“I owe a lot to Texas,” Elvis Presley once told a Dallas newspaper reporter. “They’re the ones who put me over the top.”
In honor of the Lone Star State’s association with Presley, and the 60th anniversary of his banner year of 1956, Texas will pay a special tribute to the King of Rock n’ Roll on March 4-6, 2015 during the largest Elvis Presley festival in state history. Promoters of the event said today that Texas is the perfect place for the festival.
This inaugural Texas Tribute to Elvis Championship and Festival is hosted by Tees Events USA LLC and will take place at the legendary South Fork Ranch near Dallas. Tees Events has received accolades for their successful and very popular Europe’s Tribute to Elvis events. Fans will be entertained throughout the three day experience with special guests and the competition worthy of being one of the global official heats for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest.
Elvis first crossed into Texas on Nov. 21, 1954 after nearly starving in Louisiana. A booking agent had seen Elvis, along with Scotty Moore and Bill Black, appearing as the Blue Moon Boys during a Louisiana Hayride performance and offered them two weeks’ worth of gigs in some of the area nightclubs. When they showed up for the first show, they soon discovered this particular agent had been blacklisted by the clubs. The Blue Moon Boys were stranded. With no place to stay and little money for gas or fuel, they made a call to the Hayride for help. Some of the staff called around Shreveport and was able to secure a few appearances at nearby taverns.
Tillman Franks, of the Hayride, reached out to his buddy Tom Perryman, a DJ in Gladewater, Texas who found the band a show at the Mint Club in that little town. When Moore called Frank to inquire about any more work, the Boys had made their way to Houston for gas money and a meal in a dance hall before they performed. There was a little money left to put Elvis on a bus while the Moore and Black drove to Gladewater.
When Perryman and his friend Hal Long met Elvis at the Gladewater bus stop, they could tell he was famished and tired. They drove Elvis to his first meal in a Texas restaurant, the Green Hut café, while Long’s wife, who worked at a nearby cleaners, took his jacket for pressing.
That evening, Perryman saw Presley perform for the first time and was impressed how the women began swarming the stage. During a break, Elvis signed autographs on photos for fifty cents. Some of the East Texas women posed for pictures and received hugs or stole kisses from Presley. The DJ felt so sorry for the band he decided not to take his 25% commission. Elvis went to bed for his first full night of sleep in Texas on Nov. 22, 1954 at the Res-More Motel, with $90 to split with Scotty and Bill.
Here are other little known facts about Elvis Presley’s 1950s shows in Texas:
- The first Texas lunch ever served Elvis was the next day at Gladewater’s Green Frog restaurant. He ate barbeque. After Scotty and Bill woke up, they traveled back to Houston for a better paying performance. Elvis wired his parents money and a telegram:
“HI BABIES. HERE’S THE MONEY TO PAY THE BILLS. DON’T TELL NOONE HOW MUCH I SENT I WILL SEND MORE NEXT WEEK. THERE IS A CARD IN THE MAIL. LOVE, ELVIS”
- Elvis played his first game of sports in Texas on Dec. 17, 1954 at the Hawkins High School gym, where the band was playing that night. The Hawkins Hawks basketball team were practicing while they were setting up their equipment on the makeshift stage. Elvis asked if he could play and soon he and the Blue Moon boys were dressed in gym shorts and T-shirts provided by the friendly team.
- Elvis’s first New Year’s Eve performance was on Dec. 31, 1954 at Eagle Hall in Houston. By this time, the band quit their regular jobs in Memphis: Scotty at his brother’s dry cleaners, Bill at Firestone Tires, and Elvis, a truck driver for Crown Electric.
- During three of Elvis’s earliest Texas performances, he inspired several teenage audience members to become successful singer-songwriters: Roy Orbison was on the front row of his Feb. 16, 1955 show in Odessa High School Field House. In the crowd of Elvis’s performance on the afternoon of June 3, 1955 at Lubbock’s Johnson-Connelly Pontiac Showroom was Mac Davis. That night at the Fair Park Coliseum, Buddy Holly was in attendance.
- During an eight day tour in October 1955, Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys drove 2037 miles in Texas, averaging over 250 miles between each gig.
- When the band appeared in Lubbock the first time in 1954, their take was $75 that evening. By the time they returned on April 10, 1956, they earned over $4,000 to perform in front of 10,000 people. It took a team of 20 local police officers to keep the 1956 crowd at bay.
- The first time caravans of buses were used to carry fans to attend an Elvis performance was in Texas. On April 13, 1956 three busloads of students from White Deer High School arrived at Amarillo’s Municipal Auditorium for that evening’s show. Teachers and chaperones reported the bus ride return was far from uneventful as girls continued crying, screaming and sobbing on the long trip back.
- Two days later, at the Municipal Auditorium (now the Tobin Center) in San Antonio, over 3,000 fans caused a near riot at the back stage door attempting to get an autograph between Elvis’s afternoon and evening shows.
- The Oct. 11, 1956 Dallas Cotton Bowl show broke records with over 26,000 fans in attendance watching another Elvis first. The King rode a convertible onto the center stage in the stadium. Years later, Elvis would repeat the convertible ride to the stage during Houston Astrodome appearances.
- Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s manager awarded super fan Kay Wheeler with passes to Dallas, San Antonio and Waco shows for her hard work as the founder and national president of a 10,000-member strong Elvis Presley Fan Club.
- His Oct. 14, 1956 performance in San Antonio would be Elvis Presley’s last Texas performance until 15 years later.