The Pop History Dig

“Bandstand Performers”
1957

Dick Clark, in the late 1950s, at his podium station for the popular TV dance show, "American Bandstand."
Dick Clark, in the late 1950s, at his podium station for the popular TV dance show, "American Bandstand."
     In August 1957, American Bandstand, a new television show broadcast out of Philadelphia, PA, featured local teenagers dancing to the new rock ‘n roll music.  The show had just “gone national” on the ABC television network on August 5th.  With its new young host, Dick Clark, the show aired every day at 3 p.m. for an hour-and-a-half.  Within six months of its national debut, American Bandstand was picked up by 101 stations.  Soon there were about 20 million viewers tuning in, half of whom were adult.  Fan letters poured in by the tens of thousands.  Teenagers came to Philadelphia from wide and far for a chance to dance on the show.  But American Bandstand also became a place where new talent could be seen, as Clark allotted featured spots on each show for new acts to perform their songs.  “Perform,” in this case, is a generous term as the guest or guests typically “lyp-synced” or mouthed the words to their pre-recorded songs rather than performing them live.  They did, however, appear in person and typically sat with Clark in brief conversation, answering his questions about their music, where they were from, what they were doing next, etc.

"Tom & Jerry" (Simon & Garfunkel) appeared on "Bandstand" Nov 22, 1957 performing "Hey Schoolgirl," a song that hit No. 54 & sold 100,000 copies.
"Tom & Jerry" (Simon & Garfunkel) appeared on "Bandstand" Nov 22, 1957 performing "Hey Schoolgirl," a song that hit No. 54 & sold 100,000 copies.
     During American Bandstand’s first national season — which ran a short five months from its August opening — about 200 or so guests appeared.  Typically, one or two acts were scheduled for each show.  Among notable guests appearing that first season, some making their television debuts, were: Paul Anka, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin, The Del-Vikings, The Diamonds, Buddy Holly, Johnny Mathis, Simon & Garfunkel( “Tom & Jerry”), Andy Williams, Jackie Wilson, and others.  Some guests appeared more than once that season, including: Frankie Avalon, The Chordettes, The Everly Brothers, The Four Coins, Bill Haley & the Comets, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Mello Kings, and Gene Vincent.  A few acts in 1957 launched national and international careers after appearing on Bandstand. Danny & The Juniors, for example, rose quickly to national notice shortly after an early December 1957 Bandstand appearance.  Their song, “At the Hop,” rose to the top of the music charts within weeks of their appearance. 

Dick Clark with Johnny Mathis on American Band-stand in Oct 1957.  Mathis released two singles in 1957: “Wonderful, Wonderful” & “It’s Not For Me To Say.”
Dick Clark with Johnny Mathis on American Band-stand in Oct 1957. Mathis released two singles in 1957: “Wonderful, Wonderful” & “It’s Not For Me To Say.”
     On December 5th, 1957, the Diamonds appeared with their song “the Stroll,” which kicked off a new kind of dance with the kids forming two lines facing each other with several yards of space between them, as dance couples then took turns “strolling” down this middle aisle.  Non-musical guests would also appear occasionally, as in the case of actor Hugh O’Brian from the ABC-TV series “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.”  O’Brian appeared on the October 25, 1957 show.  Some guests appeared only once and never emerged as national stars.  Among those who appeared in 1957, were artists from an older era of popular music that continued in a period of transition to rock ‘n roll music.  A listing of many of those who appeared on American Bandstand during its first national season appears below by show date, and when available, song performed.

Dick Clark interviewing the Everly Brothers at a “Bandstand” performance. They appeared at least twice in 1957 – Sept 13th & Dec 23rd, singing “Wake Up Little Susie” and other songs.
Dick Clark interviewing the Everly Brothers at a “Bandstand” performance. They appeared at least twice in 1957 – Sept 13th & Dec 23rd, singing “Wake Up Little Susie” and other songs.
     In addition to the regular American Bandstand weekday afternoon shows that aired in 1957, there were also a series of prime time American Bandstand TV shows broadcast on Monday evenings in the 7:30-8:00 p.m. time slot.  Bill Haley & The Comets, for example, appeared on the prime time show, October 28th, 1957; Mickey & Sylvia appeared there, November 25th, 1957.  The prime time shows, 13 in all that year, were much like the daytime show, with a bit more focus on the guests.  These shows appeared to be experimental and served to broaden the reach of Bandstand to more viewers who could not see the daytime version.  Some of these show dates are also included below.  In any case, in 1957, American Bandstand — with its nationally-broadcast television dance show and a daily spotlight on new musical talent — was helping to build the gigantic national and international business that would emerge around rock ‘n roll music.

     See also at this website, a more general background story on the history of American Bandstand, Dick Clark, and related businesses, 1956-2007.


American Bandstand
Guests & Performers
Aug-Dec, 1957


Paul Anka  – shown here on a Dutch record sleeve –  made his TV debut on American Bandstand August 7, 1957 singing his soon-to-be No.1 hit, “Diana.”
Paul Anka – shown here on a Dutch record sleeve – made his TV debut on American Bandstand August 7, 1957 singing his soon-to-be No.1 hit, “Diana.”
Buddy Holly & the Crickets – shown on an album compilation – appeared on ‘Bandstand’ August 26, 1957, singing ‘That’ll Be The Day.’
Buddy Holly & the Crickets – shown on an album compilation – appeared on ‘Bandstand’ August 26, 1957, singing ‘That’ll Be The Day.’
Jackie Wilson appeared on ‘American Bandstand’ Oct 4, 1957 performing ‘Reet Petite (the Finest Girl You Ever Wanna Meet).’
Jackie Wilson appeared on ‘American Bandstand’ Oct 4, 1957 performing ‘Reet Petite (the Finest Girl You Ever Wanna Meet).’
Jerry Lee Lewis, who played a hot piano, appeared 3 times on AB in 1957: Aug 19,  Oct 10, and Nov 4 singing “Great Balls of Fire” and other songs.
Jerry Lee Lewis, who played a hot piano, appeared 3 times on AB in 1957: Aug 19, Oct 10, and Nov 4 singing “Great Balls of Fire” and other songs.
Bobby Darin, who went from teen idol to Las Vegas nightclub act, appeared on Bandstand Dec 17, 1957 to perform “Call My Name.” Click for separate story.
Bobby Darin, who went from teen idol to Las Vegas nightclub act, appeared on Bandstand Dec 17, 1957 to perform “Call My Name.” Click for separate story.
"Mickey & Sylvia," who had a million-seller with "Love is Strange," appeared on Bandstand's evening show, Nov 25th, 1957. Click for separate story.
"Mickey & Sylvia," who had a million-seller with "Love is Strange," appeared on Bandstand's evening show, Nov 25th, 1957. Click for separate story.

August 1957

Aug 5: Billy Williams / The Chordettes
Aug 6: D. Hawkins – “Susie Q”/ D. Rondo
Aug 7: Paul Anka – “Diana”
Aug 9: Lee Andrews & the Hearts
Aug 12: Gene Vincent / The Four Coins
Aug 13: Jodie Sands / Sal Mineo
Aug 14: Rusty & Doug Kershaw
Aug 15: Lee Kane
Aug 16: Ted Newman
Aug 19: Jerry Lee Lewis / Jimmy Bowen
Aug 20: David Hill / Terri Stevens
Aug 21: Randy Starr
Aug 22: The Dubs
Aug 23: Steve Karmen
Aug 26: Buddy Holly / Doc Bagby
Aug 27: Johnny Nash
Aug 28: Eileen Barton / Matys Brothers
Aug 29: Malcolm Dodds & Tunedrops
Aug 30: The Frank Virtuoso Quintet

September 1957

Sep 2: Andy Williams / The Bobbettes
Sep 3: Mello-Kings – “Tonight, Tonight”
Sep 4: Libby Dean
Sep 5: Brian Fischer
Sep 6: The Mike Pedicin Quintet
Sep 9: The Diamonds
Sep 10: Jimmie Rodgers
Sep 11: Webb Pierce
Sep 12: Nick Noble / The Tune Weavers
Sep 13: Everly Brothers – “…Little Suzie”
Sep 16: The Crew-Cuts / Ted Newman
Sep 17: Tom Leonetti / Bobby Charles
Sep 18: Frankie Avalon / Rod Willis
Sep 19: Dale Hawkins / Bob Jaxson
Sep 20: Don Rondo / The Poni-Tails
Sep 23: The Playmates
Sep 24: Dick Lindy
Sep 25: Eileen Rodgers
Sep 26: The Rays
Sep 27: Bob Crewe
Sep 30: Sonny James

October 1957

Oct 1: Cathy Carr
Oct 2: Bobby Brooks
Oct 3: Marvin Rainwater
Oct 4: Jackie Wilson – “Reet Petite”
Oct 7: The Shepherd Sisters
Oct 7: The Chordettes*
Oct 8: The Chordettes/Chuck Reed
Oct 9: Johnny Mathis/Andy Williams
Oct 10: J. Lee Lewis/Thurston Harris
Oct 11: Del-Vikings/Teddy Randazzo
Oct 14: The Four Coins
Oct 14: Bandstand evening show*
Oct 15: Carol Jarvis
Oct 16: Mello-Kings/Lou Connettie
Oct 17: Artie Wayne
Oct 18: No guest info
Oct 21: Five Satins / Rover Boys
Oct 21: Billy Williams*
Oct 22: Romaine Brown/Robin Hood
Oct 23: Georgia Gibbs
Oct 24: Cathy Carr/Vernon Taylor
Oct 25: Hugh O’Brian
Oct 26: Gene Vincent
Oct 28: Bill Haley & Comets*
Oct 29: Bonnie Guitar/DeJohn Sisters
Oct 30: Billy Miles / Jill Whitney
Oct 31:  4 Top Hatters / Bob Grabeau

November 1957

Nov 1: The Four Esquires
Nov 4: Jerry Lee Lewis/The Bachelors
Nov 4: The Shepherd Sisters*
Nov 5: J. Bennett / Mitzi Mason
Nov 6: Jerry Reed
Nov 7: Tommy Prisco
Nov 8: Chuck Berry / Lu Ann Simms
Nov 11: Paul Carr & Fran Lori
Nov 11: Joni James*
Nov 12: Joni James
Nov 13: Janice Harper
Nov 14: Jim Lowe / Wilburn Bros.
Nov 15: Dick Duane / Gary Trexler
Nov 18: No guest info
Nov 18: Am Bandstand evening show*
Nov 19: Marty Robbins
Nov 20: Rusty Draper
Nov 21: The Crickets
Nov 22: Tom & Jerry
Nov 25: Guy Pastor
Nov 25: Mickey & Sylvia*
Nov 26: Sunny Gale
Nov 27: Bill Haley and His Comets
Nov 28: Paul Hampton
Nov 29: Ronnie Self

