Forty years ago tonight, only eleven days after astronaut Neil Armstrong took his famous “one small step” on the moon, Elvis Presley took his own giant leap.
On that July 31st night in 1969, the singer stepped onto the stage of the International Hotel in Las Vegas and began proving once and for all that he was the greatest and most dynamic performer the world will ever know.
His “comeback” after years of making movies had actually started the year before, with his highly rated and critically acclaimed ELVIS TV special. He rode the tide of that success into his first Memphis recording sessions in nearly 15 years, resulting in smash hits “Suspicious Minds,” “In The Ghetto,” and “Don’t Cry, Daddy.”
Elvis was on top again, and his Vegas engagement was another crown jewel. With two shows a night, seven days a week, for four weeks, the concerts represented his first live appearances in nearly nine years, outside of four studio audience shows for his TV special.
RCA started recording the Vegas shows on August 21, capturing eleven complete concerts in all that summer. Some of the best tracks were selected for an album, Elvis In Person. More recently, several of the shows have been released in full:
- August 21 Midnight Show on 2007’s Elvis: Viva Las Vegas (Limited Edition) Disc 2
- August 22 Dinner Show on 2008’s Elvis In Person (FTD Edition) Disc 2
- August 23 MS on 2003’s Elvis At The International
- August 24 DS on 2001’s Live In Las Vegas Disc 1
- August 26 MS on 2005’s All Shook Up
These recordings are some of Elvis’ best available concerts. To commemorate the fortieth anniversary of this engagement, author Ken Sharp (Writing for the King) next month is releasing ELVIS: Vegas ’69, a 200-page hardcover book examining the concert series in text and photos.