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ELVIS SUN 1955 (5)
May 1, 1955 to May 31, 1955

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Interview for Elvis Presley, May 12, 1955
Live Broadcast Recording for Elvis Presley, May 26, 1955

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MAY 1955

Eager to purchase Elvis Presley's contract, Atlantic Records executives arrived in Memphis to take a final look at Presley. Ahmet Ertegun brought along a new writer and producer, Jerry Wexler. They visited Dewey Phillips' "Red Hot and Blue" radio show with the idea of using Phillips' knowledge and influence to soften up Sam Phillips.

By moving quickly and quietly, Ertegun hoped he could sign Elvis Presley before the other major labels got wind of his intentions.

But Ertegun was unprepared to deal with Dewey Phillips' maniacal behaviour. When Ertegun and his entourage arrived at the "Red Hot and Blue" show, they immediately noticed that Dewey Phillips was drunk. Phillips coughed and staggered around the studio. A burst of obscenities punctuated his speech, and he never sat down.

When Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wesler walked into the WHBQ studio at the Old Chisca Hotel, they couldn't believe Phillips was the on-the-air personality. To amuse himself, Dewey Phillips did pushups on top of a picture of Marilyn Monroe taped to the studio floor.

Once he went on the air, it was sheer horror. With Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wesler standing next to him, Dewey Phillips growled to his audience: "I got these two crooks here from New York City, from Atlantic Records". Jerry Wexler stood up with a shocked look on his face as Phillips bellowed: "How you doin' all you Memphis chicks... and motherfuckers?". All Dewey Phillips could talk about was drinking and girls. Fortunately, after taking a big swig from a whiskey bottle, Dewey Phillips closed the mike.

"After the show, he took us down to a bar to meet Elvis Presley in a little after-hours club next to the Home Of The Blues (see below), Ruben Cherry's record store", Ertegun later recalled. Naturally, Elvis Presley wasn't in the bar. Suddenly Dewey Phillips announced that he had seven or eight great-looking girls coming for a party. When a group of girls in high heels who looked to be fourteen to sixteen years old walked in awkwardly, Jerry Wexler turned red and mumbled that he was tired. Dewey Phillips would accept no excuses, and at three in the morning the group found itself in the Memphis State University gym watching the varsity basketball team practising for a game in New York's Madison Square Garden.

It was not Sam Phillips' fault that Atlantic Records didn't purchase Elvis Presley's contract. The night with Dewey Phillips drove Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler right out of Memphis. Prone to bizarre behaviour and eccentric attitudes, Dewey Phillips had treated the Atlantic people so poorly that they lost interest in Elvis Presley.

Dewey Phillips was the reason that Atlantic Records was unable to sign Elvis Presley to a recording contract. Even so, this well-publicized trip spurred interest within the music industry about the Sun Records sound. It was not just Elvis Presley that the major labels were interested in; soon, talent scouts were looking for other rockabilly singers as well.

HOME OF THE BLUES RECORD SHOP - Ruben Cherry's record store, located at 107 Beale Street (now occupied by the Elvis Presley statue) across from South Main Street in Memphis where, in the early 1950s Elvis Presley bought many 78rpm records by rhythm and blues artists.

There was scarcely a musician in town who didn't know the Home Of The Blues Record Shop. The shop's proprietor, Ruben Cherry,didn't load the racks with new releases or dump his inventory when an artist's stardom began to fall. Instead he tried to carry one of everything, figuring that every record had a buyer somewhere.

It was an archives of sorts, and part of a Memphis musician's education was gleaned from standing in front of the old wooden bins flipping through records. At the same time, it was like a giant song factory, because every song there had the potential of becoming a hit. Copyright and ownership were ill- defined in those days, and any musician looking for a song to cut might start with an older record.

When the Rock And Roll Trio, made up of Johnny and Dorsey Burnette and Paul Burlison, stopped in Memphis before a Nashville recording session, the newspaper reported that they were going to the Home Of The Blues Record Shop to pick out songs to record. "If you liked it you could always change it into rockabilly if it just had good words and a melody", Paul Burlison said. "You could always put a beat to it if you wanted to. You could take an old country song and put a beat to it like Elvis did with "Blue Moon Of Kentucky".

Johnny Burnette once told an interviewer that after school he used to hang out in the Home Of The Blues. He used to run into Elvis quite frequently there, he said. When "That's All Right" was released, Ruben Cherry was the first to stock it.

In fact, many Memphians remember buying their first Elvis Presley records at Home Of The Blues. Ruben was such a strong supporter of Elvis Presley that he even loaned Elvis money to get to his early concerts. The name of the store may have inspired Johnny Cash, Lily McAlpin, and Glan Douglas to compose the 1957 Johnny Cash recording of "Home Of The Blues" (SUN 279). In 1976, upon learning that his old friend was ill, Elvis Presley wrote a letter to Ruben thanking him for his early support. The letter was read at Ruben's burial service.

RUBEN CHERRY – Owner of Ruben Cherry and his Home Of The Blues record shop at 105-107 Beale Street, billed as ''The South's Largest Record Store''. Cherry had bought the premises in the late 1940s after he came out of wartime military service. He had been born in Memphis on January 30, 1922 and his parents, Harry Cherry, a naturalized Russian, and Ida Goldstein, ran a grocery business, Rosen's Delicatessen at 606 South Lauderdale just south of Beale Street.

In the family tradition, Ruben Cherry was a good but cautious businessman. He advertised his store as being '' on the street where the blues was born'' but he stocked the full range of music - pop, jazz, and country as well as blues - and he prided himself that he kept in stock one copy of every disc in print at any time.

His shop was frequented by black and white customers including disc jockey Dewey Phillips, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash.

Cash recorded a song confirming ''you'll find me at the home of the blues'', and Cherry stood behind his old wooden counter with photographs of himself - as president of the local Variety Club - with Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Wilson and other entertainers. Not that Cherry was universally liked. Some described him as ''peculiar'' and writer Robert Gordon quotes Milton Pond from a rival record dealership, Poplar Tunes, saying: ''Lots of people didn't like Ruben. They thought he was pushy and too obnoxious. The main thing I remember about him, up by the cash register he had a nickel glued on the glass counter. He'd wait for somebody to try to pick it up, and when it wouldn't move he'd get the biggest kick out of that''. According to musician Jim Dickinson, ''Ruben kept this rubber rattlesnake behind the counter which he used to scare off would-be stickup men. When he held it, it really liked real. When it was not there one day, Cherry said ''that goddamn Elvis Presley, he came in here and stole my rubber snake and ran down Beale Street shaking it''. Guitarist Ronald Smith remembers, ''Ruben Cherry used to sell me records back when I was a kid, 1949 or so. He'd special order in guitar records for me by Chet Atkins. Ruben was kinda eccentric, a bit unusual. He'd chase people out of the shop, us kids. He jumped all over me one day for no reasons and I figured he'd confused me with Reggie Young who'd ordered a disc and not collected it''.

Ruben Cherry apparently had a deep interest in black music and many connections in Memphis and nationally. Eventually he decided to channel this interest into his own label, which was bankrolled by his mother's sister, Cella Goldstein, who had also started out in the delicatessen business before marrying Clarence Camp, owner of Southern Amusements a 628 Madison Avenue in Memphis. The path from jukebox and record dealing into label ownership was a familiar one in most US cities. In their edition of August 13, 1960 the Cash Box ran a story below a photograph of Cherry with rhythm and blues star Roy Brown: ''Memphis, Ten – Newly formed label, Home Of The Blues Co. has signed two artists to wax exclusively for it. HOTB execs Ruben Cherry, president, and Mrs. C.A. Camp, sec-treasurer, are shown inking the contract with Roy Brown''. Brown opened the label with release number 107, after the address of Cherry's store, Cherry and Camp recorded a mix of established black performers, such as Brown and the Five Royales, and local singers associated with the Memphis club scene, like Willie Mitchell and Bowlegs Miller. The latter was a regular at the Flamingo Room, a club upstairs above Cherry's store. Willie Mitchell provided the studio band and from accounts by Mitchell and Jim Dickinson (who recorded there as Little Muddy) it seems that most of the earliest HOTB sessions were made at the Fernwood Records studio at 415 North Main Street. Roy Brown told John Broven: ''I did a few things for Home Of The Blues in Memphis in 1960. It was Willie Mitchell's band, he was quite a guy. It was just a small studio... near to radio WDIA... but the guy we had on my session was Scotty Moore who handled the session. And I had two things that went well, as a matter of fact we sold forty four thousand copies of ''Oh So Wonderful'' in Memphis alone, but the company didn't have (good) distribution outside of Memphis''.

Ruben Cherry and Celia Camp diversified in mid 1961 by setting up subsidiary labels to issue music produced and bankrolled by independent producers. The Zab, Rufus, Six-O-Six (named after the store address where Cherry lived as a child), and 1st Records labels were an effort to ring the changes. Mrs. Camp was wheeling and dealing in more than records: Billboard reported on May 22, 1961: ''Memphis: Mrs. Celia G. Camp has purchased the majority of the stock in Southern Amusement Company from her ex-husband... the largest phonograph and game operation in the mid-South... Camp began his coin machine empire in 1938, with Mrs. Camp's help. They founded Southern Distributing Company with Kenneth Wilson. Wilson has long since left the field and is now a multi-millionaire builder and president of Holiday Inns Inc... Mrs. Camp owns Music Systems Inc, 407 Madison Avenue, where her office is, a background music operation. Mrs. Camp also owns oil wells in Kentucky, Illinois, and Arkansas. A year ago she helped found HOTB record company and is secretary-treasurer of it. She has put up the money for its operation. They are hoping to become a hit-producing record company, have great hopes for the Five Royales they are recording''. These hopes soon met the reality of average sales figures, and Camp brought in her nephew, Wolf Lebowitz, a Memphis-born journalist and photographer, who hawked the label around the northern record business. By November 1961 Billboard was reporting: ''Chicago – Vee Jay president Ewart Abner has worked out an agreement with Ruben Cherry's label HOTB to distribute the latter's records. Future HOTB releases will be issued on Vee Jay with an additional emblem of HOTB''. Soon, the label would transfer this arrangement to ABC-Paramount Records and their Apt subsidiary.

Ruben Cherry's dream of a successful rhythm and blues label had collapsed through weight of competition from Hi, Stax and others, and his Home Of The Blues label closed. The record store continued to trade through the 1960s but Cherry died in January 1976, aged just 53, after 27 years in the record business.

MAY THROUGH AUGUST 1955

Elvis Presley's career continued to prosper in the Southern market. In July, Elvis' "Baby Let's Play House" and "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" appeared on the Billboard Country and Western singles chart. As a result, Sun Records was deluged with requests for interviews by national magazines. The national news services and major television networks were monitoring Elvis Presley, and this helped his career grow from a regional base into national prominence.

To Billboard readers, of course, Elvis Presley's name was already a familiar one because the music industry's bible had been closely following his career for some time.

HOT SPRING MAY 1955

D.J. Fontana recalls that Elvis Presley and the band were driving up from Shreveport in separate cars following a Louisiana Hayride appearance (placing the show on a Sunday or Monday). All of the entertainers made it to Hot Springs except Fontana.

A check of Hot Springs newspaper for all of 1955 turned up no clue of an Elvis show.

MAY 1955

Blackboard Jungle the movie, and its soundtrack had helped to popularize rock and roll. The title song, "Rock Around The Clock", not only made Bill Haley and the Comets a hot rock act, but made all of the movie's music a focal point for teenagers. Their flooded into record stores to purchase "Rock Around The Clock", they searched eagerly for other rock and roll records.