December 1957

Dec 2: Bill Craddock / Sam Cooke
Dec 2: No Guest information*
Dec 3: No Guest information
Dec 4: Jimmie Dee / Danny & Juniors
Dec 5: The Diamonds / Helen Curtis
Dec 6: Terry Noland
Dec 9: The Sprouts
Dec 9: Bill Justis Combo- “Raunchy”*
Dec 10: Kay Armen
Dec 11: Randy Starr
Dec 12: Frankie Avalon
Dec 13: Gene Nash
Dec 16: Gene Vincent & Blue Caps
Dec 16: Sonny James*
Dec 17: Bobby Darin- “Call My Name”
Dec 18: Georgia Gibbs
Dec 19: Jerry Vale
Dec 20: The Twin-Tones
Dec 23: Johnny Crawford /4 Esquires
Dec 23: The Everly Brothers*
Dec 24: Mello Kings- “Tonight, Tonight”
Dec 25: Mike Pedicin Quartet
Dec 26: Patti Page / Four Esquires
Dec 27: Will Glahe / The Techinques
Dec 30: Bob Jaxon / Lee Allen
Dec 30: N. “Thin Man” Watts*
Dec 31: Fontaine Sisters / Tina Robin

______________________________

Note: This is not a complete list of all 1957 American Bandstand guests for the “national” season, as some dates are missing and a few have incomplete or uncertain information.

*American Bandstand evening TV show, 7:30pm.

______________________________


Date Posted: 12 August 2010
Last Update: 19 April 2012
Comments: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Bandstand Performers, 1957,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 12, 2010.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

The Mello-Kings appeared twice on Bandstand in 1957 performing ‘Tonite, Tonite”(later corrected to “Tonight, Tonight”).  Despite rising only to No.77 on the pop charts, the song remains a Doo Wop favorite.
The Mello-Kings appeared twice on Bandstand in 1957 performing ‘Tonite, Tonite”(later corrected to “Tonight, Tonight”). Despite rising only to No.77 on the pop charts, the song remains a Doo Wop favorite.
Chuck Berry, shown here in another performance, made his national TV debut on American Bandstand Nov. 8, 1957 singing “Rock and Roll Music.”
Chuck Berry, shown here in another performance, made his national TV debut on American Bandstand Nov. 8, 1957 singing “Rock and Roll Music.”
Danny & The Juniors rose to national fame after they appeared on Bandstand as a substitute act in early December 1957, singing "At The Hop," which soared to No.1. Click for separate story.
Danny & The Juniors rose to national fame after they appeared on Bandstand as a substitute act in early December 1957, singing "At The Hop," which soared to No.1. Click for separate story.
Bill Haley and his Comets, one of the more famous rock ‘n roll acts by 1957, appeared on Bandstand’s prime time show Oct 28th and on the regular show, Nov 27th 1957.
Bill Haley and his Comets, one of the more famous rock ‘n roll acts by 1957, appeared on Bandstand’s prime time show Oct 28th and on the regular show, Nov 27th 1957.
The Chordettes appeared on the first nationally televised “American Bandstand” show, August 5, 1957. Their No. 2 national hit, “Lollipop,” came in 1958.
The Chordettes appeared on the first nationally televised “American Bandstand” show, August 5, 1957. Their No. 2 national hit, “Lollipop,” came in 1958.

John A. Jackson, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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

“Facing the Music,” Time, Monday, November 30, 1959.

“Teen-Agers’ Dreamboat,” New York Times, March 5, 1960.

“American Bandstand” and “Dick Clark,” The Museum of American Broadcast Communications.

Dick Clark,” The Radio Hall of Fame.

American Bandstand episodes, TV.com.

Susan Bickelhaupt, TV Week 3, “Growing Up With Bandstand,” Boston Globe, May 10, 1992.

Murray Dubin, “Fifty Years Ago, American Bandstand Was Born in Philadelphia,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 3, 2002, p. D-1.

Bill Keveney, “American Bandstand: Hopping After 50 Years.” USA Today, May 2, 2002: p. D-3.

William Robbins, “Philadelphians Swing to 50’s Rock.” New York Times, July 1, 1982. p. A-12.

Tom Shales, “Dick Clark! American Bandstand,” Washington Post, February 4, 1977, p. B-1.

“Tall, That’s All,” Time, Monday, April 14, 1958.

“Facing the Music,” Time, Monday, Nov. 30, 1959.

Summary of the National Register of Historic Places Nomination for American Bandstand building, WFIL and WHYY studios, 4548 Market St., Philadelphia., Pennsylvania, July 28, 1986.

“American Bandstand” and “Dick Clark,” The Museum of American Broadcast Communications.

“Dick Clark,” The Radio Hall of Fame.

Richard Corliss, “Philly Fifties: Rock ‘n Radio,” Saturday, July 14, 2001.

Ginia Bellafante, “Ultrasuede Is Funny – VH-1’s Reruns of American Bandstand Prove the Hootie Network Can Outwit MTV,” Time, Monday, April 22, 1996.

Fred Goodman, “Roll Over, Beethoven: How Dick Clark Taught American Parents not to be Afraid of Rock-and-Roll and Made a Fortune in the Process,” Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire, Book Review, New York Times, October 26, 1997

Thomas Heath and Howard Schneider, “Snyder Adds A TV Icon To His Empire, “Washington Post, Wednesday, June 20, 2007, P. D-1.

Dick Clark and Richard Robinson, Rock, Roll & Remember, Thomas Y. Crowell, Publisher, 1976.

Robert Stephen Spitz, Rock, Roll & Remember, Book Review, New York Times, October 24, 1976.

Ken Emerson, “The Spin on Bandstand – Music, TV and Popular Culture Learned to Swing to the Beat of a Different Drummer: Big Bucks,” Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2007.

A documentary film entitled The Wages of Spin, focuses on the history of American Bandstand, the 1950s payola scandal, and Dick Clark. A preview clip from that documentary is available at You Tube and additional information is found at Character Driven Films.

Dick Clark,” Wikipedia. org.

American Bandstand,” Wikipedia.org.

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“I Only Have Eyes For You”
1959

The Flamingos of the late 1950s shown on the cover of a 1997 CD featuring a compilation of 18 of their songs.
The Flamingos of the late 1950s shown on the cover of a 1997 CD featuring a compilation of 18 of their songs.
     “I Only Have Eyes For You” is the name of a song that was made popular in the spring  and summer of 1959 by a group called the Flamingos.  The song was actually written for a film in the 1930s, and it had a popular run at the music charts at that time.  However, the Flamingos’ version gave the song a whole new dimension.  Set in the “doo-wop” style of its day, their “deep-echo” version proved to have broad national appeal, rising on both the rhythm & blues (R&B) and pop charts.  

     Today, the Flamingos’  “I Only Have Eyes For You” continues to resonate with many listeners, young and old.  Music historians of the 1950s regard the song as a classic.  For some, the song offers a “take-you-away”  musical immersion, and for a few, a near-hypnotic, otherworldly experience.  Listen to this Flamingos’ song on the music player at right and judge for yourself.


Chicago Roots

Music Player
“I Only Have Eyes For You”
1959 – The Flamingos

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     The Flamingos were formed from a group of friends and relatives on Chicago’s southside in the early 1950s.  They began recording in 1953, and became a group with a long list of recordings, working with a number of record labels, including Chance, Parrot, Chess/Checker, Decca, End, and others.  And although they never had a No. 1 hit on the pop charts — coming close several times — they are regarded as one of the classic “doo wop” groups of their day, noted for their exceptional harmonies and unique sound.  By the time “I Only Have Eyes for You” hit the streets in April/May 1959, the group was comprised of six members:  founding “cousins” Jake and Zeke Carey, Terry Johnson, Paul Wilson, Tommy Hunt, and Nate Nelson.  In 1958, the group had been recording with the Chess/Checker label in Chicago, but after relocating to New York City, they soon hooked up with a record producer there named George Goldner who helped the group score with some of their biggest hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s.


Sample recording from Flamingos’ earlier years with Chance Records, 1953.
Sample recording from Flamingos’ earlier years with Chance Records, 1953.
George Goldner

     Goldner was considered one of the biggest record hustlers of his day, also among the biggest producers of what would be called “doo wop” records.  Goldner was not a rock  ‘n roll fan, per se, but had Latin and jazz musical influences in his past.  He had worked with Tico, a label that specialized in Latin artists, during the late 1940s.  He had also worked with some early rock ‘n roll artists, as well, and had an ear for pop hits. 

     Much of Goldner’s success had come with producing and releasing singles.  But he was also among those who liked to market “packages” of songs, or LPs, as albums were called in those days.  In late 1956, he had released one of the first doo-wop albums, Teenagers, on the Gee record label.  And by 1959, working with other artists, he had released a 12-track album by The Chantels, and another by Little Anthony & The Imperials.  These two groups would later become successful and well known in their own right.  The Flamingos, meanwhile, had come to Goldner after an unsatisfying period with their then-current record label, Decca, which they had joined in1957.

Geo. Goldner, the producer who helped The Flamingos.
Geo. Goldner, the producer who helped The Flamingos.
     In late 1958, it was Goldner’s idea to have the Flamingos record an album of old standards, but do it in “doo wop” style.  Some believe Goldner was influenced by what had been done earlier with groups such as the Orioles and Ravens; groups  that had successfully produced cover versions of older songs in a more popular style.  Terry Johnson, one of the Flamingos’ lead singers, recalled the group’s experience with Goldner in an interview some years later with Marv Goldberg :

“…George Goldner wanted us to go in another direction than regular R&B. He wanted us to do standards like the Platters, who were doing songs like ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.’ I was open to the idea, because I wasn’t raised on R&B; my parents listened to Patti Page, the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots and Bing Crosby. When George said he wanted me to change the structure of the songs and give them a nice flavor, I was excited because it was such a good challenge for me.”

