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Concerts Reviewed - 1976

Lake Tahoe, May 1, 1976 DS
by Evan

Elvis started his last Lake Tahoe season on April 30, 1976, and concluded it on May 9. All of the concerts are available from audience recordings, however none have yet been released on soundboard. Generally Elvis' shows during this engagement are good with an intimate rapport between performer and audience. It was during this engagement that Priscilla Presley and John O'Grady approached Elvis about his drug habit and the possibility of Elvis agreeing to dry out in a professional clinic. This would be the second of three known occasions that Elvis would be approached about this issue in 1976. The first was in Colorado by some Denver police "friends", and the third was by the West cousins and Dave Hebler.

Elvis' appearance at this time was dreadful. In hindsight, one can see the slide he was on that would eventually lead to the massive amount of poor shows between June and September, 1976 - including the infamous 2.30pm concert on August 28, 1976 in Houston.

As 2001 begins it is immediately apparent the clear sound quality of this audience recording. As usual SEE SEE RIDER is Elvis opener. Surprisingly for this period of time when Elvis started carrying more weight he is energetic and enthusiastic. Elvis attracts plenty of screams during the quiet part of the song, and puts on an overall good performance.

After a wild applause Elvis says, "Thank you very much. Whooohooo! You know, it's funny. I've got to be serious. It takes me four hours to get ready. Then after the first song I'm a wreck! I start sweatin', my hair falling all over my teeth. Wellllllllll. I'm sorry honey". The crowd is roaring with screams. "You see, there's something on my conscience that has been bothering me all night. You see, I was listening to The Stamps last night, y'know. And each one of those guys do one song each. So therefore they can put all they got into it and they've only got to do one. Whereas I've got to do twenty five or thirty (lots of screams). No wonder you'll never do You'll Never Walk Alone you schmuck" Elvis jokes with Bill Baise of The Stamps. The crowd laughs and Elvis begins a clearly pronounced version of I GOT A WOMAN/AMEN. This countrified version kicks along nicely. During Amen Elvis invites the audience, "Sing it with us, come on"! He also adds some hallelujahs, and yeah mama's. More fun continues with the strip routine. "It's this spot right here that I pull a ham-string"! As Elvis rolls on the balls of his feet and Ronnie adds sound effect, the ever present female admirers scream with every hip swivel. These girls have come out tonight with the very intention of having a girls night out, and Elvis is certainly providing the entertainment! "You see, there's a special art to this! Hehehe, it's called Spasticing! Hahahaha".

"I love you Elvis" screams a woman who sounds to be sitting far from the tape recorder.

"I love you for loving me, baby"

"Whoooooaaaaaa"! scream the girls down front.

Elvis does a short strip routine and ends with, "Ok".

"Morrrre! Morrrrrrre"! demand the fans.

"Kathy, you're not going to have to do the bass part. Don't worry about it.

"Mennnnnn. Go get it J.D".

J.D does his usual dive bomb impression. Off microphone, Elvis says, "The world's lowest bass singer. He can do better than that". I get the impression that because this tape recording has picked up Elvis' off mic comments, he intended on doing it because he knew the audience could easily hear him. Even now, almost twenty five years after Elvis closed at the Sahara Tahoe we still know very little about Elvis concerts in this 1500 seat showroom. The vast majority of photographs originate from the May 1976 season, but there are none that I am aware of that show us what the showroom looked like, or what the stage looked like. Going back to Elvis' off mic comments, it is obvious that the intimacy between artist and audience was far greater than that of Las Vegas.

"I love you Elvis". Elvis continues his conversation off mic, "I love you too. So far this show is great! I don't have to use a microphone. It'll be alright, it wont make any difference anyway". Elvis comes back on mic and says, "No. He can do it better than that, ladies & gentlemen. He's the world's lowest bass singer. So, yo know, he just, urrr."

"Blew it" yells a woman.

"Blew it" Elvis echos. "See, she's in the audience" Elvis remarks to J.D. "So listen to him this time. Ayyyyy Men" Elvis sings quickly without any musical accompaniment. "I was just trying to get a breath" Elvis says as J.D starts his act. "You sound like a hot air balloon. Whooooooo Oooooooo" Elvis imitates J.D's imitation of a B52 bomber ascending the skies. Elvis finally ends I Got a Woman. It is at this point that the sound quality improves even more.

"Ok. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. You sound like a good audience. And urr. I'm gonna need all the help I can get".

"Jailhouse Rock" a fan screams.

"We'll do Jailhouse Rock later. That's a hard song to do. Whooo. You know, I can do it, but I don't like to".

"Ohhhhhhhhhh" some fans yell with disappointment.

"I'd rather sing My Blue (Elvis becomes inaudible)".

