AUGUSTA, Maine — It was one show in May 1977 featuring one singer with his backup band that created memories that are still strong, 46 years later,
That singer was Elvis.
The King of Rock 'n' Roll played at a packed house at the August Civic Center on May 24, 1977—the only time he ever performed in Maine. That concert, as it turned out, was less than three months before Elvis died.
Augusta Civic Center director Margaret Noel says that concert has become a cherished part of the venue’s 50-year history.
"People will walk up to me and say hey, I was there,” Noel said.
And then said the long memories of Elvis don’t surprise her.
“No,” she responded after a moment’s thought. “He’s the King of Rock 'n' Roll right?”
Honoring the memory became a key piece of this year’s 50th-anniversary celebration, as Noel and the facility’s advisory group came up with a slightly ambitious goal: Try to set a new Guinness world record for Elvis impersonators.
On August 15, the crowd put on sunglasses, wigs, and costumes, many possibly relieved to see so many others dressed as they were, especially those in the flashy white jumpsuits favored by Elvis in the later years of his career. Those suits with bell-bottom pant legs, red scarves, turned-up collars, and sequins were on people of all ages, from children to old folks with walkers.
“In a conversation with my two daughters 19 and 24 years old, they decided what better way to get dad into a compromising position than to get him to dress up like Elvis,” Augusta’s Deputy Police Chief Kevin Lully said, whose white jumpsuit, black wig and big sunglasses, set a standard for others in the crowd.
He admitted the outfit also caused a few double-takes from motorists as he drove his police cruiser to the civic center.
The trademark jumpsuit was one of three “approved” outfits for the world record attempt. Others were the early, “Jailhouse Rock” Elvis featuring a jean jacket and striped shirt, along with the mid-career Elvis look of flashy, oversized sport coats.
The crowd was excited and having fun, but it became apparent to civic center officials they were not going to have a sufficient supply of Elvis look-alikes to break the existing record of 895.
That, however, didn’t stop the party.
Led by professional Elvis tribute artist Jessi Mallory of Bangor, the rockers (most of them) eagerly sang "You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog" for three minutes and did their best to dance along with the music, using a simple hip motion taught by Mallory, to emulate one of the King’s famous moves.
The driving bass and drumbeat of the song energized the crowd, who sang and shook their way through the full “Hound Dog” song and then a restart, to meet the requisite 3-minute time.
They counted 250 Elvises, said Margaret Noel, which was far short of the record.
In the moment, however, that didn’t seem to matter.
They had all dressed, had a good time, and paid tribute to a slice of Maine rock history.
“If we break the record or not, it's not the important piece,” Noel said. “This is for the fans. This is something we’re trying to do as a legacy event for our 50th anniversary, We break the record, don’t break the record, we will wake up tomorrow, happy we did it.
A few sets later, her "Jailhouse Rock" outfit retired to the closet, Noel said she was already hearing from people who had so much fun that they want the civic cerner to try for the world record again.
“We’ll see,” Margaret Noel said.
After all, in just four years, they can mark the 50th anniversary of that memorable concert.
At the Augusta Civic Center, Elvis has clearly not left the building.