The Flamingos’ 1958 hit with End Records, ‘Lovers Never Say Goodbye’.
The Flamingos’ 1958 hit with End Records, ‘Lovers Never Say Goodbye’.
     Goldner, in fact, took Richard Barrett to a music store and bought up the sheet music to every old song he could find, turning them over to Terry Johnson to arrange new songs for the Flamingos.  One of the first songs the Flamingos did with Goldner that hit the pop charts was “Lovers Never Say Goodbye”, written by Terry Johnson, who shared the lead on the song with Paul Wilson.  On the B-side was “That Love Is You”, with Nate Nelson in the lead.  “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” reached No. 25 on the R&B charts and No. 52 on the pop countdown.

1958-59 magazine ad for Flamingos’ music by End Records, with lower corner box thanking radio DJs for playing  their hit, ‘Lovers Never Say Goodbye.’
1958-59 magazine ad for Flamingos’ music by End Records, with lower corner box thanking radio DJs for playing their hit, ‘Lovers Never Say Goodbye.’
     But by October 1958, with some money to spend on instrumentation and a good echo chamber available for recording, Goldner brought The Flamingos in for another studio session to record what would become the album, Flamingo Serenade.  Terry Johnson and Paul Wilson were recorded as lead singers on three of the 12 songs selected for the album.  Nate Nelson was in the lead for some of the album’s songs as well, including most notably, “I Only Have Eyes for You.” 

     As the album and its songs went in production for the next few months, the Flamingos did some performing in New York.  Meanwhile, one of the Flamingos earlier record labels, Checker, seeing that the group was capable of turning out hits, decided to put out a single with two earlier-recorded but unreleased songs in January 1959.  Checker would also issue a Flamingos LP the following month.  But by this date, sales of their new single with Goldner — “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” — was already having considerable success.  In January alone, it helped  push Goldner’s labels to the one-million level in total sales.  February was even better.  More success was about to come with the forthcoming album, Flamingo  Seranade.

Poster from 1959 film in which The Flamingos appeared.
Poster from 1959 film in which The Flamingos appeared.
     In mid-January 1959, meanwhile, The Flamingos booked into New York’s Apollo theater where they had played a number of times before.  Other notable  performers  appearing at the Apollo at that time included: Jerry Butler, the Crests, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Quin-Tones, Wade Flemons, Doc Bagby, and Clay Tyson.  In February, the Flamingos were filmed in a New York studio singing and dancing to a lively version of another of their songs, “Jump, Children.”   This song,  along with the Flamingos’ dance routine, would appear in a movie with disc jockey Alan Freed — a movie titled, Go Johnny Go!   This was the second Alan Freed movie the Flamingos had appeared in, the first being Rock, Rock, Rock of December 1956, which also included stars such as Chuck Berry and Connie Francis.  The Flamingos at this point, had also become well known for their stage show and choreography.  Later groups that used choreography in their acts, such as The Temptations of the 1960s, would cite the Flamingos as a major influence.  The film Go Johnny Go! would appear in theaters through mid-1959.  The Flamingos’ debut album, mean- while, Flamingo Serenade,  was released in April 1959 on Goldner’s End record label.  

The Flamingos’ 1959 album of old standards, ‘Flamingo Serenade,’ also included their big hit, ‘I Only Have Eyes For You.’
The Flamingos’ 1959 album of old standards, ‘Flamingo Serenade,’ also included their big hit, ‘I Only Have Eyes For You.’
     Flamingo Serenade also helped with the release of singles.  The first song released from this album was “Love Walked In,” issued ahead of the album, in March 1959.  This single, however, failed to chart.  But the next song they tried as a single, “I Only Have Eyes For You,” with Nate Nelson singing the lead, hit pay dirt.  The song became a big hit.  It first received notice in Philadelphia, and soon spread through the Northeast.  Later that summer, the Flamingos would do a ten-day stretch of live performances at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater.  “I Only Have Eyes for You” peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard pop chart in June 1959, and rose to No.3 on the R&B chart.  With its shimmering “doo-bop sh-bops” in the echo chamber, and Nate Nelson’s clear, distinctive lead, the record became a classic, and remains one of the most popular oldies of all time.  It is also said to have been The Flamingos’ favorite recording, regarded as one of those moments in the studio when everything came together for a superb production.

'I Only Have Eyes For You,' 45rpm.
'I Only Have Eyes For You,' 45rpm.
     For George Goldner, the Flamingos proved to be among his most successful groups.  They had at least eight singles on the End label that reached the pop charts, including a Top 30 hit in 1960, “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do.”  They also turned out three full albums on the End label in addition to Flamingo Serenade, including: Flamingo Favorites (1960), Requestfully Yours (1960), and The Sound of the Flamingos (1962). 

     “I Only Have Eyes For You,” however, remains the classic hit single. In November 2004,  Rolling Stone magazine ranked the Flamingos’ version of the song at No #157 on their “500 Greatest Songs” list.  The Flamingos’ version was also used on the soundtrack for the 1973 film, American Graffiti.


Fans Love It

     To this day, the “Flamingos sound” has a very loyal following.  And some who hear The Flamingos’1959 version of “I Only Have Eyes for You” come away with a lasting impression, as did one fan named “Larry,” who wrote about his experience with this Flamingos’ song on the blog, Funky16 Corners:

“I Only Have Eyes
For You”

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you.

Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you, dear.

The moon maybe high
but I can’t see a thing in the sky,
‘Cause I only have eyes for you.

I don’t know if we’re in a garden,
or on a crowded avenue.

You are here, and so am I
Maybe millions of people go by,
but they all disappear from view.
And I only have eyes for you.

     “…I can’t be one hundred percent certain of the first time I ever heard ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ by the Flamingos, but I’m guessing it was when I saw American Graffiti in 1973.  I was only eleven years old, but as soon as this song came on the soundtrack it was instantly drilled deep into the pleasure centers of my brain.  As I got older, and started to understand something of how records were made, my deep respect for the astounding level of craft involved in the making of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ has grown every time I hear it.

     “There’s something special about the spare instrumentation — pretty much just piano, drums and guitar — contrasted with a rich, velvety blanket of human voices, all of it arranged to perfection… that simply blows my mind.

     “I’ve always had a love for what might be (if only in my own mind) considered “night time” records that sound as if they were recorded in the wee small hours specifically for use in that same time period, whether for lovers or those engaged in solitary meditation, and ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ is the ne plus ultra of that very specific subgenre…

     “…It’s almost the musical equivalent of a meditative exercise, where you just close your eyes, allow yourself to be enveloped by the music …and just kind of feel it.  Whether the Flamingos intended it or not, this record is possessed of a kind of otherworldly magic….”

 

Cover of sheet music featuring ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ from the 1934 Warner Brothers film, ‘Dames’.
Cover of sheet music featuring ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ from the 1934 Warner Brothers film, ‘Dames’.

Song Origin & Covers

     The Flamingos, of course, were not the first group to record “I Only Have Eyes For You.”  The song, in fact, was written in 1934 for the film Dames starring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.  It was composed by Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin.  The song plays throughout the film’s soundtrack and is featured in two scenes.  Powell first sings it to Ruby Keeler on the Staten Island ferry, expressing bedazzlement; and that he “only has eyes” for her.  The second time the song appears, Powell is riding the subway and sees Keeler’s face everywhere he looks.  The dream sequence that follows in the film features a elaborate dance scene by famed Hollywood choreographer and co-director Busby Berkeley.  The dancers in scene at one point all wear Ruby Keeler masks. 

     In 1934, the song also charted in three versions — at No. 2 with Ben Selvin and His Orchestra, Howard Phillips vocal; No. 4 with Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra, Lew Sher- wood vocal; and No. 20 with Jane Froman.  And for years thereafter, the song would be covered by a number of other artists.  Billy Eckstine recorded the song on National Records in 1949.  Peggy Lee also did it in 1950.  In May 1952, the Swallows out of Baltimore, Maryland did an R&B version on King Records, somewhat slower than the Flamingos’ version.  The Swallows’ recording is still available today and can be sampled online.  Other R&B artists also did versions of the song as well.  But R&B tunes generally suffered during segregation,  and only began to be heard on some pop radio stations in the mid-1950s.

Art Garfunkel’s 1975 version of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ hit No. 1 in the U.K. and on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart.
Art Garfunkel’s 1975 version of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ hit No. 1 in the U.K. and on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart.
     In 1962, Frank Sinatra recorded his version of “I Only Have Eyes For You,” accompanied by Count Basie’s orchestra.  In 1966, the song became a Billboard Hot 100 hit when it was released as a single by The Lettermen from their album A New Song for Young Love.  Jerry Butler covered the song in 1972.  Art Garfunkel, formerly of Simon & Garfunkel, had a No.1 single with the song in the U.K. for two weeks in October 1975.  It was the first time Garfunkel had a hit there as a solo artist.  Garfunkel’s version, also on his 1975 Breakaway album, reached No. 18 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart.  He also performed the song on the second episode of Saturday Night Live.

     In 1976, Johnny Mathis named an album after the song.  It was also featured in the 1980-81 Broadway revival of the Tony award-winning musical 42nd Street.  In 1990, the Count Basie Orchestra recorded it with George Benson.  And since then, still others have made cover versions, including: Mercury Rev in 1998, Martina Topley-Bird, Jamie Cullum, and Mark Eitzel of American Music Club in 2002.  But the 1959 version of the song has remained popular, and has also found its way into other venues.

1973 film, ‘American Graffiti’ used the Flamingos’ song, among others from the 1950s & ’60s.
1973 film, ‘American Graffiti’ used the Flamingos’ song, among others from the 1950s & ’60s.


Film & TV

     The Flamingos’ version of “I Only Have Eyes For You” has been used in a number of films, including: American Graffiti (1973), The Right Stuff (1983), One Good Cop/One Man’s Justice (1991), My Girl (1991), Heart and Souls (1993), A Bronx Tale (1993), Milk Money (1994), Past Tense (1994-TV), Four Dogs Playing Poker (2000), Cherish (2002), and Something’s Gotta Give (2003).  On television, too, The Flamingos’ version has also been used, as in one 1998 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and also in The Sopranos series during 1999.

     This Flamingos’ song has also been used to give expression to experimental and artistic film making.  In 2002, the Perth, Australia International Film Festival, “Revelation,” filed this mention of a short, seven-minute film by Tom Jarmusch and Fabienne Gaultier (USA/France) that used the Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes For You” in its production:

“Jarmusch and Gaultier collaborate to (re)produce their multiple screen installation work for cinema viewing and an excellent work it is.  Using multiple film and video formats including 16mm, domestic video and a toy video camera, they have produced a hypnotic work with a wonderful tactile nature.  Structured around the Flamingos tune “I Only Have Eyes For You,” it is a strangely poetic and layered experimental work which literally compels the audience to watch.  Described as a “triple screen city symphony” its lyrical quality is alluring and wonderfully hypnotic.”

