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CONCERT DATE: April 26, 1977 (8:30 pm). Kalamazoo, MI. Wings Stadium

They Still Love Elvis, The Portly
by James Shamp
Kalamazoo Gazette
April 27, 1977

Seventeen years ago, as Elvis Presley was getting ready to end his two-year stint repairing Army jeeps in the motor pool at the U.S. base in Bad Nauheim, Germany, he was asked if he planned to change his singing style when he returned to civilian life

"I don't have any reason to change," he told a reporter. "The people will let you know when you should."

There was still no change to sight Tuesday night when The Pelvis bumped onto the Wings Stadium stage for the second time in six months. And the capacity audience of just over 7,000 let him know they're still getting what they want. Whatever that is.

The people paid some $108,000 for the privilege of sitting on hard seats for 2 1/2 hours for a one-hour glimpse of the slightly portly patriarch of Rock 'N' Roll. For most, the image was about the same size as the one they saw on their television screens many years ago, when Ed Sullivan introduced Ol' Swivel-Hips and the cameras carefully proceeded to avoid showing the total Elvis, for fear of public outcry over lewdness.

Why are people continuing the 21-year scramble for an in-person viewing of this 42-year-old media creation of a crafty ex-carnival pitchman turned manager named Col. Tom Parker?

"There's only one Elvis," answers Elizabeth Rockafellow, who drove to Kalamazoo from Lansing to spend her 50th birthday with Elvis and her two sisters, Grace Van Antwerp, of 1912 le. Centre, and Margaret Homoki, of 258 Braemar. "He's on top and always will be."

"He's also a christian boy. And I'm a Christian Baptist myself. I like what he does for charity. Oh, yes, he's sexy," avers Mrs. Rockafellow, "But he's clean and graceful about it. He's warm hearted. And he's got charisma."

"I've been waiting 20 years to see this," chirped Mrs. Van Antwerp. "I really think he's a good singer. And he wears his clothes well, even if he is fat."

"I have a terrible sore throat," added Mrs. Homoki. "That tells you how bad I wanted to see him."

It's not the music so much as the participation. That seems to be the message of the concert-goers. She need to see the legend in the flesh. The nearly morbid need to be able to say, at some hazy future time. "I saw Elvis Presley back in 1977. I was part of it."

There can be little doubt that the Elvis Presley mystique is the result of the media wizardry of Col. Parker. The tactics are the opposite of traditional media hype. Elvis is kept totally away from reporters by his shrewd manager. General speculation is that Parker prohibits interviews because Elvis would do himself more harm than good, coming across as too dull to deserve his adulation

But if that's the case it pays off anyway. and somebody in the Presley camp is bright enough to keep track of a whole lot of dollars

Enough to allow Elvis to write a $1,000, cashed for pocket money. there was $100,000 more where that came from, just from Tuesday's show.

Few begrudge Presley his wealth, though

Virtually everyone was standing when the Man hit the spotlight in his familiar white gabardine jumpsuit as his excellent orchestra provided that fanfare - still the Strauss motif popularized as the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey."

The crowd had been warmed up by the fine Gospel group, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, the lively trio known as the Sweet inspirations and an especially funny comedy routine by Jack Cahane who was considered by some to be funnier this time than he was during the Elvis show last October.

But it was Elvis who drew the crowd, and from his first scream shrouded bumps in "C.C Rider" he appeared to enjoy himself almost as much as the audience enjoyed watching him

Presley tends to mumble onstage, and that, coupled with some microphone trouble, garbled some of his early songs.

But really, now, folks. if you want to hear music, you buy the records. Mumbling can be spliced out and there are no screamers and stage pounders in recording studios.

It was "Jailhouse Rock" that got things really rolling Tuesday night. And it continued through "It's Now Or Never," "Heartbreak Hotel" and you guessed it - "Blue Suede Shoes."

Once again there was pushing, kicking and more than a little wailing as groupies groped for the filmy scarves Elvis tossed off the stage after dabbling perspiration from his face with them.

Elvis smiled at, touched and even kissed a few of the delirious denizens of the downstage deluge as he continued through. "And I Love Her So," "My Way" and "In The Early Morning Rain." Singer Charlie Hodge provided a continuous supply of scarves all the while

By the time the star ran though "Hound Dog and "Fools Rush In," the crowd seemed satisfied - even though there was no offer of "Moody Blue," which recently climbed into the Top 40 as the closest thing Presley's had to a hit in some time."

But then, who needs a hit when you can wear diamond rings the size of banty eggs, and pack any stadium you want to visit.

So that sideburned son of Gladys and Vernon Presley who left his $42-a-week truck-driving job in 1953 to knock on the door of the Memphis recording Studios just keeps on truckin'

Courtesy of Ron Theisen