The night I played for "Elvis"

    It is August of 1976 and I am the house pianist for the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas playing the "Folies Bergere" show twice a night. I did this for six nights a week having Friday off for three years.  So, on my Friday off I get a call, in the afternoon, from the contractor for the Las Vegas Hilton that the piano player for Elvis injured his arm and can't play the show that night.  He asked me if I would come in and sight read the show.  I agreed to this, but thinking on it now, I think I was crazy for doing it.  Too much pressure.  Never know what they are going to throw at you.  That being said, off I go.

    What can I say but playing for Elvis was pure pandemonium, not from him but from his fans.  I could hardly hear him sing there was so much screaming from the ladies in the audience.  Sometimes he would forget the lyrics to a song and the audience would start singing the lyrics for him.  Also, some of the ladies would throw their room keys and bras up onto the stage.  Elvis had to literally duck from the on coming hotel keys. On the opening number I had to play the organ.  Elvis was introduced with the theme from "also sprach zarathustra" with flashing spot lights and the orchestra playing as loud as you can imagine.  

    "Just make sure you hit the low c on the organ," was the only instruction I got from the contractor as he handed me the music.  Of course I never even spoke with the conductor. The contractor was more concerned that he could see my white Tee-shirt under my black shirt than going over the music with me.  "This is not going to be fun," I thought to myself.    I must mention that Elvis did a great show in spite of all the distractions from his fans.  Oh, he always had this scraf around his neck and he would wipe the sweat off his face and throw it into the audience.  It was like starving piranha smelling meat when he did this.  The ladies in the audiences would jump out of their seats to get that scarf.  Well, during the course of the performance he did notice that his regular pianist wasn't there and looked at me and said, "I was doing a great job."  It's nice to get favorable feed back from a super star.  When he finished his last number the spot lights started flashing and the band played even louder than the first time.  I was stunned with excitement having just accompanied "The King" for a night.  I can still see the setting in my mind's eye.  

What a terrific memory to have stored in my brain.  That night I played for "Elvis!"


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