Also in 1955, "Unchained Melody" by Roy Hamilton on Epic Records, Al Hibbler on Decca Records, and Les Baxter on Capitol Records was a top ten hit for all three artists. While not a rock song, the popularity of "Unchained Melody" was again due to teenagers record purchasers who wanted to buy the record because it was featured in the movie "Unchained". Increasingly, record companies saw the movies as a means of popularizing rock records.

UNKNOWN DATE MAY 1955

This is the most consistently mentioned of all of the shows that Elvis Presley never played. The rumour-mill has been fed by two items in Billboard telling of West Coast tours. In the August 6, 1955, edition there is a brief mention in the "Folk Talent and Tunes" column that states, "The Browns and Presley have just concluded a West Coast trek". Elvis Presley had not performed with the Browns for three months. They did begin a tour together on August 8, 1955, but got only as far west as East Texas.

The second mention in Billboard (September 10, 1955) has Elvis Presley set to "start a series (of shows) on the West Coast". This should have read East Coast, as the article is specifically referring to Elvis' September 11 appearance in Norfolk, Virginia.

The French fan club, Federation Francaise des Clubs Elvis Presley, in a 1980's newsletter, went so far as to say that Elvis Presley and Hank Snow appeared at the Cow Palace in May 1955. According the French, Elvis Presley sang "Tennessee Partner", "Uncle Pen", That's All Right", and "Good Rockin' Tonight". A quick review of Elvis' May 1955 schedule shows that he and Hank Snow spent most of it together on the East Coast. In addition, Elvis Presley did not have enough spare time in May to go to California.

Hank Snow, on the other hand, did tour California briefly that August. His "West Coast Trek" began in Tucson on August 5, moved on to Los Angeles (6), and San Diego (7). In Los Angeles, Snow appeared at the Hollywood Bowl in a concert that combined the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra with country music. Many performers were listed in the ads for both Hollywood and San Diego, including the Collins Kids, Freddy Hart, Eddie Dean, and Lefty Frizzell. There was, of course, no mention of Elvis Presley, who in August was in Memphis (5), Shreveport (6) and Houston (7).

A careful check of the various San Francisco daily papers, as well as newspapers from Fresno and San Jose - locations mentioned as possibilities for Elvis Presley shows in 1955 - was undertaken. in all cases, there was nothing to be found.

By happenstance, an article in the San Francisco News (October 15, 1956) did state that Bob Neal only booked Elvis Presley as far west as Albuquerque, which would confirm the known facts.

MAY 1, 1955 SUNDAY

Elvis Presley and the Blue Moon Boys joined "Hank Snow's All Star Jamboree" for a 21- day/20-town tour. For the next three weeks, 31 performers appeared throughout the South in shows booked by Colonel Tom Parker, assisted in some locations by Bob Neal.

Originally, as befitted his status as the tour's headliner, Hank Snow was set to close the show. However, according to Snow, reaction to Elvis' appearance was so overwhelming that after the first night Elvis Presley was moved to the final spot on the bill. Thereafter, each show was set up in two parts.

In the first half, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, the Davis Sisters, and the Wilburn Brothers performed, with Onie Wheeler coming on right before intermission. The second half opened with Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters (Anita and Becky), followed by Faron Young and Hank Snow and the Rainbow Ranch Boys, with Elvis Presley in the closing spot. On the next three shows Curtis Gordon opened as a "Special Added Attraction". Other entertainers who also appeared on shows later in the tour were Slim Whitman and Martha Carson.

On opening night of the tour, there were three "big shows" at 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m. at the Municipal Auditorium at North Rampart and 1201 Saint Peter Street in New Orleans. Tickets were priced from $1.50 for adults down to 50-cents for children under twelve.

Colonel Tom Parker wisely switched Elvis Presley to the closing act, a move which infuriated Hank Snow. "You must be crazy", Snow screamed at Colonel Tom Parker. "This is my show and I an the star. I've been meaning to talk to you about that kid, anyway". What Hank Snow failed to appreciate was that Elvis Presley was definitely a hot performer. "I don't even think we should be using him, jumping around like he does, shaking his butt around", Snow protested.

Elvis Presley was intrigued with Tom Parker, and asked his bass player Bill Black about the Colonel. Bill Black was sceptical about the Parker's management skills. Recognizing that Parker was stingy with money, Bill Black warned Elvis Presley that money problems could easily result from the wrong kind of contract - he had heard horror stories about Eddy Arnold's unhappiness with Tom Parker. A gentle, quiet man, Bill Black warned Elvis Presley to no avail; Elvis Presley was impressed with Tom Parker. After four days on the road with the Jamboree, Elvis Presley began talking about how well-planned he thought the tour was.

"I think the Colonel has a special feeling for the crowds", Elvis commented. "No one can sell autographed pictures like him".

Indeed, the carnival atmosphere surrounding the All Star Jamboree was evident during the long intermission between the two segments of the show - an intermission that lasted longer than the performances. Colonel Tom Parker had set up the extravaganza to separate the locals from as much money as possible, and there were continual references to the souvenirs available for purchase.

"He's too slick", Bill Black intoned. Bill Black had been in the music business a decade longer than Elvis, and was uneasy about quick-buck promoters. "Be careful, Elvis, the business is a rouge one", Black warned.

On Municipal Auditorium, country star Hank Williams married Billie Jean Eshlimar here twice on the same October 1952 day in front of sellout crowds. Tickets cost $1.50, and Hank and wife ended up some $25.000 richer. In May 1955 the building was renovated to provide a temporary home for Harrah's, the city's first land-based casino, which made headlines by going bust a few months later. Here is also the Louis Armstrong Park include Armstrong's statue.

WXOK disc jockey Red Smith took a break from playing the latest hits. A few bars of Hank Snow's ''Would You Mind'' was followed by a short excerpt from Faron Young's ''Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young'', and his teaser cuts concluded with Elvis Presley's ''That's All Right''. Then Red announced, ''Say, folks, Here's the biggest radio jamboree ever to come to New Orleans. All the great recording artists: Hank Snow, Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, Elvis Presley, Slim Whitman, Onie Wheeler, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, the Davis Sisters, the Rainbow Ranch Boys, the Stardusters. Don't miss it, it's the show of the year and here's your announcer to tell you where you can buy tickets today and where you can see the big show in person''. If that's not exactly what Red said, it was at least what Colonel Parker had telegraphed WXOK station manager, Mr. Perdergrass, as instruction for the radio spots. The ads would run in every city on the tour, obviously mentioning only the relevant performers. Additionally, the disc jockeys would make 450 as MCs for the show in their respective towns.

THE DAVES SISTERS - Weren't sister at all. Skeeter (born Mary Frances Penick) and Bee Jay (Betty Jack Davis) began touring in 1949. Their biggest hit came in 1953 with "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Known" on RCA Victor. Bee Jay died in an auto accident on August 2, 1953. Skeeter and Bee Jay's sister, Georgia, kept the act together until 1956. By the 1960s, Skeeter Davis had successfully crossed over into "pop" music as a solo artist, almost topping the charts with "The End Of The World" in 1963.

CURTIS GORDON - from Georgia, recorded country for RCA Victor from 1952-54 and was now developing his own rockabilly style with Mercury Records. He was star of WKAB radio's "Dixie Barn Dance" in Mobile where he was the owner of the Radio Ranch Club.

According to Curtis Gordon, ''The first time I met Elvis was on a tour with Hank Snow and Faron Young. I walked into this auditorium in New Orleans and went back into the dressing room, and I see a young man sittin' on a bench. he had on a white shirt, black britches, and a red sport coat. They introduced me to him, and it was Elvis. I liked him, I'd heard his records, some of the things he had done in Memphis, and I thought he was great. And I'll tell you what: When he did the show that night, I'm glad that Hank Snow was the star of the show and closed the show, because I opened the show, Faron was on next, and then Elvis came on before Hank. And he tore the house down. I'll never forget it. Me and Faron looked at each other and we said it about the same time: 'I'm glad I've already been on'. That was a hard act to follow. And sure enough, when Hank walked out there, the audience was still shouting for Elvis''.

The announcer rushed to the rescue: ''Okay now, y'll be nice, folks. Wait a minute. Y'll be nice. Hank Snow is a legend in this business. Let's show Hank Snow a little courtesy, 'cause this gentleman's been in the business for 360 years! If y'll want to see Elvis, he's out in the parking lot behind the building signing autographs''. According to Faron Young, half the audience left while Snow was still singing, and after the show Snow angrily said to Faron: 'You know, by God, I should not have followed that little bastard out there'', to which Faron replied: 'Don't worry, Snow. You didn't''. (Eventually the problem as sorted out by having Elvis go on just before intermission).

MAY 2, 1955 MONDAY

The Hank Snow Jamboree split into two separate groups as it moved through Louisiana on this date. The Hank Snow unit with the Davis Sisters and Jimmie Rodgers Snow played Bulldog Stadium in Jennings, Louisiana.

Elvis Presley and the second unit played at the Baton Rouge High School Auditorium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On this evening, the headliner of this group was Faron Young and he was assisted by Onie Wheeler and the Wilburn Brothers.

There were two performances, at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. with tickets running $1.25 in advance and an extra quarter the night of the show. In the audience was teenager John Ramistella, a future rock "n" roll star under the name of Johnny Rivers.

According to Shirley U. Fleniken, ''On a warm spring night in May, Elvis finally came to Baton Rouge. After seeing him in New Orleans a few months earlier, he had become my favorite singer. I attended the show at Baton Rouge High School, with my sisters Gayle, Margie, and Gretchen. Gayle was a horse person, and had her Palomino, Prince, with us in a trailer. She parked it out in the back, not far from Elvis' pink and white Cadillac. Also appearing on the show were Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, Mother Matbelle and the Carter Sisters, and Onie Wheeler''.

''Elvis came out last of all, although Faron Young got top billing. Elvis was dressed in a dark sport coat and light-colored slacks, and his shirt collar was turned up. His hair was combed into ducktails in the back. He sang ''That's All Right'', ''You're A Heartbreaker'', ''Good Rockin' Tonight'', and a few other songs. He was just as good-looking as I remembered, and as before, moved around a lot on stage. Elvis was a sight to behold, with his sexy good looks and movements that drove us girls wild. Bill was kind of clowning around, as he usually did. The girls, including me, were screaming and clapping. After he sang what he said was to be his last song, the audience called him back several times. He sang a few of the currently popular rhythm and blues songs. We didn't want it to end. I know I sure didn't''.

Then says Fleniken, ''We went backstage and got Elvis' autograph. He had already signed my book, and a photograph in New Orleans, so I asked him to sign on that same page my book. He signed it: ''Yours Again, Elvis Presley''. I knew I would treasure that book always. Bill Black was re-stringing Elvis' guitar, I watched and talked to him while he did it. He said Elvis always broke several strings each show. I asked him if I could play it, and he obliged. I strummed and sang a few bars of ''Good Rockin' Tonight''. Bill told me I had ''good singin' rhythm''.

''In back of the High School where we were parked, Elvis, Faron Young, and others were hanging out. Fans were waiting in line for autographs. Elvis signed his name on my sister Gretchen's arm and on mine, as he did for lots of other girls there. Faron Young was interested in Gayle's Golden Palomino. 'I want to buy that horse. Will you sell it to me'? he asked. She immediately let him know Prince was not for sale. He then wanted to buy the beautiful new black and silver saddle. She said, 'It's not for sale either, but if I run into another one like it, I'll let you know'. Elvis piped up, 'He ain't gon' want it after you run into it', then he laughed as we all did. Elvis was darting around all over the place, being his usual playful and mischievous self. You just couldn't keep up with him, where he was and what he was doing''.

