Inside the Las Vegas Show That Turned Elvis’ Career Around

Elvis Presley At The International

By the end of the 1960s, Elvis Presley’s career was in disrepair — treading water in a sea of bad movies, records that no longer made the charts and a decade of increasing irrelevance in the fast-changing world of rock’ n’ roll. He had made a splashy comeback in a widely acclaimed NBC special in December 1968. But he hadn’t performed live onstage in more than eight years. So when he opened in Las Vegas on July 31, 1969 — the start of a four-week engagement at the brand new International Hotel — it was a make-or-break career gamble. Richard Zoglin’s book Elvis in Vegas: How the King Reinvented the Las Vegas Show , out July 23 , offers a counter-narrative to the conventional wisdom that his time in Vegas contributed to the star’s decline. Instead, Zoglin argues, this time saw him not only remake himself, but the entire template for Las Vegas entertainment . The following excerpt goes inside that opening night, revealing both the anxiety leading up to it and the resulting triumph.

Listen to the audiobook version of this excerpt here:

Elvis was as ready as he could ever be: well rehearsed, backed by first-rate musicians, and heralded by the biggest publicity campaign in Vegas history. Yet his show still had something of a homemade, seat of-the-pants quality. Elvis hadn’t been on a concert stage in years and knew little about modern sound systems and other technical matters. The showroom was daunting: twice as large as any other venue in Las Vegas, with room for 2,000 people. The opening-night audience was filled with Hollywood stars, Vegas entertainers and assorted high rollers, along with rock critics and entertainment reporters from around the country. Even in a town used to star-studded opening nights, the array of celebrities—Cary Grant, Sammy Davis Jr., Ann-Margret, Paul Anka, Dionne Warwick—was impressive.

Backstage before the show, Elvis was a nervous wreck. “I can remember Elvis sitting on a couch,” bassist Jerry Scheff recalled, “his knee going up and down like a piston, his hands dancing like butterflies.” “You could see the sweat just pouring out of him before he went onstage,” said his friend and road manager Joe Esposito. “He was always nervous before a show, but he was never nervous like that again.” Everybody tried to keep him calm. “If you get lost, just turn around and we’ll start playing louder,” guitarist John Wilkinson reassured him. “Don’t worry about it, your friends are here.”

The Showroom Internationale was filling up, anticipation building. The expansive stage was sixty feet wide, with a ten-thousand-pound, Austrianmade gold-lamé curtain. The ornate decor featured crystal chandeliers and figurines of angels hanging from the ceiling and a hodgepodge of ancient Greek, Roman, and Louis XIV-era paintings and statuary. A setting fit for a returning king.

Elvis in Vegas book jacket

Usually in Vegas the headliner would be announced by a disembodied voice—“Ladies and gentlemen, direct from the bar—Dean Martin!” But as the curtain rose, Elvis simply walked out, an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder, grabbed the microphone in his right hand—which was visibly trembling—paused for a moment, then launched into the familiar lyrics: “Well, it’s one for the money, / Two for the show, / Three to get ready / Now go, cat, go . . .”

As he sang “Blue Suede Shoes,” the crowd erupted. It was the old Elvis, rocking as hard as ever on a classic hit they hadn’t heard him sing in over a decade. He was wearing one of costume designer Bill Belew’s two-piece karate outfits, dark blue, with flared pants and a sashlike belt that whipped around as he moved. His high-collared shirt was unbuttoned nearly to his navel, with a scarf loosely knotted around his neck. (His friend and hairstylist Larry Geller claimed that Elvis wore high collars to imitate the spiritual masters in David Anrias’s book Through the Eyes of the Masters . Priscilla said it was because Elvis thought his neck was too long.)

The frenzied reaction from the crowd startled the performers. “They wouldn’t shut up,” Wilkinson recalled; “all through the first song they kept shouting and cheering, they couldn’t get enough of him.” As he finished his opening number, Elvis let the cheers wash over him, then turned around to face the musicians behind him and sort of shrugged his shoulders—as if to say, “Maybe this isn’t going to be so bad.”

Then he roared on, doing a hard-driving version of Ray Charles’s “I Got a Woman,” followed by a string of his biggest fifties hits, from “All Shook Up,” to “Heartbreak Hotel.” During “Love Me Tender,” Elvis planted kisses on as many female fans in the front row as he could reach. He did the up-tempo songs faster than in the old days, as if he were trying to get through them as quickly as possible. “I think he did them because people expected those songs,” said drummer Ronnie Tutt. “You could tell he just wanted to rush through them. He wasn’t necessarily thrilled with who he was in the fifties. Because he had become a different man.” When he got to “Hound Dog” (a song he didn’t like anymore), he prefaced it with a long, tongue-in-cheek buildup, telling the audience he wanted to do a “special song” just right for a “tender, touching moment”—before the sudden explosion: “YOU AIN’T NOTHIN’ . . .” He raced through that one so fast it was almost disrespectful.

After the trip down memory lane, Elvis changed the pace with several numbers that showcased his more emotional, ballad-driven style, like Mac Davis’ “Memories,” the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” and the angsty “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Elvis’s feverish, seven-minute performance of the yet-unreleased single “Suspicious Minds” nearly brought the house down. In the last part of the show, Elvis circled back to the 1950s with an energetic cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Then he revved up the jets for the old Ray Charles rouser “What’d I Say,” before closing the show (as he would nearly every live show for the rest of his career) with “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” his ballad from the 1961 film Blue Hawaii .

“I never saw anything like it in my life,” said Mac Davis, who was in the audience, flattered when Elvis gave him a shout-out—“Hiya, Mac”—before singing “In the Ghetto,” the hit that Davis had written for him. “He was physically beautiful at that age, just a specimen. You couldn’t take your eyes off the guy. Women rushing the stage, people clamoring over each other. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face the entire time.” Ann Moses, editor of the teen magazine Tiger Beat , said, “I saw the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Rolling Stones at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. But there was something about that night that was so special. Everyone was dumbstruck and didn’t want the night to end. It was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen.”

The performance lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, with Elvis pacing the stage like a panther, crouching, lunging, leaping, doing karate kicks and punches. He gulped water and Gatorade and mopped his sweat with handkerchiefs tossed onstage by women in the audience. “He was like a wild man,” recalled Felton Jarvis, his RCA record producer. “I mean, he almost hurt himself—he was doing flips and cartwheels and all kinds of stuff.” The cartwheels may have been an exaggeration, but no one could doubt that Elvis was giving it everything he had. In one show later in the run, he split his pants and had to retreat offstage, where his entourage formed a protective ring around him while he changed quickly into a new pair. (This prompted Belew to switch to one-piece jumpsuits—more forgiving in the crotch.)

He talked to the audience in between numbers—nervously, self-consciously, with a few awkward jokes. He noted that this was “my first live appearance in nine years. Appeared dead a few times. . . .” He joked about the garish showroom—“Welcome to the big, freaky International Hotel, with those weirdo dolls on the walls and those funky angels on the ceiling.” He repeated the same lines almost every night, but the evening had a loose, spontaneous quality too.

The awkwardness and spontaneity were refreshing. This was no slick Vegas headliner, with polished stage patter and fake effusions of love for the audience. Elvis was still the overgrown kid from Memphis , as anxious about talking (as opposed to singing) to an audience as the audience was eager to make him feel welcome. But musically, he was a revelation. When the show was over, Elvis got a standing ovation—“one of the rare occasions,” Myram Borders reported in the Nevada State Journal , “when a Las Vegas standing salute was sincere rather than rigged with a few cronies of an entertainer planted down front to stamp and scream approval.” Over the next seven years, he would perform more than 600 shows in Las Vegas—and sell out every one. The show was a clear triumph.

Copyright © 2019 by Richard Zoglin. From the forthcoming book ELVIS IN VEGAS: How the King Reinvented the Las Vegas Show by Richard Zoglin to be published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.

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Analysis: Elvis Presley's 1969 Las Vegas run was a crown jewel in the King's comeback

Elvis performs.

For Elvis Presley, the summer of 1969 marked the apex of his legend. With a flurry of concerts in Las Vegas, Elvis took his final stab at greatness. In near-perfect form, the King cemented his legacy before the '70s took their awful toll.

This year, we mark the 50th anniversary of the King's iconic residency at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. Noteworthy at the time, the shows have since proven to be a crown jewel in the King's comeback. 

Getting to 1969 had been anything but easy. After his stint in the army and nigh on a decade transforming himself into a Hollywood studio relic, Elvis had left his career as a stage-ready rock ‘n’ roller in shambles. The pop idol who had famously shimmied and swiveled his hips on The Ed Sullivan Show back in 1956 had faded into the stuff of memory.

Fortunately, the King’s December 1968 comeback special on NBC changed all that — at least for a moment. With a flourish, Elvis regained his throne, topping the Nielsen ratings for his comeback performance and soaring back to the upper echelons of the Billboard charts. Writing about the performance in Eye magazine, Jon Landau observed “there is something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find his way back home.”

Buoyed by his newfound confidence, Elvis agreed to cement his comeback effort in 1969. Colonel Tom Parker, the King’s notorious manager, had succeeded in wrangling a cool million dollars for 57 shows in July and August at Las Vegas' newly christened International Hotel, which boasted a 2,200 seat showroom, the largest of its kind in the city during that era.

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In many ways, the International was the perfect location for Elvis, who had always been bigger than life, to stage the next phase of his career. At 30 stories tall, it was then the tallest building in Nevada. It boasted more than 1,500 rooms and an expansive casino floor. As if to accentuate its gargantuan proportions, the International’s amenities were rounded out by a mammoth 350,000-gallon swimming pool, 240 miles of carpeting, an 18-hole golf course and 2,500 employees to service the labyrinthine operation.

