Bass player Duke Bardwell Remembers The King’s Homecoming Concerts
by Arjan Deelen for Elvis Express Radio
Thirty-five years ago this week, Elvis performed in his hometown Memphis for the first
time in 13 years, for a total of 5 sell-out concerts in front of 62,000 fans.
Elvis’ mid-70s bassplayer Duke Bardwell remembers that Elvis was nervous about
these homecoming concerts, and wanted to give his best to his hometown folks.

“He was nervous, he really was”, Bardwell remembers. “I was nervous too – he hadn’t
played in his hometown in 13 years, and we all really wanted it to go well for him”.
Elvis rose to the occasion, and he gave the hometown folks five dynamite shows in
true Presley style.

On stage, he looked breathtaking in his dazzling white outfits, and his sense of
excitement about these concerts made him even more animated than usual; he
charmed the crowds every night with his powerful charisma and his magnificent voice,
which he used to great effect on songs like ‘Trying To Get To You’, ‘How Great Thou
Art’ and ‘American Trilogy’. Bardwell remembers that everybody involved was very
pleased with the shows. “It went well”, he says today, “The energy was good”.

The final Memphis concert on March 20th, 1974 was recorded by RCA for release
later that year. “They were pretty smart about that”, Bardwell observes, “They didn’t
say anything to us about it”. Elvis was real psyched about doing a live-album in his
hometown because “this is where it all started out for me”, and right before he went on
stage, he said: “Man, I’m ready and prepared for this recording session”.

The resulting album, “Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis”, reached #33 in the
Billboard Album Charts and sold about half a million copies following its release in July
1974. The album got rave reviews in publications like “Rolling Stone”, and Elvis
received a Grammy award for the sensational live-version of ‘How Great Thou Art’
(“Well I’ll be darned!”, Bardwell enthusiastically says, clearly unaware of the Grammy
award until now). It was, as Bardwell observes, “a great show”.

For Bardwell, the album is very special because he gets a rather unusual name-check
from Presley: “Yes. He says ‘Anyhow Duke, not talkin’ to you personally, Duke, just
killing time so I can drink water’… Good God!”, Bardwell says laughingly, “I remember
thinking, ‘If you're going to talk to me, talk to me, but don't say: 'I'm not talking to you'.
My family still think that that’s real funny”.

Elvis Express Radio © Arjan Deelen