The Pop History Dig

“Do You Love Me?”
1962 & 1988

2003 Motown CD showing the 1960s' group, The Contours.
2003 Motown CD showing the 1960s' group, The Contours.
      It was early summer 1962.  Berry Gordy, Jr., of Motown Records was in a swivet.  He was itching to record a new piece of music he was sure would be a hit record.  The name of the song was “Do You Love Me?,” a jumpy dance tune that Gordy thought would be perfect for The Temptations, a new singing group destined to become one of Motown’s top performers.  At the time, the Temptations had no hit records,  but Gordy believed his new song would be just the ticket to send them on their way.  So on that day he was on a frantic search to find the group to record the song.  But the Temptations couldn’t be found; they were out working a gospel review.  It happened, however, that Gordy ran into another group of Motown artists in the hallways of his studio; a group called The Contours, the group that finally recorded the song.

     “Do You Love Me?” became a major 1962 hit single for The Contours on Motown’s “Gordy” record label, with Berry Gordy writing and producing the song.  The Contours then consisted of singers Billy Gordon, Hubert Johnson, Billy Hoggs, Joe Billingslea, Sylvester Potts, and guitarist Hugh Davis.  The group had recorded and released two previous singles – “Whole Lotta’ Woman” and “The Stretch” – but neither had charted.  In fact, the Contours were then in danger of being dropped from the label, until that afternoon when fate smiled upon them.

Original Gordy record label 45 rpm recording of 'Do You Love Me?,' first issued in June 1962.
Original Gordy record label 45 rpm recording of 'Do You Love Me?,' first issued in June 1962.
      “Do You Love Me?,” released in late June 1962, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard pop singles chart, and was No. 1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart.  An album titled, Do You Love Me? (Now That I Can Dance), was also released in October 1962 – the first album ever released on the Gordy Records label.  The single sold over 1 million copies and the album had respectable sales as well.  

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“Do You Love Me?”

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     “Do You Love Me?” was also covered in the U.K. by a group named Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and went No. 1 there for three weeks in October 1963.  The Dave Clark Five also did a version of the song in 1964 that went to No. 11 in the U.S.  The Contours, meanwhile, became a headlining act for Motown and were part of the first Motor Town Revue tour. Although no other Top 40 hits materialized for the Contours on the pop charts, they did turn out several other successful dance tunes that rose into the R&B Top 40, including, “Shake Sherry”(1962), “First I Look at The Purse” (1965), and “Just A Little Misunderstanding” (1966), among others.  By 1967, the group’s seven-year contract with Motown had expired.  A year later, after the Contours’ lead singer Dennis Edwards was asked to replace the departed David Ruffin of The Temptations, The Contours disbanded.


Dirty Dancing

Cover of 1988's 'More Dirty Dancing' CD, which includes the Contours' original 1962 hit song 'Do You Love Me?,' which hit the 'Billboard Hot 100' for a second time in 1988.
Cover of 1988's 'More Dirty Dancing' CD, which includes the Contours' original 1962 hit song 'Do You Love Me?,' which hit the 'Billboard Hot 100' for a second time in 1988.
      But then, more than 25 years later, lightning struck again.  In 1987 came the movie, Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, which included a memorable dance scene backed by the Contours’ original “Do You Love Me?” song.  The film’s soundtrack of 1960s music became wildly successful, and was soon issued in multiple editions, most of which include “Do You Love Me?”.  In fact, in 1988, with the release of a follow-up soundtrack album entitled More Dirty Dancing, “Do You Love Me?” became a pop hit for a second time.  By July 1988 the song, which was also re-issued as a single, peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It remained on the chart for eight weeks.  The Contours — by then comprised of Joe Billingslea and three new members — joined other 1960s stars, including Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes, Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers and others, on a “Dirty Dancing Tour.”  That tour ran for ten-months, entertaining over two million fans in eight countries.  Two subsequent CDs – 1989 Dirty Dancing Live In Concert and 1998′s Great Dirty Dancing Hits — also included “Do You Love Me” and other Contours songs, as well as those of other artists.  Dirty Dancing soundtracks have sold more than 30 million units worldwide.  As the Contours put it on their web site, “Dirty Dancing has been very good to [us].”  In recent years, the surviving and replenished Contours have continued to perform in the U.S. and abroad.

     Meanwhile, on the web, the Contours’ “Do You Love Me?” has shown up in a range of uses as background music – from Disney animations to one creative Happy Feet adaptation.

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Date Posted:   28 July 2008
Last Update:   28 January 2010
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Do You Love Me?, 1962 & 1988,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 28, 2008.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

“The Contours,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, p. 206.

“The Contours,” “Do You Love Me”, and “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)”, Wikipedia. org.

“The Contours, 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection,” Amapedia.Amazon.com.

For more detail on the history of The Contours see Joe Billingslea & The Contours.

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“Dream Lover”
1958-1973

Bobby Darin & wife Sandra Dee in the 1960s.
Bobby Darin & wife Sandra Dee in the 1960s.
      In 1958, with the unlikely song lyric, “splish, splash, I was taking a bath,” a 22 year-old singer from New York named Bobby Darin, launched a singing career and a  No.1 hit record.  That career lasted a short 15 years, ending in Darin’s premature death at the age of 37.  But for a time, Bobby Darin set the entertainment world on fire, reaping fame, fortune and also a share of criticism.  He rose quickly on the pop music charts with his million-selling rock ‘n roll songs, then became a successful Las Vegas headliner and nightclub entertainer.   Hollywood came next with acting, singing, film-score writing, and a movie-star wife.  Yet along the way, Bobby Darin pushed hard and made brash claims, grating against many he met; but he also impressed with genuine talent.  He knew he would have a short life, so he grabbed what he could.  But he also found time for politics and social protest.  Darin was swept up by the promise of Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential bid in 1968.  He jumped into that campaign big, and like others, fell hard when Kennedy was assassinated.  Life for Darin, too, ran out much too soon.  He died on the operating table in 1973 with a failing heart.  Today, his legacy is the music he left behind, but also a unique lifetime lived amid talent and peril.

