Monday, February 12, 2007

A good ROCKIN' Elvis tale from the Sacramento Autorama

Phil Young (left in photo) and his great friend Bob Bjork pulled up to my booth at the Sacramento Autorama on Saturday, intrigued by the sight of Darrell Mayabb's ROCKIN' book jacket. After spending some quality time riffling through it, Bob suddenly leaned over to me and said, very quietly, "let me get one for Phil." And so he did.

Then, Bob and I started talking. Turns out his late wife Sherry was one of Elvis' most devoted West Coast fans. She and Bob went to The King's shows at the Las Vegas Hilton and the Sahara at Lake Tahoe, CA. Just as had happened with my dear friend "Rockin'" Robin Rosaaen, vaultkeeper of All The King's Things archive (whom you met in an earlier blog), Sherry was given a scarf--Elvis leaned down from the stage and put it right around her shoulders--and she kept it for the rest of her life. Bob says even when it finally dried it was so soaked with Elvis' sweat, you could have cloned a thousand Elvis' from the DNA.

As serendipity would have it, Bob keeps photos and ticket stubbs on his person--these from the May, 1973 concert series. In the photos above this blog, you see Bob and Sherry's '73 Riviera which took them to Tahoe from the Bay Area. See, it's really all about rockin' down the highway, isn't it?

Elvis first played the Sahara Tahoe in July, 1971 (the first two-week "Elvis Summer Festival"). According to historian Robert Gordon (author of THE KING ON THE ROAD: ELVIS LIVE ON TOUR 1954 - 1977), "the Sahara had contracts with Johnny Carson and Buddy Hackett assuring them the highest pay; others could make as much but not more. After negotiating with Elvis' manager Col. Tom Parker, the Sahara had to raise fees for Hackett and Carson--by $90,000 per week."

When Elvis returned to the Sahara in 1973, there were 300,000 phonecalls from people trying to score tickets; the venue seated 61,000 and many people bought tickets for multiple dates. Billboards contracted by the Colonel flashed Elvis' name in twenty-four-foot high letters, in brilliant red. After that, his Las Vegas billboards would feature psychedelic glow-in-the-dark inks. Elvis also played multi-day engagements at Tahoe twice in 1974 and again in the early summer of 1976, a year before he passed.

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