SEPTEMBER 6, 1955 TUESDAY
In Bono, Arkansas, population 311, Elvis Presley and his show drew a reported 1,152 paid admission for their 8 o'clock appearance at the Bono High School Gymnasium. Elvis' play list
included "Milkcow Blues Boogie", "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", "Mystery Train", "I Forgot To Remember To Forget", "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Amazing Grace".
Also on stage were Eddie Bond, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Outside the building, cars were parked on both sides of U.S. Highway 63 all the
way to the city limits, and when Elvis Presley arrived he had difficulty finding a place to park his Cadillac. According to Larry Donn Gillihan, an aspiring rock 'n' roller from Bono at this time, the crowd
was double the normal capacity of the small gym, and the floor began to sag near the front entrance. Elvis Presley performed wearing black pegged pants and matching shirt, with a rust-colour jacket.
During the show, he complained that his pants were too large and teased the younger women that they might fall
down at any minute.
The show came about when, as with
so many other shows at the time, a school class looked for a way of raising funds for their senior class trip. Glenn and his classmate Betty J. Craft were discussing the idea of bringing a country show to their school. Betty's father owned a company called
''Craft Pride of Dixie Syrup Co''., and was a regular sponsor of a country music show on KLCN in nearby Blytheville. Betty was a very determined young lady, and in a matter of days, she and Glenn obtained the permission from their school and drove down to
Memphis to make a formal deal with Elvis' manager, Bob Neal. When the posters arrived, the classmates split the area between them, making sure there were posters at all the right places, and definitely at the high school of the area, including the one in Nettleton,
where Elvis had performed before.
On the day of the show the kids had to take care of everything, from making
sure that there was enough candy and cokes to ensuring that the dressing rooms were ready, and that Bob Neal's wife was not left alone to work the ticket booth. With the class taking 25% of the door that night, it was a resounding success on all levels. The
money enabled the ''Class of '56'' to make a senior trip to Florida and New Orleans.
"I was working at the telephone company and my younger sister was an Elvis fan", said Doris French. "When she first heard an Elvis record, she thought he was a black man. When he
came into that gymnasium, he bumped into her and to this day that was the thrill of her life''!
"I was talking with Carl Perkins's brother and Carl walked up behind me. I stepped back for some reason and stepped right on Carl's blue suede shoes, and he told me, 'Don't step on my
blue suede shoes'".
"The girls had come
to me and said they wanted to bring Elvis over to raise funds for their senior class trip", said Phillip Shewmaker, then principal at Bobo High School. "I called Bob Neal and we worked out a sixty-forty deal
- we'd get forty percent of the door. When Elvis arrived, he told me he had just bought his Cadillac the day before and he was afraid someone would scratch it up, so I had him park it in my yard across the
street and my wife watchdogged it while he was up at the school playing".
"Man, we really had a crowd that night. People came from Jonesboro, Walnut Ridge, Newport, Swifton, Bald Knob, Batesville College and even from as far away as Searcy. I'd say
we had about eleven hundred people packet all over that little gymnasium". At the time, Bono's population was less than 300, though now it has grown almost to the point the natives could fill the gymnasium
all by themselves.
"In the beginning of the show, when Johnny
Cash and Carl Perkins were playing, the crowd stayed in the bleachers on both sides of the floor", said Shewmaker. "When Elvis got started, they jumped out of the bleachers and crowded onto that floor, and
the gym floor buckled and sank in one section. You wouldn't believe a gym floor would have done something like that. After the concert, we had to go in there and jack the floor back up. That cost us more
than we got (from Neal) at the gate". After the show, Phillip Shewmaker guarded the door to Elvis dressing room.
"I'd let one or two girls at a time go back there to see him", he said. "I'll never forget how really bashful Elvis was at the time.
We talked about some of the places he had been and he was really concerned about pleasing people and drawing crowds. But to tell you the truth, I never thought then that he would hit it really big". Don Douglas,
fourteen and "diddling in music at the time", remembers Elvis Presley wearing an orange outfit at the Bono concert and scarring up the floor with his shoes.
"I remember when that floor caved in", said Glen Swindle. "Elvis was up there banging away on that
guitar and he just looked out at all that mess, like wow!, and kept right on playing".
