The Pop History Dig

“Elvis Riles Florida”
1955-56

Poster advertising Elvis Presley shows at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, FL, August 10 &11th, 1956.
Poster advertising Elvis Presley shows at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, FL, August 10 &11th, 1956.
     In the mid-1950s, as strange as it may seem by today’s standards, wiggling one’s hips on stage while performing rock ‘n roll music could get you thrown in jail.  Such were the threats made in August 1956 when Elvis Presley and his band rolled into Jacksonville, Florida for a few shows at the Florida Theater. 

Elvis and band were scheduled to play six shows there over a two-day period, on Friday, August 10th, and Saturday, August 11th, 1956.

     America then was in the early years of its post-WWII baby boom.  In June 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act, creating the Interstate Highway System; a Hollywood actress named Marilyn Monroe had just married playwright Arthur Miller; and heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano retired from his amazing professional boxing career having never lost a match.

     Elvis Presley by this time was becoming something of a national pop music sensation.  In the previous year, Presley and his band had toured much of the country, especially in the south, getting rave reviews.

Elvis Presley and a portion of his band performing on TV for the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show, March 17, 1956.
Elvis Presley and a portion of his band performing on TV for the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show, March 17, 1956.
     On January 28th, 1956,  Elvis made his first national television appearance on the Dorsey brother’s “Stage Show, ” which was then recorded and broadcast from the CBS-TV studio at 1697 Broadway in New York City.  After the success of Elvis’ first appearance on that show, he and his band were signed to five more shows in February and March that year. 

     Meanwhile, by late February 1956 his song “Heartbreak Hotel” had entered the national music charts for the first time.  A month later he released his first album, titled Elvis Presley

     By June 5th, 1956, Presley introduced his new song, “Hound Dog” during a national TV appearance on The Milton Berle Show,  “scandalizing the audience with his suggestive hip movements,” according to one report.

August 1956: Look magazine cover includes upper left-hand corner tagline, “Elvis Presley: What? Why?,” with full story inside.
August 1956: Look magazine cover includes upper left-hand corner tagline, “Elvis Presley: What? Why?,” with full story inside.
     Then, about a week before Elvis and his band were slated to appear in Jacksonville, the August 7th, 1956 edition of Look magazine, with Prince Philip on the cover, appeared on newsstands.  Look’s story about Presley appeared inside the magazine, but the cover included an Elvis story tagline at the top that read: “Elvis Presley: What? Why?” 

     Inside the magazine, a series of photographs showed Elvis performing during a Dayton, Ohio concert, some capturing his on-stage gestures and movements as he performed, others of screaming and smiling female fans.  There were also some shots of Presley at leisure, shooting a game of pool and visiting with friends.  But the narrative accompanying the photo spread was not very charitable toward Presley, calling him, “a wild troubadour who wails rock ’n roll tunes, flails erratically at a guitar and wriggles like a peep-show dancer…”  Look did admit, however, that Presley had become “a U. S. entertainment sensation.”  Here’s more of the Elvis description Look included in its story:

     …He is 21-year-old Elvis Presley, a former Memphis, Tenn., truck driver whose sullen sweetness, ducktail haircut and long sideburns send girls (and women) into hysterics.  His RCA-Victor records (Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes, etc.) have grossed almost $6 million.  Presley’s fans adore him; some trample each other in the effort to tear off his ‘cool’ zoot suits.  They send him 3,000 letters a week.  His unprecedented success seems incredible to a public devoted to languid crooners.  They say, ‘He can’t be!’  But he is, and he has landed on top…

“…But Presley is mostly nightmare. On stage, his gyrations…are vulgar… He has also dragged ‘big beat’ music to new lows in taste…”
              Look magazine, 1956

     Elvis Presley’s fame is a legend of the ‘American Dream’ of success that is overshadowed by a nightmare of bad taste.

     Here are some of the ‘Dream’ elements:  Elvis never took a lesson on his guitar, cannot read music.  He paid $4 to make his first record and a twister of reaction began; he was a smash hit on the hillbilly circuit by 1955, without strong promotion.  It seems certain that his 1956 income will top $500,000.  He does not smoke or drink and night clubs bore him.  He is devoted to his parents and bought them a $40,000 air-conditioned home (with swimming pool) in Memphis.  He is unusually polite and softspoken.  He does everything on impulse, much like the mixed-up teenagers in his favorite movie, Rebel Without a Cause. (Elvis’ film idol is the late James Dean.)