Record sleeve for 1959 single, 'Dream Lover', which became a million seller.
Record sleeve for 1959 single, 'Dream Lover', which became a million seller.
     Bobby Darin was born Walden Robert Cassotto in May 1936.  He was raised in a mixed neighborhood of mostly Italian and Irish immigrants in New York’s South Bronx along East 135th Street.  As a child, he fought rheumatic fever which damaged his heart and plagued him throughout his life. Doctors told his family — which he overheard — that it would be a miracle if he lived past his teens.  As a kid growing up, he was often ill.  “My earliest recollections were of being in bed, stiff, hurting,” he recalled.  “I used to read or do coloring books.  I couldn’t do what everybody else was doing.” Still, he made his way, graduated from the Bronx High School of Science.  At 17, he enrolled at Hunter College as a theater major, landed a lead role in one play, but left Hunter after one year. He then became a demo writer and singer at the famed music bee hive that was the Brill Building in 1950s New York. By 1957, Darin recorded a song or two, but to no great notice.  He then had a one-year contract with Atco Records that was about to expire.  In December of that year, he appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand performing “Don’t Call My Name.”  But in 1958 he struck gold somewhat by chance.

Screen shot from "American Bandstand" TV show with Dick Clark, left, and guest Bobby Darin, possibly late 1950s.
Screen shot from "American Bandstand" TV show with Dick Clark, left, and guest Bobby Darin, possibly late 1950s.
       One of Darin’s friends and supporters at the time was Murray Kaufman — known as “Murray ‘the K’,” a popular New York radio disc jockey.  Kaufman’s mother, Jean, who had been a piano player in vaudeville, suggested a line for a song to Darin and her son one afternoon: “Splish, splash, take a bath,” she offered off the cuff. Darin didn’t think much of it at the time, but later he started playing with it at the piano, more lyrics came and he took a finished tune (with co-author credit to Jean Kaufman) over to his record label, Atco.  Although there was some division at Atco over whether the tune would work, they went with it.  It was recorded in April 1958.  They titled it “Splish, Splash.”  Although certainly not one of the most cerebral works of the time, its quirkiness caught on.  It was released in June1958 and soon became a No.1 pop hit.  It sold a million copies.  Two more singles quickly followed.  “Queen of the Hop” was released in early 1959 and rose to No.9 on the charts.  It sold another million copies.

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“Dream Lover”-1959

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     Then in March 1959 came “Dream Lover,” a catchy tune built on a Latin calypso rhythm.  It rose to No.2 on the national pop charts.  “Dream Lover” became his third million seller.  Darin was now at the apex of his “teen idol” phase.  In May 1959, he sang “Dream Lover” on the Ed Sullivan Show.  But even though he was riding high on the pop charts, Darin had something else in mind.  In fact, he had already used some of the money made from his first hits to record an album of standards entitled That’s All.  Released in March 1959, that album included the song “Mack the Knife,” which was also later released as a single.

 

Mack The Knife

     Originally, “The Ballad of Mack the Knife” (composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht) was written for a1928 German stage drama, known in English as The Threepenny Opera, a story about a rogue and criminal named Macheath.  That story opens with a singer comparing Macheath with a shark, telling tales of his dark deeds — robberies, murders, arson and rape.  An English translation of the play and the song were later made in 1954, running off Broadway and elsewhere.The single “Mack the Knife” sold more than 2 million copies by 1961. Before Darin made his recording of the song, Louis Armstrong had made the first American version in 1956.  Darin had gone to a theater in Greenwich Village to see a revival of The Threepenny Opera where he heard “Mack The Knife” in the show.  When Darin first proposed making his own version of the song, some of his advisors and friends thought it a bad idea.  Dick Clark, then popular host of the American Bandstand  TV show, had become a friend of Darin’s.  Clark advised Darin not to record the song because of the perception that, having come from an opera, it wouldn’t appeal to the rock and roll audience.  Others agreed.  Yet Darin, then 23, liked the song’s offbeat jazzy tempo.  The song’s structure allowed for versatility and interpretation, and for Darin, it became a good vehicle for his talents.  He recorded it in New York in December 1958.  Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records recalled, “We knew as we were cutting it.  We were jumping up and down.  After the first take, I said, ‘You’ve got it!  That’s it!’”  It was released as a single in August 1959.  By October 5th,1959, “Mack the Knife” rose to No.1 on the national Billboard chart and remained in that position for 9 weeks.

Bobby Darin's "Mack The Knife" song featured on the cover of a later "stereo" album collection.
Bobby Darin's "Mack The Knife" song featured on the cover of a later "stereo" album collection.
     “Mack the Knife” became one of Darin’s signature songs.  It would win him a Record-of-the-Year Grammy award for 1959.  More than 40 years later, Rolling Stone would rank his version of the song No.251 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”  Frank Sinatra, who also recorded the song, as did others including Ella Fitzgerald, would later call Darin’s “Mack The Knife” the “definitive” version, a very high compliment. 

     But for Darin in 1958-59, “Mack the Knife” — along with the album That’s All — proved a very deft business move, signaling a turn in style toward more adult audiences and a broader fan base.  Darin became the first young singer to bridge the singles and album gap between teenage and adult buyers, selling to both.  By March 1961, he had made six albums that sold more than 1.5 million copies.  The single “Mack the Knife” by that time — which had stayed in the Top 40 for 22 weeks — had sold more than 2 million copies.  Another successful single in 1960, “Beyond the Sea”, a jazzed-up version of the French hit song “La Mer” by Charles Trenet, rose to No. 3 on the music charts, and also signaled his move into new musical territory.

Las Vegas & Beyond

August 1962 - Darin has top billing at the Flamingo in Vegas.       (photo - Don Fasulo)
August 1962 - Darin has top billing at the Flamingo in Vegas. (photo - Don Fasulo)
      In June 1959, Darin’s manager had secured him an opening with George Burns at the Las Vegas Sahara Club. Burns, by then a famous comedian of radio and TV fame with wife Gracie Allen, hired Darin sight unseen impressed with what he had heard of Darin’s singing. Soon, a father-son type relationship developed between Burns and Darin.  The young singer, meanwhile, rose quickly on the nightclub circuit in Vegas and elsewhere through 1960 and 1961.  At the young age of 23, Darin was performing at The Flamingo, The Sands, and The Hilton in Las Vegas; the Cloisters in Los Angeles and the Copacabana in New York.  At the Cloisters in Hollywood, also known as the Macambo, he broke the old attendance record every night for twenty-one consecutive nights. Among his admirers in L.A. was famed columnist Walter Winchell, who followed him to Washington, D.C. for a week where he played the Casino Royal and then to New York’s Copacabana.  At the “Copa” the press had been laying for Darin after he made statements that he wanted to “become a legend” by the time he was 25 and be “bigger than Sinatra.”  But when he opened at the Copacabana in early June 1960, he broke all attendance records.  Wrote Walter Winchell on June 7, 1960: “Darin, 24, opened a sensational engagement at the famed nightclub last Thursday night and has been playing to capacity throngs since.  It was his first New York engagement after making show-business history on the West Coast.”  They were lining up around the block at the Copa to buy tickets to see Bobby Darin.

