Here’s how Auburn Network legend Paul Ellen started his review for The Plainsman: “For at least one day, President Philpott ceased to rule the campus and east central Alabama became a monarchy. The King was here.”
The one day was March 5, 1974. The concert sold out two weeks in advance. The only other time that had happened at the coliseum (for something other than basketball) had been Bob Hope’s stop three years earlier. The University Book Store sold nearly 200 copies of assorted Elvis albums the days leading up to the show. Col. Parker said Auburn was just as important to Elvis as New York City.
The “no flash photography” made it difficult on Glom photographer Larry Parker. But he still scored several fantastic, never-before-seen shots of the rhinestone’d hunk of sideburnin’ love and his on-stage entourage, Sweet Inspirations included.
Here’s the Auburn Bulletin’s writeup:
For only the third time since it was built, Memorial Coliseum was jammed full of people Tuesday night. The occasion was the appearance of Elvis Presley, the one-time hip-swinging, guitar string-busting good old boy from Memphis. Except now he’s gone respectable, a refined dude no less.
His only link with the past, the Fifties when the Elvis craze started, came when he sang a few bars of Hound Dog along with Love Me Tender and Teddy Bear. And, of course, his skin-tight slacks, part of a white, sequined ensemble. He did shake his hips a few times for old times sake. But mostly Elvis was into today’s music, singing some of his own stuff and borrowing from a lot of others. He is a versatile performer with a refreshing, mellow voice. No shouting.
The folks loved it. And the folks were there all right, genuine Elvis lovers from the Old South. They stood and cheered when he sang Dixie as part of the American Trilogy which also includes a few bars of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Of the 13239 there, most of them seemed to come from somewhere else. Platinum blondes showed up with “I love Elvis” posters and grandmothers wore Elvis buttons. Lots of suckers bought Elvis photo albums. And almost everybody had three or four cameras with flash attachments, which flashed all during the show.
When a comedian walked on at the top of the show, 18 million flashbulbs exploded. Then when the Sweet Inspirations walked on stage, 18 billion flashbulbs went off. The comedian and the Sweet Inspirations were on for about 40 minutes and then there was a 20-minute intermission.
At 9.30, the lights dimmed, the backup band began the “Theme from 2001,” women shrieked and squealed and Elvis came running onto the stage. And 18 billion trillion flashbulbs exploded. It must have matched a World War II bombing raid. Elvis quickly got into C.C. Rider to quiet the crowd.
Elvis was on for 50 minutes with no break, and he moved enough to leave the average man panting. In fact, Elvis was panting at the end. He was in constant motion, not so much swinging the old rear end, but walking, pointing, throwing out sweaty orange scarves to pleading girls. Four females received Elvis scarves, as best I could count. The girls went nuts when he dangles a scarf in front of them.
The crowd responded to Elvis and he to them but there was one snag. Elvis didn’t like the sound system at first. It seemed fine off-stage, but early in the show he asked, “Could we get some sound on the stage?” Apparently the sound still didn’t suit him, and he flung a microphone on the stage floor, resounding in a big flap. Nobody minded. In the minds of many, Elvis can do no wrong.
He got the most squeals during Sweet Caroline when he shook his rear end some and the flashbulbs flashed madly again. Shake left, flashbulbs explode. Shake right, more flashbulbs. The whole show lasted about 90 minutes, subtracting the intermission. Those who paid a $10 top ticket, which more than 10000 did, shelled out $1 for every nine minutes. In all, the show raked in about $120000, plus concessions. Not bad for a night’s work.
Unlike that year’s Beach Boys concert, not a single coed took off her clothes — thankfully, given what Col. Parker told police before Elvis’ stop in Montgomery.
… but a girl did slip past stage security long enough to receive the King’s scarf. And we now know that, thankfully… thankfully very much… someone bootlegged the show, “War Eagle” and all.
Want to hear the whole the show? Go for it.