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CONCERT DATE: June 23, 1974. Philadelphia, PA. The Spectrum

He Could Not Last, Could Not, He Could, He Does, He Will
by Jack Lloyd
Philadelphia Inquirer
June 23, 1974

The "smart money" said it would never last. they called it just one more gimmick eagerly gobbled up by a public that could not longer endure the tedious period of pop music blandness that followed the end of World war II. Enough was enough. Something had to give, and what gave - according to an assortment of pundits of the time was the public's sanity. What resulted - the year was 1956 - Was Elvis Presley.

With that corkacfew motion of the left leg, a violent of the hips, a strange musical blend of Tennessee country and Memphis blues, the age of musical blandness was blitzed. It was not exactly the birth of rock 'n' roll, but it was rock 'n' roll's most significant moment.

The more genteel in our ranks were predictably horrified at this "vulgar display." So delicate was the matter that television cameramen were under strict orders to protect the innocent by restricting their shots to regions above the waistline of Elvis Presley.

And just what kind of music was this? Who ever heard of a Southern white boy singing "colored".

The one source of comfort, came from the realization that it "could not last." Give this Elvis character six months, a year, two years at the very most, and his name would be recalled by only the trivia buff. that's show biz, friends. here today, gone tomorrow.

But here it is 1974 - a year that has witnessed assaults on South Philadelphia's Spectrum by bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra and seekers of the Stanley Cup. And yet another moment of madness is on tap

Right, Elvis Presley is due this afternoon and evening for concerts. And if you didn't purchase your tickets weeks ago, forget it. Elvis had the last laugh on his critics. He's as big in 1974 as he was in 1956.

Everyone's a little older, to be sure. The Greasers and their d.s. hairstyles are now nostalgia items. Rock 'n' roll in general has been restricted to the revival meetings for the past several years. Other "names" from the 50s have been long forgotten. Or, at least, misplaced.

The boppers of that silly-putty era have slowed down to walty-time even though Elvis himself - according to gossip column accounts - still thinks he's 21, when it comes to giving the ladies a world ( a passionate pursuit that resulted in the end of his marriage a couple of years ago).

But his female fans - most of them in their 30s even 40s now are still capable of cranking themselves up to an Elvis appearance, and for this reason, it's fortunate that Elvis comes around once every couple of years or so. The middle-age system can handle only so much, you know.

And so emotions have been running high in Philadelphia for the past several weeks fired up by the anticipation of witnessing The King going about his frenetic business on the Spectrum stage. When the body count is tabulated after his two Sunday shows, the number will be close to 40,000. Elvis and his resourceful manager, Col. Tom Parker, will depart from the premises with another huge bundle of loot. adding to bank accounts of staggering proportions. The colone, you see, is a shrewd one, a one-time barker with nothing but contempt for the "fast-buck". The colonel had dedicated himself to much grander things at an early point in life. Back in the 40s, Parker was pushing a product called Hadacol, which was guaranteed to cure everything from snake bite to minor psychological malfunctions. After draining that one for all it was worth, Parker graduated to managing country music performers.

The colonel was doing quite nicely. but Elvis Presley was Parker's big grab, mis masterpiece. Here he found a money machine, and maybe even Parker had no idea still be going strong 18 years later. No matter Parker would push this machine to its total limit be it six months, a year, two years, whatever.

One can easily criticize Parker's seemingly ruthless tactics and Svengali grip on Presley's every professional move - arguing that Presley's artistic potential has been the least of Parker's concerns. But then artistic integrity has gone down more than a few times, and there is no doubt that Parker's pursuit has kept Elvis Presley on top. From the standpoint of economics, Parker has made all the right decisions.

Certainly, you won't get any arguments from Elvis. but then you won't get anything from Elvis, unless you are willing to meet the Colonel's financial terms. Queried about the possibility of an interview with Elvis prior to his Spectrum concert two years ago, Parker said sure, but a one-hour interview would cost $120,000. That was the value Parker placed on Elvis' time. Considering inflation and such, a one-hour interview now is undoubtedly worth a minimum of $160,000

OK, there aren't many takers, but the colonel couldn't care less. Newspapers and magazines might not agree with Parker's estimation of Elvis' worth, but the world is bulging with concert promoters itching for a place of the action, which is guaranteed gold as a result of the carefully cultivated Presley mystique neatly choreographed by Col. Tom Parker.

