Elvis Presley’s GOLD Cadillac Tour of AUSTRALASIA 1968-69
Revised Edition in Colour
Peter R. (Bob) Hayden
Elvis' Wild in the Country Club Australia, 2011, Softcover, 106 pages, Illustrated, ISBN: none
Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, December 2011
Images courtesy of Peter R. Hayden
Put your hands up....how many of you knew that Elvis' Gold Cadillac was sent (in lieu of the King) on a tour of Australasia in the late 1960s? I'd wager that not too many fans are aware of this little known, but fascinating, part of the Elvis story.
Bob Hayden's revised edition of Elvis Presley’s GOLD Cadillac Tour of AUSTRALASIA 1968-69, is an exhaustive narrative and visual account of the tour.......an account many fans will find absorbing.
The first edition in 2009 of Hayden's 'labour of love' contained 56 pages. The revised edition almost doubles the number to 106 with the added bonus being that many of the visuals are now in glorious colour printed on premium/high quality, lustre (glossy) paper stock! The book size was originally A4 (1st edition) and this has been reduced to B5 for the revised edition. The change is a positive one, allowing for tighter page design, presentation of visuals and improved binding.
Since publishing the first edition, Hayden, one of Australia's most well known and respected rock 'n' roll collectors and experts, has been able to source out and amass significantly more information and photographs around the tour. The result is a well written and engrossing account highlighting the importance of Elvis "downunder", jam packed with fantastic visuals!!
The Gold Cadillac tour commenced in Sydney on 17 January 1968 before travelling around Australia.
Throughout 1968 the Cadillac was on display in 40 cities and towns in every State and Territory (except the Northern Territory) including Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Canberra (Australia's national capital), Goulburn, Port Augusta, Newcastle, Proserpine, Gympie, Rockhampton, Geelong, Latrobe, Ballarat and Wagga Wagga.
In January 1969 the Cadillac was shipped to New Zealand to finish its Antipodean visit.
Interior image: Plush back seat area
Hayden's narrative is engaging, enlightening and multi-layered!
Hayden's descriptive account of the Gold Cadillac tour is more than a simple narration! It is also a fascinating reflection of a by-gone era, a time capsule of different cultural and societal norms.....a period which will seem very foreign to younger Elvis fans.
It is the combination of narrative capture of a major Elvis event and socio-cultural time capsule that gives the book an effusive resonance beyond its primary story (and I will not comment on the fashions of the late 60's, particularly as I was a guilty party at the time!)
For example, I doubt many young fans (and even many older fans) will remember 8 track cartridges (technically specified as Stereo 8), a temporal music format from the mid 1960s to late 1970s. Elvis' Gold Cadillac featured not one, but two, 8 track machines, situated to the right of the record player.
Elvis owned many Cadillacs throughout his career and the author has managed to identify exactly which one was sent on tour "downunder" (see below).
The hundreds of visuals in the book are equally strong! Be it the wonderful exterior and interior shots of the Cadillac (many in full colour!), the photos of fans inspecting the Cadillac during the tour or the various media articles and promotional items, there is an absolute treasure trove of interesting photos.
