I was never a fan of Elvis Presley nor of the style of music he and so many others like him made popular in the fifty’s and sixty’s. He was at the forefront of a music revolution which swept the nation and the world, and his music is still being listened to and enjoyed sixty plus years later. Living in Branson, Missouri we are annually treated to shows featuring Elvis tribute artists and even Elvis look-alike contests none of which Cathy nor I have seen.
Elvis died tragically on August 16, 1977 of a reported pain medication overdose, but there are still some who believe his death report was a hoax. There have been reported “Elvis sightings” every year since his death, but these sightings are considered on the same order as UFO sightings and reports of appearances of Big Foot. I am able to report an actual Elvis sighting in El Dorado, Arkansas in 1955.
I was a sophomore in high school and was at the school early one spring evening practicing for a Latin play. I was such a nerd then I took Latin as an elective subject taught by Mrs. W.E. Durrett. The play practice ended at approximately 8:30 PM and several of us were leaving the campus and walking together to our vehicles. Our path took us past the auditorium, and as we neared we noticed the presence of a large number of parked cars and heard music coming from the stage. I asked one of my fellow Latin nerds what was happening, and he said it must be the concert scheduled for that night. I couldn’t imagine what kind of concert this might be in our auditorium, because the music I was hearing was what we used to call honky-tonk. If one drove past The Howdy Club on East Hillsboro in the late hours on a Saturday night the type of music one would hear would be the same we were hearing from the Wildcat auditorium stage .
With our curiosity piqued several of us peered through a window at the stage and saw a most unusual sight. There was a band consisting of several guitar players, a bass player, a drummer and the main attraction at center stage. The performer was of medium height, with long black hair combed into a duck-tail and was wearing a green shirt and purple pants. His appearance was certainly unusual, but his music style and bodily gyrations were something I had never before seen on stage. We listened for a few minutes, and my only comment to my friends when we left was, “I don’t think he’ll get very far with that kind of performance. Does anyone know his name?” Someone responded with, “I think it’s Elvis something or other.” I had never known anyone with the name Elvis.
Later the same evening about 11 PM while driving north on North West Avenue we spotted an individual standing on the street corner holding a guitar case. As we got closer I noted the green shirt and purple pants and recognized the performer we had seen just an hour or so before. His location on North West Avenue was near 5th Street where the Canary Court used to be. It appeared he was waiting for his ride or hitch hiking, but we didn’t have any reason to pick him up since we were not going his way.
About one year later that purple-pants performer recorded “Blue Suede Shoes” and the career of Elvis Presley began to sky-rocket to unprecedented heights. No other performer in the history of popular music has ever come close to his world-wide popularity. Instead of calling his musical style honky-tonk, it became known as rock and roll, and his gyrations on stage were widely mimicked.
Elvis performed on one other occasion in El Dorado before he became so popular. There was a performance at Memorial Stadium as part of a larger performing group, and I have no knowledge of this one. I do regret I didn’t at least pull over that night at the Canary Court to introduce myself and inquire if he needed a place to stay for the night. I can’t even imagine what my parents would have said had he accepted. Who knows- he might have offered me a spot in his band since I was a fledgling guitar player. But then in those days when I had hair, I never could get it to combed into a duck-tail!
PS 1: So much for my prediction concerning the future of the purple-pants performer I saw on stage that spring evening!
PS 2: That course in Latin helped me more in my subsequent medical training than any other subject I took in high school.
Maybe this might be one time you would like to go back in time. I was only 7 years old, so my mamma and daddy didn’t take me or let me go. I don’t understand why he was on Northwest Avenue by himself. Where was Bill and Scotty? Surely they didn’t leave Elvis behind.
He could well have been waiting for them and not hitchhiking. I just didn’t see anyone nearby and didn’t wait to see what happened. Hitchhiking in those days was not uncommon. Most folks in El Dorado that were alive then don’t remember that Elvis had this concert at the El Dorado Wildcat auditorium..
How fun was this article.
Do you remember him coming to EHS? I certainly don’t remember any advertisement prior to the concert.
Loved this article, Dr. Moore. I have heard the tales of Elvis coming to El Dorado, mostly by cousins or by people who saw him because they know I am a huge Elvis fan. He also came to Camden.
I didn’t know he performed in Camden. It was probably about this same time because I know he was a frequent performer at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.
John, I enjoyed your article about Elvis. However, he DID play in El Dorado more than once. I remember my future cousin-in-law, Bob Kellam (who married my first cousin, Nita Bramlett), telling me about seeing him perform at the stadium. Elvis didn’t have a ride back to town (back then the stadium was waaaay out from town! Anyway, Bob gave him a ride. I googled “Elvis in El Dorado” and came up with the following website – Scottymoore.net/eldorado.html – which confirms that he was, indeed, there. Keep writing – I’m reading! Jean Beazley Guice
Thanks for the info Jean. Perhaps he performed at the stadium before his performance at the high school. I never talked with anyone that was present at either concert. Thanks also for reading the blog. I’m having fun remembering.
I was at the stadium myself when he performed and Beverley Reynolds My sweet friend from Childhood through now, was sitting in his pink and black Cadillac that evening and my girlfriends were all there and waving at her as we leaning over the stadium wall. IT was so fun and she looked beautiful. It was a great concert. I am a musician and he had a beautiful voice. Great years and great memories.I do not ever remember him being at the high school and of course he may have been. He was already starting to make it big on the Louisiana Hayride as he traveled through Eldorado.. Delane Floyd
After I wrote the blog, I discovered Elvis did perform one other time in El Dorado in 1955 and that was the concert you attended at Memorial Stadium in the fall of that year. As you said, he was becoming a well known performer at the Louisiana Hayride by then. Since I wasn’t there I don’t know how many people were in attendance, but I know there were many who later became fans who wished they had!
I was at the one in 1955, I was 10 years old and my uncle took me because he wanted to see the country performers that were also on the bill. I remember being very upset that he wouldn’t let me go down to the stage afterwards and meet Elvis!
Elvis stayed at the Randolph Hotel where I worked Saturdays. He came into the store where I was managing the front end. I asked if I could help him. He said “no, just looking around”. He went around the perimeter of the store and when exiting I said “come back”. As left, the older guy managing the back of the store where the outboard engines were got real excited and said to me ” do you know who that was? That’s Elvis Presley. He playing at the Louisiana Hayride tonight. Aren’t you going?” I said no – had never heard of the guy.