From Down Under

 

Elvis in 1973 : one of the Legends of Lake Tahoe  

 by Geoffrey Mc Donnell (Australia)

 

Lake Tahoe has inspired legends about its beauty and its inhabitants, both mammal and aquatic, since the Washoe Indians populated its shores and told stories about a monster in the lake. More "official" legends include two bi-state fishing records ( kokanee salmon and mackinaw or lake trout ) that have stood for over 25 years. Today thousands of tourists join the residents each year to experience the wonder of the region and to fish the world class waters and, yes, maybe even to glimpse the infamous sea monster, " Tahoe Tessie. " With the beauty that surrounds the lake and is reflected in water that boasts remarkable visibility, it is no wonder that Lake Tahoe is a place where dreams come true and legends are born.  

Robin Rosaaen © High Sierra Theatre, Sahara Tahoe marquee  May 1976

Every year the salmon wait in Lake Tahoe until the first of October when the water flow out of Taylor Creek is reduced. Up to 50,000 fish begin their swim up the creek to spawn. As a matter of fact, the town of South Lake Tahoe has an entire festival that celebrates the spawning of the kokanee salmon, every year in early October. . Like an ocean, the bottom of Lake Tahoe is carved by deep canyons and studded with pinnacles and underwater cliffs.

Whether or not you believe the legend of Tahoe Tessie, there are enough legendary wonders within the Tahoe region to satisfy every visitor. One such ‘wonder’ returning in May 1973 was ‘Elvis Presley’ after his first 1971 visit there. Elvis was scheduled to open a season running from May 4th '73 to May 20th '73.  

Photographer unknown © Elvis and Ed Parker  July 4th 1974

Elvis’s keen April Karate interest involving Ed Parker ( but also Khan Rhee, who had been with Elvis at the end of his recent Vegas season ) was' upset ’ with the “ contract conditions ” specifying that he couldn’t perform/appear publicly  ( because of his West COAST AND lake Tahoe season less than 6 weeks away ) at Ed Parkers Californian Karate Championships in San Francisco on Sunday 8th April. Elvis had  expected to attend and only when driving past the tournament site-the Civic auditorium in San Francisco did the DEBACLE unfold as HIS NAME was emblazoned on the marquee, and also back at his hotel Elvis discovered that he was ADVERTISED to take part in the brick-braking at the actual tournement!.Thus Elvis called the Colonel and VERY soon his name was ‘ removed ’ and left for home ‘bitterly disappointed” that his forthcoming touring engagements would PREVENT him pursuing his Karate interest. Thus Elvis was soon touring but very ‘ unhappy ’ that his leisure activities were effectively curtailed because of his forthcoming work commitments. As if to sort of make up for this disappointment Elvis was awarded his 7th degree belt in Karate by Khan Rhee the very next day!! Later after ( an overall ) successful April 1973 west coast tour He flew into Tahoe and had a few days to rehearse with the ‘ Al Tronti Orchestra ’ ( conducted by Joe Guercio ) and the ‘ hot ’ Hilton Horns ( from Las Vegas ) before OPENING NIGHT show on May 4th.  

Chris Trant © Seattle Airport April 29th 1973

Elvis fan Jim Borda  managed to meet Elvis between his 2 Seattle shows on 29th April ( lucky as he was spotted by one of the band members and taken to Elvis with Col.Parker! ) and interestingly Elvis said:- “ He wished he could go out on the street for a walk on such a nice day , but he’d get mobbed and  gets tired of going from hotel to concert without seeing anything ” .   

    Photographer unknown © Elvis and Jim Borda backstage in Seattle, WA. on April 29th 1973          

 In Tahoe just as soon as this season was announced, telephone lines between Lake Tahoe and southern California were jammed for 2 weeks! As a last resort the Continental telephone Company reached an agreement with the Bell Telephone Company to ‘block’ a % of long distance calls to the 588 area code. As a result of this kind of booking pressure the Sahara Tahoe foolishly overbooked the show room because they figured not ALL or MOST Fans making bookings would ACTUALLY turn up (which most DID!) thus their were near riots when hundreds of fans with ADVANCE RESERVATIONS were NOT admitted to a show. For this season Elvis wore the cape ONLY for the closing number.  

