Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:42 am
Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:56 am
Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:04 am
Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:06 am
Rare Photo of Elvis in 1957
Found in Spokane Antiques Store
“Our Elvis file is empty.” That was the distressing news from the Spokesman-Review back in 2007 when I was putting together my book on Elvis’s 1957 tours. My original plan was to include a photo from each of the 18 cities he played that year. While images from some of the other cities were difficult to come by, I thought finding some from my hometown would be easy. The Review, after all, had printed several pictures after Elvis’s appearance in Spokane on August 30, 1957.
Over the phone, the newspaper’s head photographer told me the Review’s negatives had been thrown away years ago, but that files of archived prints had been saved. He was sure he could find something for me in their Elvis file. He was surprised and I was dismayed to find that some unknown employee had lifted all of the paper’s Presley prints sometime in the past.
Eventually I was able to find two, and only two, photos from Elvis’s 1957 Spokane visit—one of him arriving at the train station and one at his pre-concert press conference. Both appear in Elvis ’57: The Final Fifties Tours. Imagine my excitement recently, then, when I discovered the following somewhat faded 5” X 7” print for sale in a Spokane antique store.
Even better, the image’s history was explained in an accompanying typewritten note and a newspaper clipping. After some haggling, I purchased the photo and documents for $25.
• Photo taken at dressing room press conference
The picture was taken at Elvis’s press conference in the locker room of Memorial Stadium (since renamed Albi Stadium) prior to his show on the stadium’s football field on the evening of Friday, August 30. Presley had arrived in Spokane near midnight the previous evening after a 50-hour train ride from Memphis. The opening stop on a five-city Pacific Northwest tour, Elvis’s show in Spokane has never been more than a footnote for Presley’s biographers, who have instead concentrated on Presley’s controversial and riotous show in Vancouver, B.C., the next night.
Elvis arrived at Memorial Stadium in the far northwest corner of Spokane for his press conference at 8 o’clock, just as the opening acts began their procession across the stage on the field. He entered the dressing room building at the north end of the stadium to face a collection of reporters, djs, and photographers. Also present were a cluster of young girls. Most were fan club officers, winners of radio station contests, and journalists for local high school newspapers.
Having the right connections got a few others in the door. One of those was 12-year-old Michele Green, who can be seen snuggling with Elvis in the above photo. Others clearly identifiable in the image are Lamar Fike (left), Colonel Parker (behind Fike’s shoulder), and Parker’s assistant Tom Diskin (far right).
• Small town girl met Elvis with uncle’s help
Michele lived in Wilbur, Washington, a town of less than a thousand people, about 60 miles west of Spokane. Her picture with Elvis, along with the following caption, appeared in The Wilbur Register on September 19, three weeks after Elvis’s Spokane show.
Michele Green, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Green, Wilbur, occupies an enviable position in the above picture for she stands beside the one and only Elvis Presley, the singer with a voice and a wiggle that have captured the admiration of young people throughout the country. Michele, through the influence of her uncle, a Spokane city official, was permitted to meet Elvis at a press conference prior to his recent concert in Spokane.
The typewritten note that accompanied the photo when I purchased it was written by Patt Bell, Michele’s aunt, who lived in Spokane. The reference to Michele’s age in the note indicates that the note was written in 1999. (It makes me wonder if this photograph has been on display in that antique store ever since.) The note reads:
Many people met Elvis Presley at his arrival at the Spokane stadium before his first concert. Authorities “checked out” his performance routine before allowing his concert to take place. Michele’s uncle arranged for this photo. She is 53 years old now and lives in Olympia, Washington, as a retired business woman.
Elvis is wearing a ring on his right hand finger and an amulet type jewelry around his neck which were among his jewelry auctioned off recently to raise funds for a children’s hospital in the east. He was about 22 years old at the time of this photo. On his second visit to Spokane people were not allowed to be so close to him.
