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June 12th, 2009
06:15 AM ET

Tom Foreman's first concert: “Elllllvisssss!”

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

My first real concert was a whopper: Elvis Presley when I was 16 years old.

I had an uncle and aunt who were totally into the King, so they offered to take me and a date to his concert in Montgomery, Alabama. Up until that point I had never particularly focused on Elvis. I liked some of the old songs; Hard Headed Woman, Good Luck Charm, Wear My Ring Around Your Neck. But even Elvis sightings were no big deal back then. Or at least not as big as they became after his death.

In any event, I asked this girl Renee to join me and in a startling reversal of my usual dating success she said yes. Already the magic of Elvis was working. We trundled up to Montgomery, to the old coliseum, and took up our seats in the 14th row, about eight seats off of the center aisle. It was one of the most dazzling experiences of my life. From the moment he entered, the place was absolutely ablaze with camera flashes. Grown women were nearly knocking each other down to get near the stage and one of the white scarves he was dealing out like playing cards. When security pushed the crowd back, I was astonished to find some of these same women crawling on the floor past my knees to reposition and make another charge at that puddle of light where Elvis was working it out. He was heavy, but not his heaviest. His voice was magnificent.

At one point there was a slight lull between songs as he stalked the stage, mopping sweat from his brow, and talking about something, and a woman way in the back screamed as loudly as she could “Elllllvisssss!” He whipped his head instantly, and in that perfect I’ve-heard-it-a-hundred-times-in-the-movies voice said, “Yeah, baby?” I thought the building was going to collapse. Pure, unrestrained, explosive joy roared out of the crowd in response, and their combined screams, laughter, and cheers was a sound unlike any other. I remember looking at him at one point, and closing my eyes to freeze the image of the sparkling white suit, the dark hair, the rakish stance. I’ve still got it locked in my memory.

I bought a poster for Renee. We never went out again. I lost the ticket stub.

I went to the concert because I figured Elvis had taken a lot of criticism and would probably stop touring soon. I had no idea that a year later, working at my first radio station I would pull a scrap of news off of the wire machine, and then go on the air to tell my viewers he had died. Somewhere back in a closet I still have that crumbling piece of paper. We played Elvis songs all evening until our station had to sign off the air. I shut down the transmitters, burned the trash, put all those records back on the shelves, and turned off the lights.

Elvis had left the building.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Tom Foreman
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Vivian

    My first concert? 1967, Miami, The Monkees... yes, I know, lame. But wait for it......The opening act? --> Jimi Hendrix!!!!!!!! yeah baby!!
    Whatever the reasons for this unlikely pairing, I've always been grateful for this experience.

    June 12, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  2. LaTonya Pressley

    Great Elvis story, I will be making my way to Memphis during my road trip and will be sure to stop at Graceland.

    June 12, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  3. Gale

    First concert, 1967, I was 12 – (Little) Stevie Wonder at Carter Baron theater in DC. Had just recorded "My Cherie Amour" Older brother got me hooked on Motown. (Wilson Pickett & Marvelettes sang at our high school Spring Concert, I know, weird, huh?

    Biggest Concert, 1971, I was 15 – Grateful Dead/Allmann Bros.- RFK Stadium – 60,000 plus, all day. Not the last time I saw the Grateful Dead in concert under better circumstances.

    Longest Concert, 1973, I was 17, – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Capital Center, Largo, MD, recording a live concert and had to sing "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes" 3 times. Unbelievable.

    Most Profound Concert, 1974, came back from freshman year in college, "Joni Mitchell, "Miles of Isles" Merriweather Post Pavilion.

    Most Mind Altering Concert, 1982, Laurie Anderson, USA 1-4 Tour, I was freaked out, but then saw her next 3 concert tours from Boston to where I live now, LA.

    Greatest Day of Music – 1999 Jazz Fest, New Orleans, Paul Simon, Ziggy Marley, Herbie Hancock, Dr. John, to name a few. Lucky to have an older brother who has now lived in New Orleans for 30 years.

