When Elvis Played New York : Nervously
Uneasy in his chair behind a long table at the New York Hilton, Elvis Presley listened as a reporter asked why he had decided to resume touring. ‘Just as soon as I got out of the movie contracts, I started to do live performances again’. 'There are so many places that I haven’t been yet. I’ve never played New York’.
Elvis skirted New York for all those years largely because he feared it. 'Elvis wasn’t afraid of the critics, but he knew that rock had changed and that New York was the center of everything’, said pianist-arranger Glen D. Hardin, a member of Presley’s TCB Band. 'Elvis knew the rest of the world loved him, but he was a little concerned that New York audiences might think his music was square and that they’d treat him like a hillbilly’. Elvis certainly felt pressure. Many rockers showed up for the concerts, including George Harrison, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and members of Led Zeppelin. It also didn’t help that Jackie Kahane, Presley’s warm-up comedian, ran into trouble on opening night. 'Poor Jackie was booed off the stage - the audience wanted Elvis and that was it’, recalled Joe Guercio, Presley’s musical director. 'When Elvis began to walk out on stage, he was nervous. As he passed me, he gave me one of those million-dollar glances that said, 'Let’s do it.’
Then a shower of camera flashbulbs went off, the crowd loved him, and he was at ease’. . Mary Malin - daughter of Joe and Carmel Malin, both of whom played violin at the Garden behind Presley - attended one of the concerts. 'I was 17 years old and wasn’t really into Elvis - most kids my age weren’t listening to him then’, she said. 'But my mother had tickets for great seats and insisted I go, calling it 'a happening’. So I took my girlfriend. By the end, we were both standing on our seats and screaming like everyone else’.