- Taken on:
- Elvis Monthly No.438 (written by Randy Erdman)
- Ed Bonja (taken from The Concert Years (by Stein Erik Skar))
- Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
- Owl Suit (with gold cape)
It all started on a Sunday afternoon in late January, 1972. I was at home in Bridgeton, N.C., when I got a phone call from Van Willis, a fellow New Bern High School senior, whom I'd known since we were in the 1st Grade. Van said that his older sister had just arrived from a trip across the state and that, while she was in the car listening to the radio, she had heard them announce that Elvis was going to play a concert in Greensboro!!! I told Van that I would call some old friends of family, the Stevens, in Greensboro and check it out. I spoke with the Stevens and found out that, though tickets had not yet gone on sale, an ad had appeared in the Greensboro stating that there would be an Elvis concert at the Greensboro Coliseum on April 14, 1972. The one, the only, the REAL ELVIS!! Anybody that knows me knows that I am first, last, and always an Elvis fan. I called Van back and gave him all the facts. I asked him if he wanted to go with me to see the show. (The Stevens had very friendly offered to allow me and my guest(s) to stay with them overnight). Van wasn't sure seeing Elvis Presley on stage and in person was worth $10, but he finally said yes. Likewise my younger sister, Connie, was much more interested in seeing her friend, Joan Stevens, again than attending the concert. But she more or less decided she'd go along for the ride.
The concert was still months away and I was convinced that I would die in a car wreck before I would ever, ever have the supreme privilege of seeing Elvis with my own eyes. But the days and weeks passed and I lived. Finally, on the morning of Friday, April 14th, Van, Connie and I boarded a Trailways bus in New Bern bound for Greensboro. As we arrived in Greensboro I remarked to Van that it thrilled me that maybe Elvis had seen or would see some of the same Greensboro scenery as me. Van thought that was pretty dumb. The Stevens received us al with open arms. That night Mr. Stevens drove Joan, Connie, Van and me to the Coliseum. On the way Connie laughingly held all four of our tickets out of the window as we rode along. I said, "Connie, if those tickets go out of that window, you're goin' out of that window after 'em!!" A sidenote: Van brought his father's camera with him on the bus, but the tickets (and an article in that day's Greensboro paper) prohibited cameras at the show. So...fearing Van's camera might be discovered and that we might somehow get in some kind of trouble...I decided we should leave the camera at the Stevens' home. (A decision that will, in my life, forever 'live in infamy.') Came to find out that we had spectacularly great seats. (Exactly how great would soon find out.) We were located very near the left, rear corner of the stage. Using my father's binoculars I could see the sheet music on the horn-players stands titled "Elvis Opener." It blew my mind, following the intermission to watch James Burton, Ron Tutt, and others of Elvis' band take the stage. I called out to James Burton, who actually heard me but, in the multitude, could not determine where my voice came from. I was struck with wonder at being in the sold-out crowd, which numbered 16,000 plus. Finally the lights began to click off. Elvis was about to appear. There was total darkness except for the little lights on the horn-players music stands, the Exits, and the slight gap in the side arena curtain, through which Elvis would enter. The band struck up the "2001" theme. And then, THERE HE WAS...Trotting through the curtain, surrounded by a small group of policemen, Elvis bounded up the steps to the stage and the whole building EXPLODED... Flashbulbs by the hundreds, cheering, screaming, you name it, (Everybody and his brother had snuck in a camera except yours truly. Oh well). I waved to Elvis like a maniac and even Van told me later that he felt like Elvis saw me right from the start... The stage was, for the most part, brightly lit because a movie crew was filming the whole thing for what would later become the "Elvis On Tour" documentary.
In April 1972, Elvis was using scarves in his act but not in a big way. When, during the Greensboro show, Elvis walked back to the right rear corner of the stage the woman he handed his scarf to 'there' hardly even had to stand up; no one was expecting Elvis to really come back there. I didn't either, because I didn't think the showman in him would want to go anywhere on the stage where the majority of the people in the audience could NOT see him. But I was wrong. Once I saw the scarf episode on the direct opposite side of the stage from where I was, I jumped up and ran down the railing and started waving like a maniac for Elvis to come back there. He soon did. Walking in between his band and his back-up singers Elvis handed his microphone to one of the film-crew people. Then, looking me STRAIGHT IN THE EYES, Elvis shook my hand 'firmingly'. And I'll always remember that Elvis' hand reminded me of my father's. Big. Some young girls were beside me at the railing and Elvis didn't shake hands with any of them. He did, however, pull off his white scarf and we all made a mad grab for it. Unfortunately, I lost out. But the important thing was that I'd had my own, true "Elvis moment." I could win the lottery and/or marry a super-model tomorrow and it wouldn't mean as much to me as being able to personally greet, joyfully, my ALL-TIME 'idol'. It's the proudest moment of my life....
(ElvisNews.com: this time we just copied a complete article, we guess you'll understand why)