When it came to Elvis’s performances at the International, Parker pulled out all of the stops. In addition to assembling a band that included the likes of ace studio guitarist James Burton, bassist Jerry Scheff, drummer Ronnie Tutt, and gospel groups the Imperials and Sweet Inspirations to provide backing vocals.

With zero hour quickly approaching, Elvis and his band fell into a rigorous two-week rehearsal session that saw the King lose 15 pounds. When it came to Elvis’s stage show, Parker left nothing to chance, even securing the expertise of costume designer Bill Belew, who had arrayed the King in leather for the comeback special, to ensure that the look that had wowed television audiences was on full display on the International’s behemoth stage.

When the shows finally commenced at the end of July, Elvis was greeted with a standing ovation. When the roar finally subsided, he launched into a fiery version of “Blue Suede Shoes.” He burned his way through performances of such classics as “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock,” while showing off his revitalized chops with a medley of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude.” With yet another standing ovation, Elvis brought the house down with “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” his climactic encore.

Today, RCA/Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony, is releasing "Elvis - Live 1969," an 11-CD set that commemorates the 50th anniversary of his Las Vegas residency. 

For Elvis, the International engagement proved to be the last great achievement of his career. Writing in Rolling Stone, David Dalton described Elvis’s summer 1969 performances as “supernatural, his own resurrection.” His subsequent single “Suspicious Minds” vaulted towards the top of the charts and was Elvis’s first No. 1 song in seven years. It would also be his final chart-topper.

Looking out over the horizon, Elvis would understandably have seen nothing but the promise of continuing stardom in his future. He was relaxed, drug-free and physically fit, and at the top of his game for the first time in as long as he could remember. But as history well knows, the twilight of his career had masqueraded as this fleeting final moment in the warmth of the sun. With the '70s came his drastic weight-gain, the garish jumpsuits, the kitschy stints in Vegas, and ultimately the discovery of his lifeless body, destroyed by uncontrolled prescription drug abuse, in the bathroom at Graceland, his Memphis estate.

But for one brief shining moment, at least, there had been the late summer of 1969 at the International, where Elvis had rediscovered the great source of his unparalleled stardom.

Kenneth Womack , PhD, is a music historian and Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University in New Jersey. He writes about music legends and his latest book, "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles," is scheduled for an October release. 

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Elvis Presley Needed a Reboot in July 1969. So Did Las Vegas.

Elvis’s bona fides were in question when he returned to the stage after more than eight years. His ’69 comeback show was a make-or-break gamble.

1969 elvis tour

By Richard Zoglin

The 1960s may have been a wildly transformative decade in the history of popular music, but for Elvis Presley it was something of a black hole.

When he returned from his two-year hitch in the Army in 1960, the king of rock ’n’ roll essentially retired from live performing, confining himself to making movies (which were growing steadily worse) and recording disposable pop songs (that were no longer reaching the charts). A much-praised television comeback special on NBC in December 1968 had put him back on the radar. But when he finally returned to the stage for the first time in more than eight years, for a four-week engagement at Las Vegas’ new International Hotel, there was no guarantee he could still deliver onstage.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Elvis’s Vegas comeback show, on July 31, 1969 — a milestone being celebrated by a new Sony 11-CD boxed set of his ’69 Vegas performances, a reunion concert in Memphis next month and probably some snickers from the rock classicists. Elvis’s Vegas years are mostly recalled as a period of commercial excess and artistic decline: the bombastic shows, the gaudy white jumpsuits, the ballooning weight, the erratic stage behavior, the drugs. “For many,” wrote Dylan Jones in “Elvis Has Left the Building,” “Vegas Elvis was already Dead Elvis.”

But for that 1969 comeback, and at least a year or two after, Elvis was at his peak as a stage performer, and he created a show that not only revitalized his career, but changed the face of Las Vegas entertainment.

The singer and the city had a long relationship. Elvis first appeared in Las Vegas in 1956, when he was just breaking out — he hadn’t appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” yet — and found himself booked into the New Frontier Hotel, on a bill with Freddy Martin’s orchestra and the comedian Shecky Greene. The show was pretty much a dud; the middle-aged nightclubbers didn’t know what to make of him. “For the teenagers, he’s a whiz,” wrote Variety’s critic; “for the average Vegas spender, a fizz.”

But Elvis loved Las Vegas, and the city became his favorite getaway.

He came back often: retreating there between movie shoots, seeing shows, picking up showgirls, partying all night with his Memphis pals. He shot his movie “Viva Las Vegas” there in 1963. He married Priscilla at the Aladdin Hotel there in 1967. So when his manager, Colonel Tom Parker , finally decided it was time for a return to the concert stage, Vegas was not as odd a choice as it might have seemed.

Las Vegas also needed a boost. At the beginning of the decade, with Sinatra and the Rat Pack riding high, the town was the white-hot center for live entertainment in America. By the end of the ’60s, however, the golden years were fading fast. The arrival of the Beatles, the rise of the counterculture — all of it was making Vegas look decidedly worn. None of the major rock artists of the era — the Stones, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin — wanted anything to do with the city. The younger generation was going to arena concerts, not hanging out in the Sands Hotel lounge. So it was fitting that Las Vegas, a town blindsided by the rock revolution, would turn to a megawatt rock ‘n’ roll star as the agent of its reinvention two weeks before Woodstock would take place in upstate New York.

Elvis’s return to the stage in Vegas was a make-or-break career gamble. Colonel Parker had envisioned a traditional Vegas show, with chorus girls and choreography. Elvis wanted something different: a concert to reconnect him with his fans and showcase all the music he loved.

“This was the deprived musician, who had not been able to control his music, either in the recording studio or the movies,” said his longtime friend Jerry Schilling. “And now he was going to satisfy all his musical desires on that stage.”

Elvis handpicked a new backup band (headed by the guitar great James Burton), added two backup singing groups (a male gospel quartet, the Imperials, and a female soul group, the Sweet Inspirations, whose lead singer at the time was Cissy Houston), and filled out the sound with a 40-plus-piece orchestra.

The International’s 2,000-seat showroom was twice as large as any other in Vegas, and the sold-out venue was packed on opening night with celebrities and Vegas VIPs, along with dozens of rock journalists and critics, many flown in from New York on the hotel titan Kirk Kerkorian’s private jet. Behind the scenes, Elvis was so nervous he almost had to be pushed out onstage. “I saw in his face the look of terror,” said the comedian Sammy Shore, his opening act. But when Elvis walked out, to a throbbing rhythm intro, grabbed the microphone with a trembling hand, and launched into “Blue Suede Shoes,” the audience went wild.

It was the old Elvis, rocking as hard as ever, on a song he hadn’t done in a decade. He followed with more vintage hits — “All Shook Up,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog”. He did them faster than in the old days, almost as if he wanted to get through them as quickly as possible, to get to the more mature and varied material he was starting to record. He sang “In the Ghetto,” the social-protest song that had been released in the spring and became a hit. He did covers of songs identified with other artists — Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Ray Charles’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”

The high point of the show was a galvanic, seven-minute version of a song almost no one in the crowd had heard before: “Suspicious Minds,” which would be released during his Vegas run and give him his first No. 1 hit in seven years.

The show lasted an hour and 15 minutes, and Elvis was on fire throughout — prowling the stage like a panther, doing karate kicks, sweating and downing water and Gatorade. He was huffing and puffing after just a few minutes, but the voice never faltered: richer, more expressive, more powerful than ever. “I never saw anything like it in my life,” said Mac Davis, the singer-songwriter who had written “In the Ghetto” for him and was in the audience that night. “You couldn’t take your eyes off the guy. It was just crazy. Women rushing the stage, people clamoring over each other. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face the entire time.”

Presley talked to the audience too — nervously, with a few corny jokes and a lot of self-deprecating asides (much in evidence on the full-show recordings in the new boxed set). But that was part of the appeal: this was no slick Vegas performer with polished jokes and programmed patter. Elvis seemed just as awed by the occasion as everyone in the audience.

He played for four solid weeks, seven nights a week, two shows a night — not a single evening off — and every gig was sold out. The critics raved; David Dalton in Rolling Stone called Elvis “supernatural, his own resurrection.” Richard Goldstein, writing in The New York Times, said watching him “felt like getting hit in the face with a bucket of melted ice. He looked so timeless up there, so constant.” The hotel instantly signed him up for five more years.

Elvis brought something new to Las Vegas: not an intimate, Rat Pack-style nightclub show, but a big rock-concert extravaganza. He showed that rock ’n’ roll (and country and R&B too) could work on the big Vegas stage. And he brought in a new kind of audience: not the Vegas regulars and high rollers, but a broader, more middle-American crowd: female fans who had screamed for Elvis as teenagers, families who made Elvis the centerpiece of their summer vacation. It was the same audience that Vegas would discover, over the next couple of decades, as it embarked on its own reinvention — a foretaste of the Vegas we know today, the Vegas of Cirque du Soleil, theme-park hotels, and (more recently) a new generation of pop-star residencies, from Elton John to Lady Gaga.

Elvis soon grew bored with Vegas, and the shows began to deteriorate. But it’s easy to forget what an engaged, dynamic, even inspiring performer he was in 1969. Elvis in the ’50s had been the great divider: the musical artist who split the culture in two — between the adults, who listened to the pop standards and Hit Parade tunes, and the kids, who were listening to a newfangled music called rock ’n’ roll. By the end of the 1960s (a decade in which that divide grew even starker) Elvis was the great uniter: gathering all the music he loved, from rockabilly to operatic ballads, in one great democratic embrace. He didn’t need to be the coolest thing in rock. He wanted to sing to everybody.

He did. And in the process he helped transform a city.

Richard Zoglin is the author of “Elvis in Vegas; How the King Reinvented the Las Vegas Show,” just published by Simon & Schuster.

