Seeing Elvis live not meant to be


By Pat Haley - Contributing columnist



“Are you lonesome tonight? Do you miss me tonight? Are you sorry we drifted apart?

“Do the chairs in your parlor, Seem empty and bare? Do you gaze at your doorstep? And picture me there?”

These are the words to Elvis’ famous song, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

In two weeks, it will be the 45th commemoration of the death of Elvis Presley. Sometime in the mid-afternoon on Aug. 16, 1977, Ginger Alden, his fiancee, discovered Elvis deceased in his bathroom.

He was 42 years old.

Elvis had performed in Dayton, Ohio four times during a 20-year span, and earlier at Hobart Arena in Troy, Ohio:

• Sunday, May 27, 1956, at UD Fieldhouse

• Friday, April 7, 1972, at UD Arena

• Sunday, Oct. 6, 1974, at UD Arena (two performances)

• Tuesday, Oct. 26, 1976, at UD Arena

This story is about his Oct. 26, 1976 concert.

We had first heard about Elvis’ upcoming concert on one of the local radio stations in Dayton. Wanting to attend this performance, I hopped in the Oldsmobile and headed to the University of Dayton Arena to buy a couple of tickets.

When I arrived, I was amazed to find hundreds of shaking, blanket-covered fans who had camped outside at the arena in the cold, 30-degree October weather for two days to buy tickets for the Elvis concert.

I watched as a woman held a miniature-screen DVD player — primitive by today’s standards — playing one of Elvis’ documentaries. The narrator stopped speaking, and an elegant man in soft white leather boots and matching jumpsuit, adorned with beaded fringe and silver buckles, stepped onstage. Tall and slender, Elvis looked at once menacing and on the verge of laughter. He whipped his arm into the air and people let out an involuntary scream in unison.

“Lord have mercy!” an elderly lady shouted.

Another middle-aged woman wiped her eyes with a tissue. “I bet I’m not even the biggest fan here,” she said.

“I’d hate to meet them,” her annoyed husband snorted.

I stood around for a couple of more hours until a deep male voice announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you we have sold out of the tickets for Elvis’ concert. Thank you for supporting the University of Dayton.”

Disappointed, I headed toward home. I got to the Stewart Street bridge and had to stop for a red traffic light. While I was waiting for the light to change, an announcer came on a local radio station and announced that they were giving away two tickets for the Elvis Presley concert at UD.

“If you can tell me where the Major League played the first baseball game under the lights, and what two teams played in that record-setting game, you will win two tickets to see Elvis!” the voice said.

I thought to myself, “I know this answer!” I raced to the nearest gas station to use the pay phone. This was long before the advent of cell phones.

The phone rang and rang. I was just about to give up when the disc jockey picked up the phone.

“The Cincinnati Reds played the Philadelphia Phillies under the lights at Crosley Field in 1935,” I yelled into the telephone receiver.

“We have a winner!” the radio announcer yelled back. “Congratulations! Enjoy the King!”

I turned around and drove directly to the radio station in downtown Dayton and picked up the tickets.

Finally, the big day came. We were so excited. However, our excitement soon turned to concern. Our 5-year-old son, Greg, was sick. He was running a feverish temperature and had a severely upset stomach.

We took him to the doctor, who proclaimed he was the victim of an extremely contagious virus. “You need to keep this boy in bed and make sure he drinks plenty of fluids,” the doctor told us.

The doctor had made the decision for us. Greg was our priority. We wouldn’t get to see Elvis after all. We called some friends and sold them our $12.50 tickets.

“I’m sure we’ll see him some other time,” I said. “He’ll be in Dayton again.”

We had no way of knowing at the time, that would be Elvis’ last concert in Dayton. In fact, just 10 short months later, Elvis had died, and his father buried him next to his mother, Gladys Presley, in Graceland.

Like Lincoln, Elvis then belonged to the ages.

Pat Haley is a Clinton County native and former county commissioner and sheriff.

His book, “Around the Fire: Stories from Here and There” — comprised of his nonfiction stories in the News Journal through the years — is available through the Clinton County History Center in Wilmington, or you can reach Pat directly at 937-205-7844 or via email at [email protected] to purchase a copy.

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By Pat Haley

Contributing columnist