THE LAWTON CONSTITUTION
August 26, 1969
By Bill Crawford
LAS VEGAS – A slimmed down Elvis Presley is turning the new International Hotel’s massive 2,000 – seat showroom into a gyrating palace of adoring screams reminiscent of the original rock music king’s earlier days. Winding up his first public appearance in nine years this week, The Pelvis has proved he’s still No. 1 with his faithful fans while creating an entire new following at the same time. Count this writer in the latter category of the Presley cult.
I stood in long movie lines back in the mid-1950s to see the rock ‘n roll phenomenon do his thing – mainly out of curiosity. Is this guy for real? His acting was bad and his pulsating gyrations appeared at the time to be a passing fad that caught on with the teen-agers.
At 34. Elvis is no passing fad. He’s for real and his early siren strains that elevated him into the driver’s seat of the 1950s vanguard appear rather quaint in relation to some of the open permissiveness in lyrics and gestures now in vogue.
HIS FANS have now grown up – and they are still true blue to Elvis. Most of the whistling, applauding audience was over 30 when I caught his show in this linsel-embroidered desert city entertainment center.
Elvis is outdrawing Barbra Streisand, who opened the posh new International last month. His month in Vegas at $100.000 per week is a sellout with two shows a night packing in the customers hungry to see the singer.
Elvis Presley no longer is a freakish kid curiosity from Tennessee. His rise under the tutelage of Col. Tom Parker from touring such flea-bitten nighteries as Lawton’s old Southern Club in the early 1950s to the big time is a show business success story.
From the time Elvis opens his show with his familiar Blue Suede Shoes, which brings thunderous applause, through to his 15th song, he captivates his audience with such feverish show biz pitch that one is reminded of the screaming Judy Garland shows. Not that he’s a male Garland, but the Presley cult is similar to that of the late Over the Rainbow singer.
With his left leg moving like a jack hammer, Elvis runs the gamut of his favorites from Love Me Tender and Jailhouse Rock to Heartbreak Hotel and Hound Dog. And you know what? They didn’t sound so goofy this time around. Even That’a All Right and All Shook Up have a melodic ring today.
His newest song, Suspicious Minds is a sensuous medium rock ballad that is sure to sell. And his renditions of In the Ghetto and Yesterday proved his throaty mastery of lyrics – a ‘new’ Elvis, if you please.
HE BELIEVES that lyrics of pop songs are getting better. Before warbling his latest his record, In the Ghetto, he said; “I like to sing something that is important – something that means something. Look at Ghetto or Yesterday compared with Hound Dog. Now, Hound Dog, what does that say?”
Elvis still rides his guitar bareback while going through his cyclonic exercises. However, today he’s left a bit breathless and huffs and puffs more openly following a few wild onslaughts to recapture the early physical and sexual image.
He swings water between songs. His pelvic grinds still! thrill his female fans, many of whom are favored with a kiss and handshake from their rock king who roams the apron of the stage during much of the time during his performance.
One man climbed over several tables to shake Elvis’ hand, while a woman in her late 20s snatched a blue scarf from around the singer’s neck.
Elvis was dressed in an open necked black mandarin type blouse and bell bottoms. His hair is jet black and long, but not excessively long compared to today’s standards. His sideburns are double thickness. “You know, 14 years ago it was strange to have long hair and sideburns,” he reminded his adoring audience.
ELVIS ESTABLISHED an immediate rapport with his audience, talking (not mumbling this time) with ease and kidding about the gaudy showroom and “those funky (the new word on the West Coast) angels on the walls”. “If I seem a little shaky – I am, That’s the way I got in this business.” he joked. “Fourteen years ago I was driving a truck and studying to be an electrician and got wired the wrong way.” It all started when he cut a record in Memphis for his family. Col. Parker heard it and snatched up the truck driver, touring the country with him wherever they could get engagements.
He landed on the Ed Sullivan show – the big break. “I went to Hollywood and had never been out of my hometown,” Elvis reminisced. “I was squirrely. I made four pictures and was driving around in sunglasses in big Cadillacs. Then, the army got me and wiped all that out. It was a pretty good experience. For the first few days, they watched me to see what I was going to do – just to see if, I could stand still.”
The Presley show is magnificently backed with the four-femme Sweet Inspirations and male Imperials quartet, plus an instrumental rock sextet and full-sized orchestra. At the outset of the show, Elvis said: “Before the evening is over, I will have made a complete fool of myself – and I hope you enjoy it.”
E. Presley is no fool. And neither are his adoring fans, who expect to see more of their idol in years to come. Nancy Sinatra has some big shoes to fill when she follows Elvis on the International Hotel stage next week.
– Courtesy of elvisconcerts.com