Hayden's extensive and meticulous research is impressive and the minutae of information he has uncovered quite staggering - for example:
- how the Cadillac was freighted to Australia
- how much the Cadillac was insured for
- the cost of repairs due to damage caused by over zealous fans following the Gold Cadillac's earlier tour of the USA
- the Benevolent Society of New South Wales arranged for two 30 second television advertisements from Stafford Films in Sydney costing, in 1968, the princely sum of $77.45
- detailed description of the Cadillac's features
- tour notes for each city/town where the Cadillac was displayed
- firsthand accounts by many people involved in the tour
- that, while the original TV commercial tapes are lost, 15 seconds of footage of the Gold Cadillac being unloaded from the Grace Bros (now Myer) removals truck in Australia, can be found on the 2008 DVD release, Elvis on Elvis
- a listing of the Gold Record awards that were on display throughout the tour
Interior visual showing:
- Gold TV
- 8 track cassettes (in case originally used to house the refreshment bar utensils)
- record player (directly below 8 track cassettes)
- 8 track players (to right of records)
Visual highlights in the book include:
- great colour visuals of the plush inside of the Cadillac the display of Elvis' Gold Records on display throughout the tour
- Elvis' 'state-of-the-art' TV set which he could watch as he was driven from place to place
- the stunning hostess allowed to relax on top of Gold Cadillac's bonnet and the stunning winner of the Elvis Presley Golden Girl Quest
- actress Donna Douglas (Frankie and Johnny) on the set of The Beverly Hillbillies with the Gold Cadillac in the background
- Elvis with a fan (Suzanna) in front of the Cadillac on the set of Follow That Dream
- Elvis, the Colonel and Larry Geller on the set of Spinout (aka California Holiday) in front of the Cadillac
- the book's back cover which shows an amusing handwritten comment by Elvis about the Gold Cadillac tour
Preston Motors (now McRae Motors)
Hayden ensures the reader obtains a comprehensive "feel" for the Gold Cadillac tour "downunder" by including chapters dedicated to particular aspects of the event, such as:
- Elvis and Cadillacs
- Gold Cadillac USA Tour (in 1965)
- The Elvis Presley Golden Girl Quest
- Tour Highlights
Another book highlight is the Bonus Section which details the experiences of several Australians who were lucky enough to meet Elvis: Bob Stephens (President of the Sydney branch of the Australian Elvis Fan Club), Lyn Hook (President of the Sound of Elvis Fan Club in South Australia) and Angela Hamann, who traveled to Las Vegas and subsequently Houston, in February 1970 to see Elvis, at his peak, perform live on stage.
Their accounts are evocative and will make most readers envious of their privileged experience! Of special interest "downunder" is that Lyn Hook presented Elvis with an award marking 4 million record sales in Australia.
While not directly related to the Gold Cadillac Tour, other valuable inclusuions are 'Aussie' media reports from the 1950s and early 1960s about unsuccessful bids to secure a tour of Elvis himself, downunder.
In particular, a press item from 1959 suggests promoter Lee Gordon had obtained a signed contract for Elvis to appear in Australia for a performance fee of $300,00 following his discharge from the Army in 1960. Sadly, despite apparent advanced negotiations, this tour never eventuated (although Gordon was responsible for Elvis' wildly successful tour of North America and Canada in 1957).
While preparing this review I came across the following item in a 1992 edition of in The Man From Memphis, an Australian fan club newsletter. The late Dr Gary Enders wrote:
My sister, Geri, was the real Elvis fan and one day she persuaded me to drive 200 miles to Houston to see Elvis' Gold Cadillac. It was sometime in the mid-60's. The crowds were enormous which was a big surprise to me as Elvis was not "hip" at that time. Cadillacs are not my preferred automobile but the Gold Cadillac was a magnificent vehicle outfitted with record player, 8 track machines, TV and a bar. The interior fittings were striking and I remember there being gold curtains and the floor was covered by fur lining. In the mid-60's it was like seeing something out of The Jetsons. All those who saw the Cadillac were given a photo or postcard. Geri still has hers.
Dr Gary Enders (dec.) was the author of a number of academic papers about Elvis including: Elvis: Coming Back from the Dark Age, Institute of Culture and Politics, USA, 2000 and Elvis: Cultural Influence, Intolerance and Political Correctness!, 2003-04 Online Symposium on Elvis Aaron Presley
Also of interest is an article from the popular weekly newstand magazine, Everybody's, 'Elvis Presley Promises I Will Visit Australia'.
