MAY 13, 1955 FRIDAY
The Hank Snow tour stopped for two nights of entertainment at the "New"
Baseball Park (later known as the Gator Bowl's in Jacksonville, Florida. It cost $1.00 each to get in to the show unless the fans waited until show time, then it cost $1.25.
were held at 8:00 p.m. each evening. In the audience was a local teenage disc jockey on WWPF, Johnny Tillotson, who tried in vain to get an interview with Elvis Presley and the other performers.
Before the show Mae Boren Axton took Elvis Presley and some of the other musicians out to dinner, and she tried to wheedle him out of the frilly pink shirt he was wearing. "Skeeter Davis was there, and June and Anita Carter, and some of the
boys with Elvis, and I said", recalled Mae, "Elvis, that's vulgar. And it would make me such a pretty blouse. And Skeeter said, 'I want it', and June said, 'I want it'. And he just kind of grinned.
And I said, 'Elvis, you ought to give it to us, one of us anyway, because they are just going to tear it off you tonight'. Not really thinking about it, knowing the people liked him but not really thinking about it".
"Bill Black and Elvis were cut-ups, where Scotty was the businessman of the bunch", said Axton. "He was also very creative. He knew how to put things together. He was a very kind person,
very gentlemanly. There's no doubt in my mind that without Scotty, Elvis would never have gotten as far as he did. Scotty kept it together", she said.
On Friday, 14,000
fans reportedly attended the performance. At the close of his set, Elvis Presley jokingly told the crowd: "Girls, I'll see y'all backstage". About half the audience took him literally, as they broke through the police barricade and made for the stage. Elvis
Presley ran for the infield dugout that led to the dressing rooms with about a hundred girls right behind him. In the ensuing melee, he was almost stripped of his clothes. In the parking lot, Elvis' 1951 Lincoln Continental was covered with names, telephone
numbers, and notes to Elvis written in lipstick or scratched into the car's paint.
Jacksonville was watershed show. Up to this time the Crowds had been enthusiastic.
From this point on, they began to get unruly, huge and unmanageable. This was also the show that turned Colonel Tom Parker toward Elvis Presley and away from Hank Snow. It was obvious which path led to the future. In an hour, all of Tom Parker's schocky trinkets
were sold out. The crowd took advantage of the freedom of movement afforced by the layout of the baseball stadium, and darted through security guards in search of Elvis Presley. There was no danger to Elvis Presley or the other entertainers; a large crowd
of young girls simply wanted to see their idol. The press, hungry for news about Elvis Presley, dutifully reported that the fans' actions had grown to excess. Actually, reported a certain young man named Johnny Tillotson, who was in the stadium dugout waiting
to interview Elvis Presley, the crowd "was well behaved but playful. There was no danger to anyone". What Tillotson remembers is an appreciative crowd who had found a new sound. Tillotson noted, however, that - with the Colonel's blessing - "The press couldn't
wait to report that Elvis Presley was causing riots".
According Faron Young, ''I was with him at the Gator Bowl the first night he got attacked. He came off that stage,
and somehow those little girls got to him and tore his clothes all up (picture below). Them girls pounced on that son-of-a-bitch like alligators. Afterwards, Elvis said, ''Damn, Chief, them little girls are strong, I said, ''yeah, one of 'em you can whip;
but fifty of ém got a hold of your ass and it's just like a vacuum cleaner sucking on you. You can't get away from 'em'. The next morning it was all in the damn newspaper: 'Girls tear clothes off Elvis Presley'! All that sensationalism started right
here in Jacksonville at the Gator Bowl. And from then on, that was the thing to do, just get to him, tear his clothes off, pull out his hair, or somethin'. So he always had to have police and all that shit after that''.
The Jacksonville crowd wrote phone numbers and messages in lipstick on the side of Elvis' Lincoln Continental. There were scratches on the paint, and large lipstick and nail polish drawings all over the beautiful
new pink car. Elvis Presley was upset. His car was a status symbol. That night, a large number of fans showed up at Elvis' motel and stormed the parking lot. Elvis Presley came to his motel room window and took his shirt off for the adoring crowd.
Five Memphis friends travelling with Elvis Presley were swept up in the ribald atmosphere. There was gold in this type of pandemonium, and Tom Parker reassured Elvis Presley that the screaming,
panting teenage girls were his ticket to stardom.
"I heard feet like a thundering herd, and the next thing I knew I heard this voice from the shower area", recalled Mae
Boren Axton, "I started running, and three or four policemen started running, too, and by the time we got there several hundred must have crawled in, well, maybe not that many, but a lot, and Elvis was on top of one of the showers looking sheepish and scared,
like 'What'd I do?, and his shirt was shredded and his coat was torn to pieces. Somebody had even gotten his belt and his socks and these cute little boots, they were not cowboy boots, he was up there with nothing but his pants on and they were trying to pull
at them up on the shower. Of course the police started getting them out, and I never will forget Faron Young, this one little girl had kind of a little hump at the back, and he kicked at her, and these little boots fell out. The Colonel", said Mae, "and I
don't mean it derogatorily, got dollar marks in his eyes".
