It must've been an incredible experience being in the audience during Elvis' final show for the Louisiana Hayride on December 15, 1956. Thanks to Sony’s RCA/Legacy label and it's release of the 5 CD box set Young Man With The Big Beat it's now possible to join the mass hysteria that took place that night at the Hirsch Youth Center of the Louisiana Fairgrounds.
The third CD of the box set features the show from start to finish (although the first half of "Heartbreak Hotel" is missing) and it's great finally being able to listen to all ten songs from this historical occasion.
From the start it's clear that the audience is going crazy over Elvis. The 9,000 fans that attended are screaming, cheering and yelling constantly during the half hour the show lasts. Lee Cotten describes it as "waves of noise washing across the stage," and that's exactly what it sound like. If it isn't mass hysteria, then I don't know what to call it.
The show kicks off with "Heartbreak Hotel" and already the place is cooking. Elvis then introduces the next number with, "Here's a sad song," and launches himself into a breathtaking version of "Long Tall Sally."
"Hey, are we on radio," he jokes before doing "I Was The One," exaggerating the line "She lived-ahhh, she loved, she laughed, she cried," sending the audience in a frenzy, then changing the line to "I'll never know, I wish it would snow," interestingly enough getting no reaction at all.
"We'd like to do a song from the movie, friends, from which I got blasted... yeah, right here," he kids the audience and then delivers a fine version of "Love Me Tender," extra verse and all. "Now we'd like to do one of my biggest records for you, friends, it's a song called ..." Elvis does "Don't Be Cruel" in a style similar to the one he did eleven days earlier, during the Million Dollar Quartet session, that is, Elvis imitating Jackie Wilson imitating Elvis.
"Love Me" follows, in a version that stays true to the one on his second LP album. The crowd is going absolutely wild. So is D.J. Fontana during the next song, a frantic "I Got A Woman," that drives the audience crazy again. The Jordanaires does a great job on "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again," a version sounding very much like the studio recording as well.
Then it's time for the only known live recording of "Paralyzed." "Nobody move, I think I see Moby Dick," Elvis says before he starts singing, and it's easy to visualize him lifting the microphone stand, just like he would 12 years later right before singing "Don't Be Cruel" during the shooting of his 1968 Comeback Special. Of course, the audience is as far from paralyzed as can be during the song, shouting at the top of their lungs.
Elvis then closes the show with the rousing, extra-long version of "Hound Dog," released in 1984 on the LP titled Elvis: The First Live Recordings. Only this time we get the whole song, including a spoken introduction by Elvis as well: "As a great philosopher once said ... and we quote ... You ain't nothin' but a Hound ..." Awesome!
So, simply put, this is a show you can't afford to miss. And you don't even have to buy the complete Young Man With The Big Beat box set to join the mass hysteria, as the individual tracks are available as downloads on iTunes and Amazon (although the tracks are off limits on Amazon for those of us living in Sweden, while iTunes works just fine).