The Pied Piper Of Cleveland

November 1971 tour

By Rocky Barra

When I first heard of Elvis' November concert tour, the first thing I did was to call Larry Koller. Larry is a good friend of mine who lives in Cleveland ( which just happened to be one of the cities on the tour ). I put in my plea for tickets. I thought that I would just be able to see the one show, but Public Hall in Cleveland sold out so fast that an afternoon show was also added. We also were able to get tickets for the show in Louisville, Kentucky the following day. This meant we would be able to see Elvis perform three times in a span of about 24 hours. 

Paul Lichter © Cleveland,Ohio November 6, 1971 matinee show

( From Paul Lichter's book : From The City Of Brotherly Love To The Big Apple )

My traveling companions were Taylor Scott and Mike Donovan. We left in my car around seven o1clock Saturday morning. Elvis 8-track tapes provided the entertainment all the way until we got into Cleveland where WIXY, the major rock station, was running the 12-hour ELVIS PRESLEY STORY on the air. 

We arrived in Cleveland around 10:00 in the morning and passed the time by feeding peanuts to some cannibal sparrows in Public Square and trying to look up some friends ( who were also in town for the show ). When we arrived at Public Auditorium, I noticed an exceptional amount of Elvis material ( pennants, photos, badges, posters, photo books, and other items ) being sold. There was quite a bit of " bootleg " Elvis material also being offered outside the hall. The auditorium was beautiful and every one of the 10, 000 seats were taken for the 2:30 matinee. 

Larry came through in flying colors as our seats were very good. The orchestra came on stage and started tuning up. I noticed that there was only 12 musicians under the direction of Joe Guercio instead of the usual 30 in Las Vegas and on the last couple of tours.           

Finally the house lights were dimmed and it was showtime. The Sweet Inspirations were first on the show and did a longer set than usual ( five songs instead of the usual three ). They basically sang the same set as the last Vegas stand, with the addition of Sly and the Family Stone's " Higher. " The girls did their usual fine job. Next was the comic, Jackie Kahaine. Of the three comics I have seen work with Elvis, I think he was probably the most effective with the type of hostile audience he ( or anyone else working with Elvis ) is forced to face. He received a fine ovation. Then there was a fifteen minute break so Elvis' group could set their equipment up.   

Paul Lichter © Cleveland,Ohio November 6, 1971 matinee show

( From Paul Lichter's book : From The City Of Brotherly Love To The Big Apple )

I think most of the audience knew what was about to happen when the 2001 Space Odyssey was played. Then Ronnie Tutt's driving drums took over and the introduction to " That's All Right Mama. " Elvis popped out to a frantic ovation and ten thousand flashbulbs. The excitement had begun. Elvis was wearing a black jumpsuit with a full cape. The inside of the cape and the inserts in the pants were bright red. It was a new style of stagewear for Elvis and really powerful looking. 

The balance was pretty bad on the mikes for " That's All Right, " and Elvis' microphone in particular kept breaking up but the crowd didn't mind one bit. Next came " I Got A Woman, " which was really frantic. Elvis seemed bugged about the sound and kept motioning for it to be turned up. The little bit of " Amen " was added to the ending in a gospel style that was quite over exaggerated.. The Stamps, featuring J. D. Sumner on bass, were in place of The Imperials. 

" Proud Mary " came next. This was really well done with much drive and a much better arrangement than on the " On Stage " album. Elvis was in really five voice, and started to really get into things with this song. When Elvis rolled on the stage for the ending of the song, the crowd literally went crazy. The policemen who surrounded the stage seemed to become a little uneasy, but there was no trouble with the crowd. On the right side of the auditorium, about 500 fans had left their seats and were starting to inch their way up the isle towards Elvis. Some policemen and security guards came over and calmly told them that the show would be stopped if they didn't return to their seats. They promptly did and there was no trouble. 

" Love Me Tender " came next, to the sighs of the female audience. Elvis did a very short version of this song, and seemed to want to " get it out of the way. " His last line was " For my darling I love you, cause you take the pill. " Next up was " You Don't Have To Say You Love Me. " Ronnie Tutt has added some additional accents on drums that improve the song. It was even better than I heard it in Vegas this past August. 