''Once he ran up behind me and kissed me on my back of my neck. I was one thrilled young lady. Some of us were admiring the pink Caddy. There was some conversation about it, some of the girls were teasing him about taking them riding in it. I said playfully, 'This is the car Elvis is taking me home in'! He ran over and hugged me and said, 'yeah, baby'! About that time, my sister said it was time to go, so we said our good-byes and left''.

MAY 3, 1955 TUESDAY

Hank Snow and his group reunited in Mobile, Alabama, for a day filled with radio promotions. The various artists blanketed the local market doing interviews promoting their up-coming two-day stand.

MAY 4-5, 1955 WEDNESDAY / THURSDAY

Remaining in Mobile, Hank Snow and Elvis Presley played an 8:15 p.m. performance on Wednesday and Thursday at Ladd Stadium, located at 1621 Virginia Street, Mobile, was built in 1948 at a cost of $1 million. The stadium, which took nearly four to build, is on a 43 acre tract. It was constructed to honor Ernest Fleetwood Ladd (1876-1941).

Faron Young was now second on the bill. Advance tickets were $2.00 for a box seat, $1.50 for reserve seats and $1.00 for general admission. Those waiting to buy tickets at the stadium paid $1.25. After Elvis Presley finished his act, he and Faron Young engaged in some horse-play that looked as if they were fighting. Members of the audience became concerned, and Young said later that he even received letters from fans who chastised him for "beating on that young boy after he did such a good job singing".

According to Ross Harrison, ''He got up on the stage there and started playing the guitar, shakin' it, and people started hollering and screaming. He got a big kick out of people laughing at him. They loved him. A buddy of mine grew up in Mississippi with Elvis in a little town over there. We were going out, Friday night I think it was, and he asked if we could stop by and see a buddy of his? I told him yes, so I found out it was Elvis. I didn't even know him. We went down on the field there, and it was Hank Snow and all them, and they had one of them half shields out there, and he came out and had two blond gals with him and hugged Bobby, and then he introduced me to Elvis, and Bobby asked him how he was doing, and Elvis said, 'Fine, I just bought a pink Cadillac', and then he asked us to come to the Radio Ranch. We went out there, but there were cars, blocks away, so we just kept on going''.

Ruth England and her husband were really good friends with Grace and Curtis Gordon, she says, ''We were celebrating Grace Gordon's birthday, and Elvis and Scotty and Bill Black were there, but not there as performers, just there as guests because of some contract restrictions or something. They were just sitting there at a table, but I know they were gonna be there, because Grace had told me, and two or three of my girlfriends went there, and we sat about ten feet from them, and Elvis and Scotty and Bill signed autographs at the back of their pictures''.

Wayne Hare, a local musicians said, ''I don't know why Curtis did it. But Elvis and them were sitting out there in the audience. Curtis played about half a set, and my brother and I were fixing to go and play at another club. Curtis got us up there. 'We're gonna get Billy and Wayne Hare up here and do few songs for us'. So we had been doing the Elvis stuff, and a little TV work around. We had a little 3-piece band just like Elvis did. I don't know why Curtis done it, but he said, 'Yáll do some Elvis stuff'. We said, 'Oh no! Elvis sat out in the audience. I said, Í don't have a guitar'. Scotty was standing by the bandstand and if I'm not mistaken, he let me use his guitar. And he didn't know what we were going to do either. My brother got up there with his flattop guitar and started singing, ''That's All Right''. I was playing lead guitar, and we had an upright bass player. And Tom Parker jumped up off his chair and ran across the room, where Elvis was sitting with a couple of girls, and it suddenly hit me, what are we doing this for? We were so young and naive, and didn't think that doing this would be so bad. I was watching Tom Parker over at Elvis' table, and saw that Elvis was just shaking his head like he was saying, 'Ah, let them go ahead'. When I look back at it now, it is probably one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done''.

The tour gave Elvis a chance to meet with the performers, many of whom he idolized.

MAY 6, 1955 FRIDAY

On this date, Elvis Presley was elsewhere and was not part of the Hank Snow stop in Birmingham. Scotty Moore and Bill Black, on the other hand, remained with Snow. In Birmingham, the Hank Snow Jamboree appeared at 8:15 p.m. at the Auditorium. The lineup still included Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters, the Davis Sisters, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, and Onie Wheeler. Admission was $1.50 reserved and $1.00 general.

Of course, after the second show in Mobile, Elvis was return to Memphis to attend Dixie Locke's junior prom at South Side High School in Memphis, where he double-dates with his cousin Gene Smith and Bessie Wolverton, one of Dixie's best friend.

MAY 7, 1955 SATURDAY

The Hank Snow tour, with Elvis Presley, travelled on to Daytona Beach, Florida, with the same company as Birmingham, except for Faron Young who was replaced by Martha Carson. The 8:00 p.m. show took place at the Peabody Auditorium located at 600 Auditorium Boulevard. Tickets, up to 6:00 on the day of the show, were $1.00 at Morris Drug Store. After that time, they were $1.25 at the box office.

Colonel Tom Parker is back in home territory in Florida. A resident of Tampa for almost fifteen years, Parker begin promoting shows in the mid-1930s and is well known to local promoters and disc jockeys. That's where Mae Boren Axton had met him a few years earlier. Mae was a schoolteacher in Jacksonville, but on the side she helped facilitate demos for local songwriters, and occasionally wrote her own songs. She also did advance promotion for Parker's tours in Florida, and on May 7 or May 12 one of her duties was to tape a radio interview with newcomer Elvis Presley, who had returned from Memphis to rejoin the tour. The chat showed that Elvis had not yet mastered the art of the interview, as he started complaining about being on a small record label, and Mae had to steer him away from such politically and professionally imprudent conversation.

MAY 8, 1955 SUNDAY

Remaining in Florida, Faron Young and Slim Whitman joined Elvis Presley and Hank Snow as they appeared in Tampa at the Fort Homer Hesterly located at 522 North Howard Avenue. There were two performances, at 2:30 and 8:15 p.m. Tickets were a reasonable $1.00 for general admission and $1.50 for reserved seats. Children were only 50-cents. The concert was sponsored by the Optimist Club of Seminole Heights, which was trying to raise money for a teen center.

According to Jimmie Rodgers Snow, ''I used to ride with Elvis, beause he and I were close together in age. He had just bought that Cadillac. We were driving though a town on the way to the motel or the theater, and he just pulls into that paint store, and he says, 'I will be right back'. He runs into the store and buys a bucket of paint and comes out and writes his name on both sides of the car.

MAY 9, 1955 MONDAY

A portion of Hank Snow's tour consisting of Snow, the Carters and Jimmie Rodgers Snow moved on to play a special birthday date for Snow in Macon, Georgia.

Elvis Presley remained in Florida for an 8:00 p.m. show at the New City Auditorium in Fort Myers. Faron Young was the show's headliner and others on the bill included the Wilburn Brothers and Onie Wheeler.

Tickets, which were sold from Naples to Immokalee to Punta Gorda, ran $1.25 for general admission, $1.50 reserved seating, and 75-cents for children. WMYR radio sponsored the event. According to legend, Colonel Tom Parker first watched Elvis Presley perform, on May 9, 1955.

Joan Lacey, wife of local disc jockey Brad Lacey said, ''Onie Wheeler was on the concert. They had done Tampa, Florida, the night before. Elvis left his show pants at the dry cleaners, and of course the dry cleaners had locked up.

Onie Wheeler said, 'Oh, don't worry about it, I'll let you wear a pair of my pants'. Back then Elvis was so skinny, and Onie's pants would not fit him, and Elvis' pants kept falling down. So we thought that was the beginning of his hip swinging. He was constantly pulling up his pants.

MAY 10, 1955 TUESDAY

It was back to Florida for Hank Snow, as he joined up with Faron Young and Elvis Presley again for an appearance in Ocala, Florida. The whole congregation was together for this show, including Slim Whitman, Martha Carson, the Wilburn Brothers, the Davis Sisters and Jimmie Rodgers Snow. The 8:00 p.m. show at the Southeastern Pavilion brought in an overflows crowd of 2,700. Tickets were $1.00 in advance and $1.25 at the box office.

The females in the audience squirmed and squealed, and the loud applause for Elvis Presley again outstripped. The Colonel had printed up large quantities of hats and pillows to sell to the throngs, and the young crowd spent huge sums of money on Parker's plastic souvenirs. The newspaper and radio people received pillows with the "Hank Snow All Star Jamboree" printed in garish red. Through intensive advertising in local newspapers and with live spots on radio stations, Parker had succeeded in creating a raucous carnival atmosphere.

According to ''Nervous'' Ned Needham, country and western disc jockey at WMOP, Ocala said, ''The Hank Snow show, with Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, and Elvis Presley, played before an overflow crowd of 2,700 in Ocala, Florida, May 10''.

MAY 11, 1955 WEDNESDAY

Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black appeared at the City Auditorium in Orlando, Florida. Headliner of the show is Hank Snow and the Rainbow Ranch Boys. Also on the bill, Faron Young, The Wilburn Brothers, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, Slim Whitman, The David Sisters, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Onie Wheeler, and Martha Carson.

According to Auda Lou Warren, ''When Elvis had a performance in Orlando, Florida in 1955, he and his band members along with Jimmie Rodgers Snow and his band members spent the day at our home. I was babysitting a couple of houses down and could hardly wait for the ladies to come in from their day of swimming and talking. When I did get home, I asked where Elvis was, as he wasn't anywhere to be seen. He had gone in to town to get a life jacket before he would get on the skis. This was the time in his life when he was driving his pink Cadillac. I asked him when could I ride in it, and he said when I became his girlfriend. Well, that never happened'', Warren said.

''We swam and water skied. Elvis had never skied before, and he had lots of fun learning. While waiting his turn, we stood in the water, which was not very deep, talking and joking around. I had an inter-tube that was the size of a wheel barrel wheel around my waist. Elvis decided that it would be fun to turn me upside down in the water. I tried very hard to turn myself upright and wasn't getting anywhere. After a few seconds I was beginning to get frightened, so I quit kicking. Thinking back on this, I think Elvis might have gotten scared when I stopped kicking. He immediately turned me right side up''.

''Jimmie Rodgers Snow and a few of his band members went next door where they had a boathouse at the end of their pier with a deck on top. The water was fairly shallow, and I was nervous watching them dive off that deck. The water was waist deep on me, so it couldn't have been but about 3 feet deep. We had lots of food to eat. I fixed me a plate and decided to wait on Elvis by fixing him a plate. I put my plate down on the ground, when I went to pick it up I was very upset as it had ants crawling all over it. When we got to the desserts, I got Elvis a plate with chocolate cake. While talking with Elvis, he took his cake and ran his hand through the chocolate icing and then swiped his hand across the face. He was such a joker. when I was telling my class about it, my teacher said he could think of better things to do with that cake. This was 9th grade Civics class. Elvis was brought up with very good manners. He always called my mother and step-father 'Mr'and 'Mrs''.

MAY 12, 1955 THURSDAY

Elvis Presley performed at the New Baseball Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Both Skeeter Davis and Mae Boren Axton vividly remember going out to dinner with Elvis and several of the other acts. Elvis' brand new pink lace shirt was readily commented on by several of the women, each suggesting that Elvis would give it to her, as it was ''vulgar'' (Mae) and ''a woman's blouse'' (Skeeter). Finally Elvis took it off and handed it to Mae, saying if Skeeter didn't like it, he was not going to wear it.

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.

Performances 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.

Almost 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''.

Mae 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''.

(A little interlude) Elvis Presley here in Jacksonville met Mae Boren Axton, publicist for the Florida leg of the tour, and Mae met them at the motel. "I had gotten up real early and gone and done an interview about the show that night and about Elvis, and I came back around eleven, and, you know, the back of the motel was facing the ocean, the little rails were up there, the little iron rails. And I walked out of my door, my room was right near Elvis, and Elvis was leaning over looking at the ocean.

