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 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. Elvis Presley’s first No. 1 pop hit on the Billboard charts, “Heartbreak Hotel,” came on May 3rd, 1956.
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). Another Elvis-related story – “They Go To Graceland: Elvis Home a Big Draw” – explores the history and some recent notable visitors to Presley’s Graceland estate in Tennessee. For additional stories on music and noted performers see the “Annals of Music” category page. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle
Appearances & Performances
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.
On March 23rd, 1955, Elvis and his band auditioned for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show in New York but were rejected.
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.
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).
|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.”
Date Posted: 31 March 2008
Last Update: 25 September 2015
Comments to: email@example.com
Jack Doyle, “Elvis on the Road, 1955-1956,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 31, 2008.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
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 sleeves, Sergent. 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.