Naomi Tristley © Lake Tahoe, NV.  May 1973

Suits worn were the “ Snowflake ”,” Thunderbird ”,” Sunlight ”,” Today ”," White Nail ”, " Red Flower " and plenty of times the “ Aloha Suit ”. I have been unable to clarify ‘Rumors’ about the “ Brown flower ” or even rarer a possible 1973 ‘Flame suit?’ This seasons suits are VERY DIFFICULT to verify!

 

Lake Tahoe. May 4, 1973 opening Show. Lake Tahoe.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me Tender / You Gave Me A Mountain / Steamroller Blues / You Don't Have To Say You Love Me / love me/long tall sally/mama don't dance/shake rattle & roll/flip flop & fly/whole lotta shakin goin on/blue suede shoes medley/ I'm Leavin' / Hound Dog / Faded Love / Suspicious Minds / Introductions / I'll Remember You / I Can't Stop Loving You / Bridge Over Troubled Water / A Big Hunk O'Love /Can't Help Falling In Love/Closing Vamp.    

Celebrities attending the Opening Show were Glen Campbell ( several shows THIS SEASON ), Raquel Welch and Vernon+ Dee Presley. Elvis had some ‘ new ’ two-toned scarves to hand out and tossed out Dozens during a performance in an attempt to restore order in the showroom. Linda Thompson was with Elvis this engagement, also present were:- Dick Grob,Red + Sonny West,Jerry Schilling,Lamar Fyke,Ed Parker,Dave Hebler and Elvis’s Memphis hairdresser Homer Gilliland. This engagement because it opened just 4 days from CLOSING the 22nd-30th April West Cost tour was MUSICALLY/REPERTOIRE wise basically an EXTENSION of that 9 day 11 show tour. Just as Elvis’s colour had been white/poor on the tour – so was his health up and down during his Tahoe Season. Despite the fact that MANY fans couldn’t get seats those that saw Elvis’s opening show found him in Variety’s words “ some 30 pounds overweight, puffy-white faced and blinking against the stage lights. His voice sounded watery/weak and his song delivery was noted to be ‘ flabby ’ with occasional dynamic great effort and no enthusiasm ”. This pretty ‘harsh’ review does seem pretty ‘correct’ as shows recently had varied from EXCELLENT (Pheonix, Portland and Denver) to lackluster/sedate – similar to the Aloha show in ( Anaheim and both Fresno + Spokane Afternoon shows with Elvis looking pale/tired ) however ‘ on tour ’ He wasn’t so much ‘ under the microscope ’ as in a hotel season. Generally the ‘ live ’ crowds had brought out the best in his performances. Through most of this Tahoe season Elvis mostly sounds OK, but in some shows his voice LACKS that POWER, that TOTAL commitment and full command as it sounds watered down as he continued to be suffering this Flu like chest problem a lot.( Although none as ‘weak’ as his voice at the Las Vegas 15.2.73 Dinner Show! )

During the May 5th Dinner Show 70 fans with confirmed tickets were unable to get into this show. So they were allowed in first to the midnight show which made things worse for the fans booked for the midnight show. The 70 fans were happy to get in but the hotel management then let in "Invited Guests" also known as big spenders, followed by Hotel guests, fans that traveled to the show to see Elvis were the ones made to wait and see what room was left. Which meant almost 200 fans with reservations were not admitted to the showroom, a mini riot occurred, fans became very vocal and started to rip pictures off the wall, and threatened to sue the Hotel.( after all they had been waiting outside the showroom for 4-5 hours! )The situation didn't calm down until the local police arrived.

However for Elvis Time in Tahoe generally ( apart from his disliking of the nearly 2,000m high altitude ) meant much less pressure, media scrutiny and a more intimate, smaller stage to work with. Time to practice his Karate ( with Ed Parker ) and sing to absolutely PACKED audiences trying to get in to see him!