Of course there were a lot of people on the beach, and I said, 'Hi, honey, how are you doing?' And he looked up and said, 'Fine'. He said, 'Miz Axton, look at that ocean'. Of course I had seen it a million times. He said, 'I can't believe that it's so big'. It just overwhelmed him.

He said, 'I'd give anything in the world to find enough money to bring my mother and daddy down here to see it'. That just went through my heart. 'Cause I looked down here, and here were all these other kids, different show members for that night, all the guys looking for cute little girls. But his priority was doing something for his mother and daddy".

In the interview he persisted in calling her Miz Axton, and she suggested that he "just make it Mae. That makes it better... Elvis", she said, "you are sort of a bebop artist more than anything else, aren't you? is that what they call you?".

Elvis: "Well, I never have given myself a name, but a lot of the disc jockey’s call me, bopping hillbilly and bebop, I don't know what else...".

Mae: "I think that's very fine. And you've started touring the country and you've covered a lot of territory in the last two months, I believe".

Elvis: "Yes, ma'am, I've covered a lot, mostly in West Texas is where, that's where my records are hottest. Around in San Angelo and Lubbock and Midland and Amarillo".

Mae: "They tell me they almost mobbed you there, the teenagers, they like you so much. But I happen to know you have toured all down in the eastern part of the country, too. Down through Florida and around and that the people went for you there about as well as out in West Texas, isn't that right?".

Elvis: "Well, I wasn't very well known down here, you know, I'm with a small company, and my records don't have the distribution that they should have, but...".

Mae: "... You know, I watched you perform one time down in Florida, and I noticed that the older people got as big a kick out of you as the teenagers, I think that was an amazing thing".

Elvis: "Well, I imagine it's just the way we, all three of us move on the stage, you know, we act like we".

Mae: "Yes, and we musn't leave out Scotty and Bill. They really do a terrific job of backing you up".

Elvis: "They sure do. I really am lucky to have those two boys, 'cause they really are good. Each one of them have an individual style of their own".

Mae: "You know, what I can't understand is how you keep that leg shaking just as the right tempo all the time you're singing".

Elvis: "Well, it gets hard sometimes. I have to stop and rest it, but it just automatically wiggles like that".

Mae: "Is that it? Just automatically does it? You started back in high school, didn't you?"

Elvis: "Ah...".

Mae: "Singing around, public performances with school and things of that sort?".

Elvis: "Well, no, I never did sing anywhere in public in my life till I made this first record".

Mae: "Is that right?".

Elvis: "Yes, ma'am".

Mae: "And then you just went right on into their hearts, and you're doing a wonderful job, and I want to congratulate you on that, and I want to say, too, Elvis, it's been very nice having you in the studio...".

Elvis: "Well, thank you very much, Mae, and I'd like to personally thank you for really promoting my records down here because you really have done a wonderful job, and I really do appreciate it, because if you don't have people backing you, people pushing you, well, you might as well quit".

In the Billboard issue from May 1955 read that Arnold Shaw had just been named general professional manager of the Edward B. Marks Corporation, one of New York's major booking agents. As Elvis Presley's first booster in New York, Shaw was to become an important ally. Sam Phillips had talked to Elvis Presley about Arnold Shaw's intimate knowledge of the rock music business. He let Elvis Presley know that Shaw could help his career. Neither Elvis Presley nor Sam Phillips had yet met Shaw, but Sam hoped to play Elvis Presley's music for Shaw during the New Yorker's upcoming visit to Memphis. Sam Phillips desperately needed the opinion of a well-known, respected New York agent if he was to sell Elvis' recording contract.

In addition to being a booking specialist, Arnold Shaw was an honest critic and a friend of the new rock music. Shaw would not visit Memphis until late in the summer of 1955, but Sam Phillips was in constant touch with him. Elvis Presley's music was known in New York by May 1955, and there was already an undercurrent of interest in his recording future among the major record labels.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

INTERVIEW FOR ELVIS PRESLEY
PROBABLY BACKSTAGE, NEW BALL PARK,
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA
PROBABLY MAY 7 OR 12, 1955

''INTERVIEW WITH MAE BOREN AXTON – 3:16
Matrix number – None – Taken from BBC Broadcast Tape Copy
Recorded: May 7 or 12, 1955
Released: - 2003
First appearance: - Gear Productions (CD) 500/200rpm ESP 0703 mono
IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
Reissued: - August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-3-26 mono
A BOY FROM TUPELO – THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS 1953-1955

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

MAE BOREN AXTON - Publicist for the Florida leg of the tour, at the first Florida date, in Daytona Beach, Florida. A forty-year-old English teacher at Pazon High School in Jacksonville, Florida, where her husband was the football coach, Axton had gotten into country music through the back door when she was asked by Life Today, a magazine for which she did occasional freelance work, to write an article on "hillbilly" music.

Though she had been born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Oklahoma (her brother, David, later became a prominent U.S. senator from Oklahoma), she claimed to have no idea what hillbilly music was. "We listened to the opera, and my teacher taught me classical, and folk songs I knew, but the term "hillbilly" was foreign to me".

Her research took her to Nashville, where she met Minnie Pearl, who introduced her as a country songwriter to powerful song publishing executive Fred Rose. Taking Mae for what Minnie Pearl said she was, Rose told her he needed a novelty song for a Dub Dickerson recording session that afternoon, and she wrote one, if only to prove her newfound friend correct.

Soon she had gotten a number of her songs cut (Dub Dickerson recorded more of their collaborations, as did Tommy Durden) while continuing to write stories for fan club magazines. She hooked up with Colonel Tom Parker in 1953 on a Hank Snow tour and began doing advance press work for him in the Jacksonville-Orlando-Daytona area. As a woman who was both attractive and feisty, Mae claimed to be the only person that she knew ever to get an apology out of the Colonel.

Mae Boren Axton is co-writer with Tommy Durden, of "Heartbreak Hotel". Mae Axton, who is the mother of singer/songwriter and actor Hoyt Axton, once worked as a publicist for country singer Hank Snow. Mae Axton, who is the sister of Senator David Boren of Oklahoma, also worked for the Grand Ole Opry for a time. She first saw Elvis Presley when he appeared in Jacksonville on May 13, 1955, as a member of the Hank Snow All-Star Jamboree, which she had helped promote. In November 1955, at the Disc Jockey Convention in Nashville, she played for Elvis Presley a demo with Glenn Reeves singin "Heartbreak Hotel" in her suite at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville. In 1977 Axton wrote some of the liner notes for Ronnie McDowell's album "The King Is Gone".

Mae Boren Axton drowned on April 9, 1997 in her hot tub at age of 82 in Hendersonville, Tennessee after an apparent heart attack.

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - Birthplace of singer Pat Boone in 1934 and the site of a Hank Snow All-Star Jamboree concert on May 13, 1955. It was the first Elvis Presley performance at which the crowd caused a riot. There was so much excitement that Elvis Presley had his clothes torn off by some of the more emotional females in the audience. (In 1981, singer Johnny Tillotson, he was in the audience, said there was no riot, and that the story was created by Colonel Tom Parker for publicity).

JOHNNY TILLOTSON - Popular singer of the 1960s born in Jacksonville, Florida, on April 20, 1939. Johnny Tillotson is a former country disc jockey for Palatka, Florida, radio station WWPF. Johnny Tillotson, who had been a member of Mae Axton's High School English class in 1954-55, interviewed Elvis Presley in Jacksonville in August 1956. He got Elvis Presley's attention by imitating his singing of "Baby, Baby Ba Ba Baby", which Elvis Presley enjoyed. Tillotson became popular in both the country and pop field. His "Poetry In Motion" (Cadence 1384) went to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

As a singer and composer he wrote the Hank Locklin hit "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On" (RCA 7127) and sang the theme song of the TV series "Gidget" (starring Sally Field)). In 1969 Elvis Presley recorded the Tillotson composition "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin", which Tillotson had recorded in 1962 (Cadence 1418). Johnny Tillotson and Elvis Presley recorded versions of "Pledging My Love", "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Funny How Time Slips Away".

MAY 14, 1955 SATURDAY

Billboard, in its review of "Baby Let's Play House" gave it a rating of seventy-seven and called the song a "distinctive country effort". "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" was rated seventy-one and described as an "unusual, rhythmic country chant". Both songs were praised for their distinctive country music direction. One of the ironies of Elvis' entire early career, in fact, is that his black musical roots were not recognized by his fans, even though he openly discussed and acknowledged them.

Bob Neal, currently working with Colonel Tom Parker on promotion for the Hank Snow in the South reports that he has Elvis Presley, Martha Carson, the Carlisles, Ferlin Husky, J.E. and Maxine Brown and Onie Wheeler set for a week's trek beginning May 29. Neal, who is Presley's personal manager, says the latter has a new release on Sun, "Baby Let's Play House" b/w "You're Right, I'm Left, She's Gone". Disc jockey’s may receive a copy be writing him at 160 Union Street, Memphis, Neal says.

Hank Snow and Elvis Presley continued touring together on this Saturday, even though each had commitments elsewhere. Elvis Presley, of course, was signed to appear at the Louisiana Hayride, and Snow was likewise under contract with the Grand Ole Opry. They did, in fact, play New Bern, North Carolina, where there were shows at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. at the Shrine Auditorium. Advance seating was pegged at a dollar for general admission, $1.25 for reserve seating and 50-cents for children. Faron Young left the group at this juncture. Accompanying Elvis and Snow on this leg of the tour were Martha Carson, Slim Whitman, the Davis Sisters, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, and Onie Wheeler.

MAY 15, 1955 SUNDAY

In Virginia, the Elvis Presley and Hank Snow group, played two shows, at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m., at the Norfolk City Auditorium at 9th and Granby Streets. Tickets were $1.50 for adults, 75- cents for servicemen and a quarter for children. This was the last big show of the winter season for Norfolk and paid attendance topped 6,000. The performance was sponsored by WCMS radio station. Martha Carson was not listed in pre-show publicity.

Jan Edwards was a great fan of country music. Like so many others, she grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night. After graduating, she got herself a job at a local music store, and every weekend, she travelled by bus to WRVA radio in Richmond, where Sunshine Sue was the undisputed queen and host of the Old Dominion Barn Dance. It was an extremely successful programme, attracting people from miles around, and adding many more fans through the regular CBS Radio Network broadcasts.

After the May 14th edition of the Old Dominion Barn Dance, Jan took another bus to Norfolk to see headliner Hank Snow: ''After all the performers had their turn that night, Hank Snow went and stood alongside the stage to watch. A local disc jockey came out and said everyone should make welcome this new star. He came out holding his guitar, chewing gum a mile a minute, took his comb from his coat pocket, and combed his hair back with a teasing look upon his face. He started belting out a song called ''That's All Right''. The crowd went wild. It was almost unbelievable. He was scheduled to do only two songs, the previous one and ''Baby Let's Play House''. The audience couldn't get enough, they screamed and screamed for more. Elvis came back out with that teasing look and crooked smile and said, ''Thank you, thank you very much, I was coming back anyway''. The crowd's reaction was overwhelming. The show finally came to an end with all of the entertainers standing on each end of the stage watching this young man. After the show, I went backstage to meet Elvis, and we agreed to meet the next day in Richmond''.

Gene Vincent, just a year away from creating the great ''Be-Bop-A-Lula'', was in the audience that night.