The audience is yelling requests when Elvis sings, "Softly. Yeah. We can do that. We can do that. Let me tell you the story. I've got to get serious for a moment because this is a true story. And urr, this features Sherill Neilson. He does the singin', and I do the narrative. Urr, there's a fella, and he's in a hospital.."

SOFTLY AS I LEAVE YOU develops into a very beautiful yet haunting version. The audience is completely quiet except for one or two screams. "Thank you. Whoo. Give me an F. Give me a G. Give me n E. Go back to the F. That's all the chords I know. Three of them. I faked everybody off for years. You think I can play the guitar. I can't! That's why I've got other guys doin' it".

There is an uncomfortable silence, then a man yells, "Come on over and sing to us"

"I, I'm trying to get started but I just woke up".

Elvis sounds like he just lost his confidence and quickly begins LOVE ME. A typical version with much fooling with the girls in the audience, this performance brings Elvis and the audience back into the atmosphere of a live concert.

"Thank you ladies & gentlemen". Elvis picks up a present and asks, "Honey, did you give me this? I can't open it because we don't have enough time, but can you tell me what it is? What is it? You can't tell me? Somebody threw something last night and it just crippled me. It was just roses too and I'm going" Elvis shows his reaction to being hit by the roses and the crowd roars with laughter.

"Hahahaha, huh? Oh, stand in the centre of the stage? You're right. You're right. See. Actually I'm afraid of the audience that's why I'm standing back here, so that I can make a speedier exit. Yes dear? It's your birthday? Ok, what's your name? Laurie? Give me a key" Elvis says to the band. "No, I mean a door key"! James Burton sounds a key, and Elvis says "Hap, hap, it's to low". Ronnie hits the drums a few times. "Give me a key" Elvis demands. "Guercio! Forget it. No come on. Let's do this thing right". HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR LAURIE lasts all but fifteen seconds. "Here you go honey. Hang on. I've got to use it first". By now the audience is screaming with excitement as Elvis soaks the sweat from his chest and brow with a scarf before handing it to Laurie.

"Ok, take it on" Elvis says as James starts IF YOU LOVE ME. "Sit down" Elvis says as he begins singing. "You came when I was happy. I grew. Here are. Here are! Hey" Elvis says, "Hey, wait a moment". Elvis continues singing whilst security calm some of the fans. "Blessed are the peace makers" Elvis sings. Other than the atrocious beginning, Elvis carries out a well performed version, but overall it is marred by his comments and the fan's behavior at the start of the song.

"Thank you very much. Bruce ? The bass singer on the very end. I couldn't hear him". Assuming that Australian sound engineer Bruce Jackson has altered the sound level, Elvis reprises, "Take these chains away that keep me loving you".

"See, we'll get through all the songs you want to hear. Old ones. New ones. Future. Good Luck Charm? Love Me Tender and Good Luck Charm. Let me ask something. Wait a minute. Hold it. Let me ask the light guy something. Is those white lights - you know, you can't wear makeup on stage because I sweat too much.."

"Baby, you don't need it" yells a woman.

"Huh? They're not white? Those white spotlights will just wash you out, man. I mean,urr, like an Albino. Like old whathisname, Allwin. Allwin? Who the hell is that? Yeah, anyway, You Gave Me a Mountain. No no, forget it" Elvis says to his band.

YOU GAVE ME A MOUNTAIN is treated to the line, "Blame for the loss of his eye". James Burton laughs out loud and Elvis says, "Straighten up Burton". Vocally, Elvis shows off in the song for the first time this evening. However, there continues some kidding with the audience but no lyrics are dropped.

"Thank you" is all that is said as Elvis sings a tired version of ALL SHOOK UP despite full audience participation.

TEDDYBEAR/DON'T BE CRUEL starts straight after All Shook Up. Less than three quarters of the already short Teddy Bear lyrics are sung, and Elvis continues to play with the girls. Elvis says after the lyrics, "..at least please, telephone.

That's strangest white man I've ever seen in my life. Hahahaha. Wait a minute. Hold it. We're doing a different song, fellas. We're been working together for six years and we're doing a different song. Sorry folks. Let's do this Don't Be Cruel thing again". James starts the introduction, but Elvis says over the top, "See, urr, Ronnie got lost".

