Elvis Presley Rocks Ottawa Auditorium - April 3 1957

Elvis' full day in Ottawa on April 3, 1957 from his arrival in town until the end of his two shows that day and everything in between - 51 photos in all from Andrews-Newton Photographers

Photographs: A. Andrews, C. Buckman, D. Gall, T. Grant
Date: April 3,1957
Credit: Andrews-Newton Photographers Fonds / City of Ottawa Archives
Copyright: City of Ottawa Archives

Perhaps there was no greater pop-culture event in Ottawa during the 1950's than the Elvis Presley concerts held at the Auditorium in April 1957. Presley embodied the spirit of rock n' roll, a new phenomenon unfamiliar to adults. His presence in the city sent thousands of teenagers and young adults into fits of impassioned hysteria.

The "King" arrived in Ottawa on April 3, 1957. Teenagers traveled from as far as Montreal to attend the shows. A special train, nicknamed the "Rock N' Roll Cannon Ball" was packed with over 500 concert-goers. When Presley stepped onto the stage, the audience of over 9,000 were so loud it was almost impossible to hear Presley singing. The fans were in a frenzy of Elvis worship: "some wept, some moaned; some clutched their heads in ecstasy; everybody screamed, stamped, clapped hands, flailed arms, one person got down on all fours and pounded the floor". The police were out in record numbers because there was concern that the screaming fans would rush the stage.

Elvis Presley was a controversial entertainer because his 'suggestive' pelvis thrusting and dance moves scandalized many parents and authority figures. The Notre Dame Convent, viewing Presley as immoral and un-Christian, forbade its students from attending the concert. Eight students were expelled after going to see the King, and controversy gripped the city. The nuns later nullified the expulsions, but at least half of the girls remained enrolled in different schools. Elvis Presley definitely made an impression on Ottawa.

City of Ottawa

Teenagers traveled from as far as Montreal to attend the shows. A special train, nicknamed the 'Rock N' Roll Cannon Ball' was packed with over 500 concert-goers. When Presley stepped onto the stage the audience of over 9,000 were so loud it was almost impossible to hear Presley singing. The fans were in a frenzy of Elvis worship: 'some wept, some moaned; some clutched their heads in ecstasy; everybody screamed, stamped, clapped hands, flailed arms, one person got down on all fours and pounded the floor'. The police were out in record numbers because there was concern that the screaming fans would rush the stage.

Gord Atkinson remembered Elvis unable to leave his dingy converted hockey dressing room because of the mobs outside the building, sitting quietly, eating a plain cheese sandwich, in between shows when he interviewed him before he introduced him onstage for the evening performance. Gord hosted a weekly program for teenagers CFRA called the Campus Corner where they had conducted a big rating contest to determine the most popular recording artist of the year and Elvis won by an overwhelming majority of votes. After the interview Gord presented Elvis with a scroll on behalf of all the listeners of radio show.

Gord Atkinson : Elvis, is this the first time you've been to Canada?

Elvis : Yes, it's my very first trip to Canada.

Gord Atkinson : Though it is too soon for any impressions, do you have any?

Elvis : No. Yes. Well, I do. I was in Toronto last night and I was very much surprised by how wonderful the people are. How friendly, you know, in this part of the country.

Gord Atkinson : They have certainly been waiting for you for a long, long time.

Elvis : I have been wanting to come up here. In fact when I started looking at the tour, I said: "By all means. I want to go to Canada. "About a year ago, I tried to get them to book a tour up here but I wasn't well enough known. A year aand a half ago, everybody didn't know me well enough

Gord Atkinson : Sounds almost unbelievable.

Elvis : So they figured I wouldn't make enough money

Gord Atkinson : No doubt about that now. Elvis, you've certainly even topped the popularity Frank Sinatra had in his heyday. This may seem like a foolish question for a Presley fan to ask - it seems like an obvious answer - but have you, yourself, given any thought to what it is about you that has made you the phenomenal show business personality that you are?

Elvis : I sure have, onlv I don't like to figure it out because I'm afraid if I find out what it is, I might lose it. So I just keep guessing myself.

Gord Atkinson : You just recently built a home?

Elvis : Well, I didn't build it, I just bought it. It's an estate. It's about ten miles from where I live now. We had to have a larger place because I have accumulated so much junk in the last two years, I just don't know where to put it.

Gord Atkinson : Will you be living with your parents?

Elvis : Yes

Gord Atkinson : You are an only child, aren't you?

Elvis : Yes sir

Gord Atkinson : Do you have a girlfriend, may I ask?

Elvis : I don't have a special girl. I mean, when I'm home I date a few different girls in Memphis, but I don't have a particular one.

Gord Atkinson : Have you given any thought to the fact that some day you might meet a certain someone and decide that you'd like to get married?

Elvis : I probably will

Gord Atkinson : Do you think this would hurt your popularity?

Elvis : It probably will. I have no plans for marriage soon, I haven't met anybody yet

Gord Atkinson : What about your singing style? Would you say that you are an outgrowth of country music, or the pop field? Or a combination of both?

Elvis : I guess I kind of like 'ern both - more rock and roll than anything else. Rock and roll is actually, you see, what put me over.

Gord Atkinson : There are many people waiting to talk to you and I want to thank you so much. I have something here to present to you. It's a scroll from our program, called 'Campus Corner'. It is a show that is presented each Saturday. It's a teenage show, if you can imagine. We had apopularity poll, with the boys and girls on the station voting. And for the past vear and a half you have been number one.

Elvis : Oh, that's great. Thank you very much.

Gord Atkinson : Elvis, I wonder if you'd like to say something to all those fans right now?

Elvis : I would like to tell them how I deeply appreciate this. I guess I've gotten more mail from Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal than any other place. I've gotten more fan mail from right around this area than I have from anywhere in the United States.

Gord Atkinson : That's wonderful

Elvis : I am not telling that to you just because I am here, but it is very true. That is one of the reasons why I always wanted to come up here, because I've gotten more letters from Canada than I can count.

Gord Atkinson : That should make your fans here very happy. It has been a sincere pleasure talking to you, Elvis Presley.

Elvis : Thank you very much

(Source : 'Elvis - Word For Word' by Jerry Osborne)

You Tube - Elvis Presley Rocks Ottawa Auditorium - April 3 1957
Read & see more here - Ottawa April 3, 1957 - from the Scotty Moore Web Site
Toronto April 2, 1957
Vancouver August 31, 1957