2024 Find of the Month Archive

January 2024 - Elton John plays tennis

Elton John and Bill McGrath at Seattle Tennis Center

When Elton John played a sold out show at KeyArena in May 1999, the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer both printed glowing reviews with details about the concert. They reported that he wore a purple plaid suit and a skull-and-crossbones earring, and was accompanied only by his piano (as well as smoke effects and a light show). He played and sang for nearly three hours, leading the P-I’s review to be headlined "Elton Fans Treated to a Marathon."

Perhaps his stamina for performing was increased by his daily exercise at city recreation facilities while he was in the area. A Parks Department newsletter from that August spilled the beans on how he’d been keeping busy while not on stage, in this article written by Seattle Tennis Center director Bill McGrath:

By night he was captivating thousands of fans with his sold-out solo piano concerts in Portland, Seattle, and Spokane. But by day, he was on the court at the Seattle Tennis Center, playing the game that he so loves.

For one week in late May, Elton John played every morning with his own fellow Brit tennis pro, Chris Clark, at the Seattle Tennis Center. The scene was much the same every day, with Elton arriving in a black limo accompanied by his bodyguard who doubled as match scorekeeper.

I’d rate Elton a solid 4.0. He played a defensive style against the serve and volley, attacking Clark. Using a combination of crisp passing shots, off pace low balls and lobs, he appeared to hold his own.

Our staff at the Tennis Center kept a wrap on Elton’s presence on the courts, so he was able to play without being noticed by the other players.

The facility was renamed the Amy Yee Tennis Center in 2002 to honor a local woman who had offered free tennis clinics to adults and youth for over thirty years.

Municipal Archives, City Clerk

Anne Frantilla, City Archivist
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The Office of the City Clerk maintains the City's official records, provides support for the City Council, and manages the City's historical records through the Seattle Municipal Archives. The Clerk's Office provides information services to the public and to City staff.