There are only two copies of this photo. One belongs to Michele and the other to me. — Patt Bell
The note contains several interesting assertions. First, Elvis did not rehearse in Spokane before his concert there, so it’s hard to imagine how city officials could have “checked out” his routine before allowing the show to take place. Second, I’ve always wondered what happened to that gold medallion that Elvis wore around his neck in Spokane. (He also wore it onstage in Ottawa, Philadelphia, and Tupelo in 1957.) I wonder if it really was auctioned off, as Patt contended. Finally, Elvis’s second visit to Spokane, referred to in the note, came in 1973. He came back a third time in 1976.
• Two other girls recall meeting Elvis in Spokane
A couple of other girls have recorded their experiences of meeting Elvis at the Spokane press conference in 1957. Elvis fan club member Karen Larson posted her remembrances online. “My heart was pounding so hard I thought it would come right out of my chest,” she recalled. “Elvis was the most handsome hunk you could ever hope to see. Those beautiful blue eyes and long lashes would make anybody’s blood go past the limit. It was a very exciting time. He was such a nice person and I got three autographs that night and a lifetime of memories.”
Ilah Black was there too but not with the blood-pulsing passion that infected most of the other girls who were present. Age 17 and a staff member on the Lewis and Clark High School newspaper, Ilah went to Elvis’s Spokane press conference, not as a fan, but as a member of the working press. Elvis did earn Ilah’s respect, however, if not her everlasting devotion. “After the interview Elvis graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures,” she noted in her school newspaper article. “Before meeting Elvis I was inclined to dislike him, but afterward I decided he doesn’t deserve all the unfavorable comments he receives.”
Ilah didn’t mention whether or not she took advantage of the opportunity to have her picture taken with Elvis. But I wonder how many young girls then in Spokane and elsewhere Elvis appeared did so and now have treasured photos locked away that the world has never seen. However many it is, there is one less now that Michele Green’s photo has been unearthed and shared with the Elvis universe. | Alan Hanson (February 2012)
Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:21 am
Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:28 am
Early Rock ’n’ Roll DJs
Helped Push Elvis to the Top
“I’d like to say thanks for all the spins, Charlie, you been givin’ me. And you really been a friend to me, and I want you to know I really appreciate it, and I’ll be lookin’ forward to comin’ back and visitin’ with you again real soon.”
That’s how Elvis Presley closed out a radio interview in San Antonio on April 15, 1956. The interview by Charlie Walker of station KMAC is an example of how Presley sought early in his career to build positive relationships with a new breed of country and R&B disc jockeys who catered to the nation’s teenagers in the mid fifties. As the payola scandal soon revealed, DJs in those days wielded considerable power in determining which artists and songs received airplay.
DJ Tommy Edwards’ photo of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley
at Brooklyn (Ohio) High School on October 20, 1955.
All budding singers in the mid-fifties courted DJs in the communities they played on tour. They knew radio play led to record sales which in turn led to national recognition on Billboard’s charts. Elvis knew it, and early on in his career he often made himself available to local DJs for personal interviews.
A recently published book tells the story one of those DJs who helped promote a young Elvis Presley. In 1950s Radio in Color: The Lost Photographs of Deejay Tommy Edwards, author Christopher Kennedy spotlights Edwards, a Cleveland DJ and promoter, who was the first to book Presley outside of the South. A skilled photographer, Edwards regularly took pictures of the acts that played his Cleveland events. On October 20, 1955, he took the well-known iconic shot of Bill Haley and Elvis shaking hands.
Ben Marks’ excellent review of Kennedy’s book is posted on collectorsweekly.com. [Read the Review]
Some years ago, while doing research for my book Elvis ’57: The Final Fifties Tours, I interviewed a half dozen or so early rock ’n’ roll DJs in the Pacific Northwest. During the process, I learned two things about DJs of that era. First, it’s easy to get them talking about the days when rock ’n’ roll was a new sound, and second, it’s difficult to get them to stop talking about those memories. Below is a sampling of what a few of them had to say about being a DJ in the days when rock was young.
• “Bubblehead” Bob Hough, KNEW, Spokane, Washington
Hough was one of “five Bob’s” on the air at KNEW when Elvis came to town in 1957. I interviewed him at his home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on July 21, 2003:
“KNEW was Spokane’s first rock ’n’ roll station when I came there in 1955. Everyone took rock ’n’ roll like it was manna from heaven. Oh man, everyone thought that it was the greatest. I mean, we could do no wrong.”