MAY 16, 1955 MONDAY

Elvis Presley was still the closing act for the Hank Snow show during the 8:00 p.m. stop at the Mosque Theater, on the corner of North Laurel Street and Main Street in Richmond, Virginia. Reserved seating was available for $1.95 and $1.50 with general admission seats going for $1.00. It was reported that Elvis Presley "was given the greatest ovation ever accorded a hillbilly performer" in Richmond up to that time.

That evening, the performers, included Martha Carson, were lodged in the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. On this time, there was a great deal of internal conflict centering around Elvis Presley's popularity. Scotty Moore and Bill Black were fighting with one another, and harsh words were exchanged between Colonel Tom Parker and Hank Snow. It was obvious that everyone needed a rest.

Two RCA representatives, regional sales manager Brad McCuen and Country and Western promotions manager Chick Crumpacker, arrived to check out the show and in particular to support their new RCA hopeful, Jimmie Rodgers Snow. The younger Snow had been signed specifically because of his appeal to a younger audience, and Chick Crumpacker still remembers the shock he felt when Elvis Presley hit the stage. The RCA pair's loyalty to the already-signed Snow couldn't obscure the facts: Elvis blew away not only Jimmie, but everyone else on the show. Crumpacker didn't quite believe what he was seeing: a slicked-up country-rhythm hybrid, so raw he spit out his chewing gum and tossed it into the audience. Chick could have done without that, but the music stayed with him. He bought copies of the four Sun singles that Elvis had made and took them back to his boss, Steve Sholes..

"We were astounded by the reaction", said RCA country and western promotion manager Chick Crumpacker, "both among the Richmonders and in ourselves. There were kids in the audience, it was definitely a noisier audience than I remembered from the Caravan the year before. And lo and behold, out comes this guy whose picture we had seen in the trade papers, and he was something else. All the mannerisms were more or less in place. The body language, I don't remember exactly what he sang, but there were frequent belches into the mike, and the clincher came when he took his chewing gum out and tossed it into the audience. This, of course, was shocking, it was wild, but what really got the listeners was his energy and the way he sang the songs. The effect was galvanic. It was also somewhat embarrassing, because as friends and promoters of Jimmie Rodgers Snow, we had to watch him be totally eclipsed. The next morning we had breakfast with the Colonel and Hank Snow", said Chick, "In walks the young star. And the first impression I had is the one that will always stick; that he was so unassuming, he seemed somewhat withdrawn at first, looked nervously around the room, but he had this quality, he was very, very smart behind it all, and he knew how to flatter people. We talked about the show, exchanged views about the crowd, the turnout, the other artists, he was very affable, he would say to Brad and me how much he enjoyed being with us; 'I like you, Chick', he said. And while this may well have been a ploy, it worked. We liked him, immensely, from the start". Chick said, "Throughout that spring and the early part of the summer I did a lot of wishful thinking with Steve Sholes, maybe we could sign this guy. But as far as I know, there were no rumours at this point that his contract was for sale. There was no question that the Colonel had his eye on him, though, the Colonel was definitely taking a proprietary attitude, even if nothing was explicitly said or voiced".

And of course, Jan Edwards was there when Elvis was the first to get off the tour bus; ''Elvis was hungry, so we went three blocks to a restaurant. Loaded up with hamburgers, cokes, and twelve lemon tarts, we returned to the theater. The afternoon was spent talking about family, school, and God. There was an old upright piano in a corner, and Elvis started playing old hymns, including ''In The Garden'', and ''Whispering Hope''. Together we sang ''Moonlight And Roses'', and I snapped a few photos'', Edwards said.

MAY 16, 1955 MONDAY

An intelligence officer writes to FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover that Elvis Presley is a ''definitive danger to the security of the United States'' and ''possibly a drug addict and a sexual pervert''. The letter is placed in an FBI file on The King.

ORLANDO SENTINEL

Monday, May 16, 1955

ON THE TOWN

by Jean Yothers

WHAT HILLBILLY music does to the hillbilly music fan is absolutely phenomenal. It transports him into a wild, emotional and audible state of ecstasy.

He never sits back sedately patting his palms politely and uttering bravos of music appreciation as his long-hair counterpart. He thunders his appreciation for the country-style music and nasal-twanged singing he loves by whistling shrilly through teeth, pounding the palms together with the whirling momentum of a souped-up paddle wheel, stomping the floor and ejecting yip-yip noises like the barks of a hound dog when it finally runs down a particularly exclusive coon.

That's the way it was, friends, at the big Hank Snow show and all-star Grand Ole Opry jamboree staged last week in Municipal Auditorium to jam-packed houses both performances. It was as hot as blue blazes Auditorium, but the hillbilly fans turned out in droves and seemed oblivious to the heat. The evening's entertainment so captived the crowd that the whole shebang seemed like a cross between the enthusiasm displayed at a wrestling match and old fashioned camp meeting. It was quite an experience and why the riotous response that night didn't split the Auditorium wide open is still a wonder cause those rafters really rocked.

This was my first tangle with a hillbilly jamboree, a poignant contrast to opera in Atlanta I must say. I was awed and with all do respect to Metropolitan Opera in Atlanta, I got a tremendous boot out of this loud, uninhibited music that's sending the country crazy.

The many hit tunes of "singing ranger" Hank Snow were familiar to me, likewise Miss Martha Carson, but I pulled a blank on several other entertainers. When one cowboy-geared fellow loped on stage with fancy guitar, the crowd was hollering so enthusiastically I didn't catch his announced name. Turning to an enraptured girl beside me I asked, "Who's that?". She gave me the sort of look I gave the supermarket women when they couldn't identify Sir Anthony Eden and replied with stupification, "That's Ferron Young".

Ferron Young was real sharp singing that ditty about living fast, loving hard, dying young and leaving a beautiful memory, but what really stole the show was this 20-year-old sensation, Elvis Presley, a real sex-box as far as the teenage girls are concerned. They squealed themselves silly over this fellow in orange coat and sideburns who "sent" them with his unique arrangement of "Shake, Rattle And Roll". And following the program, Elvis was surrounded by girlies asking for autographs. He would give each a long, slow look with drooped eye lids and comply. They ate it up. The crowd also ate up a peppy and perspiring Miss Martha Carson calling the parquet-sitting spectators. "You folks a-sitten over there on the shelves" and the same Miss Carson breaking two guitar strings and a pick with her strong strumming of "This Old House" and "Count Your Blessing". Fans were forever rushing up near the stage snapping flashbulb pictures during the program, and they all instinctively recognized a tune with recognizable roars before the second plunk of the guitar had been sounded. It was amazing! Hillbilly music is here to stay, yo'all!

MAY 17, 1955 TUESDAY

Hank Snow and his travelling road show dropped into North Carolina for an appearance in Asheville. Martha Carson and the Country Gentlemen were second on the bill, with Elvis Presley listed fourth behind Slim Whitman.

The 8:15 p.m. appearance was held at the City Auditorium. Tickets ranged from $1.50 reserved down to $1.00 general admission. Children under twelve were allowed in for 50-cents.

Paul Peek, guitarist of Gene Vincent's Blue Caps remember ''I'd met Elvis before in Asheville, North Carolina, when I played steel guitar on TV, he was on the show with Hank Snow and Martha Carson, and he was last on the bill. This was a regular stage show at the Asheville Auditorium. We got a little quartet started backstage, Elvis Presley, Buck Trent (from Cousin' Wilbur's outfit), and Martha Carson's guitarist, we got a little quartet up going round all the dressing rooms and buggin' everybody. They kicked us out! We sang ''Peace In The Valley'', which Elvis later recorded. That was the first time I met him. He was on star billing that night, because the night before he'd stolen the show from Hank Snow in Richmond, Virginia. We helped him pack his car up, put the bass on top''.

Buck Trent, guitar and banjo player said, ''I was doing a TV show in Asheville, Elvis had just got rolling and came on a package show with Hank Snow. He had gotten like 25 encores the night before in Norfolk. Scotty and Bill were telling me about it. We were sort of local TV stars when they came in. After the show, we went to a diner, and visited a little bit, and he was the nicest looking guy I have ever seen. I said, You need to be in the mioies', and he just laughed. What interested me was Scotty and Bill being the band, and Elvis out there trying to play the Martin guitar and breaking strings, and when you break a few strings, you're history, but he just went right after it''.

As per the norm, Hank Snow played before Elvis that night. When Presley took the stage, he appeared in a green sports coat and chartreuse pants.

According to Dorothy T. Mehling, ''I attended the May 17, 1955, concert with my two best friends. Although we were not country music fans, we did know Elvis' work from listening to radio station WLAC in Nashville that played black music. We were big fans of Little Willie John, Ray Charles, and Chuck Berry, and when we first heard Elvis, we thought he was a black singer. Then a radio station in Asheville started playing his music, so in daylight hours we listened to that station in hopes of getting to hear him. I can't remember the squence of the show, but I do know that he was not an opening act. They were explosive from the first note. No such sound had ever come out of Nashville or anywhere else for that matter. They sang one song after another, the audience was screaming and yelling, and I don't think anyone knew what was happening, but I think they must have known on some level that this was no ordinary act. Elvis muttered something between songs, probably the song titles, but even if his diction had been perfect, no one could have heard a word he said because of all the noise. I remember that he sang, ''That's All Right'', ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'', ''I Got A Woman'', Baby Let's Play House'', and ''Good Rockin' Tonight''. And I believe he sang ''Old Shep''. But one thing that really stands out in my mind is that at some point during the show, he spit his gum across the stage, and my friends and I, who were sitting close to the stage, kept our eyes on where it had landed so we could retrieve it after the show. One of us did''!

MAY 18, 1955 WEDNESDAY

The Faron Young was back as the Hank Snow tour stopped for two shows at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. at the American Legion Auditorium in Roanoke, Virginia. Tickets were $1.00 in advance, $1.50 reserved seats, and fifty cents for children. The show was sponsored by the Roanoke Record Shop. It was reported that Elvis Presley did not have his back-up band but used members of other performers' band.

It is possible that Scotty Moore and Bill Black actually backed other performers, thereby confusing the issue. Following the show, the performers spent the night in the Hotel Roanoke.

Before the first show, Elvis Presley sat backstage on a small chair and chatted with two local reporters and a half dozen disc jockey’s. One of them, King Edward, a local radio personality on WSLC, described Elvis Presley as "a comic". King Edward was very polite, but clearly viewed Elvis Presley as a nice kid who had a lot to learn. Although, like many Southern disc jockey’s, King Edward didn't realize the full potential of Elvis' innovative musical style, he did remember that Elvis' was very serious about his music and his performances. Feeling that the country and western market was just too restrictive, Elvis Presley made it clear that he believed that he couldn't continue to work in it, and that his records had to appeal to a wider audience. Since Elvis Presley was very deliberate about plotting his future musical career, it was not surprising that he asked for advice. "He'd often take the time to ask other artists if they liked what he was doing", King Edward noted, "or if they thought he looked silly".

Alvin Hudson, an officer with the Roanoke police, also chatted with Elvis Presley for a long time. Since Presley closed the show, he had a lot of time to talk with Hudson. When Elvis Presley went on stage, Hudson was astonished by the crowd's reaction. "Elvis sang only a couple of songs - "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was one. People rushed from their seats and stormed on stage", Hudson remembered.

Hudson said, ''We spoke mostly about the show. Elvis was quiet and pleasant. He didn't have much to say. He answered questions briefly and added nothing more. He looked so young. I couldn't believe it when Elvis took the stage. He hadn't given the slightest indication waiting modestly in the chair, talking softly, that his performance would be so powerful. He really worked that crowd up. I was so impressed. No other performer got the response Elvis did that night''.