Sean Shaver © Louisville,KY.  November 7, 1971 matinee show

Next came another ballad, " You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling. " Elvis is really belting some notes out on this and it is far superior to the version on the " That's The Way It Is " album. 

Elvis did very little talking between songs ( the crowd couldn't have heard him too much anyway with all the screeming and yelling ). This noise swelled when the intro to " Polk Salad Annie " started. Elvis did his sensous best on this and the crowd responded t6 his every move. Jerry Scheff played a fine bass solo, and really kept the song in the groove. 

Elvis took only a few seconds to catch his breath, telling the fans in the balcony that " He would be up in a few minutes. " Then he added, " I'm a lying fool. " Next came " Johnny B. Goode, " and Elvis seemed to be putting a lot extra vocally into this particular performance of the song. James Burton's fantastic guitar solo was similiar to the version on his own album. The version was slower and more driving than previously. Elvis sang " Treat me like a fool... " and the crowd went into hysterics. This proved that most of the people had heard " Love Me " before the concert.. and showed their appreciation for one of their favorites. 

" Heartbreak Hotel " followed, then " Blue Suede Shoes. " The crowd really liked the older songs that are associated with Elvis. Elvis could see that the crowd was with him, so he called off " One Night. " When he got to the line, " Just call my name, " he yelled into the mike in a high falsetto voice, " Elvis. " It was during this song that the girl behind me, who was standing on her chair, fell on top of my head. 

Elvis then sang " Hound Dog " in a slower bluesy version like Big Mama Thornton... then picked it up to the normal tempo. There was a section when Elvis sang Na na na na na na na na... and Burton echoed him on the guitar. Next came the most beautiful version of " How Great Thou Art " I have ever heard. Elvis loves gospel music and really showed it on this selection. The Stamps phrase the beginning differently than The Imperials, and with Elvis supplying the lead and J. D. Sumner hitting the lov; falling bass note at the end, you might think you were at an all-night gospel sing. 

Paul Lichter © Philadelphia, PA  November 8, 1971 

( From Paul Lichter's book : From The City Of Brotherly Love To The Big Apple )

Elvis then introduced the band ( his regular crew of Burton, Tutt, Scheff, Wilkerson, Hardin, Hodge, and the orchestra... which Elvis introduced as the Cleveland Browns ). Elvis then said he had a new record out called " I'm Leavin', " completely ignoring " It's Only Love. " Anyway, " Leavin'  "was done very tastefully and was well received. Elvis then did something unexpected. He started into " Hawafin Wedding Song, " from " Blue Hawaii. " The band didn't know if he was going to sing the whole song or not... but fell into the song. It was beautiful and Elvis' voice sounded much richer than on the recorded version. When Elvis got to the part where he sings " I do... " at least 3, 000 girls answered him yelling, " Love You. " 

Elvi's went into " I Can't Stop Loving You, " which was much better than the version on record in all aspects. It was more driving, and Elvis used much more style. He went over and put his scarf around the neck of one of the policemen guarding him to the crowd's delight. The ending of this song was really fabulous. 

The crowd almost quieted down when the intro to " Bridge Over Troubled Water " was played, but when Elvis started singing, one girl started screeming, then another, and pretty soon there was quite a level of poise. It was obvious that Elvis wanted to sing this when he motioned for the crowd to quiet down... and they did. This version was the same as he performed it in Vegas in August... dynamite. He repeated the bridge of the song to the ending. when the applause died down. This was Elvis at his dynamic best and every person in Public Hall was lapping it up. 

A really driving version of " Lawdy Miss Clawdy " came next. The tempo was slowed down and and the song really drived, The audience was clapping along with Elvis to the beat of the music. 

Elvis then asked if the house lights could be turned up so that he could see the crowd. They were and he said "Hill to the people in his simple way. " Can't Help Falling In Lovell,was next and the sighs rose from the audience... half because they loved the song, and half because they knew this was Elvis' closing number. Elvis closed and quickly ran off the stage into the waiting arms of about 100 securty guards who escotred him out of the building. The crowd was hysterical. I saw where girls had been pulling on their seats so hard that they tore an entire row off its foundation. It was a super performance. 

