ELVIS PRESLEY'S FINAL PERFORMANCE ON THE ''LOUISIANA HAYRIDE'' DECEMBER 16, 1956
THE DAY BEFORE... DECEMBER 15, 1956 SATURDAY
A yellow Caddy limousine pulled in from Memphis
at five a.m. and a weary Elvis Presley checked into the Captain Shreve Hotel in downtown Shreveport, Louisiana. It is hard to imagine that this is the place were barely two years earlier Elvis with Scotty, Bill and Sam Phillips sat together, dreaming of leaving
truck driving for a career in music.
When Elvis slept a few hours in the early morning hours in his hotel room, according to a statement launched by the "The Shreveport Journal," groups of female teens an unrestricted "find Elvis" campaign. Oscar Davis,
one of Colonel Parker's assistant told the newspaper he did not know where Elvis lodges, but it would not surprise him if his fans would find him. The teenager, said Davis, had a pretty successful, coordinated system for it.
And now, Elvis was back here, has a longing for just a little peace and quiet. He opened the window of his room and shouted down a plea for quiet to the crowd
already forming below, so he could get some much needed sleep after the tiring journey. The secrecy of Elvis' room number and its position was, despite of all efforts by the police, failed.
Captain Shreve Hotel a young fan took the big prize. The 9-year-old Philippa "Flip" Unger from Denton, Texas and her mother stopped on the way home by the hotel. When she heard that Elvis was in
the city, they decided to stay in order to watch his show at the Fairgrounds. But "Flip" received more than she had expected; it has allowed her the access to Elvis' room to meet him and she got "a big hug" and an autograph.
Those fans who were not looking for Elvis and were spectators for the show in the evening at 8 p.m., already gathered outside the Youth Center. Teenager Billie
Jean Prescott captured the first place in the row, when she arrived at 7a.m. early in the Youth Center.
Meanwhile, the police turned their attention to the upcoming concert. A plot was hatched to set up a fake Elvis to decoy the avid fans away from the real one. Patrolman
Robert Catts had the same build and sleepy eyes as Elvis. So he was awarded (or punished, depending on how you look at it) with the task of impersonating the King. Officer Catts was outfitted in Elvis attire and a pink Cadillac was even brought in from a local
car dealer to complete the ruse. At an appointed hour the Caddy took off with a police escort for the five mile journey to the state fairgrounds. When the motorcade pulled up to the entrance of the Youth Building, Catts and his entourage were mobbed while
the real Elvis slipped quietly in the backdoor almost unnoticed.
It had been just over two years since Elvis had first appeared on the stage of the Louisiana Hayride. The Youth Building had a seating capacity of about 10,000 and every ticket had been sold. The plan was to setting up a fence in front of
the stage and limiting the number of chairs on the floor, but as soon as the doors were opened, that plan went out the window. A solid mass of teenagers grabbed the chairs and drug them as close to the stage as possible.
Elvis arrived at the Youth Center
in the early evening to keep his usual press conference before the show. All in all it was a busy night for Elvis. The two primary local newspapers, “The Shreveport Times” and “The Shreveport Journal” dispatched their top photographers
to cover the mayhem. Langston McEachern shot for the Times and Jack Barham for the Journal. The two were given unlimited access to the facility and moved about freely on stage and off.
Probably the most meaningful autograph, which gave Elvis that day, received Mrs. Betty
Fields, a polio patient, who was since 1957 in the Confederate Memorial Hospital. She was brought with a so-called "iron lung" including equipment in the Youth Center to meet their idol. The meeting she had won in a radio contest.
But this evening was also a great challenge for Shreveport’s police. The teenager gave the impression that they wanted, with all their enthusiasm, tear
Elvis into pieces and the police erected more or less effective barricades around the building, which barely was enough to protect Elvis from the hordes of fans. It needed a remarkable agility of Elvis as he fled before his admirers from one room to another
- always two steps ahead of his fans.