Another non-Gold Cadillac Tour media report is that in 1967, Memphis Mayor, William B. Ingram, attempted to have the Mid South Coliseum renamed in Elvis' honor. That the move badly backfired highlights that even after Elvis had been widely accepted, many members of the establishment still regarded him in a negative light, including.....quite worryingly.....in his long time "home" town!!
The machinery of transportation arrangements (particularly internationally) in the non-Internet and non-computerised late 1960s were arguably quite primitive compared to the technically advanced standards of 2012. Consequently, the logistics of safely arranging the display of an important rock 'n' roll artefact like Elvis' Gold Cadillac in 1968-69 would have been enormous. That it was achieved without major drama and Elvis' Gold Cadillac was displayed in every Australian State and Territory bar the Northern Territory, is most impressive.
1968 Royal Easter Show, Sydney, Australia
How do you recognise Elvis' Gold Cadillac if you see it?: For the record, Bob Hayden has identified the touring vehicle as being a 1960 Series 75 Fleetwood Limousine (that cost $11,000). The vehicle registration number of the Gold Cadillac in 1968-69 was AO-6042 (the registration plates are believed to be currently in the possession of a private collector).
The Gold Cadillac looks dated: While images of Elvis' famous Gold Cadillac and its many features and fittings may appear dated by today's standards, at the time, the Gold Cadillac was very much "state-of-the-art" and it's many features marveled onlookers!
As detailed in Bob Hayden's book, the Gold Cadillac was certainly something else. The improvements Elvis made to the vehicle often saw it referred to as the "$75,000 Gold Cadillac" (although Hayden notes it is likely this figure was exaggerated).
As examples of the improvements made to the vehicle, Hayden records:
The Cadillac would then be repainted with forty coats of translucent pure diamond dust pearl which consisted of crushed diamonds and fish scales from the orient....
The headlight rims, door handles, exterior mirrors, hubcap 'bullets' and internal rear and front section fittings would be plated with 24-carat gold....
The interior would be styled like a yacht and featured an elaborate centre lounge section with the rear seat being semi-circular in shape.....
Was the tour successful?: The tour was very successful, raising almost $150,000 for the NSW Benevolent Society of NSW and sixteen other charities around Australia. To put that in perspective, $150,000 in 1969 equals almost $1,000,000 in 2011!
That around 500,000* Australians viewed the Cadillac is a stunning testament to Elvis' socio-cultural significance!
Reviewer's personal anecdote about the tour: The display of the Gold Cadillac in Canberra took place in the car park behind David Jones, a major department store located in what was then the Monaro Mall (now the Canberra Centre). As I recall, Elvis' Cadillac was housed in a 'circus-sized' white tent. While I, then aged a tender 13 and still a year away from becoming an Elvis fan, did not view or drive the Cadillac, I did watch with interest the long queue of people lined up to enter the tent for their indirect encounter with rock and roll royalty. Am I kicking myself today for not parting with 20 cents........ABSOLUTELY!!!
Verdict: The revised edition of Bob Hayden's Elvis Presley’s GOLD Cadillac Tour of AUSTRALASIA 1968-69, adds significant value to the record of what is a little known, but important part of the Elvis story. Elvis historians will welcome the result of Hayden's painstaking and extensive research while other fans will be impressed with the incredible and eclectic amount of detail, both narrative and visual, that the author presents.
* In 1968 Australia's population was approximately 12 million.
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ELVIS PRESLEY’S GOLD Cadillac Tour of AUSTRALASIA 1968-69 Revised Edition in Colour
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Read EIN's review of the first edition of:
ELVIS PRESLEY’S GOLD Cadillac Tour of AUSTRALASIA 1968-69
Jim McRae: Thoroughly enjoyed your review of this excellent book. It was a great pleasure to read all the great information accumulated by the author. My only regret was i went and saw the car at the Easter Show but forgot my camera! Keep writing them books Bob. Looking forward to the next one.
Jimmy Kingston: Good review. My dad and mum saw the caddy in Melbourne and they were married in a 59 Deville.
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