Since there was plenty of free time, Elvis Presley went downtown to the Roanoke Record Shop at 116 West Church Avenue to search for some rhythm and blues records. Mrs. Viola Bess, owner of the shop, had been the one who had booked the Roanoke concert, and she was working in the store when Elvis Presley arrived. They talked at length about his music, and Elvis Presley made it clear that he depended upon the new black sounds to supplement his musical act. After searching through the store's record bins, Elvis Presley walked back to the Hotel Roanoke for lunch.

According Viola Bess, ''We thought they were going to tear the place down. They really went for him. The day after the show, we were besieged with requests for Elvis Presley records''.

MAY 19, 1955 THURSDAY

At 8 o'clock, doors open 7p.m., Elvis Presley and Onie Wheeler closed out their obligation with the Hank Snow All Star Jamboree as they played the City Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, North Carolina. Featured with Snow were Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, Slim Whitman, the Davis Sisters and Jimmie Rodgers Snow. Tickets for this package were $1.50 reserved and $1.00 general admission. Children got in for only 50-cents. The show was promoted over WMSN radio.

George Hamilton IV recalls: "The first time I met Elvis was with the Hank Snow show where he was billed as "Introducing The Hillbilly Cat, Elvis Presley". "I went backstage to meet him and he was real genuine, real down to earth. Then... I don't know if it was even a year later, he came back to Raleigh, the same town, to play The Carolina Theatre and it was "The Elvis Presley Show". He'd been on TV and stuff... He had some country acts on that show with him - I think The Carter Sisters and Justin Tubb... Benny Martin, the fiddle player... The Louvin Brothers might've been on that one too I went out to the popcorn stand and there was nobody out there, and in the front door of the theatre came Elvis... he'd been out to the dime store, y'know, Woolworth's or whatever, to get some toiletry supplies. He was just real casual. I said, "Hi, Elvis' and he said, "Hey, howya' doin' man?". We just stood there and talked in the lobby and I remember noticing while he was talkin' to me.. he had the wet-look then, back when everyone used Wildroot cream oil or whatever, it was the weirdest thing, but I remember little drops of hair oil dripping from his ducktail down onto his shirt collar!".

MAY 20, 1955 FRIDAY

From another brief article in Billboard (May 28, 1955): "Guesting with Rex Lawrence over KOCA, Kilgore, Texas, recently were J.E. and Maxine Brown, Elvis Presley and the "Louisiana Hayride" band". Elvis Presley had last worked with the Browns for the Gladwater remote broadcast of the Louisiana Hayride, April 30.

Elvis Presley performed in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This show was listed in Billboard (May 14, 1955) as the final stop on the tour that began May 1. Well, the tour stopped here, but Elvis Presley was movin' on.

The May 18 advertising in the Chattanooga Times specifically omits Elvis' name from the pre-printed format sent out by Colonel Parker's office. In Elvis' place the ad features the Duke of Paducah, who did not appear on any earlier shows on this tour. Just why Elvis Presley did not play the final date of the tour is unclear, and no other performance by Elvis Presley on this date has surfaced. The show was sponsored by Red "Uncle Fud" Brown of WAPO radio, who reported that he interviewed Hank Snow, Faron Young, Martha Carson, and the Duke of Paducah, but not Elvis Presley.

MAY 21, 1955 SATURDAY

As part of Billboard's annual review of country and western music, Elvis Presley ran a quarter-page ad which touted him as the "freshest, newest voice" in that field. Elvis, along with Onie Wheeler, returned to the "Louisiana Hayride".

For the first time since the Gladwater remote broadcast of April 30, Elvis Presley and Onie Wheeler returned to the Louisiana Hayride, which was broadcast from Shreveport.

Elvis Presley could try out new songs, when he sang Big Joe Turner's "Flip, Flop And Fly", a rhythm and blues standard that Elvis Presley was working into his act. When Elvis Presley played the Turner song backstage, Onie Wheeler suggested that it was inappropriate for the "Hayride" audience. Elvis Presley tried it out anyway.

The relationship between Colonel Tom Parker and Tom Diskin on one side, and Bob Neal and Elvis Presley on the other, had been somewhat strained during the spring, at least from the viewpoint of Jamboree Attractions. Internal correspondence between Parker and Diskin revealed uncertainly on whether they could trust Bob Neal, or if he was just using them. Diskin and Parker discussed between themselves whether it was worth the time and energy they put into it. At this point more fuel was added to the fire, as the package tour that Bob Neal had arranged in Texas in late May had been in direct conflict with the Colonel's own plan to tour Elvis with Hank Snow in the territory.

However, the just-completed three-week tour had given the Tom Parker a new perspective on Elvis' potential. Riot in Jacksonville or not, in most places Elvis had brought the house down, often eclipsing the success of the major stars on the show, including Hank Snow. In a May 25 letter, Tom Parker writes Bob Neal, reassuring him that he is not the type of person who would try to cut a manager out, and extends an invitation to Neal and Elvis, saying that if they want to tie in closer with him, he will be happy to sit down and try to work it out. The underlying concern is the reverse scenario, where Bob Neal will take on towns and territories where the Colonel has done the groundwork, and leave the Colonel out of the picture. To some extent, right or wrong, the Colonel feels that this is exactly what has happened in Texas. Parker decides that he needs to play along and offers to help, ''if there are any towns in Texas you don't mind us working on'', hoping that there would still be some towns where he could involved in the lucrative Texas market.

A second letter is sent off to Neal the same day, apparently due to a follow-up phone conversation after the first letter has been mailed. The tone in the follow-up letter is much firmer, and basically asks for protection, rights, and options for every place where Jamboree Attractions book or try to book a show. Colonel's immediate plans are for Elvis to play a week at the end of July on a Jamboree tour in Florida, headed by comedian Andy Griffith. The idea is mainly to cash in on the work they had done building up the May tour, getting back some of the investment in Elvis, as he had now established himself as a drawing power in Florida. The Colonel additionally outlines 10 days in September, revisiting places played on the May tour. Finally Colonel Parker suggests a further 15-20 dates in September and October going through new territory in Kansas, the Midwest, and possibly even Arizona. To underline that this is serious business, the Colonel asks for 200 photos, 100 newspaper mats and stories, in order to make press kits.

MAY 22, 1955 SUNDAY

In Houston, Texas, Elvis Presley and Onie Wheeler appeared at the Magnolia Gardens in the afternoon and at Cook's Hoedown at night. (The Magnolia Gardens portion of this twosome is confirmed by a May 21, 1955, mention in Billboard).

Elvis Presley to talk at length with Onie Wheeler about musical trends. They agreed that country music was in transition, and that there was a shift toward rockabilly sounds.

The hostility of traditional country stars during Elvis' concert appearances prompted Wheeler to speculate on the reception Elvis Presley would receive at the upcoming Jimmie Rodgers celebration.

According to G.L. Wright, ''The first time I saw Elvis was at Magnolia Gardens in Houston, Texas. Mom and Dad would go out there quite often back in those days.

As a young girl of about 7, I loved going to Magnolia Gardens; for back then, it was really quite pretty, and there were usually lots of kids to play with, and parents didn't have to worry about the kids if they wandered too far from their sight. Mom usually couldn't keep me still long enough to sit there and listen to whomever might be appearing on stage. Except for this one afternoon. A few kids and myself lined up right in front where the microphone was set up. The stage couldn't have been more than two feet tall and was just one open platform where anyone could just walk right up on stage from any vantage point around it. In other words, no security! As I was standing there, this young dark haired guy came out with a shiny shirt, baggy pants, and white shoes. I thought that was the funniest looking person I had ever seen, and like any young girl, giggled at the sight of him. He carried a guitar, and when he started to sing, he just shook all over with legs and feet going in every direction. us kids thought it was funny, and as he moved his feet around, we were trying to follow his feet with our hands touching his shoes and making a game out of it. We didn't know who Elvis Presley was or didn't care; his shoes were getting more attention from us kids than he was''!

"This cat came out", said future country singer Bob Luman, still a seventeen-year-old high school student in Kilgore, Texas, "in red pants and a green coat and a pink shirt and socks, and he had this sneer on his face and he stood behind the mike for five minutes, I'll bet, before he made a move. Then he hit his guitar a lick, and he broke two strings. Hell, I'd been playing ten years, and I hadn't broken a total of two strings.

So there he was, these two strings dangling, and he hadn't done anything except break the strings yet, and these high school girls were screaming and fainting and running up to the stage, and then he started to move his hips real slow like he had a thing for his guitar.

For the next nine days he played one-nighters around Kilmore, and after school every day me and my girl would get in the car and go wherever he was playing that night. That's the last time I tried to sing like Webb Pierce or Lefty Frizzell".

MAY 23, 1955 MONDAY

Elvis Presley performed on 8:00 p.m. at the Mayfair Building at the fairgrounds in Tyler, Texas. Also on the bill the Browns and Onie Wheeler. Admission for adults $1.00 add for children 50 cents.

MAY 24, 1955 THUESDAY

Elvis Presley and the band had just one day at home. Scotty Moore went to O.K. Houck Piano Company in Memphis for his usual supply of strings, plus a new instrument cover, and an Echo Sonic amplifier. Elvis went with his favourite girl, Dixie Locke, to an rhythm and blues show that night, probably on Beal Street.

MAY 25, 1955 WEDNESDAY

Elvis Presley attended the Third Annual Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Celebration in Meridian, Mississippi. The idea of an annual celebration of Jimmie Rodgers' contribution to country music came from Hank Snow and Justin Tubb.

Over the course of the two-day event there were appearances by some 600 performers and celebrities including ex-Louisiana governor/singer Jimmie Davis, Tennessee Governor Frank Clement, Slim Whitman, Red Foley, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Jimmy Newman, Johnny Horton, ex-baseball all-star Dizzi Dean, and "Johnny" the Philip Morris bellboy.

Among the many music business executives on hand for the festivities were Charles Crumpacker of RCA Victor and Gerlun Landon of Hill and Range Publishers, who represented two companies that would play an important role in Elvis' future, and Bob Neal developed the idea with Landon for a presentation that included Elvis songs, other Hill & range copyrights, and enough photos of Elvis to appeal to fans that might not play any instruments.

According to Chick Crumpacker, RCA promotion man, ''Meridian was the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, and it is there that his body was returned from New York for burial in 1933. In recent years, country artists from various localities have wished to build a memorial, and during 1952, singers Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb visited Meridian for this purpose. Meanwhile, ''The Meridian Star'', at the instigation of its owner, Jas H. Skewes, was planning to dedicate a steam locomotive to the community's deceased railmen. Hearing of this, delegates Snow and Tubb, who realized the close connection between Jimmy Ridgers and the railroad, contacted the newspaper and arranged with Mr. Skewes to have a twofold memorial''.

This date began at 2:00 p.m. with an "unofficial" barbecue at Highland Park. The event was punctuated with speeches and music by local talent. Attendance for this even was estimated at 20,000. In the evening, beginning at 9:00 p.m. there were five gigantic dance spread across Meridian. The first was sponsored by the American Legion at the National Guard Armory at Key Field. This dance featured music from R.D. Hendon and his band from Dallas.

The second musical show was hosted by the Meridian Jaycees and was scheduled for the Officer's Club at Key Field. Hank Snow furnished the music. The third show was sponsored by the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen at the Hamasa Shrine Temple Mosque. Jim Reeves provided the music.

The September issue of Country Song Roundup reports that Elvis was called back for encore after encore, performing, ''Baby Let's Play House'', ''I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone'', Milkcow Blues Boogie'', and ''You're A Heartbreaker'', among others.

A fourth venue was quickly put together to handle the overflow crowd. It was sponsored by the Meridian Police Department at the Gymnasium of Meridian Junior College. A "name band", presumably Curtis Gordon, was scheduled at the last minute.