Elvis completes most of Don't Be Cruel without incident, however the girls in the audience are screaming. Before Elvis completes the song, Ronnie Tutt is left to carry the beat whilst Elvis asks, "Is this one of your girlfriends? Now tell the truth"! By now there is absolute mayhem ringside. MY WAY begins with Elvis saying to Charlie Hodge, "You're suppose to tell me what song's up next, you Doh Doh". Up until this point in this concert, those members of the audience who've come tonight to hear a great singer have been ripped off. This is more of an orgy amongst Elvis fans. However, it seems that Elvis has realized this and decided to ignore the girls down front. He sings beautifully until the line, ".I did it all, and I went bald,urr, stood tall". He's now ruined a great version. Elvis continues, "I laughed and cried. Boo hoo. My share of losing. My mind's going. To think, that's what I like to do, ummm, I did all that". Elvis points to the white spotlight and sings, "The sun". Had Elvis not had the encouragement of his fans and Charlie to screw around on stage perhaps he wouldn't have done it. But then, at the end of the song when the wild applause erupts, Elvis has the audacity to accept it, saying, "Thank you, thank you". Elvis continues, "Urrr. What shall we do? What will we do? Let's do Steamroller. That's a good song".

STEAMROLLER BLUES starts with a bluesy introduction. Finally, Elvis sings his first straight song. He even adds vocals to James' instrumental. This is a very good version, and proves that when he wanted to, Elvis could still be The King.

"Thank you. You got it. Urr, before we go any further I'd like to introduce you to the members of my group. Some of them you haven't met, and some you have. Bring me a scarf Charlie. It's colder than a well digger's.The young ladies that stand up here and laugh a lot. We've been together for almost, err, for six and a half years? She's shy. I think they're fantastic. The Sweet Inspirations. And the fella you heard earlier singing on Softly. He works on my records and personal appearances. His name is Sherill Neilson. Don't give him too much applause. His ego is almost bigger than this showroom. J.D, why are you dressed different to the rest of the group? Do you think you're Julius Caesar or somebody? You're a single! Let me tell you something. When you started workin' for me, he wore normal colored shirts, and dressed like everybody else. Now he's got on a high collared shirt and slits in his pants. I don't have a slit in my pants. See J.D? I want to tell just one little quick story before we go on. We're not doing anything, anyway. When I was sixteen years old I used to go to all the gospel singing conventions they had in Memphis. And J.D came into Memphis when I was sixteen years old and joined a group called the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. And one night I saw him. When he first went there his voice was a little bit higher. And urr, he was taking another guy's place. And so, he couldn't go as low as he does now because he's got older and meaner. But urr. All kidding aside he use to urr get so frustrated one night I saw him he tried twenty five times trying to hit a note on stage. And he never did get it. Never did! Stayed up all night after the show drunk trying to get it. He sat in the room going 'Urrrrrrr urrrrrr' (Elvis imitates J.D in a bass voice). But all kidding aside, I've known him for years and I never thought he and I would be workin' on the same stage. J.D Sumner and The Stamps Quartet. I'd like to introduce The Stamps to you individually because it takes up more time. Hahaha. They're the only ones that don't get introduced. They have a young bass singer with them and I hate him because he goes so low. His name is Larry Strictland. Their baritone singer - hey, do you do any talking here? Do you talk? Is that you talking to people saying 'Stay in your seat'? Is that you doing that? That figures! You're the type that stays in your seat during the whole thing! His name is Ed Hill.

We might seem like we're kidding but we mean it" Elvis tells the audience. "Their lead singer, he has a very powerful voice. Not like Charlie. He gets so red in the face when he hits those notes. But he can't sing How Great Thou Art as well as I can. I mean he can't cut it! Hahaha. I'm sorry but you can not do it! His name is Ed Enoch. Their tenor singer. See. I used to do You'll Never Walk Alone. And, they think I'm not around when they sing on their own. So, he stole the song. You'll never walk alone - he does an average job of it. His name is Bill Baise. I want to tell you. Those of you who don't know anything about music at all. On You'll Never Walk Alone Bill goes up to a high C. And that's as high as Mario Lanza, or urr, what his name? Gomma Pile! Urr, hahaha, the little girl that does our high voice singing. She's from Los Angeles, she has a beautiful voice, her name is, I did I give you that ring? Did I give you that one? Maybe that one? You're not wearing any in your ears? On rhythm guitar is John Wilkinson. John I want you to play something".

"Early Morning Rain" is called out. "Yeah, Early Morning Rain" Elvis repeats.

John launches in to EARLY MORNING RAIN and it sounds like it's John Wilkinson singing! He receives a rapturous applause. Elvis says to him, "That's the last time, son! No, I'd like for you to meet Kathy Westmoreland! See, I was going to introduce you. You are so crazy sometimes, Kathy, I swear! I didn't call your name, honey. On the lead guitar is James Burton.

Elvis sings part of WHAT'D I SAY. He adlibs the lyrics singing, "When you see me in misery, go on down to Tennessee, alright". This version is incomplete.

The tape edits to JOHNNY B.GOODE , and Elvis sings some of the words off mic. "Ronnie, on the drums! Haha. From Dallas Texas is hard working Ronnie Tutt". Ronnie's solo ends with Elvis saying, "That's fantastic Ronnie. I want to see you do that behind your head! On Fender bass from up in Canada is Jerry Scheff. Elvis tells Jerry to "walk it, yeah baby" during his blues solo.