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1969 elvis tour

Elvis Live 1969

TOUR 1 (July 31 - August 28) - 57 shows
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO ELVIS TALKS ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS IN THE GHETTO RUNAWAY SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN POLK SALAD ANNIE ALL SHOOK UP INTRODUCING BRUCE WAYNE WELCOME WORD LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS IN THE GHETTO CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP ELVIS WELCOMES THE CROWD LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL DIALOGUE HOUND DOG I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU MY BABE DIALOGUE MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN LIFE STORY MONOLOGUE BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? WORDS YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTION NANCY SINATRA INTRODUCTION TOM JONES IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP DIALOGUE LOVE ME TENDER DIALOGUE ON SLEEP JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL DIALOGUE HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN DIALOGUE ON CAREER BLUE HAWAII BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO I GOT A WOMAN ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? ALL SHOOK UP YESTERDAY LOVE ME TENDER HEY JUDE JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL INTRODUCTIONS HEARTBREAK HOTEL IN THE GHETTO HOUND DOG SUSPICIOUS MINDS MEMORIES WHAT'D I SAY MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP POLK SALAD ANNIE LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS INTRODUCING DARLENE LOVE BILL MEDLEY IN THE GHETTO CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES DIALOGUE I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP DIALOGUE LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL DIALOGUE HOUND DOG MEMORIES DIALOGUE MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN VIVA LAS VEGAS BLUE HAWAII LIFE STORY MONOLOGUE BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS INTRODUCING NEIL DIAMOND, JOE ESPOSITO IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
BAND VAMP BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL DIALOGUE HOUND DOG INSTRUMENTAL MEMORIES DIALOGUE MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN LIFE STORY MONOLOGUE BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT I'D SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY FUNNY HOW TIMES SLIPS AWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP VIVA LAS VEGAS LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG DIALOGUE ABOUT CRAB GAME MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO SURRENDER TALK ABOUT "SHOT ME DERRICK" RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE BAND INTROS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT I'D SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING VAMP BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP DIALOGUE LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL DIALOGUE HOUND DOG MEMORIES DIALOGUE MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN DIALOGUE ABOUT CAREER BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE BAND INTROS INTRO JERRY LEE LEWIS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT I'D SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
INTRO BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS INTRODUCING JERRY LEE LEWIS WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN' ON IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT I'D SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
INTRO BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP OPENING DIALOGUE LOVE ME TENDER MY BABE JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL DIALOGUE HOUND DOG MEMORIES STARTING OUT DIALOGUE MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN DIALOGUE BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE BAND INTROS IN THE GHETTO WHAT I'D SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
INTRO BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER MY BABE SUCH A NIGHT JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS INTRODUCING HAROLD JAMES IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS   -   Long WHAT I'D SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
INTRO BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP ELVIS TALKS LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY FUNNY HOW TIMES SLIPS AWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN BLUE HAWAII   -   Extract BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING VAMP BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER MY BABE JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN MONOLOGUE BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN DIALOGUE LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL DIALOGUE HOUND DOG DIALOGUE I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU MY BABE MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN DIALOGUE BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
INTRO ALL SHOOK UP I GOT A WOMAN LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL DIALOGUE HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN DIALOGUE STARTING OUT BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY SURRENDER ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? WORDS YESTERDAY HEY JUDE BAND INTROS INTRO SHELLY FABARES IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT I'D SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE SUSPICIOUS MINDS
WHAT I'D SAY BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN MONOLOGUE BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY FUNNY HOW TIMES SLIPS AWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP MONOLOGUE LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL MONOLOGUE HOUND DOG I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU JOHNNY B. GOOD MONOLOGUE BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? WORDS YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
OPENING THEME BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG HOUND DOG I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN LOVING YOU   -   Part RECONSIDER BABY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
INTRO BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU MY BABE MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
INTRO BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG MEMORIES MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY FUNNY HOW TIMES SLIPS AWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT'D I SAY CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU MY BABE MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? WORDS YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS INTRODUCING NANCY SINATRA, MAC DAVIS, BUDDY HACKETT, THOMAS JONES, SHELLEY FABARES IN THE GHETTO SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT I'D SAY POLK SALAD ANNIE CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
INTRO BLUE SUEDE SHOES I GOT A WOMAN ALL SHOOK UP LOVE ME TENDER JAILHOUSE ROCK DON'T BE CRUEL HEARTBREAK HOTEL HOUND DOG I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU MYSTERY TRAIN TIGER MAN ELVIS TALKS BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO RUNAWAY INTRODUCING DELL SHANNON SURRENDER ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? RUBBERNECKIN   -   False start RUBBERNECKIN YESTERDAY HEY JUDE INTRODUCTIONS BY ELVIS THIS IS THE STORY SUSPICIOUS MINDS WHAT I'D SAY POLK SALAD ANNIE CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE

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  • August 1, 1969 Setlist

Elvis Presley Setlist at International Hotel, Las Vegas, NV, USA

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  • Blue Suede Shoes ( Carl Perkins  cover) Play Video
  • I've Got a Woman ( Ray Charles  cover) Play Video
  • All Shook Up Play Video
  • Heartbreak Hotel Play Video
  • Baby What You Want Me to Do ( Jimmy Reed  cover) Play Video
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight? ( Charles Hart  cover) Play Video
  • Hound Dog ( Big Mama Thornton  cover) Play Video
  • Memories ( Mac Davis  cover) Play Video
  • Runaway ( Del Shannon  cover) Play Video
  • Loving You Play Video
  • Jailhouse Rock Play Video
  • Don't Be Cruel Play Video
  • Inherit the Wind Play Video
  • In the Ghetto ( Mac Davis  cover) Play Video
  • Yesterday ( The Beatles  cover) Play Video
  • Hey Jude ( The Beatles  cover) Play Video
  • Funny How Time Slips Away ( Willie Nelson  cover) Play Video
  • What'd I Say ( Ray Charles  cover) Play Video
  • Can't Help Falling in Love Play Video

Note: Dinner Show

Edits and Comments

31 activities (last edit by Nikitovich , 22 Jan 2024, 11:06 Etc/UTC )

Songs on Albums

  • Are You Lonesome Tonight? by Charles Hart
  • Baby What You Want Me to Do by Jimmy Reed
  • Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins
  • Funny How Time Slips Away by Willie Nelson
  • Hey Jude by The Beatles
  • Hound Dog by Big Mama Thornton
  • I've Got a Woman by Ray Charles
  • In the Ghetto by Mac Davis
  • Memories by Mac Davis
  • Runaway by Del Shannon
  • What'd I Say by Ray Charles
  • Yesterday by The Beatles
  • All Shook Up
  • Don't Be Cruel
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Can't Help Falling in Love
  • Inherit the Wind
  • Jailhouse Rock

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1969 elvis tour

Elvis History Blog

Elvis 1969 the king's transformational year.

When I turned 20 in January 1969, it was a joyous time to be an Elvis Presley fan. I was starting the second half of my sophomore year at the University of Washington in Seattle. I had been a devoted Elvis fan since the age of 13 in 1962. Starting that year with “Return to Sender” and  Girls! Girls! Girls!,  I bought every Elvis record and saw each of his movies through 1968. Elvis was strictly two-dimensional in those years. For me, he lived only on record racks and in movie theaters. Still, that was more than enough for me.

• Elvis ’69 revival sparked by TV special

Of course, the spark that set Presley’s career afire again occurred in the last month of 1968. His NBC TV special on December 3 revealed that Elvis, at the age of 33, still had the energy and vocal chops to compete in the crowded entertainment field. “If I Can Dream,” the special’s closing number, sold 800,000 copies and reached #12 on Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart. It had been five years since he’d had such a successful single.

That TV special has long been nicknamed Elvis’ “Comeback Special.” Of course, that suggested that it marked the beginning of a major course correction in Elvis’ career. Historically, that has been portrayed as a triad of sudden changes—better music, no more movies, and a return to the concert stage, in that order. In reality, though, Elvis’ career transformed slowly and methodically over the course of a year’s time. That year was 1969.

After Elvis closed his NBC special with a performance of “If I Can Dream,” he allegedly declared, “I’m never again record a song I don’t believe in.” It was not that simple, though, as he was not quite finished with movie soundtracks, and he had no control over his recordings released by RCA.

Certainly, Elvis got off to a good start musically in 1969. His January and February recording sessions at American Studios in Memphis produced the best mix of recordings since his initial post-army sessions in 1960. Among the 32 cuts he laid down were “In the Ghetto,” “Don’t Cry Daddy,” “Suspicious Minds,” and “Kentucky Rain,” all destined for success as singles in record stores and on the charts.

It took awhile, though, for that music to get into the public pipeline. From March through June 1969, the new Elvis Presley seemed a lot like the old Elvis Presley. On March 10, he was back in the studio, this time to record soundtrack songs for his next movie,  Change of Habit . (One cut, “Have a Happy,” certainly must have violated his pledge to never again record a song he didn’t believe in.) Elvis then spent the rest of March on set completing his 31 st  feature movie.

• The public saw a slow transformation in Elvis

All that Elvis fans knew about him in the early months of 1969 came from what was released on records and in movie theaters. In Seattle, I did what I had been doing for years, trolling record stores for signs of new Presley vinyl and checking newspaper theater ads heralding the arrival of his latest movie.

During the first three months of 1969, what I found in both places was about the same as in past years. His February follow up single to “If I Can Dream” was a retreat on both fronts. “Memories” from the TV special paired with “Charro!” the title song of his latest movie, was a dud, like many of his mid-sixties singles. It spent only seven weeks on the “Hot 100,” peaking at #35, before fading away. It sold 300,000 copies, which had been Presley’s basement sales level for some time. He had enough loyal fans to guarantee selling 300,000 units of any record he put out. If that’s all a Presley record sold, though, it meant it pretty much got zero traction outside his fan base.

