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CONCERT DATE: November 14 1971 (2:30 pm). Tuscaloosa AL.

Elvis: "He Was Beautiful"
by Paul Davis
Tuscaloosa News
November 17, 1971


They say that Mr. Presley publicity man called our office to get copies of our review of Sunday's big show. That must have been embarrassing for the staffer who answered the phone because for some reason we didn't have a review of this cultural event.

I was not in the office Monday and when I picked up the paper Monday night, I, too, was surprised that we did not have a review.

Our own Dr. Fred Goosen has never let us down before, but for some reason he didn't supply copy for Monday's paper detailing for us laymen the fine musical points of the show.

So, untrained as I am, I will present for you my review of the starstudded show which brought out the largest crowd in the history of Memorial Coliseum.

Elvis was Elvis.

NOT BEING A MUSICIAN, I will not go into detail on the music, but will attempt to convey to the reader the real atmosphere in our city as the historic day unfolded.

The faithful waited for as long as four hours for Mr. Presley's plane to land. I went to church and missed the arrival, but my mother-in-law was there and here, in her own words, is what happened:

"He was beautiful. He had a ring on every finger. I touched him and his skin was as soft as a baby's. Here's the pen (a 19-cent Bic) he used to autograph his picture (I touched the pen and felt the power and beauty she must have felt.)

"Charlotte kissed him. (That's Mrs. Dan Patrick.) She went toward him and he said, "Lay it on me, baby," and she really did. She touched his hair - it's down to his shoulders - and it's all real and soft and like silk..." (It gets real mushy from that point on. Some of the comments might be misinterpreted.)

FORTY-FIVE MINUTES later: We are now in the Coliseum. It is dark. The only light spills over into the crowd from the orchestra. Finding row and seat numbers is almost impossible. Mother-in-law had purchased a dozen of those $10 tickets so when we got close they saw us and we were waved into place.

We listened to the airport scene again - "His face was as soft as a baby's you-know-what, etc.) The house lights would go up and down and the tension grew and the minutes slipped by.

Then it started, the drum beats and the blare of trumpets. They were working this crowd up good. The Sweet Inspirations bounced on stage, three girls in canary yellow hot pants. They did their thing real well, but this crowd was ready for Elvis and after a deafening 15 minutes, they said their goodbyes, bowed and left.

Now, we were ready for Elvis. But they gave us a tired comic from Canada. He was fatherly type in a knit outfit who told all the old jokes with the local names substituted. (The paper mill stinks, your city fathers and Mayor Hinton took us to lunch at the Dobbs House, I saw Johnny Musso walking on Lake Lurkeen...) He did his 15 minutes and left, too.

Now for Elvis.

BUT, NO, THE BARKER, I mean master of ceremonies, returned with his husky "we-have-25-more-lovely-girls-inside" voice and announced an intermission.

"It's popcorn and peanut time at the concession. The show will continue after this brief intermission. And we might tell you there is to be no smoking on the arena floor and our vendors will be in the audience selling the official Elvis souvenir program. They're only $2 and, honestly, folks, we have only a limited supply. Hold'em up high boys. There they are folks, the vendors coming down your aisle.

"While the supply lasts, now, we have only a limited supply. (There was a Hertz truck outside with less than 86,000 copies left. Also outside were the private vendors who had the " I Love Elvis" pennants, opera glasses, and glossy, autographed photographs suitable for framing.

For intermission, our row had potato chips and cokes - Bear Bryant brand - and our group squealed again when the lights went down.

THE DRUM ROLL started again. I thought at least two of our folks would faint. I can't remember the tune which started to build but it sounded like a cross between "Exodus" and "Aquarius".

It was black as night in the place. The music grew louder and louder. As the music reached an ear-splitting pitch coming from those dozens of speakers, the spotlight rose - some silver, some green, some gold.

Elvis surely was coming and after almost an hour of unbearable waiting, there he was, running toward the stage - looking every bit the better half of the Dynamic Duo - and the crowd went wild.

Although a product of the 1950's, this Presley hadn't really changed. He wore a black outfit, was almost topless and the black cape had gold sequins and a red lining. His shirt was open to the waist, but to keep his costume from being too shocking for the Tuscaloosa crowd, he wore an electric red scarf.

THIS WAS NO BOBBY sox crowd. He faced better than 12,000 women, most of them with a husband or boyfriend along to provide emergency care if they fainted. Instead of full skirts and white blouses, these females were decked out in those velvet-looking hot pants, low necklines and lots of makeup. They all dressed for Elvis. Dress shops surely sold more clothing for Elvis than they did for homecoming.

Elvis sang and shouted, dashed through "Hounddog," "Are You Lonesome Tonight," "Heartbreak Hotel," "How Great Thou Art" (After all it was Sunday), "Blue Suede Shoes," and 43 others as the crowd shrieked and screamed.

A million flashbulbs turned the darkened Coliseum into a light circus and at one point, the 38 year-old Presley had the house lights turned on so he could see those who loved him so much.

He made hearts flutter as he would move to the front row and exchange his red scarf for a perfumed handkerchief. He would mop his brow, wipe his armpits and pass the handkerchief back to a girl who would now love him forever.

IT WAS QUITE a show and on the corner of the stage backing up this All-American boy who came from the little Mississippi town and made it big were those same Sweet Inspirations, now wearing white instead of yellow, and - of all people - J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Baxter Gospel Quartet.

Elvis is a frustrated gospel singer who found the real money is in bumping and grinding, not the testimonial affairs.

Sumner, billed for a decade as the world's lowest bass singer when he was with the Blackwood Brothers, swallowed the microphone and covered for Presley when the notes dipped too low.

He's a bass fiddle and a tuba rolled into one. He was at home on the platform with Elvis, despite his gospel quartet background. It was Sumner and the Blackwoods who helped usher in what today is more of a gospel rock sound than the old-time religion songs from the paperback books.

And now, Elvis is gone, but the sweet memories will linger in the hearts of our ladies for a long, long time.

They'll remember the shakin' and the semi-splits, the sensuous knee slides, the diamond-studded belt, the soft, baby face and that left leg that never stopped rocking throughout the show.

And now, Fred Gooseen, wherever you are, for shame.

Courtesy Of Archie Bald