 
Film & Sandra Dee

Bobby Darin 
Top 40 Hits: 1958-1967

1958    Splish, Splash – #1
1958    Early in…Morning – #24
1958    Queen of the Hop – #9
1959    Plain Jane – #38
1959    Dream Lover – #2
1959    Mack the Knife – #1
1960    Beyond the Sea – #6
1960    Clementine – #21
1960    …Bill Bailey – #19
1960    Artificial Flowers – #20
1961    Lazy River – #14
1961    Nature Boy – #40
1961    …Beautiful Baby – #5
1961    Irresistible You – #15
1961    Multiplication – #30
1962    What’d I Say – #24
1962    Things – #3
1962    If a Man Answers – #32
1963    …Reason I’m Living – #3
1963    18 Yellow Roses – #10
1966    If I Were a Carpenter – #8
1967    Lovin You – #32
           ____________________
             U.S. Billboard, Top 40 chart.

     In 1960, Darin had also begun appearing in film – a first role in Pepe, in which he also sang.  He was also cast to play a role in the film comedy-romance Come September and was in Italy preparing for scenes to be shot there.  It was in Italy where Darin would met his future wife, Sandra Dee, one of Hollywood’s up and coming stars, then17-18 years old.  She was cast to play opposite Darin in the film.  Dee remembers first seeing Darin standing on shore as she was arriving in a boat that was docking nearby.  “Will you marry me?,” he called out to her.  “Not today,” she replied.  Darin continued to ask her again and again, every day.  By the time the couple returned to the U.S. after their filming, they announced their engagement and were married on December 1st, 1960.  Darin was then also riding high with a string of hit songs, including “Beyond the Sea,” “Clementine,” “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey” and “Artificial Flowers”– all in 1960.

     Meanwhile, the film Come September was released in August 1961 and had good box office results.  Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida were its top stars along with Dee and Darin in his first movie.  Other movie roles for Darin followed.  In State Fair, a 1962 dramatic musical with Pat Boone, Ann-Margret, Pamela Tiffin, Tom Ewell, and veteran actress Alice Faye, Darin played an ambitious TV reporter who becomes involved with a farm girl played by Tiffin.  This film, however, was not successful, although its soundtrack was a best seller.  Darin, meanwhile, pushed for more film roles and had also set up his own independent film company, Sandar Productions, to elevate his career.  “I want to do drama, light comedy, the whole range,” he said in 1962, adding, “And some day I want an Academy Award.”

 

Brash & Aggressive

Bobby Darin's version of "If I Were a Carpenter" hit No.8 in 1966.
Bobby Darin's version of "If I Were a Carpenter" hit No.8 in 1966.
     Darin’s brash and aggressive manner, according to some, was related to fears about his health.  “My feeling is that he knew he wasn’t going to live long,” explained long-time friend and secretary Harriet Wasser, “[I]t was more important to him to make his statement as an artist than a diplomat.”  Known to have alienated the likes of Perry Como while the two prepared for a TV special, and not always accommodating to admiring fans, Darin assured a Saturday Evening Post reporter that he wasn’t like Pat Boone.  “I’ll write no book like Twixt Twelve and Twenty,” he explained, referring to a clean-living best-seller that Boone had then written for teenagers.  “I’m here to entertain them.  Their morals and their deportment are someone else’s concern.  It’s not my business to tell them to go to church or not, to wear a tie or not. . .”

Darin in Film
1960-1973

Acting/Singing/Songwriting
1960    Pepe
1961    Come September
1962    Too Late Blues
1962    State Fair
1962    Hell Is for Heroes
1962    Pressure Point
1962    If a Man Answers
1963    Captain Newman, M.D.
1965    That Funny Feeling
1967    Gunfight in Abilene
1968    Cop Out
1969    The Happy Ending
1973    Run, Stranger, Run

Songs or Score only
1960    Tall Story
1964    The Lively Set
1965    That Darn Cat
 

Director/Producer
1970    The Vendors
(never released)

     In Hollywood, meanwhile, Darin appeared in four other 1962 films: his first dramatic role in John Cassavetes’ film Too Late Blues; a war drama, Hell Is for Heroes with Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Fess Parker; Pressure Point, a drama with Sidney Poitier that earned Darin a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Male Newcomer; and If a Man Answers, a romantic comedy with his wife Sandra Dee in which he also wrote and sang the movie’s love theme over the credits.  In the 1963 film, Captain Newman, M.D., with Gregory Peck, Angie Dickinson, and Larry Storch, Darin received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  In 1964, he wrote the score for The Lively Set, and sang the opening theme for the 1965 Disney movie That Darn Cat.  He starred again with his wife Sandra Dee in the 1965 film That Funny Feeling, also writing and singing the movie’s theme.  Four other films followed in the 1967-1973 period in which he performed or wrote music.  A 1970 film, The Vendors, which Darin wrote, directed and produced with actors Richard Bakalayan, Gary Wood, Dick Lord and Mariette Hartley, was never released.  All in all, Darin played in 13 films, composed two full movie scores, and five title songs.  He also starred in Kraft Music Hall’s television production of Give My Regards to Broadway.  Through the 1960s, he also appeared on a number of television shows, among them, The Judy Garland Show (1963) and The Andy Williams Show (1964).

     Darin’s musical and nightclub career also continued through his film-making years.  But by the mid-1960s, he once again changed musical styles, this time moving into folk-rock.  In 1966 he had success with a version of Tim Hardin’s song, “If I Were a Carpenter.”  He also wrote a song for Hardin — “A Simple Song of Freedom”– which became a hit for Hardin.  And Darin’s version of “Carpenter” also became a Top Ten hit in 1966.

 

Tough Times

     By the late 1960s, however, life’s road for Bobby Darin became quite bumpy.  In 1967, he divorced Sandra Dee.  The following year, he discovered his supposed mother was actually his grandmother and his presumed sister really his mother — a revelation that rocked Darin and remained troubling to him for the rest of his life.  Darin also became actively involved in the 1968 presidential candidacy of Robert Kennedy and believed in Kennedy’s platform. Darin participated in the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Mont- gomery, Alabama. Darin had been attracted to social justice issues in the 1960s, and was an early supporter of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Darin participated in the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.  As a performer, too, Darin helped black artists get on stage in the early 1960s, as he had done in the face of some management resistance at the Copacabana, insisting that Nipsey Russell be his opening act.  Later, he would also have Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson as opening acts before they became well known.  In Kennedy’s campaign, Darin made appearances on behalf of the candidate and also worked to help Kennedy in the primaries.  Kennedy’s assassination in June 1968 had a deep effect on Darin.  For a time, he dropped out, quit working, sold some of his possessions, and moved to a mobile home at Big Sur, California.  In late August 1968, he sold his music publishing company, T.M. Music, to Commonwealth United Corp. for $1 million.  He was also then planning to start his own record label, Direction Records, and began focusing on folk and protest music.