 

Naomi Tristley © Lake Tahoe, NV.  May 1973

Lake Tahoe. May 6, 1973 Midnight Show.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / dialogue-intro as Glen Campbell + old shep request/Love Me Tender / Steamroller Blues / Surrender-excerpt/You Don't Have To Say You Love Me / You Gave Me A Mountain/Love Me / Blue Suede Shoes / Heartbreak Hotel / Long Tall Sally - Whole Lotta Shakin' - Flip Flop & Fly / Hound Dog/ I’m Leaving / Fever / What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds / Introductions / Al Tronti intro/ I'll Remember You / I Can't Stop Loving You / Bridge Over Troubled Water / A Big Hunk O'Love / It's Over/ Can't Help Falling In Love/ Closing Vamp.  

Lake Tahoe. May 7, 1973 Midnight Show.

TRACKLIST

2001Theme/ C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen x 2 / Love Me Tender-incl f.start / Steamroller Blues / You Don't Have To Say You Love Me/ You Gave Me A Mountain / Love Me / Blue Suede Shoes / Heartbreak Hotel / Long Tall Sally - Whole Lotta Shakin' - Flip Flop & Fly / I'm Leavin' / Hound Dog / Fever / What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds / Introductions / I'll Remember You / I Can't Stop Loving You / An American Trilogy / A Big Hunk O'Love / Bridge over Troubled Water/ Can't Help Falling In Love/Closing Vamp.   

Lake Tahoe. May 8, 1973 dinner Show.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/ C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me Tender / Steamroller Blues / You Don't Have To Say You Love Me / Help Me Make It Through TheN night / Hound Dog / long tall sally/shake rattle & roll medley/i'm leavin'/ What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds / Introductions / I'll Remember You / Bridge over troubled water/ Release me/ I can't stop loving you/ Funny how time slips away / Can't Help Falling In Love/ Closing Vamp.

 

Lake Tahoe. May 9, 1973 Midnight Show.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/ C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me Tender / You Gave Me A Mountain / Steamroller Blues / You Don't Have To Say You Love Me / Love Me / Blue Suede Shoes / Heartbreak Hotel / Long Tall Sally - Whole Lotta Shakin' - Flip Flop & Fly / I'm Leavin' / Hound Dog / Fever / What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds / Introductions / Alfie-1 line/ I'll Remember You / I Can't Stop Loving You / Bridge Over Troubled Water / A Big Hunk O'Love / Can't Help Falling In Love/Closing Vamp.  

 

Lake Tahoe. May 10, 1973 Dinner Show.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/ C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me Tender / Steamroller blues/ Help Me Make It Through The Night / You Gave Me A Mountain / Love Me/ Blue Suede Shoes /  Long Tall Sally - Whole Lotta Shakin' -your mama don't dance/flip flop & fly/whole lotta shakin goin on / I’m Leaving/ Hound Dog / Fever / What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds / Introductions / I'll Remember You / I Can't Stop Loving You / Bridge Over Troubled Water / A Big Hunk O'Love / Can't Help Falling In Love/ Closing Vamp.

COMPACT DISC: STATELINE CALIFORNIA  released in 1996 r/t 48 mins.  

 

Lake Tahoe. May 10, 1973 Midnight Show.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me Tender / Steamroller Blues / Help Me Make It Through The Night / You Gave Me A Mountain / Love Me / Blue Suede Shoes / Long Tall Sally - Whole Lotta Shakin' - Flip Flop & Fly / I'm Leavin' / Hound Dog / Fever / What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds / Intro.’s / I'll Remember You / I Can't Stop Loving You / Bridge Over Troubled Water / A Big Hunk O'Love / Can't Help Falling In Love/ Closing Vamp.  

