Home > Newspaper Articles > 1974 > March 16, 1974 Memphis, TN.

CONCERT DATE: March 16, 1974 Memphis, TN. Midsouth Coliseum

24,600 Fans Respond To Gyrating Elvis
by Lewis Nolan & Michael Clark
The Commercial Appeal
March 17, 1974

Elvis Presley gyrated to the shrieks and screams of nearly 25,000 fans in two concerts at the Mid-South Coliseum yesterday drawing both on old favorites which launched his climb to fame and recent hits.

The performances yesterday afternoon and last night were sold out at 12,300 each as the singer performed in his hometown for the first time in 13 years.

The crowds reacted to the magical personality almost as though the clock had been turned back to 1961.

While some of the reaction was slightly subdued, probably because of the well-groomed individuals in their late 20s and 30s who comprised most of the predominantly white audience, all the ingredients of Presleymania were persent.

There were screams, shrieks, shouts and standing applause from the moment Presley stepped on stage until he walked off about one hour later.

A security force of about 60 men, including police, sheriff's deputies and special officers, was in duty.

Police who ringed the stage through out the performance had to hold back dozens of women in the closing moments of the performance who dashed forward, waving their arms and sreaming "Elvis, Elvis."

A number of tickets were available outside the coliseum last night and it was a buyer's market.

As performance time neared, $10 tickets were being dumped by scalpers for $5 and $5 tickets went for a little as $1.

One young person said the tickets were bought with the intention of scalping, but "the newspapers" knocked the bottom out of the market (with reports of police plans to stop scalping) and we're trying to get back the investment."

Elvis' remarks to his hometown audience, outside of courtesy "thank-you" after heavy applause, were sparse.

He said, "Hello, Memphis," and later told the audience "It's a pleasure to be at homeagain for the first time in a long time."

At times, it seemed that he was about to talk to the crowd, but shouts and shrieks from the audience would drown out his words and he would go into another song.

His song selection was a wide-ranging trip, through the more than 50 gold records he has recorded as well as few selections made famous by other singers,, such as "Johnny B. Goode" and "Polk Salad Annie"

But the crowd seemed to react even more favorably when he sang old hits, including "Hound Dog, " "All Shook Up," "Teddy Bear," "Don't Be Cruel," "Love Me Tender," and "Treat Me Like a Fool"

The most emotional moment of the performance came during "American Trilogy" a medley of songs including "Dixie" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

When Elvis, his 12-piece orchestra, 5-piece rock band, 2 trios and a quartet started with "Dixie", there was a little doubt about the regional flavor of the audience who had seen him rise from humble beginnings in Tupelo, Miss. And Memphis to become one of the world's most famous entertainers.

At the closing part of the selection, a flute played the hauting strains of "Dixie" and brass instruments played the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Spotlights danced over a room-size american flag suspended over the stage.

As Elvis' unmistakable voice closed the number, the audience came to its feet for extended applause and cheers.

But while the performance was sprinkled with patriotic and gospel songs, Elvis keyed on songs which brought his sensuous movements and song delivery into play.

He mopped his brow with scarves and threw the scarves to pleading women in the first few rows. He calledwomen "Hon," and would elicit screams of response whenever he would hint of pelvic movement.

Whenever he wiggled, postured his body or breathed heavily into the microphone, the audience ersponded. But, it seemed that when he would go through his now famous routines, it was with a wink and a kidding smile.

He was wearing a white, stiff-collar suit decorated with embroidery and spangles.

His movements were highlighted by cameras which flashed throughout the performances, seen by many persons through field glasses.

E.E. ubbaBland, coliseum manager said: "This is the largest gross (an estimated $586,000) show we've ever had". The figure includes all five concerts. Presley also will perform at 2:30 and 8:30 p.m. today and at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Bland also said, "This is the tighest security backstage we have ever had".

One woman apparently unsuccessful in breaking through the security was Mrs. Barbara Ray of 3276 Benjestown." Mrs. Ray wearing a mink stole and floor legngth gown, said she flew to Honolulu last November to see Presley's concert there and traveled to Nashville last summer to see him.

Mrs Ray who said she is the same age as Elvis - 39 - objected to the security measures which she said were stronger in Memphis than in the other two cities.

She said she was trying to get someone to deliver him a lel of flowers she had purchased. "I ran up onto the stage in Nashville and gave him a lel. I Hawaii, he kissed the women around the stage."

Minutes before the performance atarted, Mrs. Ray still had the lel. With her was her daughter, Carol, 12, also an Elvis fan.

There appeared to be many mother-daughter teams in the crowd, which seemed as though women outnumbered men by a comfortable margin.

Before the performance during intermission and after the performance, merchandise billed as super souvenirs in living loving color were hawked through the crowd and at booths set up in hallways.

Opera glasses were selling for $5, scarves for $7.50 and programs for $3, Also available were pennants and booklets.

Crowds which some policeen expected to gather outside the coliseum during the performance never materialized.

Also, ticket scalping, which some officers suspected would take place on a grand scale was evidently held to a minimum.

The vice squad, which prowled through the crowds waiting to get into the building reported no arrests for scalping were made.

Tickets however were available outside the coliseum.

Mr. And Mrs. Terry Bray of Florence, Ala. Said they had "sent off twice for tickets, and gotten our money back twice".

But they gladly parted with that ticket money when confronted by a man who had several to sell.

No sooner had the Brays departed than four ticketless women who had driven from St. Louis purchased the seller's remaining surplus and went in search of a fourth which was quickly found.

Willbur Heasley, who had a handful of the supposedly scarce tickets for sale at the official price, said "If you just scrounge around you can get them"

However the day was not happy for Carol Wigginton.

Miss Wigginton, 26, of Amory, Miss. And a friend, miss Patricia White of Tupelo, miss, took up a position outside the coliseum's stage entrance about noon in hopesof getting the merest glimpse of their idol on his arrival.

By 1:30 p.m. despite no word of Elvis and a bitting wind, their enthusiasm had not waned: "Everytime I see a black car go by I go ape - I mean wild - ape is out" Miss Wigginton said.

Finally, after three and a half hours of devoted waiting in the cold. Elvis' black Cadillac sped before Miss Wigginton's eyes and into the coliseum without so much as a hair of the star's head visible.

Camera hanging useless at her side, her lips turning blue and her body shaking with cold, miss Wiggington was forced to give up.

It looks like he could have stopped for a minute after we waited for three hours. I can't believe I got that close and didn't get a picture, " she said as tears welled in her eyes.