“Simple Song Of Freedom”
(B. Darin, 1969)

Come and sing a simple song of freedom
Sing it like you’ve never sung before
Let it fill the air
Tell the people everywhere
We, the people here, don’t want a war

Hey there, mister black man can you hear me?
I don’t want your diamonds or your game
I just want to be someone known to you as me
And I will bet my life you want the same

So come and sing a simple song of freedom…
[chorus]

Seven hundred million are ya list’nin’?
Most of what you read is made of lies
But speaking one to one, ain’t it everybody’s sun
To wake to in the mornin’ when we rise?

So come and sing a simple song of freedom…
[chorus]

Brother Solzhenitsyn are you busy?
If not, won’t you drop this friend a line?
Tell me if the man who is plowin’ up your land
has got the war machine upon his mind

Come and sing a simple song of freedom…
[chorus]

Now, no doubt some folks enjoy doin’ battle
Like presidents, and ministers and kings
So, let’s all build them shelves
Where they can fight among themselves
Leave the people be who like to sing

Come and sing a simple song of freedom…
[chorus]. . .

. . .We, the people here, don’t want a war.

     In late October 1968, he debuted a new protest song, “Long Line Rider,” at the Cocoanut Grove, changing his dress in mid-show from tuxedo to denim jacket.  Two months later, in January 1969, he appeared at New York’s Copacabana with a four-piece rock band performing “Long Line Rider.”  A few weeks later, he walked off the TV set of the Jackie Gleason Show after he was prohibited from singing “Long Line Rider.”  In 1969, Darin also wrote the song, “A Simple Song of Freedom,”a soft, guitar-based protest song which Tim Hardin recorded for a hit that year.  Through 1969, Darin continued making club and TV appearances in his new style.  In Las Vegas at the Sahara club in December 1969, when asked to perform “Mack the Knife,” a classic in his former nightclub routine, he refused.  By 1970, Darin was protesting the Vietnam War, and in May 1970 he took out newspaper ads denouncing the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.  Around that same time, he also addressed an anti-war demonstration of mostly University of Southern California students at City Hall in Los Angeles, urging a “phone-in for peace” campaign aimed at the White House.

     In early summer 1970, Darin appears to have returned to his old standards, at least partially, putting “Mack the Knife” back into his repertoire at the Landmark nightclub in Las Vegas.  He still wore the denims, however, also doing renditions of songs by the rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears such as, “And When I Die” and “Spinning Wheel,”  and also Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.”  He traveled to London that June and performed there and on return to the states, co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show on TV in July 1970.

 

Las Vegas: 1970s

     In Las Vegas during the early 1970s, Darrin had also become a friend of Jay Tell, who published The Las Vegas Free Press.  According to Tell, Darin became a silent partner in the newspaper, which published a range of anti-war and anti-Nixon stories, among others.  Darin also considered politics around this time, according to Tell.  “I took him to Gov. Grant Sawyer and Supreme Court Justice John Mowbray, long-time Tell family friends, to explore his political viability,” said Tell. “Few knew it, but Bobby was also an authentic genius, a Mensa member, with an IQ of 137, in the top 2 percent.” - Jay Tell “They thought he could possibly be elected mayor, senator or governor.”  But nothing appears to have gone beyond the meetings.  Tell thought a great deal of Darin, impressed with his sharp mind and interest in world affairs: “Few knew it, but Bobby was also an authentic genius, a Mensa member, with an IQ of 137, in the top 2 percent.”  Sandra Dee, although a biased party, called him the brightest person she’d ever known.  Musically, Darin could do just about anything having to do with song and dance, and he also played a variety of musical instruments including piano, guitar, vibes, harmonica and drums.  He had a great stage presence, a knack for comedy sketches and ad libs, and good natural timing.  According to Jay Tell, Darin was also a great impressionist, and could mimic a range of celebrities and movie stars, inlcuding James Cagney, Clark Gable, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando and Cary Grant, among others.

Bobby Darin performing with Motown singing artists, The Supremes, on a 1967 TV show.
Bobby Darin performing with Motown singing artists, The Supremes, on a 1967 TV show.
     By early 1971, with a string of successful nightclub outings behind him, Darin was making something of a national comeback, and he recorded his Desert Inn nightclub act for a possible live album.  During the latter part of this 1970-71 Vegas period, he was making a salary of about $40,000-a-week.  But in 1971, his heart problem and shortness of breath worsened and he was rushed by ambulance to open-heart surgery where he received plastic heart valves.  Six months following that surgery, Darin returned to performing.  On September 1st, 1971, he opened at Harrah’s night club in Reno, Nevada.  He also appeared in TV’s Ironsides series in early October that year, and on The Flip Wilson Show in January 1972, where he sang “Mack the Knife” and “Simple Song of Freedom.”  In late February 1972, New York Times reporter Don Heckman made this observation in review of a Darin performance at the Copacabana:

. . . Elusive though his style may be — folksy-humble at some points, Vegas-flashy at others –Darin is still a first-class performer.  He sang, played the guitar, drums and piano, tied things together with a virtually nonstop and often with witty patter, and managed to pull a lackadaisical first-night audience out of its lethargy.
Still, Darin belongs to another era, despite his eager efforts to keep up-to-date with songs like Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” and his own “Sing A Simple Song of Freedom.”  He is clearly most comfortable with the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin style that was the essence of his first musical incarnation. . . .

     Throughout 1972 , Darin did more Vegas performing and television, including his own show — The Bobby Darin Amusement Company — which ran on NBC for seven-weeks that summer.  He also performed a concert in New York’s Central Park in July. “It’s a one-time shot, this life, and you don’t get any second chances.”
                       – Bobby Darin
A month later, his first Motown label record album, Bobby Darin, came out, and NBC announced in November that his TV show would return in January 1973.  Although The Bobby Darin Show did debut on NBC in late January 1973, by April, after the last of the show had aired, NBC cancelled it.  In late June 1973, Darin married Andrea Joy Yeager in California.  In July, he began performing at the Las Vegas Hilton, logging what would be his last concerts in August 1973.  By then, his weak heart made performing increasingly difficult, resorting to oxygen between acts on some occasions.  On December 11th, he entered the Cedars of Lebanon hospital in Los Angeles to repair the artificial heart valves he received in 1971.  He died on the operating table December 20th after eight hours of surgery; doctors were unable to repair the heart valves.