     However, not all uses of Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes For You” have been approved or authorized by the group or their estates.


Pepsi Lawsuit

     In 1997, Pepsi-Cola used the Flamingos’ 1959 version of “I Only Have Eyes For You” in a television commercial that ran nationwide for about six months.  In 2003, two surviving members of The Flamingos, Terry Johnson and Tommy Hunt, and the estates of the deceased members, brought a lawsuit against Pepsi for the alleged wrongful action.  They were represented by San Francisco entertainment lawyer Steven Ames Brown.

     A collective bargaining agreement made with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists requires advertisers to get permission for commercial use of music, and to pay fees to the music publishers, the record labels, and the artists. In 2006, a judge ordered Pepsi and its advertising company to pay $250,000 to The Flamingos for using their song in a TV ad without their permission.  “In our case, they didn’t even ask,” said San Francisco attorney Brown, in a later interview with Associated Press.

     In 2006, a judge ordered PepsiCo Inc. and its advertising company to pay $250,000 to the The Flamingos for using “I Only Have Eyes For You” without their permission.  According to Brown, it wasn’t the first time that Pepsi neglected to pay a recording artist for a song.  He charged that Pepsi failed to pay black performers for their songs before.  “Pepsi routinely pays the Caucasian performers who appear on camera but refuses to pay the African-American singers whose voices are used in the soundtrack unless they sue,” Brown said.  Brown had successfully sued Pepsi on a previous occasion on behalf of singer Doris Troy, whose 1963 hit “Just One Look” was used in another popular Pepsi commercial with supermodel Cindy Crawford that featured two young boys.

     A spokesman for Pepsi said the failure to pay The Flamingos directly was an oversight and that Pepsi didn’t realize the song was subject to the collective bargaining agreement.  “We have a long history and strong track record of supporting diversity in our advertising,”said Dave DeCecco of the Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo Inc.


The Flamingos

A 1997 CD of Flamingos’ songs on Chess Records, issued as part of the Chess 50th Anniversary Collection.
A 1997 CD of Flamingos’ songs on Chess Records, issued as part of the Chess 50th Anniversary Collection.
     Today, the Flamingos’ music has survived most of its original members.  In fact, the group began to split apart in the early 1960s, with some members then going solo or to other groups.  Around that time, Nate Nelson went to the Platters and Tommy Hunt became a minor soul star.  Nelson later died of a heart attack in 1984 at the age of 52.  Terry Johnson formed The Modern Flamingos for a time then went to Motown through a friend, Smokey Robinson, to help produce records there.  Jake and Zeke Carey continued to lead one version of the Flamingos into the late 1990s.  There were also other Flamingos configurations that continued thereafter.  These various groups, offshoots, and later revivals are discussed elsewhere in more detail as indicated in “sources” below.  However, in 2001 the original Flamingos were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, winning praise for their vocal quality.  The Hall singled out “I Only Have Eyes For You,” calling it the group’s signature song, and “one of the most sublime and enduring vocal-group recordings of all time.”  The Hall also noted one of the group’s earlier songs — their third single, “Golden Teardrops,” released in 1953 — which some have hailed as “perfect-sounding” and also “a legendary masterpiece.”  The Flamingos recorded well over 100 songs between 1953 and 1964, plus additional unreleased material.  For a full history on the group and a listing of their discography see, for example, the profile at Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebooks, as well as other sources noted below.

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Date Posted:  25 May 2009
Last Update:  25 July 2011
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “I Only Have Eyes For You,”
PopHistoryDig.com, May 25, 2009.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information


The Flamingos’ song, ‘That’s My Desire,’ June 1953, Chance Records, Chicago, Illinois.
The Flamingos’ song, ‘That’s My Desire,’ June 1953, Chance Records, Chicago, Illinois.
“I Only Have Eyes For You — The Flamingos,” The Doo Wop Box: 101 Vocal Group Gems From the Golden Age of Rock ‘n Roll, (liner notes booklet), Rhino Records Inc, 1993, p. 64.

Marv Goldberg, “The Flamingos,” Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebooks,  Based on interviews with Johnny Carter and Terry Johnson, 2006.

Jason Ankeny, “The Flamingos,” All Music Guide.

The Flamingos,” Wikipedia.org.

“The Flamingos,” Vocal Group Hall of Fame, Inducted, 2000.

Sandra Burlingame, “I Only Have Eyes for You  (1934),” JazzStandards.com.

David Edwards and Mike Callahan, “The George Goldner Story,” BsnPubs.com, last update, January 26, 2009.

Composition of The Flamingos’ group in 1959.
Composition of The Flamingos’ group in 1959.
David Edwards and Mike Callahan, “End Label Album Discography,” BsnPubs.com, last update, February 28, 2008.

Robert Pruter, “The Flamingos: The Chicago Years,” Goldmine (magazine) April 6, 1990, pp. 28-30. (Goldmine.com is also a music and music memorabilia website featuring articles on recording stars of the past and present, listing all known releases. Goldmine, the bi-weekly print magazine, also distributes a weekly e-newsletter, and broadcasts streaming radio.)

Larry, “The Flamingos — I Only have Eyes For You,” Funky16 Corners, June 12, 2008.

Kim Curtis, Associated Press, “The Flamingos Wins Settlement From Pepsi For Unauthorized Song in Ad,” TargetMarketNews.com, January 30, 2006.

Associated Press, “Doo-Wop Band Wins Settlement From Pepsi,” USA Today, January 30, 2006.

The Flamingos,” HarmonyTrain.com.

Side 1 of ‘Flamingo Favorites’ album, issued on the End Record label, 1960.
Side 1 of ‘Flamingo Favorites’ album, issued on the End Record label, 1960.
“Pepsi Must Pay for Flamingos Song,” Los Angles Times, February 1, 2006.

Stephen Cook, Album Review, I Only Have Eyes for You: The Best of The “End” Years, The Flamingos ( Sequel, 1994), All Music.com

Anthony J. Gribin, Andrew M. Schoff & Matthew M. Schiff, The Complete Book of Doo-Wop,
Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 2000.

Robert Pruter. Doo-Wop: The Chicago Scene, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1996.

The Flamingos,” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Induction, March 19, 2001.

A Flamingos Discography.

“I Only Have Eyes For You,” 2002 Films/Short Film Showcase, Revelation Perth International Film Festival.

J.C. Marion, “The Flamingos, Part 2: Decca, End, and Beyond,” Doo-Wop Nation, Issue #6.

The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” Rolling Stone, November-December 2004.

Terry Johnson’s Flamingos History.

“I Only Have Eyes for You,” Wikipedia.org


 



“Ralph Kramden Statue”
August 2000

Close-up of Ralph Kramden-Jackie Gleason statue at the August 2000 'TV Land' unveiling in New York city.
Close-up of Ralph Kramden-Jackie Gleason statue at the August 2000 'TV Land' unveiling in New York city.
     Ralph Kramden is the name of a fictional New York City bus driver who starred in the popular 1950s television comedy The Honeymooners.  Actor Jackie Gleason played the role of Ralph, who was a memorable, one-of-a-kind character.  In the show, Gleason’s Ralph Kramden made $62 a week driving his Madison Avenue bus route.  At home, in a small Brooklyn walk-up apartment, where most of the shows were set, Ralph was always coming up with some “get rich” scheme or other venture in which his wife, Alice, and neighbors Ed Norton with wife Trixie, were typically recruited as skeptical and/or uncooperative accomp- lices.  The schemes usually ended badly for Ralph, with wife Alice typically adding a final cut of the “I- told-you-so” variety.  Alice was played to a T by Audrey Meadows, with equally good performances by Art Carney as Norton and Joyce Randolph as Trixie.  Although all of the skits were humorous, and some slapstick, many also had a dramatic component or a pointed lesson that viewers could identify with. The show had a strong “everyman” appeal and following when it first ran in the 1950s, with each of its characters popular among the general public.  TV historians often rate the show as one of the best of the early situation comedies.

Statues & Icons
Series

     This story is one in an occasional series that will explore how America, and other countries, honor their icons — from famous politicians and military leaders, to movie stars, TV celebrities, and sports heros.  Societies have been building statues and monuments to commemorate their famous and beloved figures for thousands of years.  But in modern times, even fictional characters, their ranks swelled by cinema and television, are now joining those up on the pedestal, some for purely commercial reasons.  As statues and busts, the famous personages are typically cast in outsized proportions, some placed in parks or other public spaces.  Still others are found on postage stamps, murals, buildings, near sports arenas, or used in various place names.  Not all of those so honored, however, meet with public approval, though some have broad and continuing support.  The stories offered in this series will include short sketches on some of these figures — past and present — providing a bit of the history and context on each and how the proposed honor came about.

     In recent years the television series came to be owned by the media conglomerate Viacom. Viacom’s cable TV channel, TV Land, began airing The Honeymooners series as part of its classic TV programming.  Sometime in 1999, TV Land came up with the idea of developing and erecting statues of some of its fictional TV characters as a way to publicize the network and its shows.  The statue for Ralph Kramden became the first of these projects, to be located in New York city at the New York-New Jersey Port Authority Bus Terminal building in mid-town Manhattan.  TV Land developed the statue in cooperation with the Jackie Gleason estate and commissioned sculptor Robert DuGrenier to create the likeness.

     The statue, which portrays Kramden in his bus driver’s uniform carrying a lunch pail, was formally dedicated at a brief ceremony in August 2000.  At the time, the Port Authority management regarded the Gleason-Kramden statue as an art project in its public space, providing a service to its patrons.  The statue’s presence at the terminal, said management, would help make commuting more enjoyable for the 185,000 passengers who then came through the depot every day.  Cedrick T. Fulton, general manager of the bus terminal, said he envisioned bus passengers stopping to have their pictures taken with the statue.  TV Land, for its part, said its Kramden statue was “honoring a public icon.”  The cable TV channel paid for the statue, but was not charged a promotional or advertising fee by the Port Authority.  Rob Pellizzi, TV Land’s vice president for marketing, indicated that the statue was then part of a larger publicity campaign to promote the show and the cable channel.

Kramden-the-statue at his post outside the entrance to the Port Authority Bus Station. Photo: Flickr.com, wallyg.
Kramden-the-statue at his post outside the entrance to the Port Authority Bus Station. Photo: Flickr.com, wallyg.