     But Presley is mostly nightmare.  On-stage, his gyrations, his nose wiping, his leers are vulgar.  When asked about the sex element in his act, he answers without blinking his big brown eyes:  “Ah don’t see anything wrong with it.  Ah just act the way ah feel.”  But Elvis will also grin and say,  “Without mah left leg, ah’d be dead.”  Old friends, like the Memphis Press-Scimitar’s Bob Johnson, advise him to clean up his ‘dances.’  Elvis listens and then goes out and does the same, very old things.  His naive intransigence threatens his future.

     Presley has taken the rock ‘n’ roll craze to new sales heights.  He has also dragged “big beat” music to new lows in taste…

Aug 1956: Elvis Presley fans in Jacksonville, Fl wait for ticket box office to open. Photo, R. Kelley, Life magazine.
Aug 1956: Elvis Presley fans in Jacksonville, Fl wait for ticket box office to open. Photo, R. Kelley, Life magazine.
Aug 1956: Members of the Jacksonville, FL Optimist Club meeting with Judge Gooding (reading Elvis material), to discuss curbing Presley's concert. Life photo.
Aug 1956: Members of the Jacksonville, FL Optimist Club meeting with Judge Gooding (reading Elvis material), to discuss curbing Presley's concert. Life photo.
 
Baptist preacher Robert Gray, holding Elvis poster, denounces singer in Jacksonville, FL. Photo, R. Kelley/Life.
Baptist preacher Robert Gray, holding Elvis poster, denounces singer in Jacksonville, FL. Photo, R. Kelley/Life.
 

     Back in Florida, meanwhile, Elvis Presley had received some flattering press in the St Petersburg Times.  In Jacksonville, posters advertising his forthcoming shows (sample shown at top of this article) had been plastered all around town. 

The posters featured Presley in action performing with guitar, billing him as an “RCA Victor Recording Star.”  They invited readers to “hear him sing ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ ‘Hound Dog,’ and his other great recording hits.”

     Presley had performed previously in Jacksonville in 1955 with some notable results – both for his music and for the local keepers of moral turpitude.  It seems there had been a little bit of a mob scene there when mostly female fans rushed Presley backstage after his performance, tearing at his clothes.  So the town fathers and some local clergy weren’t too happy about Presley coming back to their town in 1956.  But the kids of Jacksonville had eagerly come to the theater to get their tickets.

     When Presley and his band finally arrived in Jacksonville for their August performance dates, they were faced with the possibility of arrest.  Arrest warrants had been drawn up and stood as a threat to Elvis, prepared by Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding. 

     Charges of “impairing the morals of minors” were included in the warrants and the judge told Elvis and crew that he was quite upset over what had happened the last time they had visited.  The judge said he wanted to prevent a recurrence of those events. 

     So if Elvis did any of his hip-gyrations during his performance, the Judge said, he would issue those warrants and send Elvis straight to the slammer.  He and Elvis had a sit down at one point and came to some agreement.

Aug 1956: Elvis Presley meeting wit Judge Gooding in Jacksonville, FL, discussing gyration limitations.
Aug 1956: Elvis Presley meeting wit Judge Gooding in Jacksonville, FL, discussing gyration limitations.
     But Judge Gooding wasn’t Elvis’ only problem on that August visit.  A few local churches expressed concern about the upcoming performance as well.  At one, the Murray Hill Methodist Church, a session was held titled, “Hot Rods, Reefers and Rock and Roll.” 

At another service, Rev. Robert Gray, holding a prayer meeting at Trinity Baptist Church told teenagers in attendance that Presley had achieved “a new low in spiritual degeneracy” and might not be offered salvation. 

At that service, Rev. Gray asked the teens to pray for Elvis’ redemption.  Later, when Elvis learned of this, he was quite offended, noting that had been a church-going person all of his life —  “since I could walk.”  Elvis would later say, “I feel the preacher was just looking for publicity.”

Elvis Presley performing on stage at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, Florida, August 10th, 1956.
Elvis Presley performing on stage at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, Florida, August 10th, 1956.
     When Elvis and his band did their shows, the police were in attendance, some using movie cameras.  A few police were also seated in the orchestra pit in front the stage during performances, presenting something of a “Maginot line” of defense to keep screaming teens from storming the stage during Elvis’ final song.  Throughout the performances, for the most part, Elvis refrained from wild gyrations as ordered by the judge, who was in attendance along with a few citizen committee members.

     But Elvis did have a little fun with the judge during his performances by wiggling his little finger.  “That’s where the curled lip and the little finger thing really got started,” later explained Elvis’ band member Scotty Moore.  But mostly, Elvis was a good boy during the shows.  “He stood there flat footed and did the whole show,” Moore said of Elvis’ performances.  Judge Gooding was reportedly satisfied with the performances as well.  But later, Elvis, who professed to being upset over the whole controversy, explained to reporters that he didn’t do “dirty body movements.”