 

20 Years Later

"Dream Lovers," the 1994 book on the lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, by their by son, Dodd Darin.
"Dream Lovers," the 1994 book on the lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, by their by son, Dodd Darin.
      Renewed popular interest in Bobby Darin began to surface in the early 1990s, near the 20th anniversary of his death.  Darin’s music also came into a bit of revival as record companies repackaged some of his hits.  In 1992, after a two-CD set, called The Best of Bobby Darin was released, Jay Cocks of Time magazine wrote that Darin’s music was worth revisiting: “Tunes like ‘Clementine’ and ‘Skylark,’ even a chestnut like ‘Bill Bailey’,” he wrote, “can still make your speakers jump.”  The new CDs, said Cocks, “prove that his pop singing, had it not been eclipsed by the advent of the Beatles and the passing of Tin Pan Alley, could have become world-class.”  Darin, he said, “was born a little out of time…”

     Further interest in Darin continued in 1994, with the release of the book Dream Lovers, written by Dodd Darin, the son of Bobby and Sandra Dee.  The book was a highly personal account by Dodd of his parents’ lives, their marriage, and his own life growing up in their household.  It was not a pretty picture, probing both the insecurities of his father and the anorexia, alcoholism and childhood abuse of his mother.  Dodd was described by one reviewer as “an injured bystander on the scene of a broken celebrity marriage.”  Dodd had help writing the story with writer Maxine Paetro.

Use of His Music

     Over the years, Bobby Darin’s songs and song-writing have shown up in a wide range of films and television shows, and also various TV ads. “Splish Splash,” appears in the soundtrack for the 1998 movie, You’ve Got Mail and also in an episode of the TV series, Happy Days, among others. “Dream Lover” was used in the 1991 film Hot Shots! starring Charlie Sheen. “Beyond The Sea” has been used in films such as Apollo 13, Goodfellas, Black Rain, A Life Less Ordinary, and the Austin Powers film, Goldmember. It has also been used in television series such as The X-Files and American Dreams. “Beyond the Sea” is also found in one scene of the 1998 HBO miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon. In 2005, it was used in a Carnival Cruise Lines TV ad. Other Darin tunes have also been used in TV ads, such as those for Kodak and Oral B products. In 1989, however, Darin’s estate sued McDonald’s over a burger ad that imitated his “Mack the Knife” song, a case that was eventually settled.

     In Hollywood, meanwhile, there had been long-standing interest dating to the 1980s, in putting Darin’s life on the big screen.  But since that time, there had also been considerable legal squabbling among film makers and screenwriters over the making of a Darin film.  While the fighting continued, PBS broadcast the well-received documentary, Bobby Darin: Beyond the Song, in December 1998.

     Back in Hollywood, actor Kevin Spacey, who had keen interest in Darin’s life, surfaced as the front-runner in making a Darin biographical film.  With funding from Lions Gate Films and a German production company, QI Quality International, the film Beyond the Sea was released in 2004.  Spacey — who plays Darin in the film, singing all of Darin’s songs — also produced and directed the film.  It opened late December 2004 and to wider release in early 2005, but did not do well at the box office, generating about $6 million domestically and another $2 million overseas. It cost an estimated $24 million to make.  The DVD version was released in June 2005.

     Spacey later explained on the DVD commentary that his biggest hope was that the film would reintroduce Bobby Darin’s music to a whole new generation of fans, which it appears to have done, as sales of Darin’s music shot up over 150 percent shortly after the film’s release.

DVD cover for the 2004 Kevin Spacey film on Bobby Darin, "Beyond The Sea."
DVD cover for the 2004 Kevin Spacey film on Bobby Darin, "Beyond The Sea."

 

Bobby Darin Today

     Bobby Darin today has a continuing following and fan base, with several websites devoted to the details of his career.  In May 2007, resulting in part from fans’ donations, Darin received a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars.  In his short life, Bobby Darin managed to leave a considerable mark on the world of music, and to a lesser extent, that of film as well.  At the start of his career, he was, according to some observers, the most musically talented of all the early 1960s’ teen idols.  And he was versatile;  unbounded by the convention of his day, scoring hit songs in a variety of genres — pop, jazz, folk, and even country & western.  He also helped advance the use of music-as-social-statement, contributing to 1960s’ protests with his folk-rock creations.  A generous performer by many accounts, Bobby Darin helped others get their start, and sometimes gave them material to use in their careers.  In film, he had a modestly successful acting career, appearing in 13 films while contributing songs and scores to a number of others.  On the Las Vegas entertainment scene, he had an impact, in his own way, as important as other 1960s’  headliners.  Regarded as one of the era’s most gifted nightclub entertainers and jazz vocalists, he was also a talented arranger and interpreter of other artists’ material.  Bobby Darin made the most of his time while alive, as he himself once put it: “It’s a one-time shot, this life, and you don’t get any second chances.” For other stories on the history of music and artist biography, see the Annals of Music page. Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  26 May 2008
Last Update:  10 November 2013
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Dream Lover, 1958-1973,”
PopHistoryDig.com, May 26, 2008.

_____________________________


 


Sources, Links & Additional Information

Advertising poster for 1967 Bobby Darin performance at New York's Copacabana nightclub.
Advertising poster for 1967 Bobby Darin performance at New York's Copacabana nightclub.
Bobby Darin & Sandra Dee in a 1960s' movie scene.
Bobby Darin & Sandra Dee in a 1960s' movie scene.

“Bobby Darin,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, p. 238.

Will Friedwald, “Bio – Bobby Darin,” Capitol Records,  July 2004.

David McGee, “Bobby Darin,” The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Rolling Stone, New York, 2004.

Bobby Darin,” Wikipedia.org, 2007.

“2,” Arts & Entertainment, Time, Friday, March 10, 1961.

Edward Linn, “Little Singer With a BIG EGO,” The Saturday Evening Post, May 6, 1961.

Don Heckman, “Bobby Darin Back in Song Program,” New York Times, February 27, 1972.

Jay Cocks, “Music: A Bright Star Eclipsed,” Time, Monday, January 27, 1992.

CBS, “Bobby Darin: Brash, But Talented,” November 17, 2004.

Nevada newspaper review of Bobby Darin performance at the Landmark nightclub in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 3, 1970.

Robert Fontenot, “Profile: Bobby Darin,” Your Guide to Oldies Music, About.com, 2007.

