From Down Under

Elvis Tour #21, August 27 - September 8, 1976 

    Part one

 by Geoffrey Mc Donnell (Australia)

 

On 6th August Tour #20 had ended for Elvis with him sick with a bad cold, overweight and lackluster performances, so it was with " relief " that he arrived back at Graceland for 5 days . However this happiness didn't last long as by 10th August Elvis had plenty on his mind and was getting his attorney to write a letter to  withdraw any interest from him using his name or support in the disastrous " Racquetball Venture " he had gotten into with Dr.Nick & Joe Esposito. Elvis flew to Palm Springs the same day , then stewed over this matter before calling Dr.Nick and telling he was " sacked " and he'd find another Doctor to go out with him on the next tour. Joe Esposito was also " sacked ", but soon Elvis agreed/needed to re-hire him! and before this next tour. (as Lisa Marie ALWAYS spent time with Elvis during the School holidays presumably he visited her during his time on the West Coast?.) Also  this was one of the last times he was experimenting with cocaine in Palm Springs and a swift ride downhill effectively achieving NOTHING ( except a physical and mental decline ) before  Tour #21 went ahead.

Ron Wolfe © Fayetteville,NC. August 4th, 1976 - Tour #20

After loosing ( Dave Hebler,Sonny and Red West ) Elvis needed extra staff for security and so Sam Thompson ( already having joined this previous tour ) was promoted to joint head of security with Dick Grob and also Larry Geller was back in the fold as Elvis's " Spiritual Advisor ", but also you can see Larry at the side of the stage during  shows helping out where needed. The third change made before the tour started was Dr.Ghanem and Nurse Tish Henley coming along to take control of Elvis's " medications ". Thus with this " new " set up the Tour 21 kicked off, however Elvis didn’t return to Graceland beforehand, he flew to San Antonio straight from Palm Springs arriving at Dawn on 27th August. Here in Texas for  a 8.30pm show in San Antonio,( Elvis was in Texas as his touring ground from the 50’s ). For Elvis first show in San Antonio Elvis did 4 things he hadn't done previously all year.

1. He opened with a show in which he couldn't carry it all himself-as for the first time in a tour opening show this year he asked Sherrill to come out and sing a song!.

2. His opening tour show was less than good than usual  ",mediocre " best describes it. Yet this year in the past looking at his opening shows in Johnson City, Kansas City, Tahoe, Bloomington, Buffalo and even Louisville they were ALL a better " standard " of show. Then AFTER this tour Chicago, Reno, Vegas and Wichita Falls ALL better AGAIN!

3. For the 3rd tour in a row all he was wearing was the Light Blue or the White Bi-Centennial Suits( indeed he wore the SAME suit for this tours last 3 shows. )

4.This was the LAST tour to feature Afternoon shows or Matinee shows. After some appalling performances during THIS tour he was never expected to perform more than once a day " on the road " again.

Sean Shaver © Kansas City, MO. April 21st, 1976 opening show

Also now the already " lengthy introductions " ballooned out now to be a quarter of his show running time during which Elvis would also sing parts of 5 songs, also he'd ask Jerry Scheff to " play the blues ", then AGAIN after his slow song would ask him to " play that Alligator in a Swamp thing " or Cajun’ thing mostly an instrumental of " I fought the Law ( and the Law won ) " as his FAST song. This REALLY gets annoying when Elvis did this EVERY show this Tour! Any " great " Atmosphere built up with " good " versions of either " America " and/or Polk Salad Annie are  lost as the atmosphere is dulled by over lengthy intros.

Looking at Elvis's Performance in San Antonio were 2 great FANS from  Norway - Stein Erik Skar and also Pal Granlund. Pal ( who had already seen over 30 Elvis shows before ) thought that without doubt his San Antonio one was the WORST he had seen so far! Stein wasn't impressed either and hoped for a better show the next day in Houston,Texas.Well what’s poor about Elvis's opening tour Performance in San Antonio?

 

August 27, 1976 (8:30 pm) San Antonio, TX. Convention Center. R/T 65 minutes.

