The four Memphis shows, at 2:30pm and 8:30pm on both the 16th and 17th March, were Elvis' first appearances in his hometown since 1961 when he played two charity shows at the Ellis Auditorium. Originally just three concerts were planned but the high demand for tickets resulted in an additional show being added on the 17th. Apparently 4,000 tickets were being sold each day, an amazing record when you consider the average was between 400-500 for other artists. All four concerts were sold out with an estimated 12,300 attending each performance.
The tour closed on 20th March with a fifth show in Memphis. Once again a sold out crowd of 12,300 were in attendance. The gross for all five Memphis shows was reported as exceeding $586,000 with $50,000 going to the Coliseum…not bad for three days and five shows work!
This final date on the tour was recorded for album release. The Commercial Appeal, dated 21 March, mentioned that Elvis had turned down requests from other cities on his current tour to record in order to save the recorded show for his hometown fans. Looking forward to the show Elvis said, "Man, I'm ready and prepared for this recording session. I was a little worried for the first show last Saturday, but the audience knocked me out. They were great and I appreciated it."
Unlike most of Elvis's album covers in the seventies this did not feature a photo of Elvis on the cover. Instead there was a lovely image of Graceland on the front while the rear sleeve sported a shot of the famous Graceland gates. Ironic when you consider that almost every studio album released in the seventies featured a live photo!
In 2004 the Follow That Dream (FTD) label issued the 'almost' complete concert in a deluxe edition which included a colour booklet with photographs, albeit slightly blurry, from the actual concert. Once again there were issues with the sound with the the addition of extra reverb. The false start on Help Me and some of the dialogue was also omitted.
The original album has now been issued under the Legacy Edition series along with another concert from the tour. (Note: I was sent an advance/promo copy of this set which had a number of errors with missing and duplicated tracks but I have been assured that these errors will not appear on the finished product.)
Disc 1 features the complete concert and it features some great performances. There are many highlights including Trying To Get To You, Steamroller Blues which is far superior to the Aloha performance, the rock and roll medley, a powerful version of How Great Thou Art which won Elvis his third and final Grammy, Blueberry Hill/I Can't Stop Loving You, My Baby Left Me and Lawdy Miss Clawdy. The only disappointments are J. D. Sumners awful 'dive-bomb' routine, the sloppy performance of Fever and the endless introductions but, overall, it is still a great concert. It is just a shame that following on from the 1973 sessions that he didn't add some of the songs from the Good Times and Promised Land albums to the set list.
The final five tracks are taken from an August 1974 rehearsal prior to opening yet another Vegas engagement. All have been released before and suffer from poor quality recording. However, they are interesting to listen to especially as it includes one of my favourite 1970s Elvis studio recordings, Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues.
The Richmond show is identical to the FTD release but it is the Memphis concert that is the highlight. Although it is a matter of personal taste, for me they have at last sorted out the earlier issues with no added reverb or applause, and it sounds so much better. The missing dialogue is also reinstated as is the false start on Help Me.
As Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis was always and still is one of my favourite Elvis live albums and far superior to Aloha From Hawaii. OK, it can't match the excitement and commitment of On Stage, From Memphis To Vegas or That's The Way It is but proves that, even in 1974, Elvis could still pack a punch and deliver the goods when he put his mind to it.