45 Years Ago: Elvis Presley Sells Out Madison Square Garden

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll shattered many records during his incredible career. Forty-five years ago this weekend, he became the first entertainer in history to sell out four consecutive shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Elvis’ Madison Square Garden shows were the first time Elvis performed in front of a live audience in New York since his TV appearances on the Dorsey Brothers, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan shows in 1956 and 1957. Elvis performed before an audience of 20,000 fans at each of the four shows that took place June 9-11, 1972 (that’s a total of 80,000 fans for the entire weekend). Initially, only three shows were booked, but those sold out instantly, so the fourth show on June 11 was added.

Elvis spoke about fame, his career and more at the press conference.

Elvis spoke about fame, his career and more at the press conference.

Elvis held a press conference on June 9 at the New York Hilton, where he candidly answered questions from reporters. Here are a few of those questions and answers:

Reporter: You used to be criticized so much for our long hair and gyrations, and you seem so modest now.
Elvis: Man, I was tame compared to what they do now, are you kidding…I didn’t do anything but just jiggle.

Reporter: Elvis, are you satisfied with the image you’ve established?
Elvis: Well the image is one thing; a human being is another.

Reporter: How close does it come? How close does the image come to the man you really are?
Elvis: It’s very hard to live up to an image. I’ll put it that way.

Reporter: Why do you think you’ve outlasted every other entertainer from the fifties, and for that matter, the sixties as well?
Elvis: I take Vitamin E. (laughs) I was only kidding. I don’t know. I just…embarrass myself. I don’t know dear, I just enjoy the business. I like what I’m doing.

Elvis used the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" for his grand entrance at each Madison Square Garden show. Photo by George Kalinsky.

Elvis used the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” for his grand entrance at each Madison Square Garden show. Photo by George Kalinsky.

Elvis’ setlist for all four shows included his early hits, fan-favorite songs from his movies and newer hit songs. “American Trilogy,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “That’s All Right,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” were all included at each of the shows. David Bowie, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Art Garfunkel were spotted at the shows.

Madison Square Garden's official photographer, George Kalinsky, captured Elvis' historic concerts.

Madison Square Garden’s official photographer, George Kalinsky, captured Elvis’ historic concerts.

Elvis received rave reviews in three features in the New York Times.
“He looked like a prince from another planet, narrow-eyed, with high Indian cheek bones and a smooth brown skin untouched by his 37 years,” Chris Chase wrote in the Times. “When Elvis started to work with the mike, his right hand flailing air, his left leg moving as though it had a life of its own, time stopped, and everyone in the place was 17 again… Elvis used the stage, he worked to the people. The ones in front, in the best seats, the ones in back, and up in the peanut galleries. He turned, he moved, and when a girl threw a handkerchief on the stage, he wiped his forehead with it and threw it back, a gift of sweat from an earthy god.”

In addition to Elvis, Madison Square Garden has hosted many music legends, including John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, George Harrison, Madonna, U2, Elton John and many more. Photo by George Kalinsky.

In addition to Elvis, Madison Square Garden has hosted many music legends, including John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, George Harrison, Madonna, U2, Elton John and many more. Photo by George Kalinsky.

Nine days after the last Madison Square Garden show, RCA released a live album from one of the shows, called “Elvis as Recorded at Madison Square Garden.”

If you want to learn more about Elvis’ career, see his famous dazzling jumpsuits and check out his amazing display of Gold, Platinum and Diamond Awards, you’ve got to visit Graceland. You can find artifacts from his record-breaking career in our new museum, Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum. Make your plans today to get to know the “prince from another planet.”


22 Comments

  1. Beverly

    When I was in 7th grade, my parents had just divorced a few months before and my mom worked three jobs to care for my two younger brothers and I. Once Saturday, I was home alone and very bored. I noticed under the Christmas tree a couple of presents were there and one of them was the shape of a record album. I had asked for an Elvis record. I picked it up and pressed the paper down and could see that it was the album, “Live From Madison Square Garden!” I was so excited! I put it back and picked it up a couple more times and on the next time I picked it up to look through the paper, I had the thought that I could gently untape it and look at the cover better. So, I did. Once I got it out of the paper, I thought I might as well play it on my record player. I listened to Elvis all afternoon and then put it all back. I did have fun listening to it, but the guilt was unbearable. I still feel guilty to this day. I recently bought the cd of this album, just for the memories.

    • Beverly

      Typo in my comment, so sorry. Pressed submit before I caught it!

      • I love your story! I went thru the same thing in 1969. I went into my parents closet for something and spied Christmas gifts waiting to be wrapped. I found Memphis/Vegas/Memphis. OMG, I almost screamed. I could not wait for Christmas. So when I did open it, I kind of had to force my surprise. I must’ve done a good job because my parents smiled with glee. I hope you still have your LP. I have mine. The memories it brings back. Your story is so cool, because you played it and then put it back in the paper! BRILLIANT!

    • MaryRose

      I love the CD, too. My favorite song is “For the Good Times”. If that had been me, “E” was singing about, I would never have “left that gorgeous creature”! He really was a “prince from another planet”! He had so much charisma. When I watched one of his movies, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him and because of that, I couldn’t really concentrate on the movie, so I would have to watch it again and again and again! There will never be another Elvis, but his memory will live on in the hearts of his fans, forever!

  2. Joanne Lortie

    Amazing for that era to have had over 80,000 fans attend at weekend concert!
    Only Elvis could have done that in those days!
    I do have that album from the best Entertainer that ever walked the face of this earth! Love you forever ELVIS!

