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Looking Back at Elton's Troubadour Appearance

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The Louder Than Sound website is looking back at Elton's first time in America.

 
The singer played the Troubadour in L.A., although the club's owner, Doug Weston, initially had his doubts. Travis Michael Holder, talent coordinator for the small but influential club, had met Elton in England, recording Your Song, and recognised the young man's talent. So did Russ Regan, which Bernie Taupin appreciated. He considered the head of the Uni record label to be a ''big-hearted maverick, whose belief in us was a key component to our success in America.''
 
Upon learning that Neil Diamond would introduce the group, Nigel Olsson recalled them ''freaking out. I mean, Neil Diamond, for god's sake.'' Russ even arranged for Elton to visit the more established performer at his home. 
 
Neil was concerned, though. ''He sat in my living room, holding his cap in his lap. He was super-quiet and shy. I thought to myself: 'This kid's never gonna make it.' ''
 
That afternoon at the Troubadour, Elton and his bandmates did a four-song soundcheck. Russ was too busy to attend, so he sent marketing manager Rick Frio. 
 
Rick said: ''The three guys were on stage, and the first thing I thought was that they were playing the record behind them. There was so much music coming out of those three fellas that it was incredible.'' 
 
After the show, Dick James Music's David Rosner, who had asked Neil to introduce Elton, recalled: ''The audience was expecting James Taylor . . . and they got a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Leonard Cohen. Someone with great depth and also great entertainment flair. They were certainly not expecting what they ultimately experienced, myself included.'' 
 
Nigel admitted that while the evening was magical, it ''also frightened us to death. I think Stephen Stills was there. I even think Diana Ross was sitting there. It was packed to the rafters, and we were so nervous about it. But once we cranked it up it was just amazing.''
 
Bernie was blown away, saying: ''You could see the surprise on their faces. It was almost movie-esque: people were tentative to begin with, then came smiles, and then tumultuous applause.''
 
Doug Weston didn't remember seeing ''anybody playing a piano with their feet up in the air like that.'' He said that no artist had ''captured the town as completely and thoroughly'' and that it was ''unique for a total unknown to have gotten such a widely positive response.''
 
Regan concurred. ''Elton and Nigel and Dee just brought the house down. We knew within 45 minutes that we had a superstar. It was electrifying.''
 
Yet the next morning, Elton seemed keen to downplay what had taken place. He told Rolling Stone magazine: ''I don't want the big star bit. I can't bear that bit. What I want is just to do a few gigs a week and really get away from everything and just write and have people say: 'Oh, Elton John? He writes good music.' ''
 
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