    June 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  4. sasha kaplan

    my first concert it was my sophomore year 1955-1956 high school
    it was elvis
    it was chuck berry
    it was classic
    you had to "be there or be square"
    sasha kaplan

    June 12, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  5. Joan Blair

    Very nice story. Thanks for sharing it, Tom.
    Elvis was truly a wonder!

    June 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Eileen Friestad

    My first concert was the Beatles at Old Comiskey Park in Chicago! It is a vivid memory. I was 13 years old, wore a pink and white dress with a Peter Pan collar and fake red cherries at the throat and my hair was in a tight sausage curl flip. Cannibal and the Headhunters opened for them along with some other bands I don't remember. The stage was on 2nd base and when the Fab Four came out, pandemonium ensued. I never heard a thing!

    June 12, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  7. Marc McDade

    First concert? Black Oak Arkansas with Pink Floyd as the back up band in Wichita, KS. The stage was little more than a flat bed truck.

    June 12, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  8. Marie Wilson, Pottsville, PA

    My first concert was Shawn Cassidy. I saw him at the Reading Phillies Stadium, in Reading, PA. I think it was 1978 and I was either 8 or 9. I may not remember how old I was, but I defintely remember what I wore. (Must be a girl thing, right Erica) I had on a Shawn Cassidy, t-shirt with autograph as well as jeans with an autographed left back pocket and a baby blue satin baseball jacket with a big picture of him on the back of it all purchased at Sears. I thought I was so cool and he was as well.

    June 12, 2009 at 9:49 am |
  9. Presley

    I don't know why, but this brought a tear to my eye.
    Elvis Presley, the name alone, so connected deeply still to fans here and around the world. It's the personal effect he had on people, despite any criticisms of who he was, he is and always will be The King.
    Mention the name and he still makes people smile.
    My first records were hand me down Elvis Presley records. I fell in mad crush love at the age of 5.
    And of course, my mother & father were huge fans and still are, I got his name and I'm a girl.

    I am jealous Tom Foreman, but it is just as enjoyable to live the experience with memories like yours and others.

    VIVA LAS VEGAS TOM FOREMAN!
    XXO♥

    June 12, 2009 at 9:39 am |
  10. Isabel, Brazil

    My first concert was the Rock in Rio in 1985, in Brazil. I was 12 and was sensational.

    The Rock in Rio was a festival where many artists performed in 10 days. I was in just 2 days.

    In one of the days I watched: Queen, Iron Maiden,
    Whitesnake and Pepeu Gomes. This was my favorite days.

    The second day was more romantic: George Benson, James Taylor, Al Jarreau and Ivan Lins. And this was the day my favorite of the godmother.

    I went with my cousin older. She is my cousin and godmother. She had to convince my mother to permit me to go to the concert. It was difficult but well worth a look! Two unforgettable days of my life!

    June 12, 2009 at 8:55 am |
  11. steve

    My first concert was a little 400,000 people three day affair in upstate NY in the early 70's. The Band, Allman Bros., and Grateful Dead were the performers. I slept on a bale of hay for two nights, but I did have my toothbrush with me. I will never forget that one
    Steve

    June 12, 2009 at 8:50 am |
  12. Terry, TX

    Yes....Elvis left the building....another drug addict celebrity...and they continue to this day.

    June 12, 2009 at 8:32 am |
  13. Tom

    The voice in your writing is unparalleled and reading through your story allows the reader to visualize exactly what you saw. Very nice! Thanks. Almost 32 years since you had to make that announcement from your sound room in that radio station. Good memories!

    June 12, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  14. Geri Weisman

    I check your Elvis and raise you The Beatles. My first concert was the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. I was 12.

    June 12, 2009 at 7:41 am |
  15. Travis L. STokes

    Hey AC360,

    I watch the show every night. My first concert was New Addition in the 80's and my second concert was MC HAMMER (his first and second tour). Those were the days of being young and nothing a care in the world. Thinking that everything last forever. Good Times!

    Travis

    June 12, 2009 at 7:28 am |
  16. traci

    Awesome!! His was the first LP I bought.

    June 12, 2009 at 7:28 am |
  17. Connie-TX

    I have never been a big Elvis fan but this was very touching. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    June 12, 2009 at 6:53 am |