 

TV Land Promo

     In addition to the statue, TV Land was then airing television ads with Art Carney’s character from the show, Ed Norton, dancing to the song “Wild Thing,” a hit from the 1960s by the British group The Troggs.  As part of this TV Land campaign, some city buses were also painted from top to bottom with scenes from the series, some showing bus driver Kramden behind the wheel.  Pellizzi indicated at the time that TV Land was thinking of promoting other shows in “similar partnerships” — with permanent statues placed across the country.  They were calling their program “TV Land Landmarks”

     “Creating TV Land Landmarks helps us recognize those locations throughout the country that are closely identified with TV that people want to visit,” explained Larry W. Jones, Executive Vice President and General Manager of TV Land in a press statement for the Ralph Kramden ceremony. 

...In a different light.
...In a different light.
      “As Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden character evokes New York City,” Jones continued, “TV Land felt strongly that the Port Authority Bus Terminal was the perfect location from which to kick off this initiative.”   Jones added that his company was optimistic about bringing the statues initiative “to other landmarks around the country over the next few years” — projects which TV Land later did pursue.  To date, among the shows and characters that TV Land has included at other “landmark” locations are the following: the Mary Tyler Moore Show (Minneapolis, MN), The Andy Griffith Show (North Carolina), The Bob Newhart Show (Chicago), Bewitched (Salem,MA), Elvis Presley’s Aloha from Hawaii show, and the “Fonzie” character from the Happy Days show (Milwaukee, WI).  These TV Land statues and landmarks will be profiled in future stories at this website.

 

The Honeymooners

Classic kitchen scene from the ‘Honeymooners’ TV show of the 1950s. From left, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, and Joyce Randolph.
Classic kitchen scene from the ‘Honeymooners’ TV show of the 1950s. From left, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, and Joyce Randolph.
     Although The Honeymooners ran on CBS for only one season in 1955-1956, the show left a very influential mark on early television and had an extremely loyal following.  Some early baby boomer kids also watched the show with their parents.  The Honeymooners ranked as the No. 2 TV show during its run, and garnered Emmy Awards for the acting of Audrey Meadows and Art Carney in their supporting roles.  In syndication, The Honeymooners series has had a long life, not only in the U.S., but also in many countries around the world.  In some markets, the syndicated shows have been aired for decades, almost from the time when the show ended in its original broadcast.  Viacom aired the original series, and also some later discovered “lost” episodes, at least from the mid-1980s.  Honeymooners episodes also appeared on Showtime, and in more recent years, on the TV Land channel.  The episodes in syndication have also been released in VHS and DVD formats.

Double photo from ‘TV Land’ – top showing Ralph driving his bus with cast along for the ride; and at bottom, Alice bringing Ralph his lunch pail.
Double photo from ‘TV Land’ – top showing Ralph driving his bus with cast along for the ride; and at bottom, Alice bringing Ralph his lunch pail.
     In August 2000, an unveiling ceremony was held in New York City.  Joyce Randolph, who played Ralph Kramden’s neighbor “Trixie” on the show, was one of the special guests.  “He loved hoopla,” said Ms. Randolph of Gleason, “and the statue is gorgeous.”  Also attending the ceremony were New York transit authority officials.  “Who better than Ralph Kramden to greet commuters and bus drivers in front of the place where more than 200,000 commuters and 7,000 buses pass through every day?” said Ken Philmus, director of tunnels, bridges, and terminals.  “We think this is a wonderful gift to all the people of New York city.” 

     Some passers-by that day also watched the dedication.  “I like that guy Kramden,” said one construction worker, Tino Riveria, looking on at the dedication.  “He was a big mouth, but there are millions of big mouths in New York.  So naturally, people here are going to identify with him.” Another observer was Ruthie Escalante, a record store clerk.  She told a reporter that Kramden’s nonstop battles with his wife — and reconciliation at the end of each show  — came about as close to defining married life as anything she had seen on television.  “Gleason really told it like it is,”she said.  “And I watch the reruns all the time with my husband. It is a ritual.”

Ralph Kramden with lunch pail, surveys Manhattan’s busy streets and the comings and goings of thousands of daily commuters. Photo: pbase.com, Hubert J. Steed.
Ralph Kramden with lunch pail, surveys Manhattan’s busy streets and the comings and goings of thousands of daily commuters. Photo: pbase.com, Hubert J. Steed.

     TV Land, however, was not the first to honor Jackie Gleason and Ralph Kramden in a public venue.  In 1988, one of the New York city bus service depots in Brooklyn was renamed the “Jackie Gleason Bus Depot.”  All buses that originate from that depot bear a sticker on the front that has a logo derived from the “face on the moon” opening logo that ran on The Honeymooners opening credits.  The MTA also renumbered one of its busses to 2969 and made it the “official Jackie Gleason bus.”  There is also a statue of Jackie Gleason in his Ralph Kramden bus driver’s attire at the Academy of Television Arts & Science’s Hall of Fame in North Hollywood, California.  That statue, however, is posed in Gleason’s famous “and away we go” stance, which he often did at the opening of his TV variety show.  The North Hollywood statue also pre-dates TV Land replica.

     The eight-foot, 1,000-pound likeness of Ralph Kramden/Jackie Gleason is found today at the 40th Street and 8th Avenue terminal entrance.  The plaque on the base of the statue reads:

“Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden: Bus Driver – Raccoon Lodge Treasurer – Dreamer.  Present- ed by the People of TV Land.”  

Close-up detail, other view, Kramden statue.
Close-up detail, other view, Kramden statue.
     As of 2008, the Port Authority Bus Station served some 7,200 buses and about 200,000 people on an average weekday. Over 3 billion passengers have used the building since it began operation in 1950.

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     Stay tuned to this site for other stories in the “statues & icons” series.
_____________________

Date Posted:  7 March 2009
Last Update:  16 March 2013
Comments to:
jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Scene from 'Honeymooners' TV show.
Scene from 'Honeymooners' TV show.
Dean E. Murphy, “Hey, Norton, Get a Load of Ralphie Boy,” New York Times, August 26, 2000.

“Ralph Kramden Statue,”TV Acres.com.

Stephen M. Silverman, “Ralph Kramden Home to Roost,” People.com, August 26, 2000.

PR Newswire, New York, “TV Land Honors Ralph Kramden — America’s Most Famous Bus Driver — With Statue at Port Authority Bus Terminal,” August 28, 2000.

“Gotham Honors A Heavyweight,” CBS, New York, August 28, 2000.

Another scene from the 'Honeymooners' set.
Another scene from the 'Honeymooners' set.
“Gleason Gets Statue In New York,” TV Land, studio briefing, August 29, 2000.

Josh Getlin, “Ralph Kramden Statue By Windsor Sculptor Is Unveiled in New York,” Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2000.

See also Honeymooners.net, described as “a site with everything you could possibly want to know about the classic sitcom.” Registration required.

TV Land’s website had previously offered a 360-degree virtual tour of the Ralph Kramden statue in its setting, and also included a brief promotional film clip on the statue. However, much of that has since been taken down, now replaced by a brief narrative description.

Honeymooners’ stars Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows on ‘TV Guide’ cover, week of May 21-27, 1955.
Honeymooners’ stars Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows on ‘TV Guide’ cover, week of May 21-27, 1955.

An extensive fan website on all things Honeymooners if found at HamniaHamina.com.

See YouTube.com for a selection of posted Honeymooners episodes.

“TV Land”, Wikipedia.org.

“The Honeymooners”, Wikipedia.org.
















_________________


“American Bandstand”
1956-2007

Dick Clark at his DJ post in the 1950s.  "I don't make culture," he reportedly said at one point, "I sell it."
Dick Clark at his DJ post in the 1950s. "I don't make culture," he reportedly said at one point, "I sell it."
      On July 7, 1956, a young radio disc jockey named Dick Clark made his first appearance hosting an afternoon TV show called Bandstand.  Broad- cast from Philadelphia, the show had originally begun in 1952.  Bandstand played the new rock ‘n roll music and featured kids from local high schools dancing to the music.  When it first began, the dancing was almost accidental, but local TV viewers called in saying they liked watching “those young people dancing.”  As the show’s new host, Clark made the most of that novelty, and took Bandstand to the national level.  The son of a radio-station owner in Utica, N.Y., Dick Clark had been a radio disc jockey as a student at Syracuse University.  By 1951, when he landed a job at ABC’s WFIL station in Philadelphia, he worked in radio, regarded as too youthful looking to be a credible TV newscaster. Clark’s big break came when the station decided to replace former Bandstand host Bob Horn.  A youngish-looking 26 when he took over, Clark quickly made the show his own. He featured musical guests lip-synching their songs and used his teenage audience to “rate” new records.  Local audiences loved the show.

       American Bandstand, late -1950s-early-1960s.
American Bandstand, late -1950s-early-1960s.
      Bandstand, out of Philadelphia, soon became the highest rated local daytime TV show in the nation. That got the attention of network executives in New York. By August 1957, now called American Bandstand, ABC began broadcasting the show nationwide at 3 p.m. for an hour-and-a-half. Within six months of going national, American Bandstand was picked up by 101 stations. Twenty million viewers were now tuning in, half of whom were adult. The show was also receiving 20,000 to 45,000 fan letters a week. Teenagers came to Philadelphia from wide and far for a chance to dance on the show. Bandstand also became known as a place where new talent could be seen; a place where aspiring artists could get their start. On the November 22, 1957 show, for example, two young singers using the name “Tom & Jerry” appeared. The duo would later become known as Simon & Garfunkel. New dances were often introduced on the show. It was on Bandstand that Chubby Checker brought “the Twist” to the nation in the summer of 1960. Bandstand’s “regular” dance couples approached daytime soap-opera fame, and in the 1950s and 1960s they were written about regularly in teen magazines, as was Clark and the show.
Clark interviewing singer Bobby Rydell, 1958.
Clark interviewing singer Bobby Rydell, 1958.
It didn’t hurt, of course, that Bandstand‘s WFIL-TV station was owned by the Walter Annenberg empire, which also included, among other media outlets, TV Guide and Seventeen magazine for girls. Seventeen had a regular column on Bandstand, “written” by one of the show’s regulars. And TV Guide put Clark’s telegenic face on its cover several times during the 1950s (see sample covers below).