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / See See Rider / dialogue/I Got A Woman – Amen/dialogue / Love Me / All Shook Up / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / Love me Tender /If You Love Me  /You Gave Me A Mountain / Jailhouse Rock / Fever / America The Beautiful + reprise / Polk Salad Annie / Introductions & solos: Early Morning Rain-( incl f.start ) - What'd I Say - Johnny B.Goode –Drum solo-Bass Solo( x2 )-Piano Solo-Electric Piano Solo/ Love Letters - Hail Hail Rock & Roll / Hurt /Hurt /Danny Boy( S.Neilson )/ Burning Love / Can't Help Falling In Love /Closing Vamp

JUMPSUITS Elvis Presley: Blue Bicentennial suit / Original belt

ATTENDANCE: 11,000 

I mean looking at the track-listing it seems almost as good as any other opening tour show this year?. Well going into detail reveals that indeed Elvis's Opening C.C. Rider was 'pretty  good'., then just as quickly as the excitement was building up Elvis destroys all excitement. Before even starting the next song he says he has a new sound system, then plenty of long drawn out Well,Well, Wells before FINALLY singing I GOT A WOMAN...however this seems a really slow, boring and long version. Then even before the Amen ending Elvis says more about his sound system, that his sound truck turned over and he's " flying blind " FINALLY J.D. is allowed to end this worst ever 1976 version!. Then more excessive dialogue before a " fair " version of " LOVE ME ", then passable versions ( all scarf giving out material ) of " All Shook Up/Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel " and " Love Me Tender ". Elvis’s performance finally starts to " lift " during " If You Love Me ", and a 'good' " You Gave me a Mountain ". Then more mediocre performances with Jailhouse Rock and Fever . A concert " highlight " with America the Beautiful + reprise but Polk Salad Annie before the lengthy intros seems " fair " only( as Elvis’s overweight condition didn’t help any ). Starting Early Morning Rain during the intros he does it twice ( because he says John started it too high! ). FINALLY just as we're getting " bored " HURT is another good effort and highlight-as is the complete 2nd singing of it up slightly higher. Elvis then seems " stuffed " and asks Sherrill Neilson to sing " Danny Boy " , Burning Love performed after this SHOULD have been another concert highlight but he messes up the words!. After getting the house lights turned up he simply says " Take it on Baby " and closes with " Can't help falling in love ". Elvis doesn’t look well, pale and puffy/bloated and at around 65 minutes long it isn't so much the show length that’s " mediocre " it was Elvis's uneven/unfit  performance as his overweight condition was clearly hampering him.  

The next show following San Antonio was an " unusual " Saturday afternoon Matinee at " The Summit " in Houston-strangely this tour Elvis was going to be performing 2 shows the next day on Sunday 29th.The crowd was VERY LARGE and expectations were HIGH for an " upbeat " show: 

Houston-The Summit 28th August 1976 Afternoon Matinee Show  r/t 80 minutes

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme/See See Rider/ I Got A Woman – Amen x 2 / Dialogue/ Love Me/ If You Love Me / You Gave Me A Mountain / All Shook Up / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / Dialogue about band too loud/ And I Love You So/ Jailhouse Rock / Fever / America The Beautiful –with reprise / Introductions & solos: Early Morning Rain - What'd I Say - Johnny B.Goode - Drum solo-Bass Solo( x2 )-Piano Solo-Electric Piano Solo/ Love Letters - Hail Hail Rock & Roll / Hurt  / Hound Dog/ Funny How Time Slips Away/ Love me Tender/ Dialogue/ Can't Help Falling In Love / Closing Vamp.

JUMPSUITS : Elvis Presley: White Bicentennial suit / Inca Gold Leaf suit belt

 The Sweet Inspirations: White pants & blouse

 J.D. Sumner: Red pants & shirt

 Sherrill " Shaun " Nielsen: Light blue sleeveless jumpsuit with silver sequined ornaments

 Musicians: White pants & shirt

 Joe Guercio orchestra: Black pants & shirt

ATTENDANCE: 17,500

 

Sean Shaver © Houston,TX. August 28th, 1976 - Boarding the Lisa Marie after his matinee show

 

