By Darrell Theobald

(Attended both shows on August 16th)


(It’s been nearly two years since Elvis returned to live performing. And what a change there has been since then. There have been three more returns to the International, two highly successful tours, the greatest movie of Elvis’ career, and Elvis continually riding the top of the charts. But let us go back to that historical first engagement at the then new International Hotel in Las Vegas. What was is really like? As one of the more fortunate fans who was there, I would like to give my account of how it really was.)

The day is Saturday, August 16, 1969. It was hot and humid when I arrived in Las Vegas at 1:00 P.M. I had saved and saved for months to come to Vegas and see Elvis in person for the first time. I was 22 and had been an ardent Elvis fan since I was 9. But enough about me. I know what you want to hear about is The King. I saw two shows that night, one at 8:00 and one at midnight. I was lucky to get a seat only a few feet from the stage. I went like this.

Lights dim, an announcer says, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. The Showroom International is proud to present The Elvis Presley Show.” Loud applause. “Starring Sammy Shore, The Sweet Inspirations and the Bobby Morris Orchestra”.

The Sweet Inspirations were then announced, the sang three songs. They were followed by comedian Sammy Shore. Everytime Sammy would mention Elvis, the crowd would applaud. When Sammy finished his act, the curtains fell, and the lights went out.

Moments passed that seemed like hours. The air was filled with tension and the anticipation of what was about to happen. My hands were sweating. I couldn’t really believe that after 14 years, I was actually going to see Elvis. My heart was pounding so fast I was afraid it was going to bust. Then it happened.

Suddenly the stage lights lit up brightly, curtains drew back and the 30 piece orchestra, along with the five regular musicians who regularly back Elvis, started playing a very fast version of Blue Suede Shoes. After a few seconds without an announcement, Elvis appeared from the right side of the stage. The crowd of 2,000 cheered and applauded thunderously. Girls screamed at the top of their lungs. He hadn’t sung one word yet, and already they were cheering. I had truly never been so excited in my life. He was wearing a black karate type jumpsuit with a long belt around his waist that hung down and a red scarf around his neck. His hair was a deep black, but very dry looking and not at all greasy looking the way it usually was in his movies. His hair was also much longer than before with long, wide sideburns. I thought to myself, “How can a man be so damn good looking.” It was almost unbelievable.

He walked to the center of the stage, picked up his guitar, and a split second of absolute silence fell just before he sang out, “Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go.” The applause was deafening. He held the audience in the palm of his hand. They loved him and they showed it.

And so it continued as he sang such hit songs as: Heartbreak Hotel, Don’t Be Cruel, Hound Dog, All Shook Up, I Got A Woman, Love Me Tender, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Memories, Runaway, Mystery Train, Tiger Man, In The Ghetto and other great hits. Two Beatle songs, Yesterday and Hey Jude were also included. Elvis went to the foot of the stage as he tried in vain to accomdate each girl with a kiss. People rushed to the stage to touch him or shake his hands, but it was no use. Even though he was at times no more than 3 or 4 feet from me it was almost impossible for me to get to him. Some girls almost knocked me down trying to get close to Elvis. They were frantic!

Elvis did a sit down monolog telling a comical tale of his career. This was one of the many highlights and the crowd roared with laughter.

His body movements through each number were a sight to behold. He shook and danced so much and so fast during each rock number I was afraid he was going to come apart. I hadn’t expected him to be so wild and the audience loved every moment of it. Most of the time he would end his rock numbers with some far out karate movement, which was kept in perfect time with the music.

His third to last song was to be his next single release. This was a wild, frantic rocker called Suspicious Minds. This song was nearly ten minutes long. For the number Elvis was wilder then ever, jumping, shaking, and dancing, wiping the audience into a frenzy. Standing ovation for Elvis.

The final song was another rocker, What’d I say. Elvis left the stage after this song, but the lenghty applause brought him back for an encore of Can’t Help Falling In Love.