We continue legendary Seattle radio man Dick Curtis' autobiography, Me, Myself & I - We're on the Road Again. He wrote it for family & friends a few years ago, but has availed it to BlatherWatch. The book is fascinating glimpse, not only into early rock 'n' roll radio, but even more into the business of talent management and concert promotion in an incredible, crazypants time to be there: the 1960's, '70's and '80's.
This installment finds Dick doing advance work for an Elvis Concert in Tucson in 1976. To put it into context: It was his third, at least, comeback attempt, it was the fat Elvis, and a year before his death.
The biggest act that Jerry Weintraub and Concerts West partnered together was Elvis Presley! [...] Colonel Tom Parker was Elvis’ lifetime manager and [all of ] the business with Elvis was done without a contract. The largest rock ‘n roll act in the world and his concert business was conducted by a handshake!
I never will forget a day in Tucson, Arizona where an Elvis Presley concert was about to go on sale. I was sent to oversee the presale.
Elvis wouldn’t be appearing for weeks but fans were lined up for blocks just to get a ticket on this day. There were so many people that Colonel Parker actually hired concession venders to work the ticket sale lines.
I heard him barking to the venders, “Now, holler real loud. Make ‘em hear you. If you do you’ll make a lot of money and money ain’t easy to come by these days.”
I could only chuckle to myself. The Colonel was putting the same show on sale in twenty-three cities this day and they would all be sold out in a matter of hours. Yup, money isn’t easy to come by these days unless your name was Colonel Parker...
The Colonel had gotten his start in show business with his “dancing chickens.” He made the rounds as a carnival attraction, “Colonel Parker and his Dancing Chickens.” How DID he do it? How could he train those chickens to dance like that? It really wasn’t that the chickens were all that talented. They were just trying to survive. See, the good Colonel had them dancing on a hot plate.
(photo: The Colonel with his only client, 1969)
Parker arrived in this country as an illegal alien from Holland. That’s the reason Elvis never appeared outside the country. While I was working out of the Weintraub office in L-A, a Japanese promoter offered a million dollars for Presley to appear in Japan. The offer was turned down. Had Parker gone out of the country, he wouldn’t have been able to get back in. Elvis only ventured as far away from the mainland as Hawaii to perform.