From Down Under

 

Elvis: 1975 A Delightful Pre-Christmas Season at the Hilton 

    Part One

 by Geoffrey Mc Donnell (Australia)

 

This ‘ unusual ’ December Season was to make up for Elvis canceling early his Summer Season in August 1975 due to illness. In October '75 a letter from Elvis to the Colonel  suggests for an album for release in early '76 be half studio half live from the December engagement " This would give a much better flavor with all the new material " but only ‘ America ’ was really ' new '! ‘ Softly ’ became regular too and re-vamped ‘ Just Pretend ’. Post his August hospitalization with Linda by September he had Nurse Marion Cocke looking after him as well and whilst Linda was away he was going out again with Jo Cathy Brownlee, the Grizzlies hostess from the Memphis football game and dated for a couple of months in Oct/Nov whilst Linda  returned by Late November ( even though Elvis wasn’t really sure whether he wanted to be with her at this time? ) and helped during his forthcoming December 1975 Season. On the positive side Elvis took a serious interest in playing Racquetball at the Memphis State University and would play hard for several hours before taking in a movie, also he drove around on 3 wheeled motorcycles around Memphis. This was just the kind of rest/relaxation that did him good-yet by November Elvis was worrying because once again the Colonel was Gambling putting him in Vegas during a traditionally quiet/slow month. Elvis needn’t have worried though as the engagement was a complete success DOUBLING takings for a normally ‘ quiet ’ month and for his closing show their were more people at the Hilton than all other showrooms put together in Vegas!

Photographer unknown © Memphis,TN. September 1975

By the time Elvis actually flew to Vegas in his ‘ new ’ airplane the ‘ Lisa Marie ’ on 27th November ( his airplane had been delivered finished on November 10th -The maiden flight being to Nashville ) he was looking and sounding a LOT better, that stomach ‘ bloat ’ he had in August was gone and although still heavy he had been exercising. The Vocal group VOICE had disbanded but Sherrill Neilson stayed on as Vocal support for Elvis. As per doctors orders Elvis was to perform only 1 show per night with an exception being 2 on Saturdays. With VOICE gone J.D.Sumner & Stamps got back the position of being the Opening act on first. First up during the end of November Vegas Rehearsals was “ America the Beautiful ” it was his only genuine ‘ new ’ song this season!. However ‘ Just Pretend ’ received a really deep and meaningful interpretation by Elvis and almost sounded convincing as a ‘ new ’ song! Late in the Season Elvis even took to singing part of ‘ O SOLE MIO ’ himself which was ‘ new ’ as well. ' Softly ' not featured much in 1975 soon became a staple part of his act along with ‘ America ’. It is ( in retrospect ) a great pity that Elvis hadn’t rehearsed up as many ‘ new ’ songs as he had during the excellent March '75 engagement, but however ‘ well ’ he was he didn’t seem up to that much work at this time. So instead some of the BEST songs from previous '75 performances were glued together with the new material to present a lengthy show ( often 80 minute long! ) full of music and NO ‘ bad ’ shows. Every show presented a different line up ( even if it was just 1 song different ) as NO 2 shows were the same. Every show was ‘ good ’ and many shows ‘ VERY GOOD ’ Probably any fan their may have rated some shows as ‘ excellent ’, but given so little new material I can’t rate this season with such a strong word as ‘ excellent ’. Right from the first show it was evident Elvis was looking and sounding ‘ good ’ and presenting a ‘ solid ’ season which delighted his fans and critics alike. Elvis was very consistent AND good!.

 Elvis also had 3 new suits made, first was the V neck puff Sleeves suit, then the Rainfall Suit and the first of the bi-centennial suits the White Bi-Centennial. From the past he wore the Gypsy and Dark Blue Phoenix suits from Summer '75 and also the Aztec suit. Ronnie Tutt missed the 7.12.75 show ( due to the birth of his daughter ) whilst strangely Glen D.Hardin became the next band member to get aggression from Elvis in much the same was as Elvis had pissed Duke Bardwell off, sufficient bad feeling was created that after this engagement and the ‘ Pontiac ’ show Glen decided he’d had enough and was going to quit. Elvis seemed particularly delighted when his daughter flew in for the last week of the engagement. Most reassuring was that Elvis’s voice was ‘ strong ’ as during his strong versions of ‘ How Great Thou Art ’ he really sang out well!.

