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CONCERT DATE: June 25, 1977. Cincinnati, OH.

Presley "Rite" Attracts 17140 Fans to Riverfront Coliseum
by Cliff Radel
Cincinnati Enquirer
June 26, 1977

It was not a concert. It was a rite. The doors opened at 7PM, 2 1/2 hours before showtime. This was an exceptionally early opening for a reserved-seat show. But there was plenty to do before the house lights went down for the first time. There were, as an unseen speaker told the rite's 17140 celebrants "all the great Elvis super souvenirs" to be sold. Posters went for $5 and $3. Programs cost three bucks and depending on the hawker had 28, 25 or 14 "full-color pitchers of Elvis." A button with Elvis' visage on it required the expenditure of $2. Binoculars ("Have a front-row seat wherever you sit!") took $5 out of its purchaser's purse.

The people inside Riverfront Coliseum Saturday night were being offered "two brand-new super Elvis souvenirs. A necklace for five dollars and in limited supply tonight, a gold, belt buckle for $10." All this merchandising was in preparation for the appearance of a 42-year-old man from Tupelo, Miss., Elvis Presley. The vendors must have had a field day Saturday night. The sold-out crowd had to wait five minutes shy of two hours before they got their first glimpse of the man who has been dubbed "The King of Rock 'n' Roll."

The Hot Hilton Horns came on stage first. They played Gonna Fly Now from "Rocky." The Stamps, always a staple on a Presley show, performed next. This four-man vocal group was joined by its leader, J.D. Sumner, the man with the grand slalom of range, for 14 minutes of song. After Sumner, attired in a three-piece white suit with a black shirt and a red carnation, left the Stamps off the stage, comedian Jackie Culhane arrived with many of the same jokes he told before Presley's last Cincinnati appearance March 21, 1976.

His 13 minutes of humor was followed by 28 minutes of singing from the Sweet Inspiration. The three-woman vocal group left the stage at 9.31PM. And then the wait began. The intermission was supposed to last 20 minutes. It lasted 55 minutes.

The wait was making David and Carole Hawthorne more nervous than they already were. The couple had traveled from County Down in Northern Ireland to see Presley. "We're here with 254 other members of the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain," David Hawthorne said. "Most of us are from the United Kingdom, but there are others from Denmark, Belgium and, of course, Ireland." Hawthorne indicated he became a "fan of Elvis' in 1963 or '64. The first LP I bought was his Golden Hits Volume One." His collection of Presley albums, single, 78s etc. is nearing the 200 mark.

Among his siblings Hawthorne is the only Presley fan. "My sisters were Beatles fans," he said, "and they had Stones posters all over the wall." Why is Hawthorne different from his sisters? "Well, you know it is like John Lennon said, nothing was really going on until Elvis came along." Elvis finally came along at Riverfront Coliseum at 10.25PM. After singing C.C. Rider, he told the audience why he was late. "I had some dental problems," he said, "and (sticking his finger into his mouth) I got a filling. So if I go (he winced) you'll know why." The audience also knew why he received the title "The King of Rock 'n' Roll." He sang C.C. Rider and the next song, I Got a Woman, with a looseness and light-hearted spirit that was missing in his 1976 show at Riverfront Coliseum.

Presley continued in this spirit for the final two songs this writer heard before a deadline called me away from the Coliseum, Jailhouse Rock and It's Now Or Never. The former song was recorded in 1957 and the latter in 1960 and Presley managed to melt the years, if not the poundage from his body away when he sang these songs. His voice was as high and as clear as on the originals. It was almost as if he was proving to his loyal fans who have reached for his scarves when they have been offered to them at concerts and his albums when they are released that he, too, remembers how he used to sound, and more importantly, when he wants to, that sound can be recaptured.

Courtesy of Scott Hayward