JAILHOUSE ROCK behind the scenes of Elvis Presley’s third film – (Part 3)By Marius Ogieglo
From Chicago, the spring tour route led to St. James, nearly three hundred miles away. Louis and on to Fort Wayne and Detroit. Elvis’ appearance in each of these cities immediately became a huge sensation. The event was on an unprecedented scale and required the organizers to provide the singer with extraordinary security measures.
Describing Presley’s stay in St. Louis, a reporter for the St.Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote: ” A performer who had been hiding in a Chase hotel room under an assumed name all day was led by police into the auditorium through a hidden passageway to avoid the admirers keeping watch at the front door. “
In turn, writing for the Detroit Free Press, Frank Beckman and Carter Van Lopik began their report on the twenty-two-year-old king of rock’n’roll’s concerts at Olympia Stadium with the words: “The problem with going to see Elvis Presley is that during it you can literally die .
And although it may sound absurd to some people, one can get the impression that the authors of the quoted text wanted to show readers in this way what they experienced, both during the short press conference preceding the performances and the concerts themselves. ” Inside the Olympia, young girls pushed their way through police lines to get the best view of their idol ,” the Detroit Free Press journalists continued. ” ‘This is crazy, don’t you think?’ asked one of the one hundred and seventy-five policemen employed to protect the event .”
Presley himself usually spent no more than half an hour on stage (forty-five minutes maximum) and, amidst the deafening tumult of applause, blinding flashes and shouts of admiration, he tried to perform from a few to a dozen of his current hits.
However, most of them were drowned out by the loud screams of teenage fans trying to get his attention. ” When (Elvis, author’s note) uttered the first words of the first song of the evening, the uproar arose again ,” reported the St. Louis Post Dispatch. ” The girls were screaming the whole time .”
This was the atmosphere that accompanied almost all of Presley’s performances in the 1950s.
When I talked to his personal photographer, Ed Bonja, a few years ago, he recalled: ” The first time I saw Elvis in concert was at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1957 (October 1957, author’s note). The first yet unofficial meeting between Elvis and Larry Geller). I was twelve then. I was there with my family, including my three teenage sisters, who went crazy when he came on stage and didn’t stop screaming the entire concert. The concert itself was very exciting, but it was very difficult to hear Elvis because it was drowned out by the constant screams of his fans .
The list of songs presented every evening varied, but the highlight of each show were invariably two compositions – the opening song “Heartbreak Hotel” and the ending show “Hound Dog”, which Elvis could sing sometimes for several long minutes and with which he drove his audience to the verge of madness. Always.
After the performance was over, he simply ran off the stage. He never gave an encore (even if that was what the enthusiastic crowd of his admirers expected him to do). ” That saved him ,” said Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires the other day.
As the new month dawned, Presley continued to tour the country with his performances. After a sold-out show in Detroit, he headed to the East Coast, to Buffalo, where fourteen thousand fans crowded into the Memorial Auditorium there gave him a truly warm welcome. ” Elvis Presley gyrated on the Memorial Auditorium stage last night for nearly thirty minutes while fourteen thousand of his fans, mostly teenagers, screamed on the verge of hysteria, ” wrote Margaret Wynn of the Buffalo Courier-Express the next day. ” (Elvis, author’s note) He also sang – as his lips moved while on stage, but even the sound system couldn’t cope with the deafening screams .”
The above words were only confirmed by Sylvan Fox from the Buffalo Evening News, who noted in her report that a significant part of the audience at the Memorial Auditorium were teenagers ” screaming to the limits of their physical capabilities “, which is why ” Elvis was barely audible while presenting his repertoire of such unique numbers such as ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘I Was The One’, ‘I Got A Woman’, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, ‘That’s When Your Heartaches Begin’ or ‘You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog’ played at the end (original spelling, author’s note) “.
And although the performance in Buffalo, like every single Elvis performance, was a special event, especially for thousands of his admirers, from a historical point of view, Presley played the most important concerts of this tour only after leaving the city.
The next stop on the spring tour described in this text was Canada. The first and last (as history has shown) country outside the USA in which Elvis ever performed in front of an audience.
The concerts took place on April 2 in Toronto (2 performances) and on April 3 in Ottawa (2 performances). The next one was scheduled for April 4 in Montreal, but the city authorities, supported by representatives of the local church, canceled them, justifying their decision with Presley’s indecent and demoralizing behavior on the stage.
Taking even such radical steps, however, did not manage to keep local Elvis fans at home and, according to sources, several hundred of them (up to five hundred) reached the evening performance of their idol in Ottawa by special train.
“I absolutely wanted to come to Canada ,” Elvis assured local radio DJ Gordon Atkinson before his first performance in Ottawa. ” About a year ago I tried to convince them (promoters, author’s note) to book me a tour here, but at that time I wasn’t well known enough .”
In reality, however, Presley’s popularity in Canada was staggering. This was evidenced not only by the record number of CDs with his recordings sold there, but also by the thousands of letters that the singer received every day from local admirers. “I have a huge fan base there,” Presley told a Toronto Telegram journalist when he called him to personally confirm the sensational news about the upcoming Canadian tour.
In his material, the reporter of the mentioned daily, citing Presley’s own words, also added that the decision to bring Elvis to Canada was accelerated by… over forty thousand cards with Christmas greetings that came to him from the Toronto area during Christmas.
On April 6, the tour came to an end. Elvis played farewell concerts in Philadelphia, at the Sport Arena there. Unfortunately, there were several unpleasant incidents during the evening’s performance. According to local media, students of the local high school threw eggs at Elvis and tried to destroy his guitar.
After the tour, Presley returned to Memphis for a few days. Still at the former address – 1034 Audubon Drive because Graceland was still under renovation.
At the end of the month, on April 27, Elvis headed back to Los Angeles where in a few days he would start working on his third film.
Information provided by EP Promised Land (Poland) http://www.elvispromisedland.pl/ Marius Ogieglo
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