COMPACT DISC: RETURN TO LAKE TAHOE  released in 1994 r/t 50 mins     

Elvis’s first week of appearances here ( certainly judging from shows I have heard ) were actually ‘ pretty good! ’ The shows may all be running for less than an hour ( usually 55 minutes ) but he sings well ( in fact mostly very well indeed! ) and a pleasing repertoire-‘ old ’ , ' new’ songs and a pretty pleasing song line up offering challenges every show, whilst enough Scarf giving out songs to please the ‘ fevered crowds! ’ With an EXPANDING ‘ Rock Medley ’ as well as enough ‘ POWER BALLADS ’ too give the shows some ‘guts’ as well as ‘ Aloha ’ sung songs to tie in with the recent show. One could hardly complain about his songs. Elvis always sang a minimum of at least 5 songs AFTER the introductions before closing each show, and here too they were quite demanding songs too. In this regard I believe proof of this is that to perform a song like ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ to a ‘ good ’ performance level, Elvis simply couldn’t do this ( as he did every show! ) unless he was in at least ‘ reasonable ’ health/lung power. Indeed ‘Bridge’ was a demanding song to perform and he’d brought it back into his set list just for this Tahoe 73’ season, which goes to add ‘ extra value ’ to every show this season ( when you consider that he never gave a disastrous/awful show ) with this song included( with the exception later on of College Park, Maryland on 27th September 1974! )Therefore when he finally cancelled ‘ sick ’ from 17th May onwards he really was ‘ sick! ’. Overall though the ’ standard ’ of Tahoe shows IS HIGH!.  Fans who watched recent shows ( from 10th May ) said Elvis was in great humour and perfect voice.

Len Leech/R. Leech © Anaheim, CA. April 23rd 1973

Elvis joked around a LOT at the 6.5.73M/S when he said:- ” I’m not going to introduce Al Tronti- the son of a bitch! ”. Certainly compared to his voice during recent Vegas shows, Elvis sang better, with more energy ( even if he still sounded sometimes weaker on the high notes-such as during ” An American Trilogy ” ) I am led to believe that such songs as “ How Great Thou Art ” or “ little Sister/Get Back ” were sung during his Tahoe engagement-but I have been unable so far to find at which show? Possibly at one of the other shows on 12th May? Or even Midnight 11th May? After his cape fell off twice ( during the closing number ) during the 10.5.73 Dinner show he didn’t bother wearing it again through the next 3 shows. The shows on 10th May have been widely bootleg released and Elvis indeed sounds ‘ fine ’, but one gets the feeling after hearing a lot of shows that as the engagement went on his voice was less powerful.

Indeed his show on 11.5.73 D/S is definitely weaker than the previous nights 10.5.73 M/S during which his voice sounded ‘strong’. Even on the ‘ reprise ’ of ‘ Bridge ’ his voice isn’t  quite their. From this list of ‘ known ’ shows during this season some shows aren’t available to listen to ( just a track listing ) however I have found that the May 13th available bootleg show to be probably the BEST/STRONGEST  show from this 2nd week of  season and the sooner it is released as a FTD release surely the better! ( Having had a part of ‘FADED LOVE’ on the 2000 special FTD promo CD release with the Magazine Elvis: TODAY ) Mostly his spirits seem good and if ( as happened at the 6.5.73 M/S ) he got a strange request-such as  ‘ OLD SHEP ’ he would dismiss it by saying “ That song isn’t in my Repertoire! ” Mostly less performed songs features this season were more likely to be ‘ Release Me ’,’ Faded Love ’,’ My Way ’, or ‘ It’s Over ’.Near the end of the 1st week ‘ Help me Make it Through The Night ’ was replacing ‘ You don’t Have to SAY You Love me ’. In his shows.’ I’m Leaving ’ proved very often performed as a feature song from the recent West Coast Tour. Then after 11th May Elvis started replacing this song in his show with ‘ My Way ’.

 

Lake Tahoe. May 11, 1973 Dinner Show.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/ C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me Tender / Steamroller Blues / Help Me Make It Through The Night / You Gave Me A Mountain /Old Shep-title only/ Love Me / Blue Suede Shoes / Heartbreak Hotel / Long Tall Sally - Whole Lotta Shakin' / I'm Leavin' / Hound Dog / Fever / What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds / Introductions / I'll Remember You / I Can't Stop Loving You / Bridge Over Troubled Water-with f.start and reprise / A Big Hunk O'Love / Can't Help Falling In Love/Closing Vamp.  