     In late August, after Elvis had performed in Jacksonville, Life magazine also included the controversy in a story it did on Elvis.  The cover for that August 27th issue of Life, shown below, featured the Democratic Party’s National Convention that summer, along with a photograph of presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson with Eleanor Roosevelt and other admirers.  But also in the upper right-hand corner of that cover was a headline announcing the Elvis story — “The Impact of Elvis Presley.”

August 1956 cover of Life magazine, featuring Adlai Stevenson and the Democrats, and also, “The Impact of Elvis Presley” story.
August 1956 cover of Life magazine, featuring Adlai Stevenson and the Democrats, and also, “The Impact of Elvis Presley” story.
     On its table of contents page, Life introduced the Elvis story with the following:  “Bringing his audiences to the point of hysteria as he howls his songs, Elvis Presley is a disturbing variation on the familiar teen-age idol.”  But the Life story was mostly photos, spread over several pages, and was not nearly as harsh or as judgmental as the earlier Look piece had been.  Life reported on Elvis’ rise in America and how much money he was making, also covering the Jacksonville controversy and the showdown with Judge Gooding, but noting that in the end, Elvis had toned down his act.  Life added in its account that neither the judge’s threats nor the clergy’s denunciation of Elvis, had any effect on the Jacksonville turnout.  All six of Elvis’ Jacksonville performances were sold out over the two-day period.  As Life put it: “Elvis left town richer in pocket and with the prayers of devout citizens following him.”

     A few weeks after the Jacksonville shows, on September 9, 1956, Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, and from that point on his stardom rocketed to even greater national and international notice.

     See also at this website, “Elvis on The Road, 1955-1956,” and “Drew Pearson on Elvis, 1956,” a video with a brief background summary.  For other stories on pop music history, please visit the Annals of Music category page or the Home Page for additional story choices.  Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website.  Thank you.  – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 29 February 2012
Last Update: 13 November 2014
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Elvis Riles Florida, 1955-56,”
PopHistoryDig.com, February 29, 2012.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information 

Aug 1956: Elvis Presley backstage, Jacksonville, Florida.
Aug 1956: Elvis Presley backstage, Jacksonville, Florida.
“Rock ‘n Roll King Wows Suncoast (And One Fan In Particular),” St. Petersburg Times, Monday August 6, 1956.

Anne Rowe, “Broom-Sweeping Elvis A Regular Guy,” St. Petersburg Times, Monday August 6, 1956.

Gereon Zimmerman, “Elvis Presley: What? Why?”Look, August 7, 1956.

Edwin Miller, “Elvis Presley: Rising Star or Passing Fad?,Some Say He’s a Passing Fad, but Hollywood Thinks He’s Another Marlon Brando,”Seventeen, October 1956.

“Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory,” Scotty Moore.net (includes photos & information on Elvis Presley & band performances).

“CBS TV Studio 50,” ScottyMoore.net (includes photos and information on Elvis Presley & band performances).

“Elvis Presley: What? Why?,” ScottyMoore.net (Look magazine article and photos).

“Radio & TV: Sunday at 8 (re: Steve Allen Show with Presley beats Ed Sullivan Show),” Time, Monday, July 16, 1956.

“Elvis Presley: Jacksonville, FL, Florida Theater, August 10-11, 1956,” ElvisPresleyMusic.com.

Joseph A. Tunzi, Photographs & Memories, JAT Productions, 1998.

“Elvis Aaron Presley 1956: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” ElvisPresleyMusic.com.

“Elvis – A Differnet Kind of Idol; Presley’s Impact Piles Up Fans, Fads and Fears,” Life (Adlai Stevenson on cover), August 27, 1956, p. 101-109.

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“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 the time, Presley was essentially a regional phenomenon, 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.

See also at this website, “Elvis Riles Florida, 1955-56″ and “Drew Pearson on Elvis, 1956” (video). For additional stories on music and noted performers at this website see the “Annals of Music” category page. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you see here, please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle


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:   9 November 2014
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.

Jack Doyle, “Elvis Riles Florida, 1955-56″ (Elvis & band perform at Florida Theater in Jacksonville, face arrest warrants if he “gyrates” too suggestively), PopHistoryDig .com, February 29, 2012.

Jack Doyle, “Drew Pearson on Elvis, 1956” (video), PopHistoryDig.com, February 1, 2013 (famous columnist “commentary” on Elvis meant to be critical but still captures his rise to fame…).

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