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CONCERT DATE: March 17, 1974 (8.30 pm) Memphis, TN.

Hucksters, 49,200 Elvisites Whoop It Up
By Jim Willis
Memphis Press-Scimitar
March 18, 1974

"Support your local king" the souvenir hawker yelled as thousands waited in line for the doors to open at the Mid-South Coliseum, "Hometown boy makes good. Picture programs right here $1."

The doors finally opened and the last few thousand of 49,200 fans filed to their seats last night to see their rock 'n' roll king perform.

Last night's concert was the fourth sell-out audience to see Elvis during the weekend and another 12,300 have tickets for his final Memphis show at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"Elvis wants to see everybody wearing a souvenir button," another overzealous salesman yelled "He doesn't eve want to go on stage unless everybody has a button. You can't buy them inside, $1"

Dozens of ticketless fans stationed themselves at each entrance to the Coliseum, eagerly inquiring about extra tickets.

Mrs. Barbara Abrego of 7468 Germantown Square and her two sons, Jimmy, 10, and Michael, 8, took turns holding up a sign declaring the need for three tickets.

"We were out here before the 2:30 concert and couldn't get any tickets so we came back to try for the 8:30 performance," Mrs. Abrego said "We just decided at the last minute to try and get in."

Coliseum officials with bullhorns announced outside that tape recorders and movie cameras would not be allowed inside.

A mobile refreshment stand was set up on the parking lot and booths with signs proclaiming "Elvis Information" were swamped by the curious.

"I just got to Memphis from Illinois," one woman lamented. "Isn't there some way I can get in to seethe show?"

Inside the booth a Coliseum box office employe, John Murley, told the woman all tickets had been sold. He explained to others he only had information about showtimes and ticket locations.

"One lady asked me for directions to Elvis' house an another had an old picture of Elvis and his mother she wanted to pass along to him as a memento," Murley said.

Earlier in the week another woman had brought a Bible to the Coliseum ticket office demanding it be passed along to the singer, he said.

As the audience patiently awaited the appearance of their king, the show's master of ceremonies took advantage of the opportunity to sell a few more souvenirs.

He pointed out tables in the corridors and in front of the stage selling binoculars at $2, Elvis posters at $2, large Presley photo books for $3, smaller ones for $1, Elvis buttons at $1 and scarves with Elvis' autograph embroidered on them for $7.50.

"These treasures from Elvis are all new this tour," he said from the stage. "All items are in limited supply so don't be disappointed by waiting until later".

At last Presley took the stage, setting off the explosion of ten thousands or more tiny flash bulbs as screams echoed across the Coliseum.

Most of the audience was satisfied to remain in their seats and enjoy the show. The few who tried to come down in front for a closer view of their idol were quickly halted by the 60 feet law enforcement officers on duty.

E.E. (Bubba) Bland, Coliseum manager, said that despite the massive crowds flocking to the Presley concerts "this is the smoothest operation we've ever had."

The absence of problems, he said, was due in part to the large security force, but he also credited the audiences.

"Many of them are older people and most of the children are accompanied by their parents," he said. "They all came with one thing in mind - to see Elvis - and they know they can't do that if they're running up and down in the aisles."

Bland said having four sellout crowds in two days was somewhat trying for the Coliseum staff.

"We really don't have time to do much cleaning up after the matinee concerts, but we do the best we can," he said. "I'd like to take a month off after we finish up on the Wednesday concert, but it will be March 27 before any of us have a day off"

The audience was given a special opportunity at intermission to purchase a "limited" number of Elvis key chains for $2 each, the concert ended and traffic stacked up at all exits, salesmen went from car to car peddling Elvis pennants and autographed pictures.

What's the big attraction? Well Elvis IS the king, but there must be more.

Perhaps Billy Pegram, who ordered $60 worth of tickets and brought his family up from Tunica County, Miss, hit on the answer.

"This is one of the few things today that you can bring your family to and know you'll enjoy the whole show," he said.