Finally, the 40 & 8 Club held a show at the American Legion hall on Fourth Street. This concert was headlined by Elvis Presley. His group of performers included the Browns, Tibby Edwards and Curtis Gordon performed the standard set, mixing blues, rhythm and blues, and country tunes. All music was provided free of charge and all the performers donated their talent.

According to Charlie Walker a San Antonio disc jockey, ''Well, I met him down in Meridian, Mississippi, at the Jimmie Rodgers Celebration down there, and of course he knew that I was playing his records, and he was a big fan of mine because he told someone he wanted to have his picture made with that ''famous disc jockey''. He was just gettin' goin' then, but I liked his records. They had a country sound to them, but he got the rock beat that was getting popular at that time by Chuck Berry and those type guys. I liked his stuff, but most other disc jockeys wouldn't play his records. They said it was no good and that it was gonna ruin our business and so forth. But I played 'em because I knew my listeners wanted to hear 'em''.

And Pat Clark said, ''Before his appearance, he attended a party held by one of Jimmie Rodgers cousins, Hortense Harvey. A friend was at the party and was leaving as Elvis was arriving and they got jammed in the screen door, and she looked up at him and said, 'I'll bet you can't even sing'! I was working downtown in the early years, and on the occasion of the Jimmie Rodgers Celebration, we were allowed out on the street to watch. Here came the pink Cadillac with Elvis riding on the driver's side fender and little Jimmie Rodgers Snow riding on the passenger side fender. As they drove down the street, periodically the guys would jump off the car, grab a girl and kiss them! Of course I was standing on the passenger side! I remember he stayed at the Nelva Motel out on the highway, which we had to pass on our way to school. All the girls were plastered against the school bus window trying to catch a glipse''!

As part of the celebration, Elvis Presley rode in the parade down the Main Street of Meridian, only to be booed lustily by the large crowd. Many Mississippi country music fans disliked the way that Elvis Presley performed. The overall reception explains why Elvis Presley cut his stay short and never again accepted a return invitation.

The Jimmie Rodgers Poll Winners about this day reads: Well, readers, the votes are all in - and here are the results of our Jimmie Rodgers Achievement Award Poll. As most of you know, the result of your voting were combined with those obtained by the Jimmie Rodgers Day Committee in their poll of the country music trade. The two winners will receive their awards on May 26 (Jimmie Rodgers Day) in Meridian, Mississippi.

By now you know that Elvis Presley topped the list of male country stars, while Kitty Wells was selected as the outstanding female folk singer. It might be of interest to you to learn that Kitty received more votes than either Elvis or Webb Pierce, who has the runner-up. Quite a popular gal - and deserving of every bit of the success that's come her way! The achievements of young Mr. Presley, of course, need no further explanation. All we can do is agree that he's one of the most dynamic performers to ever hit the music scene - and a wonderful boy besides.

You're probably anxious to see how your own favorite came out in the voting, so here is a list of the top twenty singers - ten fellas and ten glad - as chosen by you, the readers, and the folks in the country music trade.

JIMMIE RODGERS - (1897-1933) Generally acknowledged as "The Father Of Country Music", James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers, who was born September 8, 1897 in Meridian, Mississippi, was a major influence on the emerging "hillbilly" recording industry almost from the time of his first records in 1927. Although Rodgers initially conceived of himself in broader terms, singing Tin Pan Alley hits and popular standards, his intrinsic musical talent was deeply rooted in the rural southern environment out of which he came, as seen in the titles of many of his songs:

"My Carolina Sunshine Girl", "My Little Old Home Down In New Orleans", "Dear Old Sunny South By The Sea", "Mississippi River Blues", "Peach Pickin' Time Down In Georgia", "Memphis Yodel", "In The Hills Of Tennessee", the original "Blue Yodel" ("T for Texas"), and others.

In adapting the black country blues of his native South to the nascent patterns of commercial hillbilly music of the day, Rodgers created a unique new form - the famous "blue yodel" - which led the way to further innovations in style and subject matter and exerted a lasting influence on country music as both art form and industry. Through the force of his magnetic personality and showmanship, Rodgers almost single-handedly established the role of the singing star, influencing such later performers as Gene Autry, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, George Jones, Willie Nelson and of course, Elvis Presley.

The son of a track foreman for the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, Rodgers in his twenties worked as a brakeman for many railroads in the South and West. Stricken by tuberculosis in 1924, he left the rails soon after to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a professional entertainer. After several years of hard knocks and failure, he gained an audition with Ralph Peer, an independent producer who had set up a temporary recording studio in Bristol, Tennessee, for the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA Victor). Then, on August 4, 1927, Rodgers made his first recordings. Within a year he reached national popularity and received billing as "The Singing Brakeman" and "America's Blue Yodeler". In 1929 he built a home in the resort town of Kerrville, Tennessee, and moved there in an effort to restore his failing health.

The onset of the Depression and increasing illness further slowed the progress of his career, but throughout the early 1930s he continued to record and perform with touring stage shows. By the time of his death in New York City at 35 in May 1933, he had recorded 110 titles, representing a diverse repertoire that included almost every type of song now identified with country music: love ballads, honky-tonk tunes, railroad and hobo songs, cowboy songs, novelty numbers, and the series of 13 blue yodels. In November 1961 Rodgers became the first performer elected to Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame, immortalized as "the man who started it all".

JOHNNY - Philip Morris cigarette bellboy played by Johnny Roventini, a forty-nine-pound, forty-seven-inch tall midget (sometimes the part was played by Freddy Douglas). Johnny would yell, "Call for Phillip Mor-rees" in the radio and TV commercials. Johnny and Elvis Presley appeared on the same bill at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Day Celebration in Meridian, Mississippi, on May 25, 1955.

GOVERNOR JIMMY "PAPPY" DAVIS - Singer and songwriter born in Quitman, Louisiana, on September 11, 1902. his most famous composition is "You Are My Sunshine". Over the years he recorded about a dozen gospel albums. From 1945 to 1948 Davis served as governor of Louisiana. In 1948 Jimmy Davis bestowed the honorary title of Colonel upon Tom Parker, who had a friend, Bob Greer, on the governor's staff. It was the first of two honorary colonel titles that Parker would receive. Jimmy Davis is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

DIZZY DEAN - (1911-1974) Baseball pitcher, born Jay Hanna Dean on January 16, 1911, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1930-37) and later became a TV baseball announcer. In the 1952 movie The Pride Of St. Louis, the six-foot-four-inch Dean was portrayed by the sixfoot- four-inch Dan Dailey. It was Dizzy Dean who gave Roy Acuff the nickname "The King Of Country Music". Dizzy Dean, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was one of the featured performers, along and after Elvis Presley, at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Day Celebration, May 26, 1955.

MAY 26, 1955 THURSDAY

Starting the day, at 11:00 a.m. there was a parade through downtown Meridian witnessed by an estimated throng of 60,000 people. This was followed at 4:00 p.m. by a memorial service at the Jimmie Rodgers monument.

At 7:00 p.m. Elvis Presley performed at the Junior College Stadium as part of a variety show loaded with country talent.

Headliners were Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb, and literally hundreds of performers appeared on stage in a five-hour, included Dizzy Dean, thirty-act marathon that featured many entertainers from the Louisiana Hayride.

The event was sponsored by the Louisiana Hayride, and it was emceed by the Hayride's Horage Logan. The portion of the show from 8:30 to 9:00 p.m. was carried over the CBS radio network.

Attendance was estimated at 4,500. With so much musical talent involved, not to mention the many awards and short speeches, each act was limited in the length of their performances. Elvis Presley reportedly sang "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" and "Baby, Let's Play House", ''That's All Right'' but neither song appealed to the crowd who had come to hear straightforward country music. He was followed on stage by the Miller Sisters, a new group recording for Sun Records, who were accompanied by the Blue Moon Boys.

"All the entertainers marched in the parade down Main Street", said Jo Miller of the Miller Sisters. "We had marched before Elvis, so when he came along, carrying his guitar, we were already on the sidelines watching. He saw us and said 'Hi, ya, punks'. He pitched his guitar to Millie and she wagged it around a couple of blocks. After awhile, she gave it back to him; said she wasn't going to carry his guitar around all day'.

Eddie Hill, a country music artist who had a Saturday morning show on WMPS radio in Memphis, was one of the many masters of ceremonies. Some think Elvis may have driven down with Hill and Grand Ole Opry star Minnie Pearl.

"We were sitting on the ground, fifty to seventy-five feet in front of the stage", says Kermit Rasco, who had his own little band in the Meridian area. "The performances were on a flatbed truck. CBS was broadcasting to 8:30-9:00 p.m. segment nationally. I would say there were more than 4,500 people there at Ray Field Football Stadium. We were there mainly to see and hear Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb. When they announced Elvis Presley, most of us had no idea who they were talking about. But once he got started singing, an immediate feeling swept through all of us and we were hollering and clappin". "There was enough response that Hill promised us they would bring Elvis back on later in the show. He really lit up the crowd".

"I'd have to say Elvis was the most exciting thing to happen in Meridian since the Calf Scrambles". The Carlf Scrambles? "Yeah, they would stage that every year down here. Turn a bunch of young boys loose in an arena with a bunch of calves and the boys had to catch and toe down the calves".

Sharon Hedgpeth, fifteen at the time, had a blind date take her to the concert at the football stadium. "We had heard him on the radio a little, but we didn't really know anything about him", said Hedgpeth. "The minute he walked out on that stage, even before he began singing, we were in awe of him, my girlfriends and I. We all fell in love with him at first sight. We went backstage after he finished. He was just standing around. We approached him and got his autograph. I still have it". Years later Hedgpeth marry John Wayne Hegpeth, the boy who took her to see Elvis Presley for the first time.

Elvis Presley's arrival in Meridian was not without controversy. "This is a religious area", said Jimmy Kidd. "Some people thought his wiggle, his hip movements, were the most vulgar thing. They didn't feel school kids should see him. I didn't see anything wrong with it, myself. They were still discussing whether or not to let him perform when the show started. Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb had to talk to the promoters and this delayed the start of the show, but in the end, Elvis was allowed to perform". "I'll never forget seeing him for the first time, coming out on that stage dressed a whole lot like the New Orleans Saints, wearing an orange satin suit with black trim". Jimmy Kidd, who operated the Temple Theater in Meridian, didn't know a lot about Elvis Presley before this gig. "He was not a household word, not then", said Kidd. "I felt the help he got from Snow and Tubb in getting him on stage after all that hassle, that this had a big part in how he really got his start".

Later, Kidd said, the foundation tried to get Elvis Presley for a return engagement on Jimmie Rodgers Day, "but by then he had an astronomical asking price, even though he had cut his teeth right here in Meridian, Mississippi". One of the emcees at the event, a young member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, was G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery. "My job was to offer a prayer before things really got started", said Montgomery. "When they announced Elvis Presley, saying he was from Tupelo, that was the first I had heard of him". Montgomery went on to become a distinguished member of the U.S. House of Representatives for many years. Many former servicemen today attend college when benefits from the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

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LIVE APPEARANCE ELVIS PRESLEY
FOR THE JIMMIE RODGERS MEMORIAL CELEBRATION 1955

RECORDED THE JUNIOR COLLEGE STADIUM, MERIDIAN, MISSISSIPPI
THURSDAY MAY 26, 1955

Elvis Presley probably performed more songs on this occasion.