The only Presley LP to hit record stores in early 1969 was “Flaming Star,” a RCA budget Camden label of the album sold at Singer sewing machine stores as a promotion for the company’s sponsorship of the December TV special. A mixed collection of movie songs (some used, others discarded), the inexpensive, theme-less LP sold half a million copies.

• Elvis ’69 included movies, movies, movies

When it was released nationwide in March,  Charro!  was the first of three Presley movies released in 1969. ( The Trouble With Girls  was released in September and  Change of Habit  followed in November.) To Elvis moviegoers like me, then, 1969 seemed like business as usual for Elvis. Three Elvis movies had been released every year since 1964, and here were three more in 1969. That was the reality, and most of his fans, including me, didn’t take seriously the notion that he was thinking of giving up making movies.

Of course, the general public didn’t realize that Elvis needed to fulfill his obligations in his existing Hollywood contracts.  Charro!  had been a one-shot for National General,  The Trouble With Girls  concluded his long-term contract with MGM, and  Change of Habit  was part of the agreement with NBC-Universal for the TV special. When Elvis woke up on March 30, 1969, the day after he finished his work on his 31 st  movie, it was the first day in over 10 years that making a movie was not on his calendar.

• Spring gave bloom to a new Elvis in 1969

While the first three months of 1969 revealed a static public profile for Elvis, spring brought the beginning of his transformation to relevancy again in the music industry. The first sign came on April 14, 1969, with the release of a new single, “In the Ghetto.” RCA had it in the can since January, when Presley recorded it at American Studios in Memphis. The record’s social theme, along with his soulful delivery on it, brought an immediate heightened level of respect for Elvis, personally from me, as well as from the wider record-buying public. “In the Ghetto” zoomed up the “Hot 100” chart, where it spent five weeks in the top 10, peaking at #3. It sold 1.2 million copies.

Elvis’ musical resurgence then sputtered momentarily. His June follow-up single, “Clean Up Your Own Backyard,” a movie soundtrack song, sold only the basic 300,000 copies and fizzled out at #35 on Billboard’s chart. That same month, though, Presley’s best album in years appeared in retail outlets. “From Elvis in Memphis” included his recent hit, “In the Ghetto,” and 11 other cuts from the American Studios sessions earlier in the year. The mix of country, pop, and blues performances impressed most critics and reached beyond the singer’s base to sell half a million copies.

Elvis Presley was out of the general public’s sight during July 1969. He spent the month preparing for his return to the concert stage. Those who read newspaper entertainment sections and the Hollywood columns knew of his upcoming month-long appearance at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. Back in December, just a couple weeks after Elvis’  “Comeback Special,” Colonel Parker had worked out a deal for Elvis to appear in the showroom of Kirk Kerkorian’s new hotel, then still under construction. On April 15, 1969, Elvis signed the official contract for the engagement.

Opening night in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 31, 1969, was the most pivotal event in Elvis Presley’s life since he was inducted into the army in March 1958. When Elvis walked on stage that night, he abdicated the title of “Movie Star” and embraced the concert stage, with only intermittent breaks, for the rest of his life. Most of the reviews appearing in newspapers across the country applauded his Las Vegas revival in 1969.

Out in Seattle, I had no idea that Elvis had gone back to live shows, not even after “Suspicious Minds” was released as his next single on August 26, 1969. I loved the song, except for that goofy fade-out, fade-in at the end. Seattle DJs wondered about it, too, and some just lifted the needle at the end of the first fade. Still, the recording from the Memphis sessions early in the year went all the way to #1 on the “Hot 100,” Elvis’ first since 1962. I bought one of the 1,250,000 copies “Suspicious Minds” sold.

• Elvis was still a “Movie Star” in 1969

Elvis movies were still coming out, one after another, in 1969.  Charro!  opened nationwide on March 13, followed by  The Trouble With Girls  on September 3 and  Change of Habit  on November 10. Of course, I went to them all, as I had every Elvis movie since 1962. And I expected to see many more in the future. Unaware that all of his contracts with Hollywood studios had expired, I looked forward to Presley continuing to churn out films two or three times a year, as he had since 1960. 

Fifty years later it’s still widely believed that Elvis had decided to stop making movies after the success of his 1968 “Comeback Special.” Elvis himself contradicted that belief in his press conference after his Las Vegas opening night show on July 1, 1969. He said he’d like to play dramatic parts in movies with stronger plots. Obviously, was not yet willing to give up his life long dream of becoming a serious actor. Just when he decided to bag Hollywood altogether is hard to pin down, but it certainly wasn’t by mid-1969.

• “From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas to Memphis”

In October 1969, I almost fainted from excitement in a Tower Records store on University Avenue in Seattle when I first saw Elvis’ new double LP, “From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas to Memphis.” Not only did it contain a full album of new songs from the Memphis sessions earlier in the year, but also a second album of Presley live recordings on stage in Las Vegas. I anxiously read the text on the album cover. Then, I realized for the first time that Elvis had returned to the stage for the first time since 1961, the year before I became an Elvis fan. On the record—which I listened to over and over—there was Elvis singing with energy that I thought he was incapable of at age 34. Only then did I truly understand that 1969 had been a transformational year for Elvis. He’d gone in a different direction, one that offered the exciting possibility that I might actually see him on stage someday.

Elvis Presley’s year of 1969 provided one more item for his fans. RCA released a single featuring “Don’t Cry Daddy” and “Rubberneckin’” on November 11. It became Elvis’ third million-selling single of the year, peaking at #6 on the “Hot 100.”

• A second triple-threat year for Presley in 1969

Elvis Presley was a unique triple-threat entertainer during his career.  He excelled as a recording artist, a movie star, and a concert performer. Only twice, however, did he excel in all three areas during the same calendar year. The first was 1957 (“All Shook Up,” “Teddy Bear,” “Jailhouse Rock” /  Loving You  and  Jailhouse Rock  / concerts in 18 cities). The second was 1969 (“In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Don’t Cry Daddy” /  Charro!,  The Trouble With Girls ,  Change of Habit /  57 shows in Las Vegas).

For Elvis fans, 1969 was an exciting year that offered so much promise for the future. Unfortunately, by focusing on live concerts and forsaking Hollywood completely, he again became to a two-sided entertainer and lost the overall balance he had achieved in 1969. I’ve never regretted his return to the stage, though, as that allowed the multitude of his fans to see him perform live. Still, for Elvis fans, there would never be another year like 1969, when Elvis Presley was at the top of his game in every respect. — Alan Hanson (© October 2019)

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"Elvis Presley was a unique triple-threat entertainer.  He excelled as a recording artist, a movie star, and a concert performer. Only twice, however, did he excel in all three areas during the same  year—1957  and  1969."

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Music and concerts, music and concerts | the summer of 1969: when elvis made his true comeback — vegas-style.

Elvis Presley performs at the International Hotel in Las Vegas in 1969. (Bob Klein)

Backstage at Kerkorian’s International Hotel in Las Vegas, Elvis Presley told guitarist James Burton, who had put together the backing band for the singer’s return to the stage, that he couldn’t perform.

“He hadn’t been onstage in nine years,” says Burton, 79. “He said, ‘James, I don’t know if I can go out there. I don’t know if I can walk out there and do this, man.’ I said, ‘Sure you can. Just walk out there and don’t even pay attention to the audience. Just sing to us, man. Make it like a jam session in the Jungle Room at Graceland.’ ”

Elvis, who was 34, would take the stage that last day of July 1969, and his 57-show run at the International would punctuate his comeback, launched after a decade of dreadful movies (“Harum Scarum,” “Kissin’ Cousins”) and his electrifying NBC special late in 1968. On Friday, Sony released an 11-CD set from that run, showcasing Presley at a crucial juncture, in strong voice and performing dazzling versions of early staples while introducing such latter-day hits as “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto.”

Now, 50 years later, we spoke with three who were there — Burton, singer Darlene Love (“He’s a Rebel”) and veteran journalist Robert Christgau.

There was talk, early on, of Elvis bringing back Sun sessions guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana for the Vegas run. But Moore ran a successful studio of his own and complained that the $500-a-week offer was too low. Elvis then called Burton. The Louisiana-born Burton was a teenager when he played on Dale Hawkins’s 1957 hit “Susie Q.” He then backed Ricky Nelson.

Burton: “Elvis said, ‘Man, I watched you on the “Ozzie and Harriet” TV show.’ I said, ‘You got to be kidding.’ The king of rock ‘n’ roll watching me on TV playing guitar? And you know, he laughed. He wanted to come back. He wanted to go do live shows. He got tired of doing movies for nine years and he said he wanted to get back onstage with a live band and just go for it. He missed playing live to the fans.”

1969 elvis tour

The band that Burton formed would include drummer Ronnie Tutt and bassist Jerry Scheff, and it became known as the TCB Band.

Burton: “Well, Elvis actually came up with that — taking care of business — and that became its logo. Also, he came up with the idea of TLC — tender loving care — for the ladies. But for the guys, TCB, when we walk onstage, when we sing and when we play, it’s taking care of business, man, straight ahead.”

One of highlights of the set would be Elvis’ performances of “Mystery Train” and “Tiger Man.”

Burton: “Just the tempo was so cool and everything and that little guitar riff thing behind the song. And then the solo and everything. Very similar to the original record, but a little more energy, a little more up. And then he jumped into ‘Tiger Man’ and that was kind of a surprise, so we went with it. And that gave me a chance to do some more chicken picking.”