Al DiOrio, Borrowed Time: The 37 Years of Bobby Darin, Running Press, 1981.

Dodd Darin with Maxine Paetro, Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, Warner Books, Inc., September 1994.

“Beyond The Sea,” Wikipedia.org, 2007.

Jeff Bleiel That’s All: Bobby Darin on Record, Stage and Screen, Tiny Ripple Books; 2nd edition, September 2004.

David Evanier, Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin, Rodale Books, October 2004.

Michael Starr, Bobby Darin: A Life, Taylor Trade Publishing; 1st edition, November 2004.

See also any number of Bobby Darin web sites, including, http://www.bobbydarin.net/main.html




 


“Elvis On The Road”
1955-56

Elvis Presley performing in 1956.
Elvis Presley performing in 1956.
      Elvis Presley in the mid-1950s, before he became a fully-known national rock ’n roll star, was constantly on the road. During 1955 and 1956, Elvis and his band performed widely, especially in the south, making numerous personal appearances, from high schools to county fairs. His 1955 itinerary, reprinted below, reveals an unyielding schedule of nearly daily performances.  Elvis and his band were a hard-working, ever-on-the-move group of performers. Still, at that time, Elvis Presley was essentially a regional phenome- non, known primarily in the south.  Elvis would not appear on national television until January 1956 — first on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show, and later in September 1956, on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Although he would have great success with RCA Records in 1956, it was his August 1955 release of “I Forgot To Remember To Forget”  with Sun Studios of Memphis, Tennessee that first made Elvis a nationally-known country  music star.  That single, which also had “Mystery Train” on its B side, rose to No. 1 on the Country & Western charts in February 1956. 

A young Elvis Presley performing, early 1950s.
A young Elvis Presley performing, early 1950s.
     Elvis Presley’s first  No. 1 pop hit on the Billboard charts, “Heartbreak Hotel,” came on May 3rd, 1956.  A month earlier he had performed the song on The Milton Berle Show on national TV with an estimated 25 percent of the U.S. population watching.  By then he had moved to RCA Records.

     Yet in 1955, before the first crush of national fame, Elvis and his band were on the road constantly, also doing radio shows and some regional television, such as Louisiana Hayride. His 1955 schedule was truly grueling, and 1956 was similar, plus more recording sessions.  The torrid pace did take a toll.  On February 23rd, 1956, after a performance in Jacksonville, Florida, Presley collapsed from exhaustion and was rushed to a hospital.  He was 21 years old.

     What follows below is the 1955 day-by-day performance itinerary of Elvis Presley and his band as they traveled across the U.S.A., with location and venue listed in most cases.  The series of “record sleeves” shown in the right-hand column are all bootleg editions — i.e., composites made by fans in later years using the RCA and Sun logos with Elvis photos from the 1950s.  They are used here only as photographic illustrations to accompany the issue date of the 1955 Elvis songs indicated.