 

Las Vegas December 2, 1975 Opening Show. R/t 70 minutes 

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / See See Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / dialogue about hospital visit/ Love Me / Fairytale / Big Boss Man / It's Midnight / Early Morning Rain / And I Love You So / Trying' To Get To You / All Shook Up / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / Hound Dog / You've Lost That Loving' Feeling' / Dialogue / Blue Christmas-f.start / Polk Salad Annie / Introductions & solos/ My Boy / How Great Thou Art / Mystery Train - Tiger Man / Softly, As I Leave You / America, The Beautiful / Can't Help Falling In Love  

JUMPSUITS

Elvis Presley: V-Neck suit with puff sleeves / Original belt

Compact Disc; Seasons Greeting from Elvis

 

Michael Orchs © Las Vegas,NV. December 2nd 1975 opening show

This show the FIRST of the season was a ‘ good ’ show, however looking at the track-listing much of it’s a based on previous '75 Vegas seasons and past songs. Only ‘ AMERICA ’ is brand new and BLUE CHRISTMAS ( NOT sung whilst he played guitar this season ) are taken as new performances here. Elvis doesn’t really get ‘ into ’ singing in this show until ‘ Fairytale ’ then sings quite well, but saying that his performance of say “ You’ve lost that Loving Feeling " certainly is NOT as strong as him in his 1970 peak of performing that song. ( Even though Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers was NOT introduced sitting in the audience – also Liberace was watching too. )Early Morning Rain ( sung in full, but rather fast paced ) is definitely a ‘ surprise ’ and with both ‘ Trying To Get To You ’ ( he says he’s been performing a lot lately!? ) and How Great Thou Art ( says he’s had a lot of requests for? ) leaves one wondering (as he hadn’t sung since August? ) As to just whom had been making the requests?. At least it was a full show and contained enough songs to delight his fans. MOST interesting was Elvis’s FIRST ever public version of America the Beautiful. Quite unlike all future versions, in this first version at the ending Elvis doesn’t go up to the high ending of repeating the word ‘ America ’ which shows that in rehearsals he hadn’t quite sorted that out-yet. Quite a few photo’s are available from this ‘ opening night ’ and he looks less bloated than August in his ‘ new ’ V neck white suit with puffy sleeves. Throughout this opening show Ron Tutt’s excellent drumming features.

 

Las Vegas December 3, 1975 (10:00 pm) r/t 75 minutes 

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / See See Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me / Fairytale / Big Boss Man / And I Love You So / Trying' To Get To You / All Shook Up / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / Blue Christmas / Polk Salad Annie / Introductions & Solos / My Boy / Just Pretend / How Great Thou Art-with reprise / Burning Love / Softly, As I Leave You / Mystery Train - Tiger Man / America, The Beautiful / Can't Help Falling In Love  

JUMPSUITS

Elvis Presley: V-Neck suit with puff sleeves / Original belt

 

Next show and Elvis is back wearing the same suit and a trimmed repertoire featuring the new way of singing ‘ JUST PRETEND ’ Elvis sings a good version, but no where near as good as he would later in this season. This show isn’t a bad show, but for me listening highlights only seem to be Burning Love and How Great Thou Art as despite starting with C.C.Rider sounding pretty ‘ up ’ he does sing ‘ well ’ but doesn’t excel himself-America tonight though gets his ‘ usual ’ 1976 ending and quite different from last nights version. Polk Salad Annie  apparently ended up with a beautifully executed Karate Move. This show including the introductions ran for 75 minutes.

 

Las Vegas December 4, 1975 (10:00 pm).r/t 60 minutes 

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / See See Rider / dialogue/ I Got A Woman - Amen / dialogue/ Love Me / Big Boss Man-f.start only/ Fairytale / And I Love You So / Trying' To Get To You / Blue Suede Shoes / It's Now Or Never / Polk Salad Annie / Introductions & Solos-J.B.Goode Elvis ‘off’ mike / Just Pretend / Bridge Over Troubled Water / Burning Love / Softly, As I Leave You / Dialogue/ America, The Beautiful / Mystery Train - Tiger Man / Little Darling-f.start / Can't Help Falling In Love  

JUMPSUITS

Elvis Presley: Gypsy suit / Reserve belt  

Sue McCasland © Las Vegas,NV. December 13th 1975 dinner show

Tonight Elvis jokes after C.C.Rider by saying he starts off slow and just tapers off. Then shows great irritation when the band start playing BIG BOSS MAN after Love Me and he changes his mind to ‘ Fairytale ’. Elvis says ‘ wrong,wrong! ’During “ And I Love You So ” Elvis changes a line to “ The band is dead ” and seems to be getting disgruntled, then Elvis says ‘ these lights are hot ’ and later on the introductions proceed ‘ normally ’ Just Pretend is a really excellent version and also the only performance of Bridge Over Troubled Water this whole season. The show continues well, except that tonight he has missed out performing his ‘ usual ’ medley of All Shook Up and Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel. Nothing out of the ordinary happened UNTIL after he’s performed ‘ Softly ’. Then Elvis lets rip! He says to Glen D.Hardin that his piano playing on ‘ Softly ’ was SO BAD that he might need a new piano player!, then he goes on to criticize saying ‘ the band is dead ’ they’re not real their just a backdrop. At one point you seem to hear Glen say ‘ I quit ’ but in Elvis shows it’s always hard for the audience to work out when it’s all a part of the show or whether Elvis was serious! Then before America even starts Elvis shouts back at the band ‘ America goddammitt I  want to do Blue Christmas! ’ Things are definitely getting ‘ heated ’ in this prolonged start to him performing America ( which he does eventually sing ) Once he gets over false starting Little Darling it’s a good version and as a musical whole this show is a ‘ good ’ show, but it’s the shortest show this entire season and it’s probably a good thing it was near the end of the show that he lost his temper as otherwise who knows how the show might have continued?. 

