Amazing Greatness

March 1974 tour

By Dave Bouska

From March I to March 20, Elvis undertook his biggest tour to date and the whole thing was a complete smash from top to bottom. These were among Elvis' very best live shows since his return to public appearances in 1969. Many of the cities were blessed with 2, 3,4, and even 5 performances. The crowds were awesome and Elvis turned them on everywhere. The tour was sold out in every city at least a month before Elvis ever stepped on the stage. 

Jim Hannaford Tulsa,Oklahoma March 1st 1974

The tour began in Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 1 and 2, and was a complete sell out. Elvis played to 11, 000 wild fans at two shows for a total of 22, 000 screamers and a great gross of $200, 000. Security guards had trouble holding back throngs who wanted only to get close to Elvis or touch him. It didn't seem to matter whether Elvis sang or not... just the sight of him blew the place apart. 

Elvis then visited none other than what some describe as the eighth wonder of the world. . . the Houston Astrodome. This extravaganza took place on March 3 and was a special stop because Elvis was the featured entertainer at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the biggest of its kind in the world. If you recall, Elvis performed for the same show in 1970 and drew some 220,000 to five or six shows. Well, this time he outdid himself. This was a one day stand with two shows to a sold out Dome of 43,974 at the 2:00 p. m. matinee show, and a fantastic 44,175 at the evening show. Whew! ! That makes for a gargantuan 88, 149 fans who came to see Elvis in Houston. Ticket prices were not the regular $l0, $7.50 and $5 at these two concerts because Elvis was paid by the Livestock Show promoters and this was not a part of the regular tour. The attendance at these two performances was the largest for any one day event in the history of the Astrodome. It took the super entertainer of the century, Elvis Presley, to do it ! 

R..McCoy Houston Astrodome March 3rd 1974 matinee show

There were other interesting happenings in Houston. Elvis was so heavily guarded even the American Secret Service who guards presidents could have taken a few lessons from Colonel Parker, Elvis stayed at the Shamrock Hilton and many people were at the hotel trying to get a glimpse Of Elvis and hopefully a picture to remember his visit by. But none got the chance. There was a Texas Bankers Convention in the hotel at the time, but despite this, the Colonel arranged to have the entire 16th floor reserved for Elvis and entourage. There were a total of 20 security guards on the 16th floor alone, and police at every fire exit as well as on the main floor. Elvis I phones were Plugged with no calls being accepted from anyone, including the press. 

Haan/ Rijff/ McCoy Houston Astrodome March 3rd 1974 evening show

There were requests for Mountain Valley water and lots of diet drinks from his suite. There was also a fruit basket ordered with strict orders to leave out pineapple. Elvis and his entourage took up 32 rooms at the Shamrock Hilton, and another 25 at the Astroworld Hotel. Who stayed in all these rooms? I don't know, but they had plenty to stay in... whoever they were. 

Elvis and his staff rolled into Monroe, Louisiana next for the first of three separate concert dates on this tour. The next two took place on March 7 and 8. It was a split schedule, but all the seats were sold out weeks in advance with many people left wanting tickets. There were 8, 500 at each show and this made a total of 25, 500 for the three shows for a total gross of nearly $250, 000 in Monroe. It should be noted that all of these concerts sold out with no paid advertising as many of Elvis' concerts do. 

March 5 was a stop in Auburn, Alabama but I have no figures as yet, so maybe someone will help us there. All I know is it was a sell out. 

Keith Alverson Auburn,AL March 5th 1974

Next to see Elvis were fans in Montgomery, Alabama on March 6. 1 don't know the exact figures here, but I do know he once again was a sell out and that this was the first time Elvis had appeared there in 19 years. There were 400 people on hand at Montgomery's Downtowner Motor Inn to greet Elvis as he arrived at midnight. As he got out of the car, he was welcomed by screams of adoration and snapping flashbulbs. The fans were kept about 100 feet away and only got a short glimpse of him. One press photographer tried to get to the 6th floor of the hotel where Elvis stayed, but as the elevator opened he was immediately physically picked up and set back in the elevator and told "No pictures allowed!  