First at 2.30pm the Stamps Quartet come on and sing:-“ My First Day in Heaven ”,” Operator ”,” Gone at Last ”, then J.D. Sumner comes on for the finale of “ When the Saints go Marching In ”. Next it’s Jackie Kahane with his dress of jeans and Mickey Mouse stitched on them and familiar Jokes of Parodies on Elvis, Concert Goers, Teenagers and Marriage. Then the Sweet Inspirations come on with Sylvia, Myrna and Estelle to sing :-“ Silly Love Songs ”,” Sophisticated Lady “ and finally “ Sweet Inspiration ” all lasting for 43 minutes!. Then nearly 25 minutes " boring " intermission time…yawn….zzzzz. Well FINALLY it gets dark and after the 2001 " fanfare " Elvis appears ( swaggers on stage before 4pm )in his White Bi-Centennial Suit. After a " fair " opening song we’re right back to yesterdays abysmal I GOT A WOMAN/AMEN! As if to prolong the agony longer he gets J.D. to do the ending twice again. Then Elvis says " Good evening LadishandshGenlemen " People in the crowd can’t believe how slurred his words are?, claiming he just trying to wake up-we don’t disbelieve him!. Elvis  " fumbles " through the next few songs-Even the usual " Mountain " lacks energy today. His next medley are just blurs of scarves and lackluster performances and it’s difficult to hear him above the band anyway!. At least Elvis recognizes this and gets the sound adjusted for " AND I LOVE YOU SO " saying once again here that his " normal " sound System got turned over in a truck and so he’s using a substitute system-but NO amount of his explaining can make up for the poor results! Why Elvis refers to this poor sound around 4-5 times during this show!. Also he states that he’s got “ The creeping Crudd ”. Jailhouse Rock and Fever are worse parodies than usual before Elvis announces: “ That since it’s our Bi-Centennial Year I’d like to do our version of America the Beautiful for you ” Amazingly Elvis actually sings this WELL and without doubt with the stirring reprise this is THE concert highlight!. This song is a sort of similar effect in this show as " How Great Thou Art " performed next year during the Omaha 19.6.77 show , and by that I mean because it is the STRONGEST performance so far in this show. Then sadly we are into 20 minutes of very tedious long drawn out " introductions " whilst Elvis cracks his jokes about the band members, generally kills time and goofs/sits around.( now when you compare this time to 1974 August ) you realize that even that his intros were getting longer back then. Now they were TWICE the length compared to 2 years ago! Then even Charlie Hodge gets a more lengthy intro than normal as Elvis says:-“ The Guy that gives me scarves, brings me my water and sings harmony with me ”,’ Lets hear it for Charlie Hodge, the hardest working Man in Showbizz ”.

 FINALLY he reaches the point where he’s gonna perform his " new " Single. HURT  this doesn’t even get a reprise and  although ” acceptable ” falls below par today also. What on earth is wrong with him today? A " throaway " HOUND DOG leaves Elvis fumbling what to do next, so he decides on the easy option of Love me Tender/Funny How Time Slips Away. However whilst doing this there is a " problem " that his bodyguards spot- During " Funny how time Slips Away " Elvis almost falls into the crowd ( until pulled back by his bodyguards ) later he would say " where am I " before realizing he was " on stage! " Mercifully he quickly closes with more slurred speech and Can’t Help Falling in Love-why right at the end of it as he salutes the crowd you’d almost think he’d woken up?. The time on stage was VERY LENGTHY- yet it was possibly a WORSE show than in Maryland  2 years previously,( and only Omaha would be that bad in 1977, although the START of his Baltimore 29.5.77 show was also " bad " until he returned on stage " pumped up " to finish the show with more energy ). The Colonel was in " Panic " mode, people leaving were asking what had happened to Elvis and Elvis later told Linda Thompson that he couldn’t even remember the show!. Later at the Mobile Hotel J.D.Sumner demanded to know what/why Elvis was in such a state ( and his answer was related in a series of interview tapes J.D. gave a few years ago.)