Elvis Presley-1955
Appearances & Performances
 

January-1955
Jan 1: Eagles Hall, Houston, TX
Jan 4: Odessa High School, Odessa, TX
Jan 5: City Auditorium, San Angelo, TX
Jan 6: Fair Park Coliseum, Lubbock, TX
Jan 7: Midland High School, Midland, TX
Jan 8: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
Jan 11: High School, New Boston, TX
Jan 12: Civic Auditorium, Clarksdale, MS
Jan 13: Catholic Club, Helena, AR
Jan 14: Futrell High School, Marianna, AR
Jan 17: N.E. Miss Com. Colg., Booneville, MS
Jan 18: Alcorn Co. Courthse Hall, Corinth, MS
Jan 19: Sheffield Com. Center, Sheffield, AL
Jan 20: Leachville High School, Leachville, AL
Jan 21: National Guard Armory, Sikeston, MO
Jan 22: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
Jan 24: Humble Oil Rec. Hall, Hawkins, TX
Jan 25: Mayfair Bldg. Fairgrounds, Tyler, TX
Jan 26: Rural Electric Admin. Bldg, Gilmer, TX
Jan 27: Reo Palm Isle Club, Longview, TX
Jan 28: Gaston High School, Joinerville, TX
February-1955
Feb 4: Golden Cadillac Club, New Orleans, LA
Feb 5: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
Feb 6: Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, TN
Feb 7: Ripley High School, Ripley, MS
Feb 10: Alpine High School, Alpine, TX
Feb 11: Carlsbad Sports Arena, Carlsbad, NM
Feb 12: American Legion Hall, Carlsbad, NM
Feb 13: Fair Park Coliseum, Lubbock, TX
Feb 13: Cotton Club, Lubbock, TX
Feb 14: No. Junior H. S., Roswell, NM
Feb 15: Fair Park Auditorium, Abilene, TX
Feb 16: Odessa Senior H.S., Odessa, TX
Feb 17: City Auditorium, San Angelo, TX
Feb 18: W. Monroe H.S., West Monroe, LA
Feb 19: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
Feb 20: Robinson Aud., Little Rock, AR
Feb 21: City Hall, Camden, AR
Feb 22: City Hall, Hope, AR
Feb 23: Pine Bluff H.S., Pine Bluff, AR
Feb 24: So. Side Elem. School, Bastrop, LA
Feb 25: Municipal Aud., Texarkana, AR
Feb 26: Circle Theatre, Cleveland, OH
March-1955
March 2: Newport Armory, Newport, AR
March 2: Porky’s Rooftop Club, Newport, AR
March 4: DeKalb High School, DeKalb, TX
March 5: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
March 7: City Auditorium, Paris, TN
March 8: Catholic Club, Helena, AR
March 9: Poplar Bluff Armory, Poplar Bluff, MO
March 10: Civic Auditorium, Clarksdale, MS
March 11: J. Thompson Arena, Alexandria, LA
March 12: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
Mar 19: G. Rolle White Colsm., College Sta., TX
March 19: Eagles Hall, Houston, TX
March 20: Magnolia Gardens, Houston, TX
March 20: Cook’s Hoedown Club, Houston, TX
March 21: Parkin High School, Parkin, AR
March 25: Dermott High School, Dermott, AR
March 26: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
March 28: Big Creek H.S., Big Creek, MS
March 29: Tocopola H.S., Tocopola, MS
March 30: High School, El Dorado, AR
March 31: Reo Palm Isle Club, Longview, TX
April-1955
April 1: Ector County Aud., Odessa, TX
April 2: Municipal Auditorium, Houston, TX
April 7: Corinth Co. Courthouse, Corinth, MS
April 8: B&B Club, Glober, MO
April 9: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
April 10: Magnolia Gardens, Houston, TX
April 10: Cook’s Hoedown Club, Houston, TX
April 13: Breckenridge H.S., Breckenridge, TX
April 14: Owl Park, Gainesville, TX
April 15: Stamford High School, Stamford, TX
April 15: Roundup Hall, Stamford, TX
April 16: Sportatorium, Dallas, TX
April 16: Roundup Club, Dallas, TX
April 19: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
April 20: American Legion Hut, Grenada, MS
April 22: Arkansas Mun. Stadium, Texarkana, AR
April 23: Heart O’ Texas Coliseum, Waco, TX
April 24: Magnolia Gardens, Houston, TX
April 24: Cook’s Hoedown Club, Houston, TX
April 25: M-B Corral Club, Wichita Falls, TX
April 25: Texas High School, Seymour, TX
April 26: City Auditorium, Big Spring, TX
April 27: American Legion Hall, Hobbs, NM
April 29: Cotton Club, Lubbock, TX
April 30: High School, Gladewater, TX
May-1955
May 1: Municipal Aud., New Orleans, LA
May 2: Baton Rouge H.S., Baton Rouge, LA
May 4: Ladd Stadium, Mobile, AL
May 5: Ladd Stadium, Mobile, AL
May 7: Peabody Aud., Daytona Beach, FL
May 8: Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory, Tampa, FL
May 9: City Auditorium, Fort Myers, FL
May 10: Southeastern Pavilion, Ocala, FL
May 11: Municipal Auditorium, Orlando, FL
May 12: GatorBowl Bseball Pk., Jacksonville, FL
May 13: GatorBowl Bseball Pk., Jacksonville, FL
May 14: Shrine Auditorium, New Bern, NC
May 15: Norfolk City Auditorium, Norfolk, VA
May 16: Mosque Theater, Richmond, VA
May 17: City Auditorium, Asheville, NC
May 18: American Legion Aud., Roanoke, VA
May 19: Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh, NC
May 20: KOCA Radio, Kilgore, TX
May 21: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
May 22: Magnolia Gardens, Houston, TX
May 22: Cook’s Hoedown Club, Houston, TX
May 25: American Legion Hall, Meridian, MS
May 26: Meridian Jun. College, Meridian, MS
May 28: Sportatorium, Dallas, TX
May 29: North Side Colsm., Fort Worth, TX
May 29: Sportatorium, Dallas, TX
May 31: High School, Midland, TX
June-1955
June 1: Guymon High School, Guymon, OK
June 3: J. Connelley Pontiac, Lubbock, TX
June 3: Fair Park Coliseum, Lubbock, TX
June 4: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
June 5: Hope Fair Park, Hope, AR
June 8: Municipal Auditorium, Sweetwater, TX
June 10: Am. Legion Hall, Breckenridge, TX
June 11: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
June 14: Bruce High School, Bruce, MS
June 15: Belden High School, Belden, MS
June 17: Roundup Hall, Stamford, TX
June 18: Sportatorium, Dallas, TX
June 19: Magnolia Gardens, Houston, TX
June 19: Cook’s Hoedown Club, Houston, TX
June 20: City Auditorium, Beaumont, TX
June 21: City Auditorium, Beaumont, TX
June 23: McMahon Mem. Aud., Lawton, OK
June 23: Southern Club, Lawton, OK
June 24: Altus, OK
June 25: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
June 26: Slavonian Lodge Aud., Biloxi, MS
June 27: Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS
June 28: Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS
June 29: C. Gordon’s Radio Ranch, Mobile, AL
June 30: C. Gordon’s Radio Ranch, Mobile, AL
July-1955
July 1: Casino Club, Plaquemines, LA
July 2: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
July 3: Hoedown Club, Corpus Christi, TX
July 4: City Recreation Hall, Stephenville, TX
July 4: Hodges Park, DeLeon, TX
July 4: Soldiers & Sailors Hall, Brownwood, TX
July 20: Cape Arena, Cape Girardeau, MO
July 21: Silver Moon Club, Newport, AR
July 25: City Auditorium, Fort Myers, FL
July 26: Municipal Auditorium, Orlando, FL
July 27: Municipal Auditorium, Orlando, FL
July 28: Gator Stadium Park, Jacksonville, FL
July 29: Gator Stadium Park, Jacksonville, FL
July 30: Peabody Aud., Daytona Beach, FL
July 31: Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory, Tampa, FL
August-1955
August 1: Tupelo Fairgrounds, Tupelo, MS
August 2: Sheffield Center, Muscle Shoals, AL
August 3: Robinson Auditorium, Little Rock, AR
August 4: Municipal Auditorium, Camden, AR
August 5: Overton Park Shell, Memphis, TN
August 6: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
August 7: Magnolia Gardens, Houston, TX
August 7: Cook’s Hoedown Club, Houston, TX
August 8: Mayfair Building, Tyler, TX
August 9: Rodeo Arena, Henderson, TX
August 10: Bear Stadium, Gladewater, TX
August 11: Reo Palm Isle Club, Longview, TX
August 12: Driller Park, Kilgore, TX
August 13: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
August 20: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
August 22: Spudder Park, Wichita Falls, TX
August 23: Saddle Club, Bryan, TX
August 24: Davy Crockett H.S., Conroe, TX
August 25: Sportcenter, Austin, TX
August 26: Gonzales Baseball Pk., Gonzales, TX
August 27: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
September-1955
Sept 1: Pontchartrain Bch, New Orleans, LA
Sept 2: Arkansas Mun. Stad., Texarkana, AR
Sept 3: Sportatorium, Dallas, TX
Sept 3: Roundup Club, Dallas, TX
Sept 5: St. Francis Co. Fair, Forrest City, AR
Sept 6: Bono High School, Bono, AR
Sept 7: Nat’l Guard Armory, Sikeston, AR
Sept 8: Municipal Aud., Clarksdale, MS
Sept 9: McComb H.S., McComb, MS
Sept 10: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
Sept 11: Municipal Aud., Norfolk, VA
Sept 12: Municipal Aud., Norfolk, VA
Sept 13: Shrine Auditorium, New Bern, NC
Sept 14: Fleming Stadium, Wilson, NC
Sept 15: Am. Legion Aud., Roanoke, VA
Sept 16: City Auditorium, Asheville, NC
Sept 17: Thomasville H.S., Thomasville, NC
Sept 18: WRVA Theater, Richmond, VA
Sept 19: WRVA Theater, Richmond, VA
Sept 20: Danville Fairgrounds, Danville, VA
Sept 21: Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh, NC
Sept 22: Civic Auditorium, Kingsport, TN
Sept 24: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
Sept 26: Gilmer Junior H.S., Gilmer, TX
Sept 28: B&B Club, Gobler, MO
October-1955
Oct 1: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
Oct 3: G. Rolle White Colsm., College Sta., TX
Oct 4: Boys Club, Paris, TX
Oct 5: City Auditorium, Greenville, TX
Oct 6: S.W. Texas St Univ., San Marcos, TX
Oct 6: Skyline Club, Austin, TX
Oct 8: City Auditorium, Houston, TX
Oct 10: Soldiers-Sailors Hall, Brownwood, TX
Oct 11: Fair Park Auditorium, Abilene, TX
Oct 12: Midland High School, Midland, TX
Oct 13: Municipal Auditorium, Amarillo, TX
Oct 14: Odessa High School, Odessa, TX
Oct 11: Fair Park Auditorium, Lubbock, TX
Oct 15: Cotton Club, Lubbock, TX
Oct 16: Mun. Aud., Oklahoma City, OK
Oct 17: Memorial Aud., El Dorado, AR
Oct 19: Circle Theatre, Cleveland, OH
Oct 20: Brooklyn H.S., Cleveland, OH
Oct 20: St. Michaels’ Hall, Cleveland, OH
Oct 21: Missouri Theatre, St. Louis, MO
Oct 22: Missouri Theatre, St. Louis, MO
Oct 23: Missouri Theatre, St. Louis, MO
Oct 24: Silver Moon Club, Newport, AR
Oct 25: Houston Armory, Houston, MS
Oct 26: Greater Gulf States Fair, Prichard, AL
Oct 28: C.Gordon’s Radio Ranch, Mobile, AL
Oct 29: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
November-1955
November 5: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
November 6: Community House, Biloxi, MS
November 7: Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS
November 8: Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS
November 12: Carthage Milling Co., Carthage, TX
November 12: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
November 13: Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, TN
November 14: Forrest City H. S., Forrest City, AR
November 15: Community Center, Sheffield, AL
November 16: City Auditorium, Camden, AR
November 17: Municipal Aud., Texarkana, AR
November 18: Reo Palm Isle Club, Longview, TX
November 19: Gladewater H.S., Gladewater, TX
November 25: W. Wilson Jun.H.S., P. Arthur, TX
November 26: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
November 29: Mosque Theater, Richmond, VA
December-1955
December 2: Atlanta Sports Arena, Atlanta, GA
December 3: State Coliseum, Montgomery, AL
December 4: Lyric Theater, Indianapolis, IN
December 5: Lyric Theater, Indianapolis, IN
December 6: Lyric Theater, Indianapolis, IN
December 7: Lyric Theater, Indianapolis, IN
December 8: Rialto Theater, Louisville, KY
December 9: Swifton High School, Swifton, AR
December 9: B&I Club, Swifton, AR
December 10: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
December 12: Nat’l Guard Armory, Amory, MS
December 17: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA
December 19: Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, TN
December 31: Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, LA