Elvis spoke briefly with the two Presidents of Elvis fan clubs, Janelle Alexander of Shreveport and Kay Wheeler of Dallas. Janelle later told reporters that when she met Elvis, she experienced at the same time
the "feeling" of love, hate, anger, hero worship, excitement and even a lot more, that she wouldn’t say. Kay agreed with the words: "Every time I meet him, I freak out. He is the most fascinating person I ever knew. Elvis is the living image of all that
teenagers should see and hear“.
Bob Masters, reporter of "The Shreveport Times" reported that Elvis prolonged the press
conference for a Christmas greeting to local teens: "Cool Yule and a fantastic first".
In addition to his duties for the "Shreveport Journal," Jack Barham was on assignment for “Life Magazine”. Life was preparing a story about Elvis and needed
a photo to illustrate a conversation between Elvis Presley and his Japanese counterpart. And yes, there were Elvis-impersonators even back then!
Backstage was “organized chaos” at best and Jack found Elvis and Colonel Parker in a small room amid a sea of media, fans, promoters and Hayride performers. Jack explained to the Colonel the need to “stage” a shot
of ‘Elvis on the phone to illustrate the conversation that had already had taken place between the two nationals. The Colonel seized upon the excuse to clear the room and give his star some quiet tie before the performance. The dressing room had one
standard rotary phone with a six-foot cord on a shelf in the corner. The cramped quarters quickly proved unyielding as Jack searched a vain for a good angle and the Colonel grew impatient. A search of the other rooms backstage determined this was the only
phone and show time was fast approaching. The situation seemed hopeless. Colonel Parker – however – was not to be defeated. He quickly provided his own solution by yanking the phone from the wall and bellowing at Jack and Elvis to follow him into
the hall. A folding chair was plopped down and Elvis was ordered to talk on the phone whose shredded wires dangled out of frame. Jack sat Elvis in the chair backwards for a casual feeling and the photo shot was over in short order.
Elvis retreated back inside
the dressing room and invited Jack Barham to keep him company while he warmed up for the show. Not one to waste the moment, Colonel Parker grabbed Langston McEachern and talked him into take pictures of his wheeler-dealer self, that shows him working the phones
like “doing business”. Dishonest? Yes, but that was Colonel Tom Parker.
McEachern and Barham swirled around Elvis, trying to capture some of his tremendous energy on film. Both snapped pictures furiously and did their best with the existing lightening conditions.
Neither really sensed the lasting impact Elvis would have on the music scene. Langston: “None of us did. He was just our friend Elvis and this was for us just one more night on the job.” With that in mind, Langston McEachern broke free and rushed
off to make the headline for “The Shreveport Times”. Jack Barham stayed behind to finish up.
The most impressive stick of audio of this evening in the archives of the Hayride is Elvis' addition of "Hound Dog", which was pure dynamite. His change in the
short span of two years is nowhere more evident than in this interpretation of his popular hit. Record- and movie producers watched the concert, and were, though forewarned, speechless.
Comparisons to a young Frank Sinatra would no longer paint the picture of the power Elvis had and the frenzy his presence could evoke. This was something new, something entirely different. The world was, at last,
ready for Elvis.
Finally it was show time - the last time this year 1956. Elvis entered the stage this evening at 21.30. During his appearance he was backing by "The Jordanaires", a popular gospel group that toured and recorded many years with Elvis. Horace
Logan Elvis turned to the audience, who took the stage - dressed in white shoes with blue sole, a green jacket, blue pants, white shirt, tie and scarf. His 35-minute performance included ten songs: ''Heartbreak Hotel'', ''Long Tall Sally'', ''I Was The One'',
''Love Me Tender'', ''Don’t Be Cruel'', ''Love Me'', ''I Got A Woman'', ''When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again'', ''Paralyzed'' and ''Hound Dog.''
Pericles Alexander, entertainment editor of "The Shreveport Times" wrote: Elvis mere appearance on the Hayride
stage caused nuclear flashbulbs of photographers and screams of teenagers, which swelled into a pandemonium. Regardless of the circular motion of the troubadour, he was rarely, if ever, heard from the audience, who shouted as the Zulus at every little muscle
twitch. The Pelvis put more "body"-English in a song as many throwers in baseball and he moved often and better than a well-oiled Swiss watch''.