This is Elvis Presley, the mystique man, cut off from communication with a curious world, the press, even his fans. We can only assume that Elvis has opinions on watergate, the National League, the oil crisis, women's liberation, the state of contemporary music.

It is a mystique created from the rawest of natural resources.

In one of those rare moments when the colonel has permitted Elvis to speak publicly for a documentary titled "Elvis on tour" he noted. "My daddy has seen a lot of people who played guitars and stuff and didn't work. so he said "You should make up your mind about being an electrician or playing a guitar. I never saw a guitar player that was worth a damn. I was training to be an electrician because they made three dollars an hour. I was very seldom serious about it. I did that first record really as a personal thing for my mother. And that same company called me a year later and said "we got a song you might be able to do."

This, naturally, takes us back to the beginning, and events leading to Elvis debut on sam Phillips Sun Records label. No one talks about it with greater joy than Dewey Phillips, the Memphis disc jockey who gave Elvis his first major push.

"Nobody was pickin' upon this ole boy back then," Phillips said during an interview. "He was real bashful kid but he liked to hang around music. they'd chase him away from the switchboard at WMPS and he'd come around WHBQ... that's where I was doing my show every night. Weekends he'd come down to Sun Records - he'd cut that record, "My Happiness" for his mother, paid four dollars for it himself - and sam Phillips finally gave him a session.

"tried to record a ballad but he couldn't cut it. sam got Scotty Moore, the guitarist, and Bill Black, the bassist, to see if they could work anything out with him. After a lot of tries they fixed up a couple of old songs, "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky," so they sounded a little different. when Elvis began to cut loose with "That's All Right," Sam came down and recorded these son-of-a-guns"

"One night I played the record 30 times, 15 times each side. When the phone calls and telegrams started to come in, I got hold of Elvis' daddy Vernon. He said Elvis was at a movie. I said "get him over here" and before long, Elvis came running in."

"Sit down, i'm going to interview you," I said. He said, "Mr. Phillips, I don't know nothing about being interviewed. just don't say nothing dirty," I told him. He sat down and i told him I'd let him know when we were ready to start. I had a couple of records cued up and while they played, we talked. I asked him where he went to high school and he said: "Humes". I wanted to get that out because a lot of people listening had thought he was colored. Finally, I said "All right, Elvis, thank you very much." Aren't you going to interview me? he asked. "I already have," I said "the mike's been open the whole time." He broke out in a cold sweat."

Elvis considered himself a country singer at the time. but according to Dewey Phillips, Sam Phillips had an idea for a certain sound he was trying to get from his roster of present and future Sun artists.

"Sam used to get Elvis, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash down at Sun, and play Big Bill bronzy and arthur "Big Boy" Crudrup records for them, trying to get them on the blues thing because he felt like that was going to be hot."

Phillips wasn't alone in this thinking, of course. Others - including Chester's Bill Haley - were investigating the possibilities of blending country and blues earlier than Phillips.

But it was Elvis Presley - with his physical gymnastics and earthy vocal approach, along with the crude magic that was worked to Sam Phillips' primitive recording studio - who made it all happen, revolutionizing the pop music industry, creating a wave of national hysteria that was later equalled perhaps by the Beatles.

(..) who dabble in such statistics mark the evening of Jan. 28, 1956 as the national debut of Elvis Presley. It was a network television show hosted by Tommy and jimmy Dorsey of all people.

Within days, the airwaves of America were throbbing to the heavy-handed, mournful strains of "Heartbreak Hotel." the "ole boy... the bashful kid" from Memphis was on his way to the biggest arenas in America,the film studios of Hollywood, the posh clubs to Las Vegas. The females went bananas

And, 18 years later, nothing much has changed - a point that should be confirmed at the Spectrum today.

Courtesy of Jeannine Crerand