Paul Lichter © Philadelphia, PA  November 8, 1971 

( From Paul Lichter's book : From The City Of Brotherly Love To The Big Apple )

We returned for the night performance thinking that maybe, if everything went right, it might be almost as good as the afternoon show. It was twice as good. Elvis seemed more relaxed at night, and was really moving on stage. He wore a white jumpsuit with a red cape and red inserts. The show was basically the same with the exception that he was more savage and moved quite a bit more. 

Elvis added the songs " Impossible Dream, " which was super beautiful and the most powerful " Suspicious Minds " he has done since August, 1969, when the song was first introduced. Elvis didn't give out any kisses to the girls ( for obvious reasons ) but some girl managed to stick her foot on stage ( through about 8 policemen ) and threw a pen at Elvis. He bent down and signed her foot. The crowd went crazy with this. Elvis seemed to get a kick out of it himself. 

At the close of the night show and " Can't Help Failing In Love, " Elvis threw the mike down on the stage and extended his cape out with his arms and strutted around the stage. It looked like he was saying " I'm an institution, take your last look 'cause I'm splitting and may not be back in Cleveland for a while. " I'm sure this wasn't in Elvis' mind, but the effect was dynamic. 

Taylor, Mike and I started driving to Louisville for the Sunday afternoon concert the next day. We arrived in town about noon; the concert was set for 2:30. The new hall at the fairgrounds was mamouth. The arena held over 20, 000 seats... and every one was taken. Even thou there was a huge crowd, the accoustics were fantastic and Elvis’ sound could be heard well all over the arena. The show was pretty much the same song-wise. Elvis was dynamite once again.. even better than the night performance the evening before. He was free and easy and joked around with the crowd quite a bit. New additions in the song list were " Are You Lonesome Tonight, " and " It's Now Or Never. " Both were excellent. In addition, Elvis tacked a medley onto " Polk Salad " of " In The Middle Of The Air, " a gospel rocker that he performed in Tahoe earlier in the year. 

Elvis made some jokes about eating too many cheeseburgers and his clothes wouldn't fit him anymore,.. and a comment about the policemen who were guarding him. There were a bunch of young ladies ithat rushed the stage, but couldn't make if through the security lines. 

After seeing the Louisville concert, we all agreed that we should go on to Philadelphia.... but the proposal was unpractical, Every place along the tour that Elvis appeared, he completely took over the town, Even the shop owners in the downtown areas could talk about nothing else. It really was amazing that Elvis could keep that split-second schedule and always start the show on time!! 1 The amount of equipment alone that had to be moved is mind-staggering. 

Steve Toli © Boston,MA.  November 10, 1971

Well, the three shows were over and we had to head back to Michigan. Elvis is so much better on stage than he has ever been captured on records or in films.. if you have seen him you know what I mean, Mike Donovan was imitating J. D. Sumner Is bass voice all the way home while Taylor and I were trying to find a way to stop him without serious injury. 

The concert tour was a howling success. Every city was sold out far ahead of time,.. and Elvis was at his professional best. Visually And musically, Elvis was as good as I'd ever seen him. The band just keeps getting tighter and tighter, and the crowd keeps getting wilder and wilder. You might wonder where is it going to end? When will Elvis peak? I don't think there is an answer, Elvis will be on the top of the entertainment world as look as he wishes to be. He's one of a kind... a complete original and while you are watching his act, you completely forget about the problems of the world and every other external factor. This concert tour was a big one, and had to take its toll on Elvis physically.... but every show we saw was better than the one before. I just wonder what the concert in Salt Lake City will be like... when the man gets warmed up!

Originally published in Strictly Elvis No. 44

Relevant links on this website :

- 1971-1

- 1971-4

- 1971-8

- 1971-9

- Candid-3

- Elvis Has 'Em All Shook Up

- In Praise Of Elvis Presley