"I thought that was the most exciting thing I'd ever done and I guess it was about the most exciting thing to come to Bobo", said than twelve-year-old Joan Richey, who would grow up to become
Bono's mayor. "I was stepped on, pushed, shoved that night. Little did I know what the future would hold that night in 1955. Our gym still suffers from that night. You can still see where the floor sags from
"We all pounded down to his dressing room
after the show. I got in and he autographed a picture for me. I look back at that time of my life and my heart skips a beat because it was a wonderful era, to have enjoyed one-of-a-kind music. We began trying
to make the circuit whenever Elvis, Johnny or Carl were playing. I've carried that event close to my heart all these years and some part of me is still twelve years old''!
Patricia Hanks went to the Bono concert and said, "Because it was something to do; wasn't
anything good on TV that night. I had never seen Elvis Presley, but he had playing around here, in Egypt, Arkansas, the C&R Club, Trumann, Arkansas, was an old aluminum quonset hut, and Bob King's Place. I had heard him
on the radio. I knew he was a young rock and roller, that's about it". "Thought everybody had gone nuts. They were screaming and yelling, just like they would still be doing today if he were still alive. Elvis
has always been my daughter's favorite. She calls him, 'My Elvis'. And there was a lot more going on in Bono that night than just Elvis singing. I heard there was a baby born from that night".
After the hundreds had finally filtered down two-lane U.S. 63 and left town, Elvis
Presley and Glen Swindle walked across the street where Elvis climbed into his brand-spanking shiny new Cadillac. A couple of the locals pulled up on their Harley Davidson motorcycles and
began talking with him.
"Someday, I'm gonna get me one of
them", Elvis told them. "While he was talking to them", said Swindle, "a right pretty girl in a flowery dress opened the right front door and slid onto the seat beside him". "Hop out, missy, I've gotta go",
Elvis told her. "Not until you take me for a ride", she replied. "It looks like I'm gonna have to take her for a spin", Elvis told the boys. "We watched him as he drove up the street a ways, then pulled off
into a cotton field with her. We never saw him again that night. A little later, the Jonesboro Sun printed a story about a maternity suit involving Elvis and some Bono girl, but that story got hushed up real
Gwen Swindle and Ernest Goodon
began following Elvis Presley around in northeast Arkansas following the Bono concert - to Nettleton, Jonesboro, Newport, Swifton, and Brookland.
"I kept the door at Porky's in Newport", said Goodon. "We had music up there on Friday nights and illegal gambling on Saturday nights.
Elvis wore a shirt with ruffles the night he played Porky's upstairs. It was dry back then, but people brought their own liquor and put it right out on the table. I also saw Elvis a time or two at the Silver
Moon in Newport".
"But going back to Bono, a little later
the Gamble Brothers played there and someone threw a big wad of snuff into the fans. Can you imagine what would have happened had they done that the night Elvis was there?".
Jimmy Day, the steel guitarist, remembers Elvis showing off a newly purchased yellow 1954 Cadillac Eldorado
convertible at this date. Day says, ''A few months after buying the '55 Cadillac, he bought a Cadillac Eldorado convertible, used, but just a year old. I rode back with him from Bono to the Holiday Inn in Memphis''.
According to Glenn Pfeifer remembers that it was Eddie Bond who introduced Elvis
Presley that night, ''Elvis ran out and slung on his guitar, then looked at the girls. As that Elvis grin popped out of the corner of his mouth, the crowd roared. As I recall, he wore dark pants with white, long-sleeved shirt and a rust colored jacket. Several
times he referred to his pants as being too big, with his grin seeming to say: 'they might fall down', and he would grab them and pull them upwards. There seemed to be a touch of magic in the air mixed in with a little shyness, as Elvis' grin would set off
giggles that turned into screams and shrieks while he jumped about''.
''Elvis performed all the music that he had recorded, beginning with ''That's All Right'' and including ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'' and ''Milkcow Blues Boogie''. At one point, as the floor group bounced and swayed to the beat of the rocking music, the floor
suddenly sank six inches in front of them, with Elvis hollering, 'Whoa'! Laughter broke out, and then on with the show. He spent a lot of time laughing and joking with the girls, as they would scream at every move. He closed with a gospel song''.