 

Brokering Rock ‘n Roll

     American Bandstand also played another critical role —  especially for mainstream culture and the music business. It helped make America more receptive to rock ‘n roll, a music genre not then accepted as it is today.  “From the time it hit the national airwaves in 1957,” observes rock historian Hank Bordowitz, “Bandstand changed the perception and dissemination of popular music.”   The show helped make rock ‘n roll more acceptable to many adults by bringing the music and the dancing kids into their homes every afternoon, with Clark providing the responsible, clean-cut adult supervision.  Clark’s income was soon approaching $500,000 a year.

“We built a horizontal and vertical music situation… We published the songs…, managed the acts, pressed the records, distributed the records, promoted the records… .” – Dick Clark

     American Banstand also helped to open the doors to a new kind of music business.  And along the way, Dick Clark became a wealthy man, buying into music publishing companies, record labels, and promoting “Philly sound” recording artiststs on those labels — stars such as Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, and Fabian.  Clark also became involved in managing the artists, formed a radio offshoot, and conducted live productions.  He also made personal appearances as a DJ hosting live dance events called  “sock hops”  —  as many as 14 a week.  And he also packaged concert tours, taking the music on the road.  He soon had a nice little musical empire in the making.  “We built a horizontal and vertical music situation,” explained Clark of his various businesses. “. . . We published the songs domestically and abroad, managed the acts, pressed the records, distributed the records, promoted the records. . . .”

 

Dick Clark Covers
Annenberg-Owned TV Guide

May 24, 1958
May 24, 1958
October 4, 1958
October 4, 1958
August 29, 1959
August 29, 1959
September 10, 1960
September 10, 1960

 

“Payola” & Congress

August 1958 cover of 'Teen' magazine with Clark & headline: 'Why America Loves Dick Clark's American Bandstand.'
August 1958 cover of 'Teen' magazine with Clark & headline: 'Why America Loves Dick Clark's American Bandstand.'
     In 1960, however, the “payola” scandal broke, a controversy involving prominent radio disc jockeys then implicated in playing records for payment to make them popular. Clark was investigated by Congress during the scandal, along with other prominent DJs like Alan Freed. But Clark, in his appearence before a Congresional committee, was cool and thorough in his testimony, and denied taking “payola.” He emerged from the hearings without lasting harm. However, it was later revealed that Clark had been “given” royalty rights to more than 140 songs.  ABC did require him to divest his outside ventures, more than 30 by one count, including a number of record labels. Still, Clark and American Bandstand held their popularity.

     American Bandstand was broadcast every weekday through the summer of 1963. But in the fall of that year, it became a once-a-week show run on Saturday afternoons. By 1965, Dick Clark, then 35 years old, was making about $1 million a year. By February 1964, American Bandstand moved to Los Angeles, in part to facilitate Clark’s expansion into other TV ventures and film production. It was also easier in L.A. to tap into the recording industry.  By 1965, Dick Clark, then 35, was making about $1 million a year. Musically, the sound on Bandstand changed with the times, featuring the California surf sound in the 1960s, and a decade later, the ‘70s disco beat.  Through it all, dating from the 1950s when Clark took over, Bandstand was one of the few places on television where ethnically-mixed programming could be seen.

1959: "Caravan of Stars."
1959: "Caravan of Stars."

In fact, Clark later claimed that he had integrated the show in the 1950s – a claim disputed by some.  Clark did feature black recording artists as guests on the show in its early years.  When American Bandstand first went national with ABC in August 1957, Lee Andrews and the Hearts appeared among the first guests performing their song, “Long Lonely Nights.”  In that year as well, other black artists also appeared, including Jackie Wilson, Johnny Mathis, Chuck Berry, Mickey & Sylvia, and others.  Integration of the studio audience, however, appears to have been slow and controlled according to research by John Jackson in his 1997 book, American Bandstand, and also Matthew F. Delmont in his 2012 book, The Nicest Kids in Town.  However, there are also reports that when Clark took black and white artists on the road to perform concerts in his “Caravan of Stars” shows of the 1960s – sometimes in towns where segregation was still practiced – he insisted on equal treatment of his performers at those venues, otherwise threatening to pull his show.

 

Dick Clark shown in American Bandstand's 'rate-a-record' segment sometime in the 1970s.
Dick Clark shown in American Bandstand's 'rate-a-record' segment sometime in the 1970s.

 

Changing Scene

     In the 1970s, with the rise of disco, Bandstand began to become something of an artifact rather than a trend-setter, although still netting its share of popular guests.  By the mid-1980s, with the rise of MTV and other music video channels, American Banstand’s format became dated. In September 1987 Bandstand moved to syndication, and in April 1989 it ran briefly on cable’s USA Network with a new host and Clark as executive producer. The show ended for good on October 7, 1989.  Yet over its three decades, American Bandstand played a key role in the music business.  Not only did it become the place where major record labels sought to showcase their songs and artists, it also generated millions in record sales each year, plus millions in advertising revenue for ABC.  As for recording artists — with the notable exceptions of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones — most of the major rock ‘n roll acts from the 1950s through mid-1980s appeared on the show.

     Sonny and Cher made their first TV appearance on American Bandstand, June 12, 1965.  The Jackson 5 made their TV debut on the show February 21, 1970, as did Aerosmith in December 1973.  In January, 1980, Prince made his TV debut on BandstandBy the mid-1980s, with the rise of MTV and other music video channels, American Bandstand’s format became dated.Among others appearing during the show’s 33-year run were: Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, James Brown, the Beach Boys, the Doors, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Temptations, the Carpenters, Van Morrison, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Neil Diamond, Ike & Tina Turner, Pink Floyd, Creedance Clearwater Revival, George Michael, Rod Stewart, Bon Jovi, Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, and last but not least, Madonna, who appeared January 14, 1984 singing the tune “Holiday.”  But even after the show’s on-air demise, American Bandstand did not die. In early 1996, MTV’s sister network, VH-1 began broadcasting old Bandstand episodes, mostly from the 1975-1985 period. Within three months, these reruns — called the Best of American Bandstand, with taped introductions by Dick Clark himself  — became one of VH1’s top-rated programs.

 

Dick Clark’s Empire

     In addition to American Bandstand, Clark amassed a portfolio of other TV and movie productions, among them, numerous TV specials and awards shows. In the late 1960s he did various television series, talent shows, and also hosted TV game shows, culminating in the late 1970s with The $25,000 Pyramid. In the 1980s and 1990s, his Dick Clark Productions, Inc. turned out more than a dozen made-for-television movies, at least 60 TV specials, several Hollywood films, and radio shows. By 1986, Clark had made the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. By 1986, Clark had made the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. In recent years he continued his TV productions, landing a prime time TV series, American Dreams. That show was set in 1950s-1960s Philadelphia and used American Bandstand footage in its storyline. It ran for three seasons on NBC during 2002-2005. Clark also parlayed the American Bandstand name into other businesses, using it as a brand and capitalizing on its nostalgia cache. He opened a chain of music-themed restaurants using the name Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill. Several of these have opened at airports — Indianapolis, Indiana; Newark, New Jersey; Phoenix, Arizona; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Two others are located in Overland Park, Kansas and Cranbury, New Jersey.

One of Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand' Grills. Similar themed venues have also opened in airports.
One of Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand' Grills. Similar themed venues have also opened in airports.
      In June 2006, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater — which uses some now-senior performers from the 1960s era in its acts — was opened in Branson, Missouri. An American Bandstand Grill opened there as well. In 2007, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Music Complex, with restaurant, opened in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

     Throughout his career, Clark kept one foot in the world of radio, and would later focus some of his business interests there, also using it as a platform for rock ‘n roll nostalgia.  In 1981, he created The Dick Clark National Music Survey for the Mutual Broadcasting System, which counted down the Top 30 contemporary hits of the week.

Sample recording from one of Dick Clark's radio programs, May 1985.
Sample recording from one of Dick Clark's radio programs, May 1985.
Beginning in 1982, Clark also hosted a weekly weekend radio program distributed by his own syndicator, United Stations Radio Networks. That program focused on oldies, called Dick Clark’s Rock, Roll, and Remember — also the name of a 1976 autobiographical book he wrote with another author. This radio program would also sell recordings of its shows, some of which involved Clark interviews with, and/or features on, current and former music stars. By 1986, he left Mutual Broadcasting to host another show, Countdown America. In the 1990s, Clark hosted U.S. Music Survey, which he continued hosting up until 2004, when he suffered a stroke. Although he recovered partially from his stroke, his public appearances since that time have been limited.

 

Bandstand Acquired

     In June 2007, Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins professional football team and Six Flags amusement parks, and also a partner with Tom Cruise in a film venture, announced the purchase of Dick Clark Productions for $175 million. In the deal, Snyder became the owner of American Bandstand‘s entire library of televised dance shows stretching over 30-plus years. In addition, Snyder is also acquiring other Dick Clark assets, including the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcast from Times Square, the Golden Globe Awards show, the American Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, and the Family Television Awards. In 2007, Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, acquired Dick Clark Productions for $175 million including Band- stand‘s 30-year library of TV shows. The Dick Clark properties also include the Bloopers television shows and Fox’s popular reality TV show, So You Think You Can Dance. Snyder, who will take over as chairman of Dick Clark Productions, said in a press release, “This was a rare opportunity to acquire a powerhouse portfolio and grow it in new directions.” It was not entirely clear at the time of the deal’s announcement, exactly what Snyder would do with the American Bandstand material, other than mention of possibly using it visually on television screens throughout Six Flags amusement parks while patrons were standing on line.

     Today, the legacy of American Bandstand is alive and well, and can be found in various venues, including the internet, You Tube, and various fan web sites.  There are also a number of books on Dick Clark and the show, including Clark’s 1976 autobiography written with Richard Robinson, and a 1997 volume authored by John A. Jackson entitled,  American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire.

Other Bandstand stories at this website include, “Bandstand Performers, 1957;” “Bandstand Performers, 1963;” and “At The Hop, 1957-1958.”  Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. - Jack Doyle.

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this Website

Donate Now

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________________________________

Date Posted:  25 March 2008
Last Update:  8 September 2014
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “American Bandstand, 1956-2007,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 25, 2008.

___________________________

 

 

 

 

Sources, Links & Additional Information

John Jackson's 1997 book on Dick Clark and American Bandstand.
John Jackson's 1997 book on Dick Clark and American Bandstand.
Dick Clark’s 1976 autobiography written with Richard Robinson.
Dick Clark’s 1976 autobiography written with Richard Robinson.

“Challenging the Giants,” Newsweek, December 23, 1957, p. 70.

“Drive, Talent, Hits, Clark Help Make Philly the Hottest,” Billboard, March 10, 1958, p. 4.