  3. Guillermo Perez Arguello

    My comment now finalized….. In alphabetical order, these were some of the the superstars or future superstars who attended the concerts, i) a recenty signed David Bowie ii) a desguised Bob Dylan, iii) Art Garfunkel iv) George Harrison v) a very young Billy Joel vi) the entire line of Led Zeppelin, vii) a desguised John Lennon, viii) Paul Simon, iX) a very young Bruce Springsteen, and x) the entire line up of Ten Years After…..

  4. John T

    The first album that I ever bought. It was in 1977 and I bought with some of my birthday money. I was just 13 at the time.Still listen to it on CD to this day along with the garden cd. Love both concerts allbums

  5. Ken Schultz

    I will never forget being at the 6/10/1972 show at MSG in the afternoon. You talk about an event. When he came on stage the arena just lit up with camera flashes. His voice was unbelievable. I still remember thinking I can’t believe I’m here seeing Elvis on stage.

  6. Simply the best, better than all the rest!
    I had travelled from England with my 11 month old daughter in June 1972 and was outside Madison Squ. Garden hoping for a glimpse of Elvis. The nearest I ever got to him, except when I visited Graceland in 2010.

  7. Linda Wolf

    Often Imitated NEVER equalled! There is only ONE Elvis! Was blessed to have seen him twice in concert! What an amazing entertainer!

  8. Toni Kelly

    I was at the June 10th show. He was absolutely wonderful. I was in the top rows and still felt like he knew we were there. I then went on to see him in Las Vegas. No other performer before or after Elvis could enthrall like that.

  9. Marc-A. Comtois Comtois

    The Prince from another planet is the King of this planet…always will be…all the others are pretenders!!

  10. "Pok salad Annie"

    Elvis The Greatest Entertainer That Ever Lived and No Frank Sinatra could not sin” My Way” like THE KING!

  11. Cyndi Fought

    I was 9 yrs old the first time I saw Elvis in a Movie, and I asked my parents “who’s that man” they said ELVIS of course, and that was it, I was hooked, the sound of his voice would make me feel calm…My first 45 was Jail House Rock. I played that over and over on my little box of a record player…..My grandmother and I were very close, my grandfather had passed when I was 3, and she would take me with her when she went to visit her friends, I sat and watched the Sunday movies(in 1968) and they sat and talked I did’nt mind all because back then they played Elvis’s movie’s, I was in heaven…Of course I bought every Elvis album…In my High School yrs people made fun of me I did’nt care….In my teen yrs my father drank a lot and if you were smart you went to your room, and I was smart(haha) this was in the 70’s when they had those headphones that the ear part was like a ear muff…I would put those on and blast my Elvis, there was no world out there anymore, just Elvis….Because no one thought to make Elvis wall paper I had enough pictures on my wall that it actually did look like I had Elvis wall paper when I was a Junior in high school…I’ve never been to Graceland that is on my bucket list, however I have to wait until it’s handicapped acessable…I’m 58 now and I’ve been listening to Elvis for a long time, I make it a point that I play Elvis on his birthday and the day the world lost someone that no one can ever replace, and of course Christmas…If I’m feeling down I still listen to him, his voice still calms me, and I also had “Can’t falling In Love with you” as my first dance song at my wedding(no one surprised) and I have made it know that Elvis be played at my funeral…I have so many favorite Elvis songs it;s hard tom say my Favorite but if you forced me to pick one, because it makes me cry and feel awesome all at the same time my pick would be “How Great Thou Art” I believe once your a Elvis fan you are ALWAYS a fan….

  12. Those concerts also inspired future rock stars, such as Paul Stanley of Kiss, who as a New York city cab driver delivered fans to Elvis’ concerts.

  13. Vinny larocca

    As big an elvis fan as i am, to this day i wonder how the hell i did not attend one of those shows being a ny’er in my early twenties. What in the world was i thinking or doing??? I had my chance.

  14. Gene DiNapoli

    Hi i dont know who wrote this but Elvis did not perform Bridge over troubled water at every show.
    I believe it was only 1 show

  15. Mary Alice Pena-Lopez

    I can’t wait for Elvis Week, Elvis was a gift we were blessed with, his music will live on forever all over the world! when I hear Elvis singing it’s like praying, or
    Jesus saying I send you an angel for you to identify with, but I AM ALWAYS HERE! Elvis would say, “there is only one King, and that is OUR CREATOR, Elvis always prayed before
    going on stage, he loved the fans, and died holding
    a book of JESUS, now he is home again in Heaven!

  16. I was at the afternoon show with my dad the sound st the garden was great you can always tell when the Elvis channel plays a song from the garden by the sound of the crowd

  17. stephen stathis

    EP conquered NY and six months later or so the world. Nothing left. He knew it too since the Hawaii show meant there would be no world tour. Nothing left for him to do.

  18. Janet Davies

    I remember when a women asked Elvis if he was OK with women’s liberation, and he said he wouldn’t comment on it, which for me said t all, also on the DVD Elvis by the Presley’s, the family said Elvis didn’t agree with it.
    The CD of the show is amazing, I listen to it all the time

  19. Londette Lee Strang

    I want to know if the Madison square Garden concert was professionally filmed. I bought and sent back 2 of the Prince from Another Planet because the video looked like it was filmed by an amatuer. If it was professionally filmed I would like to purhcase the DVD. Lee Strang

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