Margaret Noel’s father stood in line all night outside the Augusta Civic Center in 1977 just to snag tickets for the Elvis concert scheduled for May 24 that year.
“But when they showed up, my mother’s seat didn’t really exist,” said Noel, now the director of the historic Maine building. “But then they got some kind of upgrade.”
Despite the hassles, the concert was likely worth the effort, as that fateful show turned out to be the only one The King would ever perform in the Pine Tree State. He died later that year, on Aug. 16, the day before he was scheduled to perform in Portland.
But now, 46 years after he passed on to the great stage in the sky, Elvis is finally making a triumphant return to Augusta — sort of.
On Aug. 15, the city of Augusta will attempt to set a world record for the most Elvis impersonators singing “Hound Dog ” at one time. If successful, it will be the crowning achievement of the Civic Center’s yearlong 50th birthday celebration.
The current record is 895, but organizers are aiming to smash that with a full 1,200 costumed, hip-swiveling singers.
“We want to be in the record books for more than a little while,” said Noel, who is heading up the effort. “It’s a community event, and the city will hold the record.”
The attempt is for the official Guinness World Record but, due to the organization’s rules, Noel said she cannot advertise it as such until one week before the event.
Choosing this kind of event to mark the Civic Center’s birthday was a no-brainer, according to Noel. Despite the hundreds of concerts, graduations, basketball games and weddings which have taken place in the building over the last half-century, the Elvis concert is easily the most celebrated occasion.
“Still, once or twice a week, I get people who mention it to me,” she said. “They say, ‘I was there.'”
The auditorium even has a large, bronze plaque in the lobby marking The King’s historic show there.
Costumes for the free, record-attempting event don’t have to be costly, but in order to make it official, everyone must be immediately recognizable as Elvis. To facilitate the effort, organizers are giving folks three options and sets of guidelines.
First is the 1957-ish “Jailhouse Rock”-era Elvis. To pull off this look, black loafers, white socks, blue jeans, a black-and-white striped shirt and jean jacket are recommended.
The second option is the movie-era Elvis look, which includes black loafers, white socks, black dress pants and an oversized suit jacket — preferably of baby blue, pink or tweed — over a bowling shirt.
Option number three is, of course, a white, rhinestone-spangled jumpsuit with a thick, gaudy belt.
Once every costumed entrant is OK’d at the door, the massive group will sing Elvis’ 1956, number one song “Hound Dog,” which was a revved-up cover of Big Mama Thorton’s blues hit of a few years prior.
“Once we’re set, it’ll take less than three minutes,” Noel said.
It’s a short song — but there’s more to the event than just the record attempt.
Maine’s best-known Elvis tribute artist, Jessi Mallory, will sing the exact set of songs The King belted out on the Civic Center stage in 1977.
“I would call myself an Elvis encyclopedia,” Mallory said, “and I have a lot of information others would call useless — but it’s not useless to me.”
Mallory, who is 42-years-old — the exact age Elvis was when he died — is too young to have seen the Augusta show, back in the day.
“But I’ve been a fan ever since my mother gave me my first Elvis record when I was four years old,” Mallory said.
Mallory, who lives in Milford, will be dressed as a ’50s version of The King for the record attempt and then will don an exact replica of the jumpsuit he wore at the Augusta show. It’s currently being made by Elvis costume experts in Australia, and its $1,500 price tag was covered by Mallory’s fans.
In addition to wearing the same clothes, while singing the same set of songs, on the same stage, Mallory will perform a duet with a woman related to one of Elvis’ backup singers.
“I want everything to be as authentic as possible, to give people the feeling that they were there,” Mallory said. “I do this for Elvis and his fans. It’s all about them.”
Noel said she still has many final details to work out before the big event, like what kind of food to serve. She’d like to have Elvis-themed hors devours, but fried banana, peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches might be a bit much.
“We’ll see,” Noel said. “I hear he liked bacon.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the recording breaking attempt. It will be on Aug. 15, 2023.