Elvis songs released by Sun Records, January 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.
Elvis songs released by Sun Records, January 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.

Promoter “Colonel” Tom Parker first takes notice of Presley’s name after Texarkana DJ “Uncle Dudley” reports on the crowd frenzy at Elvis’ January 11, 1955 show.

 

Elvis songs released by Sun Records, April 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.
Elvis songs released by Sun Records, April 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.

On March 23rd, 1955, Elvis and his band auditioned for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show in New York but were rejected.

 

Elvis songs released by Sun Records, August 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.
Elvis songs released by Sun Records, August 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.

At the Jacksonville, Florida show on May 13, 1955, Elvis tells the girls in the 14,000-plus crowd that he’ll “see [them] backstage,” causing a riot. The incident convinces Colonel Parker about Elvis’ popularity.

Elvis during concert at Tampa, FL's Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory on July 31, 1955  (photo believed to be that of W. Red Robertson).
Elvis during concert at Tampa, FL's Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory on July 31, 1955 (photo believed to be that of W. Red Robertson).

Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.
Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.

By late summer 1955, Colonel Parker had taken control of Presley’s career. On Nov. 21st he negotiated a deal with RCA to acquire Elvis’ Sun Studios contract for $35,000 (roughly $275,000 in 2007).

Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.
Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.

On November 10th, 1955, in his Nashville hotel room, songwriter Mae Axton plays Elvis a demo of a song she’d co-written called “Heartbreak Hotel.”
 

Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.
Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.

Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.
Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.

Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.
Elvis songs released by RCA Records, Dec 1955, in 78 and 45 rpm versions. Record sleeve is a bootleg edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elvis performing before capacity crowd at the Mississippi-Alabama Fairgrounds, Tupelo, MS, September 26, 1956.
Elvis performing before capacity crowd at the Mississippi-Alabama Fairgrounds, Tupelo, MS, September 26, 1956.

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Date Posted:  31 March 2008
Last Update:   1 September 2010
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Elvis on the Road, 1955-1956,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 31, 2008.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information


A 45 rpm single of Elvis Presley’s August 1955 Sun Studios recording of 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget,' the song that first made Elvis a nationally-known country music star, prior to his popular rock ’n roll fame.
A 45 rpm single of Elvis Presley’s August 1955 Sun Studios recording of 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget,' the song that first made Elvis a nationally-known country music star, prior to his popular rock ’n roll fame.
Sun Records' 1955 45rpm recording of Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train."
Sun Records' 1955 45rpm recording of Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train."

Hank Bordowitz, Turning Points in Rock and Roll, Citadel Press,2004.

Peter Guralnick, “Elvis Presley,” in Anthony De Curtis and James Henke (eds), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, Random House, New York, 1992, pp. 21-36.

Robert Fontenot, “Your Guide to Oldies Music–The History of Elvis: 1955,” About. com.

Elvis discography and record sleevesSergent. com.au.

“Teeners’ Hero,”Time, May 14, 1956.

“Sweet Music,” Time, October 8, 1956.

Louis M. Kohlmeier, Wall Street Journal, (front-page story on Elvis), December 31, 1956.

Stephen Holden, “Pop View; a Hillbilly Who Wove a Rock-and-Roll Spell,” The New York Times, July 19, 1987.

“Elvis Presley,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 774-778.

“Elvis Presley,” Wikipedia.org.


For a more detailed look at Elvis Presley performances and other activities in the 1953-55 period see, for example, Elvis PresleyMusic.com.

Greg Williams, “Forever Elvis,”Tampa Tribune, originally published, August 16, 2002.

Ace Collins, Untold Gold: The Stories Behind Elvis’s #1 Hits, Chicago Review Press, 2005.











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