Jim Morris © Mobile,AL. August 29th, 1976 matinee show

According to J.D. Elvis knew he was in a bad way but blamed it on the fact that he had actually tried to sleep without taking any pills, then couldn’t so much later than usual had taken his sleeping medication. This combined with an EARLY start to Saturdays schedule explains WHY Elvis was in such a poor way- he was literally performing whilst STILL ASLEEP!. It’s bad enough that Elvis took all this stuff anyway, but his 100% total miss-management of it and lack of control by Dr.Ghanem meant that unless things changed quickly he wouldn’t even be able to perform another show! Later there have been many dozens of shots of him climbing the stairs at the Airport ( after the show ) to the Lisa Marie, here he was only just starting to wake up!. Elvis of coarse( leaving Houston straight away ) was seen in Mobile whilst the Sun was still " up " and entering his Mobile Hotel Elvis was shown a local newspaper by a fan( who’d been the subject of a story about his 20 hour wait in line for tickets ) which he autographed and then as the Fan was about to receive a scarf from Elvis, he then asked Elvis for his ring, Elvis shrugged and gave it to the Fan ( worth $2,000! ). The Colonel was mad in Mobile( despite the Mobile Auditorium Manager ,Walter Clewis being an old friend from the 1940’s when Parker was working for the Ralston-Purina Company )and phoned Dr.Nick to try to get him back on the tour to control the situation. The very next day in Mobile Elvis phoned Dr.Nick as well. This wasn’t a 100% " disaster "( as all the fans didn’t demand their money back for instance ), but when you have such a poor show in front of the largest audience this tour ( 17,500 fans ) the Fans/Newspaper reviews AND the whole group " shocked " as it WAS a very serious situation.

When I emailed Stein Erik Skar about this show he assured me it was absolutely terrible!. Indeed of all the shows this tour, I have read 3 newspaper reviews of this show and they are the most detailed reviews I have read ( from this tour! ) Dale Adamson ( of the Houston Chronicle ) said that " Elvis was a disappointing visit at a shrine ". Whilst Bob Claypool got really stuck in ( from the Houston Post ) saying among worse comments that the concert was simply " awful " and a " depressing incoherent amateurish mess! " Bob said that Elvis Presley has been breaking hearts for over 20 years now and, Saturday afternoon in the Summit-in a completely New and Unexpected way- he broke mine. Only Wiley Alexander ( from the Houston News ) was kinder saying that Elvis was still King “ Screams say Elvis still king ”-even if he’s fat and despite a poorer/bad acoustics show. Bob Claypool said finally about the show that:- For some of us it would NEVER be the same, because the Man who had given us the original myth of Rock N’Roll- the Man who created it and lived it-has now, for whatever reasons taking it all back. 

Jim Morris © Mobile,AL. August 29th, 1976 matinee show

August 29, 1976 (2:30 pm) Mobile, AL. Municipal Auditorium. R/T 60 Minutes

TRACKLIST

2001 Theme / C C Rider /dialogue/ I Got A Woman - Amen / Love Me / If You Love Me Let Me Know / You Gave Me A Mountain / And I Love You So / Jailhouse Rock / Fever/ Turn around Look at Me ( 2 lines ) / America The Beautiful + reprise /Introductions & solos: Early Morning Rain - What'd I Say - Johnny B. Goode - Drum solo-Bass Solo ( x2 )-Piano Solo-Electric Piano Solo/  Love Letters - Hail Hail Rock & Roll / Hurt / Funny How Times Slips Away / dialogue/ Can't Help Falling In Love / Closing Vamp

JUMPSUITS

Elvis Presley: Blue Bicentennial suit / Original belt

Musicians: Blue pants & shirt

ATTENDANCE: 10,720 

The next Afternoon’s show in Mobile, Alabama also revealed a " dull " and " uninspired " Elvis. C. C. Rider actually is a strong opening, but that’s it through more dialogue and long drawn-out/lackluster versions of " I GOT A WOMAN/AMEN " again. Elvis says " all kidding aside don’t fall down and get hurt " after his little Welcome to the show speech. Right up until  " America " all performances seem " mediocre " and " uninspired "." America " though is a true " highlight " and with reprise gets big audience applause!. Elvis appears " straight " and in saying that " J.D.Sumner & Stamps Quartet were one of the top Gospel Quartets in Mobile ", it even appears he knows he’s in Mobile. Before closing Elvis says he’s back here again this evening, but even his performance of  " Hurt " isn’t good and once again their has only been around two ( 2 ) " highlights " the whole show! Perhaps one of the strange happenings here was Elvis singing a couple of lines of " Turn around Look at Me " after " Fever " but that’s all! Fans did think he looked better today, but obviously that didn’t last long.

 

Part two