In 1969, Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix ruled the charts. And in August, in the midst of Elvis’ Vegas run, hippies would gather on a farm in upstate New York for Woodstock. Kerkorian wanted to make sure Elvis’ comeback was noticed and flew in a group of music critics for the show, including the late Nat Hentoff, the New Yorker’s Ellen Willis and the Village Voice’s Robert Christgau.

Growing up, Christgau was not an Elvis fan. But he had been impressed with Presley’s return to the Top 10 in April with “In the Ghetto.”

Christgau: “It was a major hit that made a pass at a show of conscience and political consciousness. We understood that Elvis Presley was a credible interpreter of the black popular music of the early ’50s. That much we knew. It was more that he’d fallen away to a greater extent. … ‘In the Ghetto’ really changed the tone of who he was, and it made the notion that he was making a comeback far more acceptable within counterculture-oriented people, which was most rock critics, all rock critics.”

Singer Darlene Love had performed on Elvis’s 1968 TV special with the Blossoms. They were asked to back him in Vegas but were already booked. Still, Love made it to see the show on opening night. Presley took the stage in a black jumpsuit.

Love: “He was trim, all right. He looked good. That’s why he was able to wear that body suit … and he was a, what do you call it, a black belt. So he actually did those kind of moves while he was onstage.”

The crowd responded as soon as Elvis took the stage. The screams can be heard during the set. And for Burton, the excitement led to an unexpected challenge: The musicians couldn’t hear one another.

1969 elvis tour

Burton: “The audience went nuts. He walked out there, and all you could hear was screaming and hollering and clapping. We only had monitors onstage for his voice, but we couldn’t hear each other. … And man, it was amazing. It makes you think, how did these guys play together?”

Love: Elvis was the one that started that leaning over the stage, you know, taking their handkerchiefs, and whatever else they had they gave him, and wiping his face off with them. So you probably would hear their screams louder than you would hear anybody else’s because he had the microphone in his hands. But it was like that all over the audience.”

Christgau’s review, in the Village Voice, was a rave. “It was Pentecostal,” he wrote. “We were cheering before we had fully comprehended what had happened.” He was struck by Elvis’s between-song banter, which the singer filled with self-deprecating jokes and sarcasm.

Christgau: “He had a distance from it. There was a pop irony. … I was a pop-art fan. I always liked the ironic distance, and Presley definitely had that. … Elvis Presley was a very intelligent person. He wasn’t well educated, but he was smart, so he knew what was going on.”

Burton: “He would just tell stories about things that we had never heard, which is kind of funny onstage. You had to watch him every minute because he may jump into a song or a different song. And we had him covered, man. We watched him like a hawk.”

After the run, Presley began touring and would return to Las Vegas repeatedly. But that first night, Love says, the audience knew things had changed. Elvis Presley was back.

Love: “A lot of times, as soon as the show is over, people start leaving, especially in Vegas. They go back out and start gambling. But everybody moved very slowly. I think they were letting it all sink in — what happened that night, what happened at that show. … and the whole idea that Elvis was on and he was back. … I don’t think there would ever be another moment like that. Everybody has their moment, and that was Elvis’ moment.”

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1969 elvis tour

Elvis Presley Live and In Person: The Concert Films

A guide to the King onstage in the cinema

1969 elvis tour

In 1969, Elvis Presley finally got off the movie treadmill and returned to live performance.

The incessant touring would eventually get to be a new kind of treadmill, but initially at least Presley roared back into live gigging like an animal finally let out of his cage. 

There were no cameras rolling during his 1969 Las Vegas engagement, but they were there the following year, resulting in his first concert film, Elvis: That’s The Way It Is . Two years later came Elvis On Tour , documenting four April 1972 shows, recently reissued in a lavish box set that includes CDs of the concerts, tour rehearsals and the movie itself on Blu-ray. It’s the only Presley film to win an award, the Golden Globe for Best Documentary.

The cameras also captured him in all his “American Eagle” jumpsuited glory in Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii , the show celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. And though the King was fading by 1977, there was still time for another concert taping with the TV special Elvis In Concert . Presley’s national breakthrough came from his electrifying TV appearances in 1956; it was somehow fitting that his final turn on the national stage was in the same medium. Here’s an overview of those 1970s performances:

Elvis: That’s The Way It Is (1970)

Dir: Denis Sanders

The definitive Elvis concert film, with Presley at his physical peak and still actively engaged in the proceedings. The camera follows Presley as he prepares for his summer 1970 season at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, from rehearsals up to what’s ostensibly opening night (in reality, only one of the live numbers is from the opening; most are drawn from three other shows during the run). He’s prone to goofing off for the cameras during rehearsals, but he’s a veritable dynamo on stage, particularly in propulsive numbers like “Polk Salad Annie” and “Suspicious Minds.”

But as in the other concert films, the viewer is kept at a distance. There’s little commentary from Presley, so you get no indication of what makes him tick; no insight on how he puts a show together, for example, or why he chooses some songs over others. To make up for this, the film’s original cut is interspersed with scenes that try to place Elvis The Phenomenon in context; the hotel employees charged with decorating the premises for the event, the showroom manager deciding where to seat the VIPs, the fans who gather at a British Elvis convention. A new edit put together in 2001 eliminated most of this type of footage; sequences of fans talking about how much their cat loved Elvis were deemed too embarrassing. But that misses the point; it’s Sander’s version that better captures the spirit of the era. Both edits were later made available on DVD.

VIDEO: Elvis: That’s The Way It Is official trailer 

Elvis On Tour (1972)

Dir: Pierre Adidge and Robert Abel

Fresh from their work on Mad Dogs and Englishmen , about Joe Cocker’s 1970 U.S. tour, Adidge and Abel endeavored to penetrate the bubble around Presley. “I want to shoot the real you,” Abel told him in their first meeting. They almost succeeded. Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling persuaded Presley to do an interview which would’ve been used as voice-over narration, and captured him talking frankly about the failure of his movie career (“I cared so much I became physically ill … I didn’t have final approval on the script, which means that I couldn’t tell you, ‘This is not good for me’”). But aside from a few bland observations, most of it was cut. Again, it’s Elvis at a distance; as Peter Guralnick put it in his biography Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley , “Abel and Adidge never really knew the man who was speaking to them, one mask was merely substituted for another.”

One can still read a kind of subtext in the film, the relentless pace of limo ride-dressing room-performance-limo ride conveying a life of claustrophobia, minimal privacy and even monotony, in the endless parade of civic officials to meet in each city. No longer the sleek jungle cat of his first Vegas seasons, Presley is pale and puffy, and though energetic, there’s a sense of going through the motions, as the show becomes more about spectacle; the increasingly extravagant jumpsuits and the flailing karate moves indicate a step toward style over substance. Nonetheless, “Bridge Over Trouble Water” is a standout performance, and Presley seems most at home singing gospel songs offstage with his backing group J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, and listening intently when Sumner and the Stamps perform “Sweet Sweet Spirit” by themselves in concert.

VIDEO: Elvis On Tour official trailer

Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii (1973)

Dir: Marty Pasetta

This television show has been heavily mythologized, including such wildly inflated claims that over a billion people watched it (more than had seen the first moon landing!). You can read the real story in this excellent article on the Elvis Australia website, which sorts out fact from fiction (putting the actual viewing figure around 200 million for example).

It’s nonetheless a notable performance. Since Presley’s manager, Tom Parker, refused to let him tour overseas, a satellite broadcast would allow Presley to be beamed around the world without having to cross a border himself. Presley rose to the challenge, losing weight, getting a burnished tan, and having his costume designer craft one of his most iconic jumpsuits. The overall effect is regal and imperial. But nine months after the April shows filmed for Elvis On Tour , the almost manic energy seen in both that film and That’s the Way It Is has gone. No more karate kicks; Presley seems satisfied to cruise along in second gear, somewhat passive in his onstage chat, and getting through his rock ‘n’ roll hits with dispatch. “He wanted to be respected for his voice, and rock ‘n’ roll didn’t do that for him,” says his bassist, Jerry Scheff. “He loved ‘Impossible Dream’ and all those songs where he could really get emotional in them and show off his range. He wanted to be respected as a vocalist, and I’m sure he thought he was too old to do the rock ‘n’ roll thing anymore.” Which is why the most impressive numbers are the big ballads: “What Now My Love,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “An American Trilogy.”

The show was broadcast live on January 14, 1973, to mostly Pacific Rim countries, then broadcast in other countries over the next few months. When broadcast in the U.S. in April, the odd decision was made to break up the show’s momentum by inserting four other numbers Presley recorded post-concert. 

VIDEO: Elvis Presley performs “See See Rider” in Aloha From Hawaii 

Elvis In Concert (1977)

Dir: Dwight Hemion

It’s unclear why Parker made a deal for this TV special, given the state of Presley’s health at the time. In one account, Parker claimed he deliberately asked for a high fee, assuming he’d be turned down, but when his price was met decided he had to go through with it. The show was filmed over two nights on Presley’s final tour in June 1977. He is overweight and seemingly dazed; when he speaks between songs, you wonder if he’s going to make it to the end of the sentence. As a result, the final program is padded out with plenty of fan interviews and some comments from Presley’s father, Vernon.

His performance of his rock ‘n’ roll hits is again perfunctory, enlivened by the ritual passing out of scarves to the faithful. But if you close your eyes and listen, there are moments when the power of his voice still comes through; on one of his beloved sacred songs, “How Great Thou Art,” as well as “Hurt,” which sounds like a cry from the depths of his soul. And knowing that he’ll be dead in two months makes the opening lines of “My Way” especially chilling: “And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain…”

Elvis In Concert was broadcast on October 3, 1977, with some additional remarks from an obviously distraught Vernon placed at the end. It’s never been officially released, though it can be found on the collector’s circuit. Some isolated clips have been officially released over the years; Presley’s fumbling his way through “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” in the theatrical cut of This Is Elvis , “Unchained Melody” (not included in TV show) in the compilation video The Great Performances: Volume One . The latter song was also featured in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis , with Austin Butler’s performance of the song then morphing into Presley’s own version in a spooky transformation.