 

Lake Tahoe. May 13, 1973 3:00 am Show.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/C.C. Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Help Me Make It Thru The Night / Steamroller Blues / You Gave Me A Mountain / Love Me / Blue Suede Shoes / Long Tall Sally - Whole Lotta Shakin - Shake Rattle And Roll / My Way / Hound Dog / What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds /Introductions*/Alfie-1 line- I'll Remember You / I Can't Stop Loving You / Bridge Over Troubled Water-with reprise / Funny How Time Slips Away / It's Over / Release Me(partial) / Faded Love(duet with C.Hodge) / Can't Help Falling In Love/*closing vamp/2001 theme/opening riff/close of show/announcements.

COMPACT DISC: ELVIS LIVE IN LAKE TAHOE released in 1991 on the “PEAF” label r/t 50 mins NB. (Incomplete recording with ‘edits’ marked by *) around 7-8 minutes missing from complete show r/t of 57/58 minutes. A “Masterful” Stereo Rick Rennie recording!. More recently it was on CDR 'Welcome To A Wonderful Whirl'.(Which is a bit more complete)    

During  this 3rd show after the closing of the 12.5.73 M/S - the proceeds went to the cardiac and intensive care wing of the Barton Memorial Hospital as a ‘ special ’ Mothers Day show. According to one fan “ he seemed to be feeling great and looked even greater!, He put so much into the show and seemed to be having a ball himself, it left me breathless ”. Interestingly after Elvis left the stage, the BAND played the 2001 Theme, then brief opening riff before the announcer took over saying ” Ladies & Gentlemen we’d like to remind you that Elvis souvenirs are available in the Hotel Lobby and we’d like to remind you that 100% of proceeds of sales received go to the Barton Memorial Hospital “ The actual show itself IS a ‘ GOOD SHOW ’. During ‘ Help me make it through the night ’ Elvis starts giving out scarves, then ‘ Steamroller Blues ’ with pretty good bass playing by Emery Gordy gives us an early show highlight.’ Love Me ’ is really just more scarf giving out whilst Elvis changes the words around in this humorous version. Even during the extended ‘ rock medley ’ J.D. Sumner comes in for ‘ jokes ’ during ‘ Long Tall Sally ’. Next a decent ‘ good ’ solid version of ‘ My Way ’ before the slow/fast Hound Dog.’ What now my love ’ is another ‘ highlight ’ before more word changes during ‘ Suspicious Minds ’ and a pretty ‘ static ’ version movement wise. Charlie Hodge can clearly be heard singing along as well. The introductions from this show are MISSING- not captured on tape, however Elvis’s general order of Intros during this season was the following:- #1 Gospel Quartet-J.D.Sumner & Stamps Quartet; Young Ladies-Sweet Inspirations; little Girl with the beautiful high voice-Kathy Westmoreland; Lead Guitar-James Burton;Rythum Guitar-John Wilkinson; Drums-Ron Tutt;Bass-Emery Gordy;Piano-Glen Hardin;Scarves,Water & harmony Vocal-Charlie Hodge; Conductor-Joe Guercio;Al Tronti Orchestra; On the 2 ‘bootleg’ shows from 10th May the Band members ARE introduced.

I'm Leavin' It Up To You Fan Club © Anaheim, CA. April 24th 1973

After brief introductions we get a very short excerpt of ‘ Alfie ’ leading into ‘ I’ll Remember You’. ’ I can’t stop loving you ’ is a really good version, before we get ‘ Bridge over Troubled Water ’-complete with a reprise!.’ Funny how time slips away ’ isn’t much ,but ‘ It’s Over ’ is nice. Back then to joking around with a brief part of ‘ Release me ’ before a duet with Charlie Hodge this time on ‘ Faded Love ’.Then in a show with the ‘ briefest ’ of dialogue from Elvis it’s straight into the closing ‘ Can’t Help Falling in Love ’. ‘ GOOD ’ and ‘ fun ’ that this show IS compared to the STRENGTH of Elvis’s VOICE say on another recent ‘ bootleg ’ like the Las Vegas 31.8.73 Dinner Show (getting down to business) it’s CLEAR that his voice lacks the TOTAL POWER it exhibited in his Summer Las Vegas season, so his ‘ Tahoe season Voice ’ clearly was somewhat ‘ watered down ’ with respiratory problems and say maybe only 80% of what it was in August-however we don’t need to be reminded that Elvis even at just 80% capacity was STILL far greater that MANY other singers/entertainers around at the time and very entertaining ( and seemingly enjoying himself on stage ) for fans to see ANYTIME in 1973. 

