1966-1969: Page 4
Elvis, his family and friends vacation in Hawaii. Circle G is sold for $440,000.
Elvis works on his song list and putting together his band for the International Hotel engagement
July 10, 1969
Elvis obtains the easement from the church next door to Graceland for a back driveway.
July 31 - August 28, 1969
Elvis is booked for a four-week, 57 show engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, which has just been built and has the largest showroom in the city. Elvis puts together top-notch rock ‘n’ roll musicians, an orchestra, a male gospel back-up group, and a black female soul/gospel back-up group for his show. They rehearse for several weeks and open on July 31, 1969. The show is a delightful mix of fresh arrangements of classic Elvis hits, exciting new material he has recorded, a few covers of current and past hits of other artists, and charming on-stage antics and sharing of personal recollections of his career. A press conference follows the first of his two opening night shows.
This engagement breaks all existing Las Vegas attendance records and attracts rave reviews from the public and the critics. It is a triumph. Elvis' first live album, “Elvis in Person at the International Hotel,” is recorded during this engagement and is soon released. Elvis’ opening night is so successful that Colonel Parker renegotiates his contract on a tablecloth in the hotel’s coffee shop. Elvis also receives a gold belt from the hotel for his championship attendance.
For these shows, a lean Elvis in top physical form, wears simple, unique, karate-inspired two-piece outfits in black or white. These are designed by Bill Belew, who did the wardrobe for the “’68 Special.” These are the predecessors to the famous one-piece jumpsuits which will be simple at first, then become flashier and more elaborate over the years.
Here are a couple of reviews from music writers:
"There are several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is his staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like shooting stars."
- “Newsweek,” August 11, 1969 issue
"...a style and panache that come close to pure magic. Lithe, raunchy, the sweat pouring down his face, he now moves with the precision of an athlete, the grace of a dancer...flamboyant and flashy, sexy and self-mocking, he works with the instincts of a genius to give poetry to the basic rock performance."
- W.A. Harbinson, from his 1975 book, “The Illustrated Elvis.”
*NOTE: The orchestra was conducted by Bobby Morris. The band consisted of James Burton (lead guitar), John Wilkinson (rhythm guitar), Jerry Scheff (bass guitar), Larry Muhoberac (piano) and Ronnie Tutt (drums). The female singers were The Sweet
Inspirations. The male singers were The Imperials. Charlie Hodge provided additional guitar and vocals and general on-stage assistance. Over the concert years, there were changes in the show cast. Joe Guercio became Elvis' conductor. Millie Kirkham, who had worked on Elvis' studio recordings, joined the show as soprano, a position later taken over by Kathy Westmoreland. Glen D. Hardin became the piano player. J.D. Sumner & the Stamps Quartet became the male back-up group. Various other personnel changes occurred over the years.
“The Trouble with Girls,” Elvis’ 30th movie, opens in theaters and doesn’t do much at the box office. From the American Sound Studio sessions RCA releases "Suspicious Minds," which will soon become Elvis' first number one single since "Good Luck Charm" in 1962 and will be his last #1 pop single, though he’ll have many big hits.
November 11, 1969
“Change of Habit,” Elvis' 31st movie, opens in theaters and it will be on Variety's Box Office Survey for four weeks, peaking at #17.