“Dick Clark – New Rage of the Teenagers,” New York Times, March 16, 1958, Section 2, p. 13.

“Tall, That’s All,” Time, Monday, April 14, 1958.

“TV Bandstand: Teenagers’ Favorite,” Look, vol. 22. May 13, 1958, pp. 69-72.

“Newest Music for a New Generation: Rock ‘n’ Roll Rolls On ‘n’ On,” Life, December 22, 1958, pp. 37-43.

“America’s Favorite Bandstander” (Dick Clark cover story), Look, November 24, 1959.

“Facing the Music,” Time, Monday, November 30,1959.

“Teen-Agers’ Dreamboat,” New York Times, March 5, 1960.

Arnold Shaw, The Rockin’ ’50s: The Decade That Transformed the Pop Music Scene, New York: Hawthorn Books, 1974.

Dick Clark and Richard Robinson, Rock, Roll & Remember, Thomas Y. Crowell, Publisher, 1976.

Robert Stephen Spitz, Rock, Roll & Remember, Book Review, New York Times, October 24, 1976.

Michael Shore with Dick Clark, The History of American Bandstand, New York: Ballantine Books, 1985.

“Clark Around the Clock,” Newsweek, August 18, 1986, pp. 26-27.

Summary of the National Register of Historic Places Nomination for American Bandstand building, WFIL and WHYY studios, 4548 Market St., Philadelphia., Pennsylvania, July 28, 1986.

“American Bandstand” and “Dick Clark,” The Museum of American Broadcast Communications.

Dick Clark,” The Radio Hall of Fame.

Ginia Bellafante, “Ultrasuede Is Funny – VH-1’s Reruns of American Bandstand Prove the Hootie Network Can Outwit MTV,” Time, Monday, April 22, 1996.

John A. Jackson, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Fred Goodman, “Roll Over, Beethoven: How Dick Clark Taught American Parents not to be Afraid of Rock-and-Roll and Made a Fortune in the Process,” Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire, Book Review, New York Times, October 26, 1997.

Richard Corliss, “Philly Fifties: Rock ‘n Radio,” Saturday, July 14, 2001.

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

Thomas Heath and Howard Schneider, “Snyder Adds A TV Icon To His Empire, “Washington Post, Wednesday, June 20, 2007, P. D-1.

Ken Emerson, “The Spin on ‘Bandstand” – Music, TV and Popular Culture Learned to Swing to the Beat of a Different Drummer: Big Bucks,” Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2007.

Becky Krystal, “Dick Clark, Host of ‘American Bandstand,’ Dies at 82,” Washington Post, April 18, 2012.

Matthew F. Delmont, The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia, Berkeley: University of California Press, February 2012.

Matthew F. Delmont, “The America of ‘Bandstand’,” Washington Post, Sunday, April 22, 2012, p. B-2.

Democracy Now, “Despite Rep for Integration, TV’s Iconic ‘American Bandstand’ Kept Black Teens Off Its Stage,” YouTube.com, Mar 2, 2012.

Alex Alvarez, “DJ ‘Cousin Brucie’ Recalls Dick Clark’s Commitment To Racial Integration: ‘If We Don’t Go All Together, We Go Out’,” Mediaite.com, April 19th, 2012.

John Liberty, “Dick Clark Remembered: the Velvelettes Say Icon Defended Them in Segregated South, Share Memories of 1964 Tour,” Mlive.com, April 20, 2012.

A documentary film entitled The Wages of Spin, focuses on the history of American Bandstand, the 1950s payola scandal, and Dick Clark.  A preview clip from that documentary is available at YouTube and additional information is found at Character Driven Films.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Kefauver Hearings”
1950-1951

An estimated 30 million Americans watched the 'Kefauver hearings' in 1950-51, some in movie theaters like this one.  (Photo - M. Rougier/Life).
An estimated 30 million Americans watched the 'Kefauver hearings' in 1950-51, some in movie theaters like this one. (Photo - M. Rougier/Life).
      In May 1950, a little-known U.S. Senator named Estes Kefauver, a 47 year-old Democrat from Tennessee, began a series of investigative hearings on organized crime. These formal hearings of the U.S. Senate — which came to be known as the “Kefauver Hearings” — were unique in the history of politics, also heralding the power of television. They became the first congressional hearings to draw a large national audience. Beginning in Washington, D.C. in May of 1950, the Kefauver hearings lasted 15 months with sessions held in 14 cities. More than 600 witnesses gave testimony. It was not the first time that congressional hearings were televised, but it was the first time that a large national audience became involved in a national issue by way of television. Although fewer than half of all American homes had TV sets in 1950-51, many people were able to watch in bars, restaurants, and businesses. Some movie theaters also ran the hearings.

'Crime Hunter Kefauver'-Time cover, 12 March 1951.
'Crime Hunter Kefauver'-Time cover, 12 March 1951.
      The Kefauver hearings on organized crime proved a fascinating and engrossing revelation to many Americans — introducing for the first time to many viewers terms such as “the Mafia” and the details of how criminal organizations worked. During eight days of hearings in New York City in mid-March 1951, for example, over 50 witnesses described the highest-ranking crime syndicate in America — an organization allegedly led by Frank Costello who had taken over from Lucky Luciano. According to Life magazine, “the week of March 12, 1951, will occupy a special place in history. . . people had suddenly gone indoors into living rooms, taverns, and clubrooms, auditoriums and back-offices. There, in eerie half-light, looking at millions of small frosty screens, people sat as if charmed. Never before had the attention of the nation been riveted so completely on a single matter.”

     The Kefauver hearings also had the advantage of being the “best show” in town at the time — and for the most part, the only show in terms of available daytime content.  The witnesses, testimony, and interrogation-by-senators offered compelling programming for TV networks then trying to fill up their telecasts. “…Dishes stood in sinks, babies went unfed, busi- ness sagged, and depart- ment stores emptied while the hearings were on.”

- Time magazine  Television was still new then, and daytime television was wide open.  Prime-time slots were filling up, but daytime needed programming, and the Kefauver hearings fit the bill nicely.  Advertisers then could have big chunks of daytime TV fairly cheaply Time magazine, for example, helped sponsor the Kefauver hearings in New York and Washington, promoting magazine subscriptions in its advertising.  The TV networks were just beginning operations in some cases, so experience was thin, and broadcast range limited.  The New York sessions of the Kefauver hearings, for example, went out live over a “national” network that included twenty cities in the East and the Midwest.  Still, in some cities at that time, the purchase of television sets had begun to skyrocket, and the Kefauver “show” no doubt helped push sales along too.  In the New York city area, the number of sets had doubled in the 1950-1951 period. 

     Once the hearings began, they became something of a national event, with TV providing the new means for connecting millions of onlookers all at once.  And throughout the country, people began tuning in.  Housewives, in particular, who were then more at home in those days than they are today, called their friends to spread the word about the new show.  “From Manhattan as far west as the coaxial cable ran,” wrote Time magazine, “the U.S. adjusted itself to Kefauver’s schedule. Dishes stood in sinks, babies went unfed, business sagged and department stores emptied while the hearings were on.”  The drama was real life: crime bosses, street thugs, and U.S. Senators; good guys vs. bad guys.  “Estes Kefauver came off as a sort of Southern Jimmy Stewart, the lone citizen-politician who gets tired of the abuse of government and goes off on his own to do something about it,” wrote David Halberstam in his book, The Fifties.

April 7, 1951 edition of "The Saturday Evening Post" headlines a story about the Kefauver Hearings.
April 7, 1951 edition of "The Saturday Evening Post" headlines a story about the Kefauver Hearings.

 

National Celebrity

     In the end, Kefauver’s crime hearings attracted an estimated 20-30 million television viewers. However, the hearings didn’t always play well in every city, such as Las Vegas, nor have a positive or lasting result (see sidebar below). But they did make Estes Kefauver a national political celebrity, establishing him in the public mind as a crusading crime-buster and opponent of political corruption. Before long, he was on the lecture circuit, appearing in magazines, and also on television shows like What’s My Line? At one point, Hollywood even called him to play bit part in a Humphrey Bogart movie called The Enforcer. In the Saturday Evening Post, a ghostwritten four-part series about his investigation titled “What I Found in the Underworld” was published under his name in the Spring of 1951. A subsequent book, Crime in America, written with Sidney Shalett, was on The New York Times best-seller list for twelve weeks.

Kefauver in Las Vegas
1950

     The producers of the PBS documentary film, Las Vegas: An Unconventional History, covered Kefauver’s hearings in their film, and posted some interesting observations on their web site. An excerpt follows here:

     . . . On November 15, 1950, Kefauver and his colleagues arrived in Las Vegas. The committee had already been conducting hearings for five months, and they were tired. Many of the high profile casino owners who had received subpoenas for the committee, like Moe Dalitz, had skipped town. Kefauver and his committee interviewed only six witnesses, and these were hardly helpful. It was the same throughout the hearings; ambiguous answers and flat-out denials were the norm.

     After just two hours of interviewing witnesses, the committee took a break to visit Boulder Dam. Upon returning, they continued the hearings for a short time before holding a press conference and calling the Las Vegas portion of the investigation to an end. All told, the hearings barely lasted a day.

     To Las Vegans, the hearings were both a relief and almost disappointingly anti-climactic. As a story covering the hearings in the Las Vegas Review-Journal began, “The United States Senate’s crime investigating committee blew into town yesterday like a desert whirlwind, and after stirring up a lot of dust, it vanished, leaving only the rustling among prominent local citizens as evidence that it had paid its much publicized visit here.”

     What Kefauver and his colleagues were finding was that the relationship between politicians, authorities and mobsters was not as clear-cut as had been posited. . . . .Syndicate members were often major donors to political campaigns. Many prominent politicians of the day, even those who publicly praised Kefauver’s efforts, had intimate, albeit secret, ties with Syndicate members. Kefauver himself was known to be fond of gambling, and committee member Herbert O’Conor was rumored to have ties to the Mafia.

     The Kefauver Committee’s final report was more than 11,000 pages long, out of which only four pages pertained to Las Vegas. [T]he committee came up with little new information about Las Vegas . . . .

     To remedy Las Vegas’ apparent inability to keep organized crime out of city lines, Kefauver suggested that the federal government impose a 10 percent tax on all gaming. But such a proposition would have been disastrous for Las Vegas, and Senator Pat McCarran fervently and successfully argued against Kefauver’s suggestion.