Mae Boren Axton, a Jacksonville school teacher who had done promotional work for the Colonel in the past was
hired as a publicist for several of the Jamboree tour dates. In May of 1955 she interviewed Elvis probably at the New Ball Park in Jacksonville, Florida on May 12.
from the start of the touring days with the Jamboree the demand for Elvis by the kids (mostly women) over the other performers was almost overwhelming. On May 13, at the ballpark at the conclusion of his performance Elvis joked with the girls in the audience
'Girls, I'll see you backstage'.
Peter Guralnick in Last Train To Memphis wrote, ''Almost immediately they were after him. The Police got him into the dugout locker room,
where Mae and the Colonel were totaling up the nights receipts. Most of the other acts were backstage too Mae recalled, when the fans started pouring in through an overhead window that had been inadvertently left open. 'I heard feet like a thundering herd
and the next thing I knew I heard his voice from the shower area, I started running and three or four policemen started running too and by the time we got there several hundred must have crawled in - well maybe not that many but a lot and Elvis was on top
of one of the showers looking sheepish and scared, like What do I do? and his shirt was shredded and his coat was torn to pieces. Somebody had even gotten his belt and his socks''.
Boren Axton, along with Thomas Durden wrote 'Heartbreak Hotel' in 1955 after reading about a suicide in the paper where a well-dressed man had removed all labels from his clothing, destroyed his identity papers and left a note saying: "I walk a lonely street."
The next time the band performed at the ballpark, this time with DJ on drums, was in February of 1956. Elvis was now signed with RCA, had made a couple of Television appearances and his recording of Heartbreak Hotel was #1 on the charts. This time he was the
featured performer and performed shows on the 23rd and 24th that again included the Louvin Brothers and the Carter Sisters.
After his performance on the 23rd he collapsed
in the parking lot, was admitted to a hospital and advised to rest. He didn't and on the following night made his final appearance at the ballpark.
After the Jacksonville
concerts, record sales increased even more dramatically. Earlier, Sam Phillips had persuaded a Florida one-stop record distributor to handle all of Elvis Presley's Sun releases, and the distributor heavily influenced local radio play. For the preceding six
months, Elvis' music had played daily on key Florida radio stations, prompting the strong demand for Elvis Presley concerts.
Black rhythm and blues stations that played
the new rock and roll discovered that their listeners were turning to white stations playing Presley's music. As a result, black radio stations in Florida added Elvis Presley to their playlists. There were no longer any doubts; Colonel Tom Parker decided to
sign Elvis Presley to a management contract as quickly as he could.
There was a potential problem, however. Because Hank Snow and Colonel Tom Parker were still partners,
Parker had to offer Snow, a shrewd businessman, had built his following upon an image of purity and intelligence. He neither drank nor smoked publicly. A small man at five feet, four inches tall, Snow had a Napoleonic complex, a short person's self-doubt coupled
with a power mania that prompted him to strut around in custom tailored suits and shoes in an attempt to create the illusion of being taller than he was. Tom Parker knew that the thing to do was to bluff the insecure Hank Snow.
"Hank", the Colonel said, "tell you what let's do. You put everything you make an I'll put everything I make and we'll sign up this boy's contract and we'll manage him". Looking with disbelief at the Colonel,
Snow refused the ludicrous suggestion, freeing the Colonel to sign Elvis Presley to Hank Snow Attractions himself, and to cement a personal arrangement with Elvis Presley that essentially excluded Snow from sharing in the results. As their negotiations had
been carried out quietly, very few people were aware of just how close Colonel Tom Parker was to managing Elvis Presley.
Jeannie Wiliams, known as Jeanette Todd in 1955
said, ''I was a disc jockey on radio station WRHC here in Jax. I also was on live with my band on Saturday morning. Those were the days of live radio shows and also when the disc jockey could play what the listeners wanted to hear. Now they can only play what
the program director allows them to play. I have worked with a lot of the country artists from the Opry and other shows as well. We felt he (Elvis) was on the wrong show. We were all pure country. He was different. Nobody was real excited to have him on the
package deal. His music was not our music. The audience didn't like him as much as the rest of us. Moderate applause. I didn't think he was much of a singer. When we were on stage and it was time to get together and do what we would call a jam session, he
would do some gospel singing, and he was really good at that, but he didn't do that on the show''.
Pat Miles, daughter of disc jockey Frank Thies says, ''My father took
me backstage during the show, and I got introduced to Elvis. He was watching the entertainers, mesmerized. Very shy, polite, and always stood by himself. It was a Hank Snow tour, and Hank told my father, 'I'm not gonna follow this guy anymore. You will see
why, when this guy goes on stage''. Then Elvis took the stage, and after a couple of songs, the crowd came over the barricades and rushed the stage gathering directly in front of the stage. I had never seen this before''.