Rock Moment: Elvis in the Astrodome, 1974

Elvis in the Astrodome

In 1974 I had this part-time job at a newspaper in southeast Texas.  I worked in the sports department and I got close to Super Bowl VIII thanks to another sportswriter (see this post).  Little did I know that, thanks to the same guy, a short time later I’d get to see a cool concert in the Houston Astrodome.  For about three weeks in late February-early March, Houston goes cowboy crazy: they hold this ginormous rodeo event with bronco riding, chuck wagon racing, bull stomping, horse pissing, cowboy stomping, beer drinking, barrel racing and other stuff.  I’d never been to one but this sportswriter had an extra press pass for a Sunday afternoon show and he invited me along.  “I don’t care about the rodeo stuff,” he said, “we’re going to see Elvis.”  Elvis Presley was the headline performer that day.

So, my first rodeo in the Dome … the air was thick with the aroma of horseshit and spilled beer.  People could smoke cigarettes anywhere then, so everywhere you turned there was some redneck with a cowboy hat, boots and a butt hanging from their lips.  We were up in the press area (5th level) of the Dome and the lights went down in the giant arena – a band on a stage that seemed far, far away (the best seat in the house was at least 50 yards from the stage) kicked in to a chugging beat.  Then Elvis, who was already on stage, started singing “See See Rider” and the place erupted.

I’ve been to a lot of events in the Dome and I have never heard a roar like the one that came out of that crowd.  It was tough to hear the music because the Dome’s sound system was crap and women didn’t stop screaming for the entire show.  I do remember one highlight was “Polk Salad Annie,” where Elvis hammed up his “Suthin” accent.  For a while the place was dark and they kept a spotlight on the jumpsuited figure on stage, and from our perch he looked kind of like a Christmas tree ornament.

He did his live showpiece “Suspicious Minds” and even though that got the crowd whipped up again it seemed to me like he was going through the motions a bit.  Understandable, because he had another show scheduled for that night.  Anyway, I remember he did a Willie Nelson song (“Funny How Time Slips Away”) after which Elvis thanked everyone for coming out to see him.  After the finale, they put Elvis and his posse in the back of a pickup and drove him around the perimeter of the stadium so fans could reach out and slap hands with the King.  That procedure must have taken about five minutes – all the while the band kept pumping out that Memphis riff they opened the show with.

Then the truck pulled in to a tunnel and Elvis was gone.  This voice came on the PA and said, “Ladies and gentlemen … Elvis has left the building.”  That’s what he really said, but I think for legend’s sake I’ll swear the announcer said “Elvis has left the Astrodome.”   After all: When the truth becomes legend, print the legend.

MP3: “Polk Salad Annie” (live)

MP3: “All Shook Up” (live)

MP3: “Jailhouse Rock/Don’t Be Cruel” (live)

MP3: “Suspicious Minds” (live)

MP3: “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (live)

MP3: Elvis monologue: My Life Story (live, 1969)

Elvis Presley – Graceland official website

2 Responses to “Rock Moment: Elvis in the Astrodome, 1974”

  1. Thanks for the blog post. I went to that concert when i was almost 7 years old and I have a few vivid memories of the concert. I have always loved Elvis and being a native Houstonian, I always loved the rodeo.

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