The biggest act in the business (Elvis) next touched down in Charlotte, North Carolina for two great sell out concerts at the Charlotte Coliseum. There were 26, 000 fans at the two performances for a gross of another $250,000. 

Len Leech/Rosemarie Leech Roanoke,VA March 10th 1974

Fans from all over the south were in attendance or waiting outside if they couldn't buy a ticket. Some paid ticket scalpers as much as $50 for a $7. 50 ticket, just to be in the same room with Elvis. A reporter asked a 26-year old girl why she had come to see Elvis, and she replied, "Because he is Elvis, the original.... the only one. 

Meanwhile, dozens of fans rode elevators in the hotels Elvis was rumored to be in. It was a pretty well kept secret that Elvis was staying at the Sheraton, until a reporter tried to enter the 12th floor of the hotel and was sternly rebuffed by police and told there was no way he could see Elvis. 

The performance in Charlotte for both shows were reported to be among Elvis' best ever. The excitement from the opening 2001 theme with large moving spotlights all over the arena and Elvis casually walking on stage was almost too much for the crowds. As Elvis appeared, they exploded into waves of screams almost deafening and when he broke into " C. C. Rider, " the place came unglued. If Elvis moved anything they all went crazy. He turned his back to them once and revealed a giant, embroidered sequined eagle. The roar was deafening. When Elvis finally left, the fans were perspiring just as much or more than he was. 

Len Leech/Rosemarie Leech Richmond,VA March 12th  1974

But this isn't all that happened in Charlotte. All I do is tell you about people who try to see Elvis and never get through the massive protection he commands. But a little nine year old girl, named Tammy Ann Miller, did get to see Elvis in private for a few minutes., With the help of a local columnist, she was admitted by an upset Colonel Parker. Not at the little girl, but at everyone in general. Tammy wanted to show Elvis a picture of her deceased father who looked like Elvis. As she handed it to him, he gazed at it a few seconds and said, " Sure does. " He autographed several items for her as well as the snapshot. She mentioned that she sang gospel songs and handed Elvis a packet of religious tracts, at which time he leaned over and kissed her and said "Thanks. 11 At this point, Colonel Parker said the girl and the reporter would have to leave. 

The reporter described getting involved with Elvis as something akin to World War II. Colonel Parker was upset over all of the thousands of appeals to see Elvis. He said every kind of excuse was being used, from people having dying mothers to things almost unbelievable. Two girls had made arrangements with the mayor of Charlotte to present the key to the city to Elvis, but they were rebuffed by the Colonel. And once you are rebuffed, that is it. 

However, I believe we must look at this from the Colonel's standpoint. He can't just allow everyone to visit Elvis, and Elvis is very busy on tour so I tend to agree with the strict security measures on tour. If there were none, of just casual security, could you imagine the pandemonium Elvis would face? He would be a tired wreck before ever stepping on stage. So much for Charlotte. 

Nancy Cunningham Memphis,TN  March 16th 1974 evening show

The Presley magic moved on to Roanoke, Virginia for an engagement on March 10. There were 10, 640 persons attending for a gross of $90, 000. He sang his heart out to the record attendance for the Civic Center. In all, there were 24 security guards, 16 policemen, and 40 Civic Center employees trying to hold the lid on the place. One gal did get on the stage, only to be drug off by a guard. Elvis, as usual, stayed calm and kept right on singing. It was a great show and after it was all over, Roanoke fans were left in a stage of shock from seeing Elvis' magic. 

Elvis rolled along to Hampton Roads, Virginia for a stop on March 11. You guessed it. A big sell out crowd of 10, 500 and a whopping $100,000 gross. Every kind of person attended. Old men with hearing aids, young girls with hot pants, and screaming ten year olds. But this is not uncommon at an Elvis show, because Elvis appeals to all ages. 

At one point during the Hampton concert, Elvis threw a scarf offstage and two women grabbed it and began fighting over it. A diplomatic policeman finally settled the whole thing by tearing the scarf in half and giving half to each woman. Someone threw some long red underwear on stage with the message, " I'm longing to kiss Elvis, " on it. Elvis did not take them with him. Would you? 

