Nation's Only Atomic Powered Singer

Jacksonville, FL. August 1956 & April 1972 

By Ron Wolfe 

 

Elvis came to Jacksonville, Florida on the 10th and 11th of August, 1956, billed as the nation's only "Atomic Powered Singer. 11 Elvis gave three shows (3:30-7:00-9:00) on both Friday and Saturday, the 10th and llth. Tickets were $1. 25 in advance and $1. 50 at the door. 

The fans were screaming and hollering for blocks, waiting in line to get their tickets. Elvis was a complete sellout... 2,200 seats for each show. For all six shows, a total of 13, 200 fans got to see the hottest act ever to play Jacksonville.   

Tutti Frutti productions Jacksonville,FL. Aug. 10th 1956  3:30 pm show

The headlines read: "The biggest national craze since Davy Crockett hits Jacksonville today in the person of Elvis Presley, and we are liable to feel the impact. 11 Elvis was the focal point of mob scenes wherever he appeared. The Elvis craze was complicated by the fact that it was tied up with a simultaneous national crisis over "rock In' roll. " Although Elvis was certainly involved with rock music, he is unique... a point on which his friends and foes agree. At this point in time, Elvis was considerably more of a national issue than Richard Nixon. As one writer stated, "If we keep our heads, this latest product of a ' revolt of the masses ' will assume his proper proportions in the perspective of time. What that perspective will reveal need not be debated right now. What seemed more important was trying not to be trampled in the rush as Elvis moves around town. If you heard a loud screaming that day, head for the high grounds and do it fast. 

Before Elvis could even take to the Jacksonville stage, troubles were waiting for him. Al Fast, represenative for the American Guild Variety Artists, gave Elvis an ultimatum: Either join the Guild or we will prevent your band from performing with you. At the time Elvis was a member of the musician's union and it was his controversial body movements and dance steps that put him under the variety artists jurisdiction. Elvis had been approached before by Al Fast and had refused membership into the organization. Membership fees were $300.00. All of his acts (Elvis was traveling with his band and other performers) belonged to the American Guild of Variety Artists and if Elvis did not cooperate, Mr. Fast was instructed to pull the other members out of his show.   

Tutti Frutti productions Elvis meeting Judge Gooding

Meanwhile, more trouble confronted Elvis before it was time to start the show. Judge Gooding, apparently disturbed by newspaper reports from other areas stating that the "hip-swinger's performance amounted to an obscene burlesque dance, " warned the theatre officials of his intentions and that he planned to be on hand for Elvis' first show that afternoon. Judge Gooding invited Elvis to his chambers for a pre-show session to "put him straight. Elvis refused his invitation. Gooding told the theatre officials, "If Presley is going to come to town and attempt this sort of thing, it will not be allowed. I'm going to be present, and if there is a vulgar performance put on, I'm going to issue a warrant for his arrest. " The judge said he doesn't want to make a martyr out of Presley... but on the other hand, we don't want to stand by and see obscenity and vulgarity in front of our children. 

I asked Mr. Gooding about the incident and he had this to say: "That was my belief that the vast majority of the Jacksonville youngsters didn't believe in Mr. Presley's type of performance he was alleged to have put on elsewhere.   

Tutti Frutti productions Jacksonville,FL. Aug. 10th 1956  7:00 pm show

So Elvis, standing very still, performed his 3:30 show in front of the judge and 2,200 screaming fans. The teen-age rock In' roll idol was advised before the show to "keep it clean" or face court charges, met with Judge Gooding after the opening performance and was warned sternly to remove the objectionable hip movements from the act. Elvis complied with the order. 

I searched a little deeper and found out that the American Guild of Variety Artists had told Elvis unless he joined AGVA, and his manager (Colonel Parker) posted bond and insurance for the other acts in Elvis' show, AGVA would prevent the other acts from appearing. The matter was cleared up shortly before show time when Elvis accepted membership in the organization and Col. Parker took care of the bond and insurance obligations with AGVA. 

In 1972, Elvis and his show returned to Jacksonville for two super shows in the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. Both shows were sold out and the 10, 000 plus fans who attended left with memories that would last a long time. As for Judge Gooding.... yep, he was there... but not with a warrant for his arrest, but (this time) to bring his grandchildren. Mr. Gooding said that "Mr. Presley's a true showman. His voice has matured and his body movements are quite tame, compared to 1956.   

Roland Lachance Jacksonville,FL. April 16th 1972 matinee show

Now Elvis is returning on the 25th of April. The line for tickets was over four blocks long, with some fans waiting since 5:00 in the morning. Even though Elvis is now 40, his drawing power is still there. All 10,532 seats for the performance were s old out. 

It appears that he who holds an Elvis ticket has a commodity as valuable as a seat for the Super Bowl, a heavyweight championship bout, or the Kentucky Derby.

 

 Originally published in the magazine Strictly Elvis No. 84