at the same time. In those days, there weren't a lot of restrictions on picture taking at concerts.
           You couldn't hear yourself think and it was hard to see because of so many flash bulbs. Elvis started with "Ready Teddy" and did what I would call a "sophisticated" show. He had already by that time began to tame down the live act to conform with the acceptable.
           The only difference was "Hound Dog" at the end. He sang it first "fast." Then he slowed it real down to a grinding blues tempo and went all around the stage pointing and singing at the ladies in the front row. Several times he slid down on his knees towards the edge of the stage. He would have been hurt badly had he fallen off. As well as ripped to shreds by the near hysterical girls in the front row. While it probably lasted only a few minutes, it seemed to go on forever.
           Finally he stood up, sang the last verse, threw the mic to the floor again ran to the rear of the stage, jumped from the halfway point of the long stairs into what appeared to be a blanket held by six or more men. It was carried rapidly to the back doors which were both open and clearly visible from where I was standing, to a car. Thrown in the back and the car was gone.
           The band what still playing, the lights were still down and the crowd was still yelling. But Elvis had really left the arena folks.
           Finally after a few minutes, the band finished, the lights came up and the soon to be familiar announcement was made from the stage. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building, thank you and goodnight." I think the crowd was to stunned to care.
           I collected what was left of Judy. I think she experienced some "womanly" feelings that night for the first time.
           While it was a great night for me and everyone else that was there, It also reflected the beginning of the end of the original Elvis mythology. The attitude, the hard core "in you face" dark sinister "rock at any cost" was fading. A new Elvis was emerging. Cleaner, more acceptable to all. He was a major star at that time, and getting bigger. Gold suits, stupid Hal Wallis movies and those God awful jump suits and Vegas were to come. The swagger and rebellion that had defined a generation, and had given Rock and Roll it's "personally" was fading away.
           Yet, we have seen and felt his influence down through the ages. The back bending posturing of Robert Plant; The brooding attitude of John Mellencamp. The strutting slick domineering demeanor of "Bono" of U2.
           The bad boy images of thousands of singers that became heroes of kids with nothing going for them except the urge to be like somebody. The attitude of rebellion....
           Rock and Roll became Rock and Roll because of Elvis Presley. He changed my life and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I beamed with pride watching his "Elvis is back" television special in the early 60's, I turn my head when I saw his bloated body in those silly jump suites barely getting through the songs. And I cried openly when he died. Today I'm going to put on a scratchy RCA 45 rpm record on my seldom used turntable and pick up a glass of my favorite wine and toast a birthday wish to the King as the speakers shout out a familiar plea....."Well since my baby left me." Happy Birthday Elvis...

           Uncle Bill:
My life was saved by rock & Roll: in NY

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