     . . .Nevada officials were eventually pressured to make steps toward some kind of gaming oversight. In 1955, to weed out gangsters, the state required that any owner of a casino be licensed by the state gaming board. The act inadvertently enshrined organized crime. It ruled out corporations, which have thousands of shareholder “owners,” making personal (and mostly illegal) fortunes the only money readily available. That was Kefauver’s legacy. Later, Nevada created the Gaming Control Board, and adapted more stringent laws in an attempt to weed out gangster applicants for licenses. In 1960, the Gaming Control Board published “the Black Book,” officially entitled A List of Excluded Persons, banning known gangsters from casinos.

     . . .While the Kefauver hearings did bring the problem of organized crime to the national consciousness, forcing the FBI and the government to publicly admit that such an organization existed, the hearings did relatively little to damage the strength of the Syndicate. In fact, the hearings persuaded local hoods that they were free from the law — a Senate committee had come to town and nothing happened. The presence of organized crime grew even stronger and more concentrated in Las Vegas, as another wave of criminals, seeking refuge after being run out of their home states, surged into Nevada. The Syndicate would continue to wield control of Las Vegas for two decades after the conclusion of the Kefauver Hearings.

Source: PBS Television, The American Experience, Las Vegas: An Unconventional History.

 

Presidential Bid

     As a result of all the national exposure, Kefauver’s political fortunes rose precipitously, and in 1952 he sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. He made history briefly when he defeated President Harry S. Truman in the New Hampshire primary, proceeding to win twelve of the fifteen Democratic primaries. But the primaries at that time were not the main method of delegate selection. At the national convention in Chicago that summer, Kefauver led on the first two convention ballots. But in the end Adlai Stevenson received the Democratic nomination. In the general election, Stevenson and running mate Senator John Sparkman of Alabama lost to the Republican ticket of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon. Estes Kefauver, however, would be back.

1951 hardback edition of Kefauver's crime book published by Doubleday.
1951 hardback edition of Kefauver's crime book published by Doubleday.

 

 

Small Town Boy

     Kefauver had grown up in the small town of Madisonville, Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smokies. His father owned a hardware store there and had served as the town’s mayor. Growing up, young “Keef” as he was nicknamed, worked one summer in a Harlan County, Kentucky coal mine living with four other miners and developing an abiding appreciation for coal mine life and labor unions. At the University of Tennessee Kefauver was a fraternity man, who threw discus and high-jumped on the track team, played tackle on the varsity football squad, and was elected president of the student body. After graduating in 1924, he taught math and coached high school football for a year, then went to Yale Law School. In the courtroom, he was good with juries, and according to one of his former partners, used a “country boy” approach to good effect. But Kefauver also used plain language and a straight-forward approach the jurors could understand and never tried to be eloquent or poetic.  In 1938, he made an unsuccessful bid for the state senate, then won a U.S. congressional vacancy the following year.  In nine years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kefauver championed public power programs of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and New Deal programs.

     In 1947, when he ran for a U.S. Senate seat, he traded country quips and raccoon stories with his opponent. That resulted in one instance with Kefauver donning a coonskin cap which then became something of a campaign trademark for him.  He was later shown wearing one on the March 1952 cover of Time magazine (coincidentally, after Walt Disney ran a TV series on Davy Crockett, who also wore the coonskin cap, a “Crockett craze” ensued in 1955 with young boys all across the country wearing the caps).  Kefauver won his U.S. Senate seat in the 1948 election.

Time cover in September 1956 as the Democrats' Stevenson-Kefauver ticket sought the White House.
Time cover in September 1956 as the Democrats' Stevenson-Kefauver ticket sought the White House.
 

 

2nd Presidential Bid

     In 1956, Kefauver again sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination, scoring a few upsets and winning some important primaries, until losing a key battle in California. At the convention, the nomination was thrown open to the delegates but Adlai Stevenson was again selected the party’s nominee.  However, Kefauver did win the Vice Presidential slot in a competition with a young U.S. Senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy. The Stevenson-Kefauver ticket lost to the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket in 1956, and Kefauver returned to his Senate post. (Kefauver was considered the front runner for the 1960 Democratic nomination, but he let it be known in 1959 that he wasn’t going to try again for a third time.)

 

Senate Career

     In the Senate, Kefauver turned his attention to big business and monopoly practices.  His U.S. Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee investigated economic concentration throughout the U.S. economy, industry by industry, issuing a major report in May 1963.  He found monopoly pricing in the steel, automotive, food and pharmaceutical industries, and recommended among other things, that General Motors be broken up into competing firms.  He was also highly critical of excess profits in the U.S. drug industry.  The Kefauver-Harris Drug Control Act of 1962 required drug companies to disclose to doctors the side-effects of their products, be able to prove their products were effective and safe, and allow drugs to be sold as generics. In 1956, Kefauver and fellow Tennessee Senator Albert Gore Sr., and Lyndon Johnson were the only three southern Democrats who refused to sign the “Southern Manifesto,” a political document signed by more than 90 other politicians opposing racial integration. On August 8, 1963, Estes Kefauver suffered a massive heart attack on the floor of the Senate, and died a few days later.

For additional stories on politics at this website please see the Politics & Culture category page. Stories from the 1950s and 1960s are also gathered by decade in the Period Archive, found at the top right corner of this page. Thanks for visiting – and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

Please Support
this Website

Donate Now

Thank You

 

_____________________________

Date Posted: 17 April 2008
Last Update:  25 January 2011
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Kefauver Hearings, 1950-1951,”
PopHistoryDig.com, April 17, 2008.

_____________________________

 

 

 

 

Sources, Links & Additional Information

“It Pays to Organize,” Time (cover story), Monday, March 12, 1951.

“The Rise of Senator Legend,” Time (cover story), Monday, March 24, 1952.

Joseph Bruce Gorman, Kefauver: A Political Biography, New York: Oxford University Press,1971.

David Halberstam, The Fifties, New York: Villard Books/Random House, 1993, Chapter 14, pp. 187-194.

See an extensive collection of photographs of the Kefauver Crime Hearings in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection Photo Database, 222 Thomas Jefferson Library, One University Blvd. University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO (314) 516-5143.

G. D. Wiebe, “Responses to the Televised Kefauver Hearings: Some Social Psychological Implica- tions,” The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer, 1952, pp. 179-200.

Estes Kefauver & Kefauver Hearings, People & Events, “Las Vegas: An Unconventional History,” The American Experience, Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Television, 2005.

U.S. Senate, “May 3, 1950: Kefauver Crime Committee Launched,” Historical Minute Essays, 1941-1963.

Jack Anderson and Frederick G. Blumenthal. The Kefauver Story, New York: Dial Press, 1956.

Ivan Doig, “Kefauver Versus Crime: Television Boosts a Senator,”Journalism Quarterly, Autumn 1962, pp. 483-90.

U.S. Congress, Memorial Services Held in the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, Together with Remarks Presented in Eulogy of Carey Estes Kefauver, Late a Senator from Tennessee, 88th Congress, 1st session, 1963. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1964.

Estes Kefauver, with Irene Till, In a Few Hands: Monopoly Power in America, New York: Pantheon Books, 1965.

Joseph Bruce Gorman, “The Early Career of Estes Kefauver,” East Tennessee Historical Society’s Publications, 1970, pp. 57-84.

Philip A. Grant, Jr., “Kefauver and the New Hampshire Presidential Primary,”Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Winter 1972, pp. 372-80.

Harvey Swados, Standing Up for the People: The Life and Work of Estes Kefauver, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972.

Richard Edward McFadyen, Estes Kefauver and the Drug Industry, Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1973.

William Howard Moore, The Kefauver Committee and the Politics of Crime, 1950-1952, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1974.

James Bailey Gardner, “Political Leadership in a Period of Transition: Frank G. Clement, Albert Gore, Estes Kefauver, and Tennessee Politics, 1948-1956,” Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1978.

Richard Edward McFadyen,”Estes Kefauver and the Tradition of Southern Progressivism,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Winter 1978, pp. 430-43.

William Howard Moore, “The Kefauver Committee and Organized Crime,”in, Law and Order in American History, Joseph M. Hawes (ed.), Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1979, pp. 136-47.

Charles L. Fontenay, Estes Kefauver, A Biography, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1980.

William Howard Moore,”Was Estes Kefauver ‘Blackmailed’ During the Chicago Crime Hearings?: A Historian’s Perspective,” Public Historian, Winter 1982, pp. 5-28.

Philip A. Grant, Jr., “Senator Estes Kefauver and the 1956 Minnesota Presidential Primary.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Winter 1983, pp. 383-92.

Gregory C. Lisby, “Early Television on Public Watch: Kefauver and His Crime Investigation,” Journalism Quarterly, Summer 1985, pp. 236-42.

Jeanine Derr, ” ‘The Biggest Show on Earth’: The Kefauver Crime Committee Hearings.” Maryland Historian, Fall/Winter, 1986, pp. 19-37.

Hugh Brogan, All Honorable Men: Huey Long, Robert Moses, Estes Kefauver, Richard J. Daley, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Film Clips of the Kefauver Hearings. See, for example, eFootage.com, where the following clips are available: 1.) Morris Kleinman “The Silent Witness” – Cleveland Gambler, Morris Kleinman, remains silent during his questioning at the Kefauver Crime Committee hearing in Washington and then he gets reprimanded by one of the Senators; 2.) Abner “Longy” Zwillman – Abner “Longy” Zwillman on trial during the Kefauver Crime Committee hearing in Washington. The organizer and the founding member of a nationwide crime syndicate talks about his reputation as the “Al Capone of New Jersey” and getting in too deep with the mob; 3.) Senators & Abner Zwillman – The senators involved in the Kefauver Hearings and the notorious gangster Abner “Longy” Zwillman being questioned; 4.) James J. Carroll’s “Fright Factor” – St Louis’ Betting Commissioner James J. Carroll at the Kefauver Crime Committee hearing voicing his opinion that the media presence in the courtroom is a “fright factor” and claiming that he doesn’t know whether he can answer the questions properly with all the cameras present; 5.) James J Carroll Talking – St Louis’ Betting Commissioner at a Kefauver Crime Committee in Washington, denying that he’s ever known a man named Frank Costello or Nicki Cohen; 6.) Jacob “Greasy Thumb” Guzik – Jacob Guzik, one of the heads of the Chicago underworld, at the Kefauver Crime Committee hearing; and 7.) A Crowded Kefauver Committee Hearing – The Kefauver Crime Committee hearing played to a standing room only crowd in Washington, D.C. and were filmed by several news crews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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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