The 8:00 p.m. show at the red brick National Guard Armory in Sikeston was billed as the Jimmy Haggett Jamboree, and was a benefit to raise money for the local Guard unit. Haggett was
a disc jockey on KBOA radio in nearby Kennett.
Tickets for the show were $1.00 for adults and 50-cents for children, and each act received $50.00. Approximately 100 people
turned out to see Elvis Presley.
Elvis Presley was a huge success, although there are reports that the crowd was on the small side. According Charlie Terrell, the show's
promoter who also managed Onie Wheeler and who also operated trucking companies from his base in Sikeston, "the crowd was amazed by (Elvis) talent and charisma". Bob Neal, managing Elvis Presley, contacted Terrell and placed Onie Wheeler on tours booked through
Colonel Tom Parker and Hank Snow's Jamboree's Attractions. Neal also assumed Onie's management for a while.
"I went with Elvis Presley to Sikeston, Missouri, on January
21, 1955, and he performed with such intensity that he came off stage and went straight into the men's room with water dripped from his head", Marcus Van Story recalled. "I asked him why he was performing so hard", Van Story continued. Elvis Presley replied.
That night, they drove back to Memphis and stopped in Truman, Arkansas, for some food. "Elvis ate three cheeseburgers and then ordered three", van Story chuckled.
lady asked Elvis if he planned to pay for everything". "Yes, ma'am", Elvis replied. "That night Elvis Presley unburdened himself", Van Story continued. "He told me that he never forgot how poor he felt living in the Lauderdale Court. Elvis was haunted by his
So, he was committed to the music", said Van Story. "He would practice in the washroom downstairs at the Lauderdale Court and try to learn from other musicians".
Afterward, according to Doyle Nelson of Onie Wheeler's band, everyone went to the Lakeview Inn, a small nightclub around the corner and a few blocks away from the Armory, to hear Wheeler perform. Elvis Presley and the Browns joined Wheeler on stage as part
of the evening's merriment, and Elvis Presley even played the drums while Wheeler sang. Scotty Moore and Bill Black didn't stay at the Lakeview long, preferring to drive back to their Memphis homes. Elvis and his friend from Lauderdale Courts, Farley Guy,
remained in Sikeston and spent the night with his great uncle, Floyd Presley. Farley remembers and said, "Elvis took me with him to a concert in Sikeston, Missouri when he first started touring. He was singing there with Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl
Perkins. That was the only trip I ever took with him after he began singing".
"Onie Wheeler joined Elvis for a while when Elvis was just starting to happen", recalled
Onie's friend and guitarist A.J. Nelson. "That was around 1954 or '55. Elvis liked Onie. He used to come to Sikeston and see Onie in this little club we played in. Elvis talked Onie into going on the road with him. So Onie talked to us about leaving Sikeston
because we weren't making any money. He wanted us to stay there, stay together, so he'd have something to come back to in case he didn't like working with Elvis. Onie stayed with Elvis for about six months and then came back to Missouri. He didn't want any
more of it. We were glad he came back. Our band wasn't anything without Onie. Nobody was coming just to see us".
"At that point Charlie Terrell started managing Onie
and he got him some outside work by himself. He'd get him jobs playing with established stars. One of them, for example, was Jimmie Work. That was the period, right after Elvis, that he recorded "Onie's Bop". I didn't do that record with him. He did that one
ELVIS VISITED SIKESTON IN 1955 AND THE STORY ABOUT EARL WADE - When Elvis Presley first performed in Sikeston, no one really
knew who Presley was, according to Earl Wade of Blodgett. Even Wade admitted he didn't know Presley when he met him.
"I was in the National Guard (in Sikeston) and I
was helping set up chairs at the armory," Wade recalled. During this time Wade was interrupted by a young man trying to get into the front door of the Armory. "Lloyd Johnson and I had the door shut and he was rattling the door and said he had to go to the
bathroom. So we showed him."
Later the same young man returned carrying a Piggly Wiggly sack with something pink and silky hanging out. "I thought it was a pink, silky
dress, but he said it was suit he got from Beale Street," Wade said. The young man proceeded to ask where the dressing room was, Wade explained. "I told him where it was and said but that's for Elvis Presley. He said, ‘I am Elvis Presley,'" Wade laughed.
Byron "Barney" Caldwell of Sikeston was also working for the National Guard when Presley visited. "I rented a piano for $15 for him so he didn't have to rent one," Caldwell said about the
first visit. "I watched him perform and it was a small crowd. I didn't think too much about it."
Wade remembered a few parents not being impressed by some of Presley's
moves. "Some of the mothers took their daughters out when he started doing the hoochy-coochy stuff," said Wade, referring to Presley's then detested — and unheard of — gyrating moves.
Caldwell called Presley a regular fellow. "It was just people weren't familiar with the type of twisting and hadn't come around yet. He probably did more of that on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,'" said Caldwell, now 78. When Presley returned
later that year on Sept. 7, attendance topped 1,100 at the Armory, with some even turned away at the door. Johnny Cash also appeared with Presley both times. This time Presley was dressed a little better and arrived in a pink Cadillac, Wade said. His parents,
Gladys and Vernon Presley, were also along.
"He went from rags to riches in a hurry," Wade said. A then 20-year-old Chris Tyrone from Portageville was fortunate enough
to witness one of Presley's visits. She said she learned of Presley's visit from an advertisement in the local newspaper. "I just remember I was just thrilled to see him," recalled Tyrone, now of Sikeston. "He was just starting out. Presley rocked the Armory
with tunes like "That's All Right, Mama" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky."
"He's just a young kid full of energy and didn't have an ounce of fat on him. I remember he couldn't
be still. He was always jumping or jerking, and his hands were always sweaty. I remember shaking his hand and feeling wetness. I'll never forget it," Wade said. As time goes by it's definitely difficult to remember exact details about Presley's visits, but
there are some memories that will never fade, Wade noted.
"I overheard him (Presley) say he didn't drink, didn't smoke and his biggest weakness is women," Wade said.
Caldwell's most memorable moment of Presley's visit was when he left after his first performance. "The first time he was here in an older car that didn't run good and he parked it behind the Armory," Caldwell said. "When he left, some of the fellows had to
push him to get him started, and I remember him turning back and waving to us as he drove out of town."
Wade remembers Presley, who was a relative to Floyd and Mary Eta
Presley of Sikeston (Presley's grandfather, J.D. Presley, was the brother of Floyd Presley), as a happy go lucky and a good looking kid, he said. "I could tell he was going somewhere. The younger generation liked Elvis and he would cut up a lot during his
shows. He was kind of a clown," Wade said.
That September was the last time Presley performed in Sikeston. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor.
By 1956, he was an international sensation. But Wade didn't let the opportunity pass him by. Right before Presley left the second time, Wade captured a photo of Elvis in front of his Cadillac.
Caldwell recalled returning home to his wife following one of the Presley's performances. She had asked him who performed that night at the Armory. Caldwell told his wife: "Well, he was a man named Elvis Presley and I've never heard of him,
but I'll say one thing, he's different. We're transitioning into something different, and I'm not sure what it is - only time will tell''.
- Sikestone Standard Democrat