Wednesday, August 03, 2011

55 years ago today Elvis Presley came to town

Photograph by Charles Trainor.

Fifty-five years ago today, on Aug. 3, 1956, "a lavender Lincoln Premiere speeding south on US1 was bringing change to Miami - whether it wanted it or not. One of the car’s occupants was a 21 year-old Memphis truck driver-turned-singer named Elvis Presley."

Last year I posted the story of Elvis Presley's remarkable two days in Miami on
In 1956, Presley’s popularity with teens and young adults exploded after almost two years of live concerts throughout the South. And by the summer of ‘56 a succession of national television appearances not only boosted his record sales among teens but also caused a stir as Eisenhower’s middle America got a look at his on-stage gyrations and an earful of his style of “rock ‘n roll” music.

With the filming of his first movie set to start in late August, Presley’s days as a live performer were numbered. His manager, Col. Tom Parker, had scheduled one more series of live concerts in seven Florida cities.

The tour’s first stop was Miami, where Presley and his three back-up musicians had been booked for seven shows on Aug. 3rd and 4th at the ornate Olympia Theater on Flagler Street.

It was perhaps fitting that Presley’s last tour would include a visit to Miami.

In April, his haunting and eerie single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” hit number one on the pop charts. The song’s composers, Mae Axton and Tommy Durden, were inspired by a 1955 Miami Herald article about a man who had committed suicide in a downtown Miami hotel leaving only a one-line farewell note that read, “I walk a lonely street.”

On Friday, Aug. 3, as Presley rolled into Miami in his Lincoln, frenzied fans were already beginning to gather outside the Olympia.

Presley checked into the downtown Robert Clay Hotel, a few blocks from the theater; his first show scheduled for 3:30 Friday afternoon,

But even before his arrival, some in town had worked themselves into a different kind of frenzy over his visit.

Herb Rau, the Miami Daily News show biz columnist wrote on August 1st, “So that the Olympia theater won’t be the scene of a two day riot, the management’s taking every precaution to guard Elvis Presley against teen-age trouble this weekend. Every delinquent kid in town - plus many who aren’t delinquents but are fascinated by a duck-tailed hair-do playing the guitar and squirming his hips - will be on hand Friday and Saturday.” Rau went on to say the theater had hired a dozen off-duty cops to keep order.
In case you missed it, you can read the rest of the story here.

Elvis sings "Heartbreak Hotel," Apr., 1956

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