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CONCERT DATE: March 6 1974 (8:30 pm). Montgomery AL.

Red, White and Blue Elvis
By Wanda McClusky
Montgomery Independent
March 1974

Governor George C. Wallace may have felt a tinge of jealousy when several thousand shrieking women paid homage to their idol, Elvis Presley. Wallace took his wife Cornelia to see Presley's sell-out concert in Garrett Coliseum and would have gone unnoticed if he had not entered during intermission. The Governor came back to Montgomery a day early from the National Governors Conference in Washington to escort Mrs. Wallace to the Presley show. The first family had met the President on several occasions and rubbed shoulders with the highest ranking political figures, but their path had not crossed Presley's. Mrs. Wallace admitted that she wanted to see what Presley looked like in person.

Wallace and his party, including mother-in-law Ruby Folsom Austin, created a mild stir on the ground floor when Wallace was rolled in after the first half of Presley's show in which his troupe entertained. A number of persons left their seats to shake Wallace's hand when he arrived at his mediocre seating area but the reception was polite and extremely orderly. But then the house lights went down and the drum roll to signal the coming of the star vibrated off the rafters. And Presley strode out in his white outfit studded with red and blue eagle designs. The frenzied squealing began. Presley launched his show and Wallace sat in his wheelchair on the seventh row in front of the stage.

Wallace watched Presley gyrate to the pounding music for a while but soon his attention drifted to the crowd. He propped his chin on his hand and gazed up into the sea of faces that reached to the crow's nest seats at the very top of the coliseum. The veteran politician must have been mentally calculating the size of the crowd. And he most likely was tabulating the votes and the amount of money that had been paid.

But Presley and the reaction he was getting from the crowd pulled Wallace's attention back to the stage. At times he smiled but most of the time he just looked at Presley in awe. Mrs. Wallace, wearing a striking floor-length dress, did not join in the demonstrative response to Presley's singing and hip swiveling. She whispered occasionally to her husband. Presley acknowledged Wallace's proclamation naming the week in his honor in Alabama, but he seemed to take it tongue-in-cheek. He appeared to treat the gesture something like a millionaire would if he found a dime on the street.

The Wallace's had offered to entertain him while he was in Alabama for the concert here and in Auburn the previous night. But the invitation was declined and Mrs. Wallace said she was not offended because as an entertainer in her younger days she knew the pressure of one-night stands. Presley did allow them to come back stage before he began his show.

The performance had been a sell-out from the day word leaked out that Presley was going to be in town. There were 16,400 seats and the receipts ran around $104,000 for the local show alone and the Auburn crowd was about the same. When the perspiring Presley concluded his show, he was rushed out of the building through a heavily-guarded back door to keep the enthusiastic fans from mobbing him. Wallace remained in the audience. There was no mad break to get his autograph. The Governor just was not the star of the evening.

Courtesy Of Scott Hayward