 

Las Vegas December 5, 1975 (10:00 pm)r/t 65 minutes. 

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / See See Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me /dialogue/ Fairytale / And I Love You So / Trying' To Get To You / All Shook Up / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / Blue Suede Shoes / Just Pretend / Polk Salad Annie / Introductions / It's Now Or Never / How Great Thou Art-with reprise / One Night / Softly, As I Leave You / America, The Beautiful / Mystery Train - Tiger Man / dialogue/ Can't Help Falling In Love  

JUMPSUITS

Elvis Presley: V-Neck suit with puff sleeves / Original belt

___Video footage available!  

Michael Orchs © Las Vegas,NV. December 2nd 1975 opening show

Well tonight Elvis seems back to ‘ great form ’ ( as much of the video footage shows ) The crowd seem wilder it being a Friday night and it’s a great show. In dialogue before Love Me Elvis mentions he starts sweating even before coming out on stage and hands out many yellow scarves. Virtually all the show from a strong version of Fairytale onwards is very well performed. New this show is One Night and It’s Now Or Never. Even his version tonight of All Shook Up is good. To me this is the first show all season where he’s obviously firing on all cylinders-however yet again the lighting is botched up ( what you doing Lamar? ) during Tiger Man and during the last light strobing Elvis just stands their in silent frustration! The closest footage onstage happens during the closing Can’t Help Falling In Love and shows him giving away many Blue scarves. It’s a good show from Elvis and seeing 40% of this show on video is very nice!. A few songs in the video are in the wrong show running order but well taken shot from center stage and is the most footage I’ve seen of Elvis from this Season.

 

Las Vegas December 6, 1975 Dinner Show. R/t 60 minutes 

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / See See Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Happy Birthday + Reprise / Love Me / Fairytale / And I Love You So / Trying' To Get To You / All Shook Up / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / Hound Dog / Sweet Caroline / Polk Salad Annie / Introductions & Solos - Johnny B.Goode-very brief  / How Great Thou Art- w. reprise / Burning Love / Softly, As I Leave You / America, The Beautiful / Can't Help Falling In Love

Tonight Elvis got trapped in his Elevator before the Dinner show and later he said ‘ I really panicked ’. Another good show and Elvis includes performing requests of Happy Birthday and Sweet Caroline.

 

Las Vegas December 6, 1975 Midnight Show. R/t 65 minutes Underlined  on Disc #4 Vegas Box Set in 2001 

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / See See Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me / Fairytale / And I Love You So / Trying' To Get To You / Blue Suede Shoes / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / One Night / Polk Salad Annie /intros/what d’say (Elvis ‘off’ mike) , intro of Charlie Pride; Blue Christmas  / Just Pretend/ Burning Love / Softly, As I Leave You / America, The Beautiful / Mystery Train - Tiger Man / Can't Help Falling In Love 

 

JUMPSUITS

Elvis Presley: V-Neck suit with puff sleeves / Original belt  

Michael Orchs © Las Vegas,NV. December 2nd 1975 opening show

This show was probably the last time that Country Singer Charlie Pride met Elvis. Charlie Pride had seen quite a few Elvis shows over the years and so this alone makes this show ‘ historic ’ and it’s a well sung show!. Ron Tutt was on drums for both shows today ( he’s introduced! ) but left after this show. It’s another good show and  In the early hours of 7th December after the show ended Elvis was found entertaining Kathy and others on his ‘ new ’ ‘ Lisa Marie ’ Aero plane –pointing at the American flag (as he saw Kathy looking at it ) he asked Kathy Westmoreland where she’d like to go? Kathy  blurted out  “ Hawaii ” given Elvis’s excitable mood he then seriously proceeded to go there. Shouting ‘ rev up the engines! ’ Elvis reckoned that as he only had 1 show to perform on 7th he could get there and back in time…..so convinced was Elvis caught up with this whim that apparently it took a LOT of persuading from an exasperated Joe Esposito to get him to calm down and NOT go straight to Hawaii. Even though it would have been a 7 hour flight each way Elvis reckoned on sleeping on the plane and really wanted to go!. Noticeably AFTER his thoughts of Hawaii though he did include 2 songs in the next show that had also been a part of the complete " Hawaiian 1973 Special " ‘ I’ll Remember You ’ and ‘ Early Morning Rain ’.         

Part two