KNEW DJs Bob Hough, Bob Salter, Bob Adkins, and Bob Fleming
with Elvis at Spokane’s Memorial Stadium, August 30, 1957
“The new owner of KNEW imported Bob Salter from Seattle to run the station. Elvis’s appearance in Spokane on August 30, 1957, was set up by Salter. He’s the one who brought him in, and it was his promotion all the way. We ran promotions on the radio and gave tickets away.
“The press conference before the show was just jammed with media people. We were there standing right next to him. Of course, you’ve gotta remember, we were beginners in that business. We didn’t know what we were doing. It was powerful, the reaction he got. It was like a freak show. Everyone there was still wearing side walls for haircuts, and the butch and all that stuff. But this guy comes in and he’s got the black greasy hair. And he’s got this medallion hanging down on his bare chest.
“The young investigative reporters were going, ‘Wait a minute, where are we? He’s a space case.’ He answered most all the questions. But I mean they were dumb. They had no relevance. I mean, this guy’s a rock star. They tried to put the heat on him, but he just sloughed it off.”
• Red Robinson, CKWX, Vancouver, B.C.
Today Red Robinson ranks right behind Dewey Phillips as the fifties DJ most associated with Elvis Presley. Robinson had unprecedented access to Elvis on August 31, 1957, when Presley appeared in Vancouver. Red personally recorded Elvis’s press conference that day and introduced him at Empire Stadium that evening. I interviewed Red in his Vancouver office on September 28, 2005:
“I had a microphone and a 601 Ampex Tape Recorder wrapped in leather— beautiful—weighed about 60 pounds. That’s why the quality is so good. I just carried it in. Now you’ve got gatekeepers and all that stuff, and Elvis had a few too, but nobody stopped me. But I did that with Buddy Holly, Louis Armstrong, everybody. Now people say, oh, you had foresight, what a visionary. It was just that I was a fan then; I’m a fan now. I just wanted to preserve the encounter.
“There was a makeshift stage set up at the north end of Empire Stadium. They built the stage and put a roof over it for rain. For both Elvis and later the Beatles it was a hot summer night, so they didn’t need it. They removed the goal posts. At the side of the stage was a little thing like a tollbooth. After I introduced him, I just stood and watched the show from back there. I could see everything.
“There was pandemonium … wild, pandemonium, euphoric—but a riot? No. I’d say the first five or six rows in front of the stage is where the problem was, and that was where the fear was, and that was why D.J. Fontana says he thought they were gonna get killed. That was the thrust. The rest of the people were well behaved.”
• Bob Blackburn, KEX, Portland, Oregon
At age 33 in 1957, Bob Blackburn was among a handful of DJs who were able to make a successful transition from playing the bland pop music of the early fifties to rock ’n’ roll in the mid and late fifties. I interviewed Bob on the phone from his Bellevue, Washington, home on November 7, 2005:
“I had a disc jockey show at KEX when Elvis’s fame hit very quickly. To me the rock era started with the recording of Bill Haley and the Comets’ ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ To me that was the first real rock song. So after that, of course, the rock rhythms began to pick up, and Elvis, of course, was in the lead at that time as one of the earliest and one of the best. He was a great talent. Anyway, I played a lot of his records up to that time—‘Hound Dog’ and all those early songs.
“At that time we used to have disc jockey ratings. There were quite a few times in there when I was rated as the number one disc jockey in Portland. And that, of course, was the great disc jockey era. Every station had personality DJs on them. I got my main fame because every afternoon I would play all of the top songs. And quite often, if Elvis had a hot one, I’d play that everyday.
“To be honest with you, a lot of the early rock songs got a little too raucous to be my favorite songs. But I played them because I knew they were the favorites of the young people listening to the show. As I listen to them now, and you hear—and I hate to use the word— the crap that’s on the air now by the current musicians, and you go back to his songs, he was a great artist. Elvis was a great leader in the rock ’n’ roll music obviously.” | Alan Hanson (July 2011)
Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:36 am
Hosted by ElviCities