On June 1, 1977, it was announced that Elvis Presley had signed a deal with CBS for a new television special. It was agreed that CBS would videotape concerts during the summer of 1977. The final special was culled from footage from two performances on June 19, 1977, in Omaha, and June 21, 1977, in Rapid City, although much of the footage from Omaha was considered unusable due to sound and performance problems. This concert has been heavily edited and bootlegs have appeared over the years. The show was shot on NTSC videotape although many film conversions have appeared over the years. The crew also filmed footage of Elvis at the airport in Indianapolis, receiving a gold record from RCA Records on June 26. This is the last known footage of Elvis ever filmed, and he can be seen wearing his favorite DEA jacket.
How Great Thou Art & I Really Don't Want To Know : CBS TV Special (04:46)
During the special, Elvis performs a number of songs spanning his career. During one song, 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?', just before Elvis goes into the recitation part of the song, the music is faded down and a devoted female fan is shown talking about her determination to see Elvis live in concert, then it switches back to Elvis after the recitation was finished. This may have been done so that viewers would not have to see Elvis fumbling through the recitation, although this footage was included in the later documentary 'This Is Elvis' to illustrate his poor condition at the time, and the recitation was left intact on the soundtrack album as well. However, a strong case can be made that Elvis regularly played around with the words during the recitation of the song when performing it onstage, rather than it being a case of poor memory. Indeed, a concert recording of Elvis similarly joking around during the recitation of 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' dating from 1969 has been issued by RCA on numerous occasions. Dubbed the 'Laughing Version' (due to Elvis breaking into fits of laughter during the recitation), it even made the UK charts after Elvis' death; and he also poked fun at the song during his 1968 Comeback Special, pretending to mumble the recitation instead of speaking it.
Unchained Melody : Rapid City : June 21, 1977 (05:00)
Elvis also sings his much-performed 'My Way', although he has to use a lyric sheet on this occasion, despite having performed the song several years through the 1970s without having to refer to a lyric sheet. Elvis also removed both of his then-current singles, 'Moody Blue' and 'Way Down', from the setlist; Elvis had forgotten the lyrics to 'Moody Blue' when attempting to perform it earlier in the tour and never performed it live again.
According to Roy Carr and Mick Farren in Elvis: The Illustrated Record, CBS officials considered postponing broadcast of the special in hopes of obtaining better performance footage of Elvis, but his death in August 1977 canceled this plan. Its broadcast received mixed reaction; Carr and Farren condemned it as a 'travesty', adding, 'Had it been shown during his lifetime, it would have caused more irrevocable damage to what was left of his career than almost a decade of starring in third-rate movies'.
Hurt : Omaha : June 19, 1977 (02:18)
A misconception regarding Elvis in Concert stems from a statement broadcast by Elvis' father, Vernon Presley at the program's conclusion (and also included on the soundtrack album) in which he told viewers that they had just witnessed Elvis' final performance. In fact, Elvis made five more concert appearances before giving what would be his final show in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 26. However, the CBS special was Elvis' last professionally recorded concert. The special actually contains two messages by Elvis' father: one taped in a hotel room during the tour in June when Elvis was still alive, and the other taped in the back office of Graceland shortly after his death, where Vernon thanks the many people who sent letters and cards after Elvis' death.
This special has never been released on VHS or DVD, and Elvis' estate has issued a statement (See below) saying that they have 'no plans' to release the special, due to the fact that Elvis was visibly 'far from his best in the way he looked and the way he performed'.
Footage from this special has, however, appeared elsewhere on home video: the performances of 'Are You Lonesome Tonight', 'Love Me' and 'My Way' were used in 1981's This Is Elvis, and the performance of 'Unchained Melody' (which was not featured on the original CBS telecast) appeared in the 1990 home video release, The Great Performances, Volume One: Center Stage.
List of Songs
Elvis fans' comments/opening vamp
Introduction/Also Sprach Zarathustra
See See Rider
That's All Right
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
Elvis fans comments
You Gave Me a Mountain
Elvis fans comments
How Great Thou Art
Elvis fans comments
I Really Don't Want To Know
Elvis introduces his father, Vernon, and his girlfriend Ginger Alden
Can't Help Falling in Love
Final message from Vernon Presley
Elvis Presley – vocals, acoustic guitar, piano
James Burton – lead guitar
John Wilkinson – rhythm guitar
Charlie Hodge – acoustic guitar, vocals
Jerry Scheff – bass
Ronnie Tutt – drums
Tony Brown – piano
The Sweet Inspirations, J.D. Sumner & the Stamps Quartet, Kathy Westmoreland – vocals
Joe Guercio – orchestra
Bobby Ogdin - electric piano and keyboard, clavinet
Soundtrack | Elvis in Concert (album)
RCA Records released a soundtrack album in conjunction with the television special's broadcast. The album augments the televised performances with a second album of additional recordings made during the Omaha and Rapid City concerts. The concert soundtrack album was released in October 1977 and peaked on the chart in November 1977. The album reached #5 on the Billboard album charts.
For Elvis Fans Only: Press Release From Elvis Presley Estate.
'Focus on Elvis: Elvis on Tour 1977'. Archived from the original on 2006-01-04.
Carr and Farren (1982), p. 166.
Carr and Farren (1982), p. 140.
allmusic.com, 'Elvis in Concert'. Accessed 11 December 2012.
Roy Carr and Mick Farren, Elvis: The Illustrated Record (Harmony Books, 1982).
External linksThe 1977 television special Elvis in Concert, which was shot during Elvis' last concert tour in June of 1977 (not the last concert itself as Vernon Presley stated at the end of the special) aired a couple of times on network television and parts of it, and additional footage shot during the production of it, have been used in various television and video documentary projects over the years. However, much to the disappointment of a number of fans, we have no plans for releasing a home video of the Elvis in Concert material at this time.
Because of the severity of Elvis' health problems at the time the special was shot, Elvis was far from his best in the way he looked and the way he performed, though there are some truly brilliant moments in the footage. The true fans look at this through the eyes of love, respect, and understanding, and see the great historical value - as do all the members of our staff. But, this not so with much of the general public and the media. It's not that we don't want the fans to have this footage or that we don't know how much it would mean to them. We do. There just simply is no way to get it only to the real fans (and we've exhausted all kinds of ideas) without also having Elvis served up to the general public and press for ridicule. They already emphasize and exaggerate the tragedy and sadness of the last years of his life too much.
Right now, the emphasis for us is to remind them of all that came before.
We receive many calls, letters, and E-mails from fans pushing for us to release this footage on home video. There is not a single argument in favor of our releasing it that has come from fans that haven't come up amongst our management team. We talk about it at length periodically. Up to now, some members of the management team who decide these things have not become comfortable with releasing it. Perhaps that could change someday. For now, our position remains as explained herein. 'Not now' does not necessarily mean 'not ever'. We'll see. In the meantime, we truly understand, respect and appreciate and share on so many levels the feelings of those fans who want the 1977 material released.
In the meantime, we continue to use clips from the 1977 special as appropriate for historical context and completeness in documentary projects and exhibits.