Prehistoric birds and sundials -- Elvis' later problems with jumpsuit selection

For most of 1976, beginning with his April tour and ending with his September shows, Elvis wore one of his two "Prehistoric Bird" (aka "Bicentennial") suits on just about every night. Similarly, in 1977, Elvis wore his Sundial suit almost constantly from his March tour through is last tour, in June -- the only exceptions were the few nights when he wore his King of Spades suit. Interestingly, Elvis wore both of these suits for the first time (as far as we know) during his short October, 1974 Lake Tahoe engagement -- a fact I was blissfully unaware of until the Crazy Canuck told me and put the photos on his (excellent) web site. For whatever reason, Elvis decided to tuck those two suits away until more than two years later, when he couldn't stay out of them.

Why did Elvis not vary his "sartorial splendor" more during 1976 and 1977? My guess is that he was depressed, and not really very interested in what he wore or in variety itself. The shows he was most "up" for in that last 18 months, by my subjective reckoning, were the ones in which he wore more different suits -- the March, October, November, and December concerts of 1976 and the first tour of 1977. It's also quite possible that Elvis didn't fit most of his older suits, but I think that is less likely for at least a good many of the suits I claim Elvis may have been able to get into during that period.

By my estimate, Elvis would have been able to fit into suits he'd first worn at least as far back as May, 1974 (possibly earlier). The way I figure this is as follows:

In the March, 1976 tour Elvis wore suits that dated back as far as June, 1975.

On the April tour and April-May Tahoe engagement, he donned the Blue Aztec suit (from July, 1975) at least a couple of times -- during that 1975 tour, Elvis had also worn suits from the June tour that should also fit him if the Aztec suit did.

On the October tour, Elvis wore (in addition to the Flame suit), the Red Eagle and Indian suits (June, 1975), the King of Spades suit (October, 1974), and the Rainbow and Inca Gold Leaf suits (May and June, 1974). This means that suits originally worn as far back as May, 1974 could have been worn by Elvis on the preceding 1976 tours, as well, that have in common jumpsuits from the Summer of 1975. Elvis' November and December tours offered the same chronological range of jumpsuit choices, as did his final Las Vegas engagement.

The February, 1977 tour had Elvis in the Sundial and King of Spades jumpsuits that would -- starting with the next tour -- be all he wore on stage until his last show was done. He also, though, wore the Rainfall (December, 1975) and Indian (June, 1975) suits, providing a link to the late 1976 shows that -- in turn -- linked all the way back to at least May, 1974.

If these logical chronological linkages reflect reality, Elvis could have worn AT LEAST the following jumpsuits during the final tour that was filmed for his posthumously-released 1977 TV special:

American Eagle
Inca Gold Leaf
Turquoise Eagle
August, 1974 leather suits
Black Spanish Flower suits
King of Spades
White eagle
Blue eagle
Red eagle
Blue Aztec
Penguin suit

Quite a collection to choose from. I, for one, would have liked to have seen Elvis in the Dragon and Tiger suits for that TV Special (of course, I'd have liked it even more if he was in better condition and, moreover, if the special weren't posthumously-released).

It's possible that Elvis had some of the 1974 and 1975 suits he wore in 1976 and 1977 resized, which would invalidate my rough analysis, but (a) I'm not sure how feasible that would be, given the stresses placed on the suits, and (b) if he did, then why didn't he have more let out? Besides, the conventional wisdom that Elvis stopped having himself measured for new suits also suggests that any adjustments to existing suits would have had to be guesswork -- might as well do a whole new suit.

By the way, Elvis wore his vest-style tops from the August, 1971 season offstage during his June, 1974 tour, which (although he wore the vest open in 1974) potentially extends the possible range of Elvis' jumpsuit choices all the way back to 1971. It's also been suggested that Elvis had his late-'76 Flame suit built for the May, 1973 Tahoe engagement, so who knows?

The Sundial suit, as it turned out, was somewhat fitting as Elvis' main stage costume for his last few tours -- entering the concert hall to the strains of an anthem to the sun god, the sun was going down on Elvis (as the Beatles once sang -- and I'm sure there's no mystical link here -- "The Sun King"), and time was quickly running out for the man.

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