Glen Campbell was in attendance for this 16.5.73 Midnight Show and although his Doctor told him NOT to perform-Fans present said it was a fine show. In fact I feel the Importance of Glen & Elvis’s friendship this season has been ‘ overlooked ’ as Glen seemed to attend MANY shows this season and be spending time with Elvis, of course just how much time and how many shows presumably Glen knows?. Although as Glen has admitted himself he was practically Drunk every night during the 1970’s!.   

Lake Tahoe. May 16, 1973 Closing Midnight Show.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/ C C Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me /Love Me Tender/ Steamroller Blues/  Heartbreak Hotel/ All Shook Up/ Help Me Make It Through The Night / You Gave Me A Mountain/ Long Tall Sally - Whole Lotta Shakin' /blue suede shoes- Flip Flop & Fly /whole lotta shakin goin on medley/ My Way / What Now My Love / Suspicious Minds / Introductions / I'll Remember You / Bridge Over Troubled Water / It's Over/Funny How Time Slips Away/ Can't Help Falling In Love/Closing Vamp.  

Both shows on the 17th were cancelled because Elvis had the flu. The official explanation of Elvis' condition was " Chest Congestion and sore throat ". The rumor among fans was that he had pneumonia. On the morning of the Friday 18th Elvis was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital for chest X-rays. The dinner show was cancelled in the middle of the afternoon; fans had been standing in line for up to four hours by this time. 

Judy Palmer © Spokane, WA. April 28th 1973 matinee show


Later during the evening the remainder of the engagement was cancelled. Elvis was due to perform through to the 20th.This cancellation ( just one day short of 2 weeks ) meant the Colonels ‘bonus’ fee of $100,000 for completing the 2 weeks had to be refunded and later it was arranged that Elvis would make ‘ good ’ the missed 8 shows by returning to perform them at a very short extra season between 11th and 14th October 1974. With Elvis canceling ( he had recently missed shows in Vegas but NEVER completely cancelled! ) EVERYONE around him became ‘ very worried ’ –despite a Memphis Mafia member claiming that one-minute Elvis was ‘ fine ’, then the next hour he was canceling ( this member wasn’t even in Tahoe in May 73! )-The hospital X –rays PROVED he really was SICK. Later he got sick in October 73’ from this same ‘ mystery cause ’. Later on this was proven to be Demerol injections from a Californian Doctor that was nothing as ‘ harmless ’ as the supposed ‘ Acupuncture treatment ’ that he took so much of in 1973 for supposed Karate workout injuries. What a major mistake here for Elvis! As Demerol almost finished him in 1973.. Hmm ‘ hello ’ Dr.Max Shapiro of Palm Springs, California! Why even Khan Rhee had spoken to him about ‘ pills ’ BEFORE giving him his 7th Degree Belt. Elvis flew back to Memphis around noon on May 19th, arriving back at Graceland at 7.50pm ( local time ), news reports published in Feb 75’ stated that in June 73’ Elvis was suffering Pleurisy an inflammation of the lungs. Elvis was seen walking around Graceland daily and for the next month usually attended nightly movies at either ‘ Memphian ’ or ‘ Crosstown ’ cinema’s. Elvis DID get in ‘better health ‘ for his June 1973 tour ( 1 month later ) recuperating back in Memphis.

I think this little known about Season was actually ( for FANS that were actually able to see shows ), that it was mostly a VERY GOOD ONE! Having to cancel the last 4 days of shows was indeed a pity, but ( like Vegas cancellations in February ) their was always the hope that after canceling out one day he might be well enough to re-appear to close out the season. The fact that he flew finally away to Memphis on 19.5.73 CONFIRMED that the season was OVER.