VIDEO: Austin Butler as Elvis performing “Unchained Melody”

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A prelude - Joan Gansky's story I was born in a small town in the English Midlands countryside. Elvis played a major part in my life since 1956. I can hardly recall there being no Elvis! I followed his career through the never-to-be-forgotten Picturegoer magazine days, and the beginnings of Elvis Monthly. In 1966 I sadly had to relinquish my Northamptonshire Branch Leadership of OEPFC  (Official Elvis Presley Fan Club) - only because I had decided to travel... to the USA! - August 23, 1966 was my first day in America. - August 18, 1967 was my first meeting with Elvis. - June 1968 I attended the NBC television "Elvis Special" recording. - August 22 1969 I saw Elvis on stage at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. YES! My fiance and I were to attend a live Elvis performance -  Elvis on stage for almost 1 1/2 hours - in the elegant night-club surroundings of the grand International Hotel - surely a place truly fit for a KING!

An eye-witness review by Joan Williams (now Gansky) written in late August 1969  - 40 years ago!!

August 22nd 1969 - An enormous stage, a magnificent 2,000 capacity audience, elegant ladies (all seemed fresh from the Beauty Parlor!) glamorously dressed in their finest gowns - pure excitement apparent in their sparkling eyes, many accompanied by their smartly suited escorts!

Certainly a few teenagers were present among the sophisticated crowd, but somehow the 25-40 year age group seemed to predominate. The atmosphere throughout the entire hotel was nail-bitingly electric! It is difficult for me to describe and paint a true portrait of attending in person this unique occasion - but I'll try my best.  I want, and hope, you will understand the excitement of what has to be the pinnacle of Elvis' career to date! For our very first show, we were a party of six (three couples) having reservations for the midnight cocktail show . My fiancé, Paul, was almost "first in line" at 7:40 p.m. - the first show was still in progress! While waiting in line, maybe to ease their own tension, people happily chatted to the strangers around them like they were old friends. What a variety of people had journeyed hundreds, even thousands of miles to see Elvis in person at last!  As these precious minutes ticked slowly by, the line of people grew, snaking alongside gambling tables and slot machines, around the Hotel's restaurants, longer and longer it stretched, eventually reaching way back to the foyer entrance! An amazing sight to behold! At last the doors opened - it was a little after 10 p.m. How fascinating to observe the expressions on the bright faces of the first-house (dinner show) audience exiting the showroom. As one by one they slowly walked passed us, the incredible joy and excitement of what they had just experienced flowed among everyone! If there was a pensive, sad look on someone's face, then it could only mean that that person was simply reluctant to leave the showroom magic behind! They would gaze enviously at us - we became those lucky ones, who had yet to experience ELVIS - LIVE - in action!! To our great joy and total surprise, after a small tip to the Maitre D, we were seated at a table at the foot of the stage! Then there was an arduous hour and a half wait for the show to commence! Each minute seemed an eternity.

My heart was thumping wildly in anticipation... I perched myself on the edge of my chair, nervously sipping my drink, yet unaware of the taste of it! I tried to absorb each and every split second, every moment in this room . . . my long held dreams had come to reality! Being an Elvis fan, living in England  through the late 1950's and early '60's, it seemed unbelievably far fetched to even consider the possibility of ever seeing Elvis perform live on stage in the USA or anywhere! I vaguely recall the Sweet Inspirations perform - followed by a seemingly lengthy act by comedian Sammy Shore . The audience grew impatient. At last! The curtains closed. A pause.

The Las Vegas crowd is a mighty critical audience to win over, but any tension that may have existed in the cool and somewhat impatient atmosphere during the comedian's set quickly melted away. Elvis held his audience enthralled - he had a complete connection with them, even from the stage.

He became so engrossed in talking about his past experiences that he had to be reminded by old friend Charlie Hodge (guitar player) to finish what he had begun to say! Elvis briefly listed a few movies he had made, and explained how these had become like a habit, but now he was back. He assured us he had missed performing for a LIVE audience so much, and couldn't wait to get out of his movie contracts, and get back on stage. Elvis advised us that this actual show was being recorded that evening, to be released on an album shortly! Among some of the songs he performed were a selection of his early hits including Heartbreak Hotel, Love Me Tender, Mystery Train, and Are You Lonesome Tonight (complete with spoken dialog). He paused to tell us how a particular favorite song of his was "one Del Shannon recorded back around 1927" !!!! - and performed "Runaway" - a completely new rendition, with Elvis' own special magical touch.

He also sang "a song from my TV Special, that didn't do too well" (?) - the beautiful Memories. A surprise song was the poignant Yesterday - followed by Hey Jude where he had some lucky females in ecstasy as he bent over the stage to their tables and kissed them! One little boy received special attention, and Elvis gave him his kerchief (scarf). A young teenage girl from the back of the room cried that she wanted Elvis' water glass. He gave her one and also a kiss! - she scurried back to her seat - crying tears of joy! Elvis then introduced some celebrities in the audience, Diane Ross, Pat Wayne and Michael Ansara . Elvis mentioned that he had made a movie with Michael's lovely wife (Barbara Eden in Flaming Star) and of course, Michael himself appeared in the (maybe best forgotten) Harem Holiday/Harem Scarum movie.

This time his velvet notes echoed around the huge showroom, caressing each of us, his awed audience. He received tumultuous applause and a deserving standing ovation.

This was only a very brief but memorable visit to the fascinating ever alive Las Vegas, just 48 hours. We were lucky to see both Midnight Shows of August 22nd and August 23rd the following night. Elvis completed his 4-week engagement there on Thursday last week. I had heard that Elvis was to stay longer and attend Nancy Sinatra's show opening there.

After we returned to Santa Monica, my fiancé and I thought it would be nice to drive up to Elvis' home in the Trousdale area of Los Angeles, to catch the breath-taking view, and maybe take a "night-time" photo of Elvis' home. It was a beautifully clear night, mild with a soft breeze.

When we arrived at the top of the hill and pulled close to the curb next to Elvis' home, I was taken by surprise to find a guard on duty at the gate. He chatted to us and was pleased to hear we had so enjoyed the Las Vegas show. He told us that we echoed the opinion of other lucky fans who had been to Vegas and then talked to him about it during the preceding 4 weeks!

A tall dark figure climbed out of the car, Elvis was wearing black (probably a Western type outfit) and a wide striped belt. He stretched, tossed his head and waved to us a couple of times. He then flung his light colored jacket across his right shoulder (an inimitable Elvis mannerism!). Another quick wave, and was it my imagination? - or did I see a large yawn!??? Another wave, and he disappeared through the open door, safely inside his peaceful home. We waited a few minutes, everything was so quiet and still, even the waterfall-fountain ceased to flow. Elvis was home with his wife, child and father. He is certainly due for a well-deserved vacation and complete rest. Now I excitedly must ponder - what are his future plans? - what is in store?! My dreams are for another No. 1 with "Suspicious Minds" ,  a personal appearance tour across the USA and a definite plan to perform in England. Can we now even dare hope for negotiations for Elvis to star in a good (worthy of his considerable talents) movie?!!! Joan - August 1969

Review by Joan Gansky AUGUST 1969. -Article Copyright EIN, July 2009.

Click to comment on this review

NOTE that Joan attended two Midnight Shows in 1969. August 22 Midnight Show – Parts of this show have been officially released on ‘Today Tomorrow And Forever’ BMG box-set & Collectors Gold. This was one of the rare times Elvis performed 'Funny How Time Slips Away' in 1969. August 23 Midnight Show - This complete concert has been released on the sensational FTD 'Elvis At The International'.

EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network. Elvis Presley, Elvis and Graceland are trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises. The Elvis Information Network has been running since 1986 and is an EPE officially recognised Elvis fan club.

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‘Live 1969’ Is a Fascinating Snapshot of Elvis Presley in His Comeback Prime

  • By Joseph Hudak

Joseph Hudak

There’s a live version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” from 1969 that captures Elvis Presley in a comical meltdown of uncontrollable laughter. It’s a favorite track for oldies-radio DJs to play during Sunday morning “Breakfast with the King” hours, but it’s rarely been heard in the context of the full concert from which it derives. That August 26th “midnight show” is one of 11 complete shows that make up the new Elvis Live 1969 box set, an 11-disc chronicle that documents Presley’s return to the concert stage after an eight-year hiatus of making largely forgettable Hollywood movies.

Live 1969 compiles the dinner and midnight engagements Presley performed from August 21st through 26th at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, but this isn’t the “Vegas Elvis” in a white jumpsuit that’s become a pop-culture caricature and cautionary tale of overindulgence. Here, he’s mainly performing in black two-piece suits that evoke the leather-clad badass from his TV comeback special a year earlier, and arriving onstage not to the fanfare of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” but to a rock & roll vamp by his band. At only 34, Presley is lean and at the top of his vocal game, if overly corny when he banters with the audience. He tells more than a few jokes about being mistaken for a squirrel, riffs on the Gatorade he has to drink to combat the dry Vegas air, and opens each show with a self-deprecating disclaimer: “Before the evening is over I’ll be making a total and complete fool of myself.”

With bad jokes about his time in the Army perhaps, but not in the thrilling and mostly rare performances. “Suspicious Minds,” then just a week or so into its life as a single, is majestic, with Elvis possessed by the pounding rhythm of drummer Ronnie Tutt. The “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” mash-up is equally combustible, summoning the same dangerous energy that Presley first let loose in the Fifties as a hip-shaking parental nightmare. And “In the Ghetto,” the entertainer’s earnest 1968 attempt at social commentary, is more urgent than schmaltzy. 