Bob Masters of “The Shreveport Times” wrote in an article: ''Elvis Presley came to town yesterday,
and last night 9,000 rock and rollers “flipped”. His appearance on the stage of the Louisiana Hayride at the fairgrounds Youth Center set off was undoubtedly one of the finest displays of mass hysteria in Shreveport history. Presumably he sang:
you couldn’t hear him over the screams of the frenzied 9,000. But at least his hips were moving and his pelvis certainly was. He wasn’t halfway through “Heartbreak Hotel” before it became apparent nobody ever had a more appropriate
nickname. It was a hectic evening for Elvis all around. A scheduled press conference more nearly resembled a mob scene with representative of the press and radio lost among the throngs of fans, autograph seekers and the curious who infiltrated the meeting.
A brief talk with the Pelvis – who finally managed to escape the mob with about two minutes remaining in his 60 minutes “press conference” – disclosed that he was glad to be back in Shreveport, has four Cadillac and a Lincoln Continental
and apparently enjoyed all the fuss made over him''.
Frank Page: “I was present at all performances of Elvis' here, which he made at the Louisiana Hayride, and knew how the audience would react to this young man. I was prepared for greater
things, but I was not prepared for this night. When Elvis finally came on stage, thousands of Brownie Reflex cameras starts going at the same time. On some photos that were shot that night, show me on one side of the stage and I look out scared and anxious.
I was! I had never seen 10,000 teens that shouted themselves the top of their lungs. It was absolutely frightening. The screams began when Elvis took the stage and they did not stop throughout his performance. Many people told later that the audience could
not tell whether he was singing or not or whether the band was playing, but it cared nobody. "The King" was back at home''.
The now legendary phrase “Elvis has left the building” was first uttered by Horace Logan that night quite by accident. The show had been a regular performance
of the Louisiana Hayride and Elvis was the third act of about twenty. Once his performance was over and the encore complete, the crow of teenagers made for the exits. In a futile plea for the acts that would follow, Horace Logan made the announcement to assure
the audience that Elvis would not be back out but that there was still much left of the regular show. The crowd’s exodus continued unabated. The show somehow went on.
Horace Logan: “All right, uh. Elvis has left the building. I have told you absolutely straight up this point – you know, that he has left the building. He left the stage and went out in the back with
the policemen and he is now gone from the building. I remind you again that the Hayride will continue right on till 11.30 p.m., presenting, again, most of the country artists that you have seen tonight. We’ll be very pleased to have you remain with us.
I invite you also to tune in tonight, all of you who are listening to KWKH, to our Red River Round up which, beginning at 11.30 p.m., will be heard straight through until one o’clock tonight. You’ll have the opportunity of hearing on that show
a gre3at many of the country music disc jockeys who are visiting with us here tonight in the Youth Building of the Louisiana State Fairgrounds. I’d like to remind you that this performance tonight was a benefit performance for the YMCA of the city of
Shreveport. Elvis receives no money whatsoever for his performance here tonight. All of the proceeds other than the actual expenses of presenting the show will go to the Shreveport YMCA. I must say this for you young ladies and gentlemen. You have been exactly
that: Young ladies and gentlemen, and we are very proud of you for your performance here tonight. It’s been so nice having you with us. If you’d like to sit down now, we’re going to go on with the show here in just about five minutes. You’re
listening to the Louisiana Hayride, coming to you from the Youth Building at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds, home of the Centenary College basketball games for 1957''.
Elvis spent the night in Shreveport before he went home the next morning. "The Shreveport Journal" described the scene at the hotel as follow: “The Rock And Roll Czar had a reasonably quiet departure on Sunday morning. About 50
of his fans gathered in the "Captain Shreve" lobby to see leave their idol. A lot of police officers and security of the hotel protect Elvis, so that teenagers do not tear him to pieces in their infatuation''. Elvis gave still some autographs.