"THAT'S ALL RIGHT" - B.M.I. - 2:36
Composer: - Arthur Crudup
Publisher: - Arthur Crudup Music
Matrix number: - None - Broadcast Tape
Recorded: - May 26, 1955
Released: - August 3, 2012
First appearance: - FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-3-27 mono
A BOY FROM TUPELO - THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS 1953-1955
Reissued: - February 19, 2016 MRS Records (CD) 500/200rpm MRS 10054057-1-24 mono
LIVE IN THE 50S - THE COMPLETE CONCERT RECORDINGS

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Elvis Presley - Vocal & Guitar
Scotty Moore - Guitar
Bill Black - Upright Bass

Under the heading, ''Folk Music Fireball'': At the recent Jimmie Rodgers Day celebration in Meridian, Mississippi, Elvis was called back for encore after encore singing such tunes as ''Milkcow Blues Boogie'', ''You're A Heartbreaker'', and his latest coupling ''I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone'' and ''Baby Let's Play House''. There is no doubt about it; this youngster is a real ''Folk Music Fireball''.

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Wilmer Wittle, a Mississippi banker today, had heard of Elvis from a cousin who had seen him perform at the Louisiana Hayride. "My cousin had told me, 'you gotta go see him. He does all this dancin' around in tight britches and all. He wears a rubber hose in his pants! That excites everybody! We took folding chairs and were sitting on the football field when Elvis entered the stadium and drove around the track waving at everybody. He was the biggest hit. He really made an impact. He was the most popular person on that stage that night. Backstage, he was hugging and kissing all the girls. Some high school kid from Oregon was also on the show. He, too, was really good and Elvis was giving him doubles takes. He wasn't expecting this kid to be stealing his thunder".

Anne Shine Landrum's mother was the sort of unofficial Auntie Mame of Meridian on Jimmie Rodgers Day. After the parade, many of the performers and dignitaries would come to the Shine home for iced tea and some of her homemade desserts. They would sign the guest register, then mix and mingle with the crowd.

Elvis Presley, she said, arrived with the Everly Brothers, Don and Phil. Elvis may have been a shy person outwardly, but she said he lost that shyness when the desserts were passed around. She said Elvis played the piano and sang some at the afternoon affair, more or less unwinding for his night performance on stage.

On this same day Colonel Tom Parker writes a long letter to Bob Neal outlining all that he has done for Presley and offering to work more closely with Neal in promoting the career of the young singer. ''If ever you wish to tie in with me closely and let me carry the ball'', he declares in somewhat disingenuous fashion, ''I will be happy to sit down with both of you try to work it out''.

MAY 27, 1955 FRIDAY

This is another Texarkana show with no documentation but plenty of memories. As to his availability, Elvis Presley spent most of May with Hank Snow, playing from Louisiana to Florida and up the East Coast to Richmond. However, Dewanda Jo Smith recalls attending a second springtime Texarkana show before she went to Shreveport in June.

As with all of Elvis' Texarkana appearances at this time, this would have been on a Friday. As mentioned above, under the April 22 entry, although he did not perform in Birmingham on May 6, the logistics virtually eliminate the possibility that Elvis Presley played Texarkana that night.

The same can be said for the next open Friday, May 20. Just where Elvis Presley went after the May 19 show in Raleigh, North Carolina, is unknown, but he did not perform the next night in Chattanooga.

Although a trip of more than a thousand miles was not out of the question, the show that Elvis Presley played in Texarkana in May does not appear to warrant such an effort. Much more likely is May 27, immediately following the Jimmie Rodgers Day festivities.

Elvis Presley appeared at the Municipal Auditorium in Texarkana, Arkansas. Maxine and Jim Ed Brown join in with Elvis on a gospel song. This presentation almost seems to have been some sort of roll call for new talent. Ms. Smith, whose memory is so clear that she can recall the exact dress she wore to a show, remembers that the others on the bill were virtually unknown in Texarkana at this time: Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Conway Twitty. Of course, Ms. Smith's reason for attending was to visit with another artist, Tommy Sands. For the first time in Texarkana, backing Elvis Presley on this show, according to Ms. Smith, was D.J. Fontana. When questioned about the fact that Twitty was in the Army and was stationed in Japan at the time, Ms. Hill stands fast, saying that she knows exactly where she was sitting in the Auditorium, and in her mind's eye, she can visualize Twitty as he left the stage and walked alongside the wall toward the front of the Auditorium. One can only assume that he must have been home, Helena, Arkansas, on leave.

Ms. Smith recalls Elvis Presley was driving a Chevrolet, probably Scotty's car, when he arrived at the Auditorium. He wore black trousers and a black shirt open to the waist. Later, Elvis' stage antics were more than she could take. He had a pocketful of the thin "Italian" belts that were popular at the time, and he tossed them to the audience. He followed up by removing his shirt. At that point, Dewanda waited out the rest of his performance in the lobby while the other females screeched in approval.

Lura Impson wrote in her T. Tommy Time from August 1955 newsletter, ''May 27 in Texarkana, Elvis Presley had a wonderful show, and this goes for everyone that was there. He featured J.E. Brown and Maxine Brown, Onie Wheeler, Leon Post, and others. Never saw the boys get so wound up before. Someone went home with some treasured souvenirs. Seemed that Bill Black got too hot with his tie, on an couldn't pull it off while he was playing, so Elvis walked over and untied it and threw it out in the audience. This really started something; the crowd kept screaming until Elvis threw his tie, Scotty Moore's tie and all three of their belts away. After the show, he gave the beautiful shirt he was wearing away. Everyone had a wonderful time''.

After the show, Onie Wheeler let Elvis borrow his jacket to have some pictures made, since he had given his shirt away''.

And Suzanne Vaughn said, The evening's performance was a blast. Elvis was in a giving mood. Clothing flew off the stage. his belt, tie, and yeas, his shirt. The shirt dangled in front of me, and I grabbed it''. And Marileon Hopkins Jerden went to all Elvis performances. She met him after the show at a diner, where he entertained himself by throwing wadded up napkins at her and her friends.

MAY 28, 1955 SATURDAY

Elvis Presley appeared on the Big D Jamboree, broadcast from the Sport Auditorium in Dallas, Texas. Other guest artists were Onie Wheeler, Arlie Duffn, the Carlisles, Ferlin Husky, Jim Edward and Maxine Brown, and Texas Bill Strength. These was no ad for this Big D show, but according to a brief mention in Billboard (May 21, 1955), he was scheduled.

Elvis Presley felt relieved to be back amongst his most rabid fans. Crowds were becoming increasingly difficult to control, however, and the reaction to Elvis; act throughout Texas was reaching an undeniable level of pandemonium.

MAY 29, 1955 SUNDAY

Elvis Presley began a week-long tour on this date by playing two shows in separate locations. Appearing with Elvis Presley during the week were Martha Carson, Ferlin Husky (who also appeared in his comedy persona, Simon Crum), Bill Carlisle and the Carlisles, Jim Ed and Maxine Brown, Chuck Lee, Johnny Carroll, and Onie Wheeler. The tour was booked by Bob Neal.

At 4:00 p.m. Elvis Presley played the North Side Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, in a performance billed as "The Grand Ole Opry" show. Tickets ranged from $1.00 in advance at the Downtown Ticket Agency Cullum & Screen Corporation, 11509 Elm, to $1.25 at the Sport Auditorium. This afternoon show had drawn seven thousand people. The show's high point was Elvis Presley's "Tennessee Partner". The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Elvis Presley was "utterly fantastic".

At 8:00 p.m. Elvis Presley returned to play the Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas, 20 miles away. Tickets prices were the same to $1.25 at the door.

By May 1955, promoters in the larger coliseum were often willing to pay an extra $200 to $300 to book Elvis Presley. The fact that promoters persistently made these offers underlines the fact that Elvis' popularity was enormous.

JOHNNY CARROLL - Rockabilly singer born in Cleburne, Texas, on October 23, 1937. In 1956 he recorded Elvis Presley's "Tryin' To Get To You" (Decca 29940), which featured Owen Bradley on piano, Owen's brother Harold on rhythm guitar, and Elvis Presley's future guitar player, Grady Martin, on lead guitar.

Colonel Parker's concern about losing Elvis' management contract only seemed to intensify during the week. West Texas was a triumph, with Odessa-Midland record store owner Cecil Holifield reporting to the trades that the sales of all four Presley singles ''beat any individual artist in our eight years in the record business''.

According to Bob Neal, ''I recall one time when Mitch Miller, who was with Columbia then, called me. We were out on tour in West Texas and he asked how much is the contract and I said I didn't know, I'll check, and by that time I think it had gotten up to... I think Sam was asking $18,000 or $20,000. I called Mitch back and said, 'Oh, forget it. No artist is worth that money''. The following week, MGM Records contacted Sam Phillips direct to hear if the recording contract was for sale''.

The West Texas tour featured Ferlin Husky, the Carlisles, Martha Carson, Jim Ed & Maxine Brown, and several others. Lubbock and Midland were now solid bases for Elvis, but the territory was constantly expanded, this time by playing the town of Guymon in Oklahoma. These were good times, having fun in the swimming pool in Midland, and enjoying the company of 15-year old Bonnie Brown, who accompanied her older brother and sister, Jim Ed and Maxine, on the tour.

Bob Neal said, ''I remember one tour that I had out through Texas earlier. We brought three other country acts. The first show, I set up with Elvis closing the show. And after the show, one of the other acts (Ferlin Husky) approached me and indicated they thought they should close the show because they were a well-known act. And so we tried it one show that way. Elvis, it didn't make any difference to him. But after one show it became obvious, because after Elvis appeared the other act came on and although the other act is a top act and did a good job, why there catcalls and screams, 'Bring Elvis back, we want to see Elvis', and the other act conceded that there was no way you could follow this guy on stage''.

MAY 30, 1955 MONDAY

According to Billboard (May 28, 1955), Elvis Presley was scheduled to play the Fair Park Auditorium in Abilene, Texas. However, the advertisement in the Abilene Reporter News on May 30 indicates that the Fair Park Arena offered a full bill of wrestling at 8:30 p.m., featuring "Gentlemen" Ed Francis, the World's Champion. There is no other known appearance for Elvis Presley on this date.

Bob Neal books this week's tour with Ferlin Husky, the Carlisles, and Martha Carson.

MAY 31, 1955 TUESDAY

Elvis Presley undertook in the Roy Orbison TV Show as "double header" with a 7:30 p.m. show at the Midland High School Auditorium in Midland, Texas. As the opening acts finished in Midland, they drove immediately to Odessa for the second show.

The 8:30 p.m. performance in Odessa was held at the Odessa High School Field House. Tickets to either show were $1.25 in advance (reserved seats were a quarter extra) and $1.50 general admission at the door. As it had two months earlier, the Odessa performance again benefited the Voting Home Owners Club.

UNKNOWN DATE LATE MAY 1955

By late May 1955, Colonel Tom Parker had proposed a management contract to Elvis Presley. He pointed out that Bob Neal was too inexperienced to promote Elvis Presley nationally, and that he and Neal had been booking Elvis Presley in kind of a quasi-partnership for some time anyway. "Colonel Parker was like a whirlwind, he never stopped", Tommy Sands remarked. "Bob Neal was slow, plodding, and careful", Ronald Smith stated. It was obvious to contemporary observers that Parker and Neal couldn't work together. "Everyone wanted the Colonel to manage them, including Elvis Presley", Sands pointed out.

UNKNOWN DATE LATE MAY 1955

Johnny Cash playing regular fifteen-minute show on KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas, and started playing local gigs arranged by Bob Neal. Though later in his career Cash would deny it, Marshall Grant recalled that the level of the honky-tonks they were playing in those days was pretty low. He remembered "more guns and knives than fans at most of those early gigs".

Cash became the hit of Bob Neal's Eighth Anniversary show, just as Elvis Presley had been the surprise hit a year earlier. Dick Stuart, who worked as a disc jockey on KWEM as "Uncle Richard" reported to Billboard that "this year Johnny Cash broke through as the outstanding new act in Memphis". Stuart promptly signed him to a management deal.

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