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But it’s Presley’s covers of then contemporary songs that are most fascinating. He imbues the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” with Southern soul, and transforms Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” into an unrelenting rock rave-up. For Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” he all but owns the lyric’s heartbreak. Shannon is in the audience for one performance, and Presley gives him props from the stage. (Listen closely to hear him directing imposing Memphis Mafia member Lamar Fike to find Shannon.)

The gig is the same one during which Elvis comes to pieces in “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” supposedly tickled by Sweet Inspirations singer Cissy Houston’s ability to keep on singing, unfazed, while Presley goes further and further off the rails. Still frazzled, he screws up “Rubberneckin'” immediately afterward and asks the band to restart the tune a full 45 seconds in.

With Presley reciting the same stage patter nearly word-for-word in each of the 11 concerts, it’s these gaffes and unexpected moments that keep Elvis Live 1969 from becoming just an overly repetitive entry for Presley completists. Instead, the box set serves as a snapshot of a world-class entertainer successfully but gingerly rediscovering the magic that made him so in the first place. 

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Elvis Presley The King

Elvis Presley | International Hotel, Las Vegas | July 31, 1969

Known for a powerful stage presence in total command of every room he has ever worked. But backstage at the International Hotel on July 31, 1969, Elvis Presley was packing back and forth like a panther. In a few minutes, he would march out into what was then the largest showroom in Las Vegas, holding 2.000 people.

Return of the Pelvis | Newsweek | Published August 11, 1969

Elvis presley in concert | july 31, 1969. las vegas, nv..

Dressed in a chic black tunic and bell bottoms that matched his long but neatly combed black-tinted hair. Elvis Presley stepped onstage last week at the International Hotel in Las Vegas and launched into the driving beat of 'Blue Suede Shoes'. The audience of 2,000, most of them over 30, roared and squealed in nostalgic appreciation. In spite of his updated look, Elvis hadn't changed at all in the nearly nine years since his last personal appearance. Shaking, gyrating and quivering, he again proved himself worthy of his nickname, The Pelvis. Through nervousness caused him to sing 'Love my, me tender' for 'Love Me Tender', the pasty-faced enchanter quickly settled down to work his oleaginous charms, backed by a 30-piece orchestra, a five-man combo and a chorus of seven. Oozing the sullen sexuality that threw the America into a state of shock in the 50's, he groaned and swiveled through a medley of 'Jailhouse Rock', 'Don't Be Cruel', 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'All Shook Up' and 'Hound Dog'. It was hard to believe he was 34 and no longer 19 years old.

Elvis Presley : Live In Concert : International Hotel, Las Vegas : July 31, 1969.

In fact, there are several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is his staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like shooting stars, Presley shot to the top in 1956 with 'Heartbreak Hotel' and has stayed in the uppermost tax bracket ever since.

Forty-seven of his singles have sold more than a million copies. He has made 32 movies , currently turning them out at a rate of four year and raking in a cool million plus half the profits for each. Presley's income is estimated at $5 million a year and he spends it freely. Among his purchases are an antebellum mansion called Graceland near Memphis (the house is painted luminous blue and gold and glows in the dark), and a succession of cars including a gold Cadillac. No ones knows how much the boy from Memphis is being paid for his four week Las Vegas stand but, according to Presley associate, 'Coming in on the heels of Barbra Streisand , you know that it's over a million'.

Elvis Presley : Live In Concert : International Hotel, Las Vegas : July 31, 1969.

Credit for the successful maintenance of the Presley image goes largely to his canny manager, 'Colonel' Thomas Andrew Parker , who for almost fifteen years has kept the price up and the live exposure down.

Elvis Presley : Live In Concert : International Hotel, Las Vegas : July 31, 1969.

When, during a news conference after the opening, a British entrepreneur offered Elvis a million pounds sterling for one appearance in London, it was Parker who answered: 'Bring me a deposit tomorrow'. Presley doesn't seem to mind letting Parker run interference, for he likes privacy and spends his free time holed up at one of his houses with his wife, his infant daughter and a group of buddy-bodyguards sometimes called the ' Memphis Mafia '. Elvis arrived in Las Vegas a week before the show and immediately began rehearsing five hours a day-losing 10 pounds in the process. 'He's really working on this one', said a stagehand. 'He doesn't know if he can still cut it.' Presley magic were his loyal fans, women and teen-age girls, who lined the corridor outside his suite. 'He's better than ever', claimed one girl. 'His latest songs have been groovy'.

Elvis Presley : Live In Concert : International Hotel, Las Vegas : July 31, 1969.

Only celebrities and big spenders were there opening night to hear Presley sing a lot of oldies and one new song, with a new message aimed at the black rock market. 'In The Ghetto' chronicles the evils of poverty in a Chicago slum and could signal the birth of a social conscience for Presley. Another recent record release, 'If I Can Dream', proclaims brotherhood according to the gospel of Martin Luther King, but did not appear on the Vegas program. When asked if these songs marked a new direction he might take, Elvis answered, 'I go by the material. When I got 'In The Ghetto', I couldn't turn it down. It was too big'. It's selling big, too-more than a million to date. Presley's plans include other personal appearances, through no dates have been specified, and more movie roles. 'I'm going after more serious material', he said. 'I'm tired of playing a guy who gets into a fight, then starts singing to the guy he's just beat up'. And of course, the granddaddy of rock will continue trying to catch up with the times, sensing that he can't trade on the power of nostalgia forever. 'There are a lot of new records out now that have the same sound I started. But they're better', he admitted, 'I mean, you can't compare a song like 'Yesterday' with 'Hound Dog', can you?' As Elvis came off the stage, he had tears in his eyes and was soaked in sweat, but this was the sweat of a job well done. - Joe Esposito .

Elvis Presley : Live In Concert : International Hotel, Las Vegas : July 31, 1969.

Live In Concert 1969

Elvis Presley : Live In Concert : International Hotel, Las Vegas : July 31, 1969.

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Passenger jet once owned by Elvis Presley available for fans to tour: ‘It is phenomenal’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( WMC /Gray News) - An aircraft enthusiast allowed a few Tennessee residents to tour a jet once owned by the king of rock ‘n’ roll.

Elvis Presley bought the 1962 Lockheed Jetstar on Dec. 22, 1976. It features six red velvet passenger seats.

Aircraft enthusiast Jimmy Webb purchased Elvis’ private jet at auction for $234,000.

Webb said he removed the wings and tail, and now drives the king’s passenger jet across the country for people to see.

“We wanted to show the world this thing because whenever you see the inside of it, it is phenomenal,” Webb said.

The jet had sat idle in New Mexico for decades before Webb said he purchased it.

According to Webb, it was important to preserve the vintage aircraft as much as possible during the mobile conversion.

“All we’ve done is vacuum it, wipe it down,” Webb said. “It still has its original color and stripes.”

Webb said he is currently taking the transformed aircraft on tour from Florida with a next scheduled stop in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Copyright 2024 WMC via Gray Local Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Roger daltrey offers up carefully curated set as solo tour wraps up.

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Roger Daltrey of The Who performs on stage at Ravinia Festival on closing night of his North ... [+] American solo tour. Saturday, June 29, 2024 in Highland Park, IL

“What can I say about Chicago that hasn’t already been said?” asked Who frontman Roger Daltrey rhetorically on the closing night of his 2024 North American tour. “What a great city you’ve got,” he continued on stage at Ravinia Festival, about 25 miles north of Chicago in the suburb of Highland Park, Illinois. “There’s enough misery in the world so let’s just have some fun!”

Fun was in fact the predominant component as Daltrey wrapped up his summer solo tour alongside a stellar nine piece backing group and Scottish singer songwriter KT Tunstall , who opened the show.

Witty, charming and engaging, Daltrey conducted a masterclass in music 101 over the course of nearly two hours on stage at Ravinia during a set where the stories mattered as much as the music.

Roger Daltrey of The Who performs on stage during a solo concert at Ravinia Festival. Saturday, June ... [+] 29, 2024 in Highland Park, IL

In astoundingly fine voice, Daltrey, 80, would go on to put his spin upon cuts from a diverse roster of artists including bluesman Taj Mahal (“Freedom Ride”), soft rock stalwart Leo Sayer (“Giving it All Away”), swamp rockers Creedence Clearwater Revival (“Have You Ever Seen the Rain”) and even Who bandmate Pete Townshend.

“As I said, no synthesizers,” explained Daltrey early in the Ravinia concert, offering up a sort of mission statement as he put a unique spin upon an array of Who hits. “When you take that and tape loops out of a lot of Pete’s songs, you’re left with Shepherd’s Bush blues songs,” he explained, introducing “Who Are You.”

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“Who Are You,” the title track from the group’s eighth studio album in 1978, would drive that record to multi-platinum sales in the United States, where it would top out at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Roger Daltrey and his band perform on stage at Ravinia Festival. Saturday, June 29, 2024 in Highland ... [+] Park, IL

“That’s a Pete Townshend song,” marveled Daltrey following an opening performance of the 1980 Townshend solo cut “Let My Love Open the Door.” “They’re all good…” he joked. “Most of them,” said Daltrey with a wink, nod and smile.

Willing to take a deeper dive into the Who canon, Daltrey and company followed up “Substitute” with their take on “Tattoo,” from 1967’s The Who Sell Out .

On their way into the outdoor amphitheatre, some fans scribbled out questions for Daltrey to answer at various points throughout the show.

“What’s the first rock and roll song?” said Daltrey, reading one aloud. “Some say Bill Haley. Elvis was quite good,” he answered. “But the first rock song to me was by who I consider to be a real rock and roller: Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” explained Daltrey, further referencing legendary Chicago blues guitarist Buddy Guy. “He did it all!”

