Home > Newspaper Articles > 1976 > March 17-18-19, 1976. Johnson City. TN.

CONCERT DATE: March 17-18-19, 1976. Johnson City. TN.

by Benny Patrick
Johnson City Press-Chronicle

No doubt about it. Elvis Presley is still the king. Forty-one years old and though far from fat, definitely heavier than his posters and promotional photos would have you believe, Elvis still packs them in. The amazing thing about it is that with tickets priced at $10 and $12.50, Elvis still puts on a show that gives the audience its money's worth. Persons leaving last night's concert at Freedom Hall Civic Center didn't complain about the price of the tickets, much less the quality of the show. It seems impossible but it was 20 years ago last December that RCA Victor bought Elvis' recording contract from Sun Records for the then unheard of price of $10000. RCA issued its first Elvis recording Heartbreak Hotel and reissued all his records on Sun just in time for the holiday season. For the first four months of 1956, Elvis kept at least three of his records in the Top 10 across the nation. And at one time had six in the Top 10 of Billboard magazine.

Less than two years before that, in Grand Ole Opry packaged tours with such stars as Webb Pierce and Faron Young, Elvis would be give the last performing slot on the program. Even though he would be billed on the advance notices somewhere between fourth and 10th, he would get the number one spot because his act was impossible to follow.

In 1954, playing wrestling arenas, car lot openings and high school gymnasiums Elvis traveled light. With Bill Black, who played bass, and Scotty Moore, lead guitar, Elvis drove from one engagement to another all over the South and Southwest. First using an antiquated Chevrolet station wagon and then a series of pink and black and fuchsia Cadillacs.

The group bought a later model (or closer to new model) Cadillac every time they wrecked or wore out the previous one. All the cars had luggage racks on top and footprints all over them from loading and unloading instruments. For a while there was one that bore the hand-lettered sign "Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill, recording stars for Sun Records" on the side. Legend has it that the car was dismantled for souvenirs one night in Amarillo, TX.

During that period, Elvis was denounced from pulpits, newspapers and by PTA spokesmen. He was leading the youth of the country certainly to free love and communism, if not actually straight to hell, they said. Elvis, the country and the youth of the nation all seem to have survived it, however. And after doing a stint in the service at the peak of his popularity, Elvis gained not only respect but respectability.

Last night's performance was a far cry from the mid 1950s performances, with the exception that Elvis gave the audience what it came for. The concert was more like an entertaining Billy Graham revival than any of the rock concerts that have been help at the Civic Center recently. In comparison to performances by current rock groups, the Elvis show was unbelievably clean-cut. And his gyrations seemed mild, indeed, after, for instance, the antics of Alice Cooper. He even did a version of America the Beautiful with a recitation.

In a 1956 TV Guide interview, before he played on the Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis said "Onstage, you have to put on a show for the people. Otherwise, they would say 'My Goodness, I can stay home and listen to his records.' But onstage, you have to give them something to talk about." That philosophy has apparently help up well. And it seems that Elvis is still doing the same thing. A middle-aged man, who bought tickets for himself, his wife and two teen-aged daughters, was asked after last night's concert if he felt it was worth the $40 tab. "Hell yes. That was Elvis we just saw."

Courtesy of Scott Hayward