Elvis' next stop was Richmond, Virginia for the first show on March 12, and then coming back later on March 18. Both shows were sold out and 12, 000 fans jammed in for each show. The total was 24, 000 and the gross $225, 000. Excitement ran high and no one was disappointed with the performance. 

Nancy Cunningham Memphis,TN  March 17th 1974 matinee show

Greensboro, North Carolina was next on the list for Elvis. An excited 16,400 fans showed up for the occasion. It was a great sell out with a grand gross of $151,000. This was one of the wildest and most appreciative audiences of the tour and Elvis told them so. At one point during the show, Elvis asked that the house lights be turned up so he could see his audience. He spotted a child standing on a chair dressed in a white sequined -studded jumpsuit and cape. A little mini-Elvis. Well, Elvis just had to get a closer look at this, so he had the boy's father bring him to the stage. As Elvis bent over to feel the boy's costume he put his hand on the boy's hair and said, " Get him out of here... he's dressed better than I am. " The crowd roared its approval as Elvis brought the boy on stage to present him with a blue scarf. I don't know if that little guy knows it but no one shares the stage with Elvis Presley... and for a few glorious moments he was part of musical history. Great show little fellow. Flashbulbs popped throughout the show as if strobe lights were set up in the arena, and at times it was blinding. No matter where Elvis turned the screams were deafening, bulbs flashed, and when he shook his body the lid nearly came right off the house. This great concert was certainly one of Elvis' best. 

Elvis blew the minds out of a sell-out crowd of 12, 500 at Murfeesboro, Tennessee on March 14. This was the first of two concerts, the other scheduled for March 19, which was also a sellout. The combined attendance was a rousing 25,000 for a dollar gross of $225,000. 

Sean Shaver Memphis,TN  March 17th 1974 evening show

Everyone better sit down again for this grand bit of news I have next. Elvis brought joy to the hearts of his home town in not one or two or even three shows... but FIVE concerts in Memphis. It was once again a split schedule with Elvis doing his thing on March 16 and 17 in Memphis and back for one more show on March 20. The king really did it this time. He played the Mid-South Coliseum and the combined total was a whopping gross of $500,000. It was a great triumphant return to Memphis after a thirteen year absence. Tickets went for as much as $75 from ticket scalpers and police were doing their best to stop them. 

There had been speculation by many that Elvis was being held back from performing in his home town because Memphis might not turn out to see one of their own. It all turned out to be different and this speculation was rubbish. There was a lot going on at these concerts, so here is just a brief idea of the pandemonium that went on. There were dozens of fans outside each concert looking for ticket scalpers and inquiring about extra tickets at the box office, which of course, didn't have any. Men, women and children carried large signs proclaiming their needs for a ticket. One woman arrived from Illinois but had no ticket and was having a hard time getting one anywhere. It seems even the scalpers wanted to keep some of their tickets and see the show themselves. The coliseum manager said it was quite an ordeal having so many sold out concerts at once because cleaning after each one was not very easy due to the lack of time between shows. But he did commend the fans for not making it rough for him and others and for being well-behaved. 

Sean Shaver Memphis,TN  March 20th 1974

Elvis rocked and rolled their heads off in Memphis and they fell at his feet in adoration. After such a spectacular tour, what else can be said. No one can begin to touch Elvis' crown and this tour is only one reason why. Along with Elvis this time were the usual crew of musicians, J. D. Sumner and the Stamps, as well as the Sweet Inspirations and Jackie Kahane to provide the comedy. Elvis used some new material such as a gospel song called, " Help Me, due for single release as well as " Why Me Lord, and "Let Me Be There. " 

Before I close there is one item from Montgomery, Alabama that I forgot to mention. Governor George Wallace of Alabama cut short a visit to Washington D. C. governors meeting especially to get back to see Elvis. He met with Elvis and Colonel Parker for ten minutes, along with his family. Wallace presented them both with honorary commissions in the Alabama Militia. 

This is all for this time out so until next time, keep yourselves united for Elvis.

 Originally published in Strictly Elvis No. 73