(Left to right) Katie Jacoby, Simon Townshend and Roger Daltrey perform on stage at Ravinia ... [+] Festival. Saturday, June 29, 2024 in Highland Park, IL

Working in a pair of solo cuts, Daltrey swung his microphone inimitably throughout “After the Fire,” soon picking up a tambourine as four part harmonies drove “Days of Light.”

Dueling percussion set against a trio of guitars (two acoustic, one electric) informed a unique take on “The Kids are Alright,” with the fiddle of Katie Jacoby (who’s performed with The Who during orchestral tours since 2019 ) combining with live accordion to drive a spirited rendition of “Squeeze Box.”

“OK… We haven’t tried this yet as a band. So, bear with us if it goes wrong!” said Daltrey with a hearty laugh, setting up the group’s take on Little Feat via Largo’s “Gimme a Stone” (reportedly for the first time in over ten years). Daltrey turned right, soaking in live violin and mandolin as bongos and drums drove the rootsy rendition, with his band in terrific form as they navigated the impromptu attempt.

Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble” was a highlight midway through with Daltrey bequeathing his patented “Won’t Get Fooled Again” wail to the audience moments later.

“Pete sang this song off Who’s Next and we never did it,” assessed Daltrey bluntly later, setting up “Going Mobile.” “But now I can because I have a Townshend on guitar who is just as good!”

Pete’s brother Simon Townshend has been a mainstay in Daltrey’s solo performances for three decades and was at his best on stage on closing night as the group worked up “Going Mobile,” with the younger Townshend offering up a spot-on lead vocal while Daltrey wailed away on harmonica.

Katie Jacoby (left) and Simon Townshend (right) perform on stage during a solo performance by Who ... [+] frontman Roger Daltrey. Saturday, June 29, 2024 at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL

Pointing with his right hand, Daltrey conducted the audience late, swinging his microphone one last time as the group cruised toward finish with “Baba O’Riley.”

“Hi, Ravinia! What’s up early birds?” asked opening act KT Tunstall excitedly. “I grew up in the U.K. and wanted to be in The Who! There’s no prerequisite. I’m sure you wanted to too!” she continued, setting up opening track “It Took Me so Long to Get Here, but Here I Am.” “This is the last date of the tour and it’s just been the most amazing experience opening for Roger Daltrey. I can’t wait to come out there and watch the show with you!”

Singing and playing guitar over backing tracks, Tunstall manipulated an arsenal of foot pedals on stage, recording backing loops in real time to sing and play over during each track of her captivating solo performance.

KT Tunstall performs on stage as the opening act for Who frontman Roger Daltrey. Saturday, June 29, ... [+] 2024 at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL

Clad in a t-shirt bearing the likenesses of actors Gary Coleman and Mr. T, Tunstall proved affable and entertaining on stage in Chicago, working in an Edie Brickell snippet (”What I Am”) during the opening cut before turning to kazoo later, creating her own take on the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” for use during “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.”

Closing with “Suddenly I See,” Tunstall strapped on electric guitar, employing the iconic Bo Diddley beat as the crowd clapped along near the end of a highly rewarding opening set.

“The Who and Roger have so many amazing songs, there’s no way they could play them all. So, I asked Roger if there was one he might like me to play. Shall we pretend it’s 1969?,” mused Tunstall, setting up her take on “The Acid Queen,” from The Who’s famed rock opera Tommy . “What a lovely, generous suggestion from Roger!” exclaimed Tunstall following the song. “I made it into The Who!”

Jim Ryan

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IMAGES

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COMMENTS

  1. Elvis Presley's 1969 Concert & Tour History

    Elvis Presley's 1969 Concert History. Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King". Scroll to:

  2. Inside the Las Vegas Show That Turned Elvis' Career Around

    Elvis Presley performs onstage at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, in late July or August 1969. Presley performed 57 shows, usually two a day, between July 31 and August 28, at the newly ...

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    This is Elvis' return to stage performances after 9 years absence, at The International, Las Vegas, 1969. This audio is the earliest recording we have of Elv...

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    For Elvis Presley, the summer of 1969 marked the apex of his legend. With a flurry of concerts in Las Vegas, Elvis took his final stab at greatness. In near-perfect form, the King cemented his ...

  5. Live 1969

    The 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley's transformative Las Vegas residency at the International Hotel is commemorated with this deluxe 11-CD box set. Marking his return to the stage for the first time in eight years, Elvis' 1969 Vegas run featured 57 sold-out shows and the live debut of his signature #1 hit "Suspicious Minds." The […]

  6. Elvis Presley Needed a Reboot in July 1969. So Did Las Vegas

    This week marks the 50th anniversary of Elvis's Vegas comeback show, on July 31, 1969 — a milestone being celebrated by a new Sony 11-CD boxed set of his '69 Vegas performances, a reunion ...

  7. Elvis Presley

    Setlist:Intro / Blue Suede ShoesDialogueI Got A WomanAll Shook UpDialogueLove Me TenderJailhouse Rock / Don't Be CruelHeartbreak HotelHound Dog (incomplete)D...

  8. Elvis Presley

    0:00 / 1:06:09. Elvis Presley | August 6, 1969 / Dinner Show | Full Concert | Vegas Variety SteamrollerBlues • 2.8K views • 74 likes. Setlist: Intro Blue Suede Shoes I Got A Woman All Shook Up Dialogue Love Me Tender Jailhouse Rock / Don't Be Cruel Heartbreak Hotel Hound Dog Memories Myster...

  9. Elvis live 1969

    Elvis Live 1969 TOUR 1 (July 31 - August 28) - 57 shows MONTH DAY YEAR - TOWN - STATE - ZIP - PLACE - TIME - CONFIRMED - SUIT Notes July 31, 1969 - Las Vegas - Nevada - NV - International Hotel - Showroom International - 10:15 - Black Herringbone Jumpsuit Opening night invitation-only show at 10:00 p.m. for celebrities and the press ...

  10. Aug 17, 1969: Elvis Presley at The International ...

    Elvis Presley info along with concert photos, videos, setlists, and more.

  11. Elvis Presley

    Elvis live in 1969 at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada (Super 8 mm)

  12. Elvis Presley Concert Setlist at International Hotel, Las Vegas on

    Get the Elvis Presley Setlist of the concert at International Hotel, Las Vegas, NV, USA on August 1, 1969 from the Las Vegas Season 1 Tour and other Elvis Presley Setlists for free on setlist.fm!

  13. Elvis 1969: Elvis Presley's Transitional Year

    Elvis Presley's year of 1969 provided one more item for his fans. RCA released a single featuring "Don't Cry Daddy" and "Rubberneckin'" on November 11. It became Elvis' third million-selling single of the year, peaking at #6 on the "Hot 100.". • A second triple-threat year for Presley in 1969.

  14. The summer of 1969: When Elvis made his true comeback

    Just sing to us, man. Make it like a jam session in the Jungle Room at Graceland.'. Elvis, who was 34, would take the stage that last day of July 1969, and his 57-show run at the International ...

  15. Elvis Presley Live and In Person: The Concert Films

    Elvis from the Elvis On Tour film (Image: Legacy Recordings) In 1969, Elvis Presley finally got off the movie treadmill and returned to live performance. The incessant touring would eventually get to be a new kind of treadmill, but initially at least Presley roared back into live gigging like an animal finally let out of his cage.

  16. Elvis Presley's 1969 rebirth in Las Vegas

    Back in 1969, Elvis Presley's return to the stage brought him a much needed jolt of energy. The 50th anniversary is commemorated with the release of two box sets. "American Sound 1969," available digitally from RCA/Legacy, and in a limited edition physical release from official collector's label Follow That Dream, will feature 90 tracks from the sessions.

  17. Elvis Presley In Concert

    July 31 1969 Midnight (12.00am). Las Vegas NV. International Hotel: TRACKLIST. ... CDS FROM CONCERT: August 3 1969 Midnight (12.00am). Las Vegas NV. International Hotel: ... Hey Jude / Elvis Introduces Diana Ross Pat Wayne / and Michael Anzarra / Band Introductions / In The Ghetto / Suspicious Minds / Whatd I Say / Cant Help Falling In Love ...

  18. 1)Elvis concerts from July 1969

    This playlist is every known elvis concert recorded during his July 31st 1969 - august 28th 1969 engagement at the international hotel this was the first of ...

  19. Photos

    Elvis on Rising Sun at Graceland, circa May-June 1969. Elvis Presley - Las Vegas, August 12, 1969. Photo from the book Elvis Behind The Image Volume 2. Chris Ellis, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones's drummer and Tom Jones 1969. Elvis came back to Graceland at 12:30 a.m. on May 28 and left again for Los Angeles at 8 p.m. on June 10.

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    Elvis - Concert Review 1969 An eye-witness review by Joan Gansky EIN Spotlight : Dressed in a chic black tunic and bell bottoms that matched his long but neatly combed black-tinted hair. Elvis Presley stepped onstage last week at the International Hotel in Las Vegas and launched into the driving beat of 'Blue Suede Shoes'.

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    That August 26th "midnight show" is one of 11 complete shows that make up the new Elvis Live 1969 box set, an 11-disc chronicle that documents Presley's return to the concert stage after an ...

  22. Elvis Presley

    Elvis Presley : Live In Concert: International Hotel, Las Vegas : July 31, 1969. In fact, there are several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is his staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like shooting stars, Presley shot to the top in 1956 with 'Heartbreak Hotel' and has stayed in the uppermost tax bracket ...

  23. Passenger jet once owned by Elvis Presley available for fans to tour

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    Roger Daltrey of The Who performs on stage at Ravinia Festival on closing night of his North ...[+] American solo tour. Saturday, June 29, 2024 in Highland Park, IL. Photo by Barry Brecheisen