Rock and roll legend Elvis Presley passed away 37 years ago, on Aug. 16, 1977. Today we turn back the clock to pay tribute to the singer who made young women scream in delight whenever he performed in concert.
Blade photographer Bob Jacobs got a front-row seat to see Elvis “The Pelvis” in action at the Toledo Sports Arena on Nov. 22, 1956. Elvis performed before 13,125 frenzied teen-agers and some less enthusiastic adults in two appearances.
The Blade review pointed out that Presley had soared from a $35 a week truck driver in Memphis, Tenn., to a singing sensation who could take home better than $16,000 for a one-day stand in Toledo. It added that Elvis had boasted that he never had a music lesson, an educational void he clearly demonstrated when he performed. But the hysterical screams that accompanied his every number completely obliterated whatever sounds he was making vocally or might have made on his standard prop — a huge guitar that he occasionally strummed but never played.
To hear Elvis, concert goers had to scrape together anywhere from $2 to $2.50 for tickets. And many purchased souvenir hats, albums, photos, popcorn and binoculars for the show. His performances were only 30-minutes long, accompanied by his famous torso twisting. Lead-in vaudeville acts and a series of warm-up groups, including a magician, and other “wholesome entertainment” preceded Elvis taking the stage.
Those in the crowd were coached by a female master of ceremonies on how to scream, when to scream and where to scream. Don’t Be Cruel and Hound Dog were on the play list. When fans surged toward the stage in the final seconds of his performance, an extra crew of 20 policemen watched helplessly. But by the time fans reached the stage Elvis had already left the building.
Presley’s driver took him to the Commodore Perry Hotel, where he ran into some trouble. He was seated in the Shalimar Room with his press agent and three musicians, when he was accosted by a 19-year-old Toledoan who shouted “my wife carries your picture, but doesn’t carry mine.” When police arrived, they found Presley pummeling his accuser who, reportedly, was attempting to throw one of the musicians over a railing that surrounded the Shalimar Room Terrace. The Toledo man pleaded guilty to creating a disturbance and was fined $10 plus $9.60 in court costs, or seven days in the Workhouse. No charges were filed against Elvis.
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