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CONCERT DATE: September 6 1976 (2:30 pm). Huntsville AL.

Elvis' Waist Thicker, But Fans Still Loyal
by Winford Turner
Huntsville News

To sellout crowds at Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville Monday afternoon and night, Elvis Presley had the same old magic. Presley, sporting broader showmanship and a thicker waist, drew standing ovations from the time he jogged onto the stage to the chords of "Thus Space Zarathustra." The Memphis rock and roll star got screams during his first number, C.C. Rider, and the women, who outnumbered males in the audience by three to one, were still screaming to the end.

They reached for his hand and the scarves he threw between numbers, and they gave him a standing ovation after America the Beautiful. Although Presley's voice remains strong, there were some reviewers who said they found the performance lethargic. But it seemed to make no difference to the faithfuls. They screamed as loud as they did when they were teenagers, when Elvis had a thin waistline and seemed to be a bundle of energy.

Elvis arrived in Huntsville, as had been expected, in the early hours of the morning Monday and went straight from Huntsville Aviation to the Hilton Hotel, where he remained in seclusion until his appearance at the civic center Monday afternoon. He left the city shortly after his performance Monday night. He arrived in Huntsville after performing to a sell out crowd at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Miss. Elvis is due in Arkansas tonight.

Even before he arrived in Huntsville, the Elvis magic was in the air. His long time manager, Col. Tom Parker, actually came to the city Saturday. And, keeping with the Presley custom of handing out gifts, Parker called up a local television station and donated $500 of the singer's money to the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Satisfied that proper arrangements were made for his superstar, Parker left the city early Monday and headed for Arkansas. And lucky for local fans that he did.

In the past, Parker has kept his star in seclusion, believing that if you want to get a look, you had better have a ticket or just be plain lucky. Last year during his five concerts in Huntsville, Parker had Elvis coming out of the Hilton by a secret entrance.

But Col. Parker wasn't around Monday and Elvis surprised the several hundred who had gathered around the Hilton and the civic center. He came right through the main lobby waving to the screaming crowd. As is the custom, there were no interviews and no autograph signing. He was flanked by six personal bodyguards and a large number of local police officers. In fact, several policemen said his security was tighter than those for former President Richard Nixon who visited the city in 1974, just months before resigning from office.

One local Elvis fan, Mrs. Peggy Phillips, who has been crippled by polio for years, was unable to make it to the concert, but may benefit within a few days from one of the many gifts that Presley usually passes out. Mrs. Phillips said she has been an Elvis fans for years and that she has even had dreams of him. Apparently the word got to Elvis and some of his top associated. Mrs. Phillips was promised that within a few days she'll receive some kind of gift from the singer. Just what the gift will be and when it will be presented still remains a mystery. The only thing that was a certainty Monday night is that Elvis swept the city like a storm and for a brief 18 hours was the "King of Huntsville."

Courtesy of Scott Hayward