"Yeah, thank you Jerry. There's something I've always wanted to ask you Jerry. What do they do up in Canada that, you know, makes you have an unnatural hairdo? Urr, you take this as an axe? They chop trees and wood? Lumberjacks? You think this is an axe? You eat fish eggs? Sorry I asked"! "On piano ladies and gentlemen, who completely missed his part on Steamroller a while ago. Nevertheless, urr, he's a fantastic piano player, and he's new with us. His name is Tony Brown". Elvis adds is customary "Yeah" throughout Tony's solo.

"Thank you Tony". Elvis then takes the piss out of him and says, "He thinks he's Mozart. Dumb dumb da da dumb dumb, da da"! Elvis imitates the ending of Tony's solo.

"On the electric clavinet" Elvis says like he is drunk. "Buberoo". Charlie is wetting his pants in the background. "I can't say that. What machine? Oh, it speared me. (Lot's of laughter). From Nashville is David Briggs". David starts a very slow version of his typical solo. Elvis cuts in, "What, no Jingle Bells"? The long ending causes Elvis to ask, "Are you gonna learn when to quit, son? He's nuts, really. He stays in a studio all the time. Most these guys record in studios when they're not working with me. But you let him out on the streets and he's dangerous! Umm, the fella that gives me my scarves and sings water, urr, sings harmony with me, his name is Charlie Hodge. Our conductor from Las Vegas is Mr Joe Guercio. Mistro! Joe is conducting the who? The Al Tronti Orchestra".

The orchestra solo is HAIL HAIL ROCK 'N' ROLL which Elvis sings along with. "Yeah, thank you. We have a new record ladies and gentlemen. It goes like this".

HURT has an arrangement like the studio version, but also has some trumpets that sound like they were lifted from the Odd Couple sitcom soundtrack. Elvis sings a very committed version which makes a change from his kidding. "Thank you. Thank you very much. You're a good audience. Now I get wound up". HOUND DOG follows with lots of screams, and as usual Elvis carries the song too far up the scale. It proves to be a typical version for 1976. "Thank you very much. You're really a good audience. I, I, urr, thank you. I couldn't make it with out you. I'd like to do our gospel song. This features The Stamps Quartet on How Great Thou Art. I got it Enoch!" There are many screams and whistles in the showroom at this point. HOW GREAT THOU ART brings the audience to a hush. Elvis seems to be thinking about the words he is singing. The choir sound of The Stamp comes across nicely on this recording. Elvis hits the high note on "Myyyyyyyyy Goddddddddd, How great Thou Art" A very good version which receives plenty of applause.

"Thank you. Yeah. I love you. Man, when you applaud like that we get cold chills up here, boy. That's where it's at, boy". "You're the King, Elvis"

"I'm not a king because kings don't pull their leg muscles. See, I'm just a human like person. See, my nose runs. Come get it honey. You won't make the football team. Did you get it, honey? Hang on to it"! Elvis tosses a scarf out into the audience.

"Ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to tell you that urrr, that you're a fantastic audience and we've had a good time out here tonight and we hope you have (applause). I know there's a lot of songs that we could do that you asked us to do, but urr, we do have two shows a night here, and we have to cut the time into about four days and a half.".

"You got time to do Love Me Tender" a guy yells.

"Oh, Love Me Tender. Yeah, we can do that. Not you, the song! This is one of those chords with no intros"? James starts playing the introduction to LOVE ME TENDER in the usual fashion until Elvis interrupts him, "Hey James. Let me tell you something. Can you go 'Da dar dar der da da da'" Elvis hums the original chords of the song. "See, that's nothing. You're better than Glenn Campbell so you oughta be able to d that".

James Burton plays the original chords to Love Me Tender just as it is heard on the studio version. Throughout the women are calling Elvis' name, trying to catch his attention, yet Elvis sings each lyric with sincerity and warmth. Unfortunately the song continues with the standard '70s arrangement, but is a great version, nonetheless.

"Thank you. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much". A slow but well sung version of CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE follows. There are many screams and cries for Elvis not to leave. Elvis also sings every word in this version.

Throughout the closing riff the audience screams and whistle their approval. I am not sure which suit Elvis wore at this show, but according to Stein Erik Skar, he wore the Blue Bicentennial suit on this date at one of the shows. Look at page 181 of his Concert Years book to get an idea of how Elvis looked on this day.

As you can see the second third of this show is plagued with Elvis' constant playing with women that are ringside. The highlights of this concert are Softly As I Leave You, Steamroller Blues, How Great Thou Art and Love Me Tender. From my perspective not a fun show to listen to. However, I imagine being a member in the audience would have been good fun. Generally Elvis is in good voice, but it's all too easy for him.


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