During his lengthy career, Elvis Presley performed in Florida many times. In fact, it was at a 1955 concert in Ocala -- he was Hank Snow's opening act -- that Elvis first caught the eye of Col. Tom Parker, who would manage him to superstardom.
Florida, however, played more than a minor role in the King's astonishing climb. For six weeks in the hot summer of 1961, Elvis made a movie -- his ninth out of 33 total -- on the Gulf Coast.
It's a comedy called "Follow That Dream," and as Elvis movies go -- take this with a pinch of salt -- it's pretty good. He's Toby Kwimper, the hunky eldest child of a hillbilly family dead-set on homesteading in Florida.
Filming took place in the marshy outlands of Levy County, between Yankeetown and Crystal River. Three acres of tidal sawgrass were leased and covered with fill dirt (the area tended to flood at high tide). The Florida Development Commission put out $8,000 to haul in sand, for the Kwimpers' "homestead," and to resurface the asphalt at the desolate site off State Road 40.
To make it look more like Hollywood's version of Florida, they planted palm trees, all of which died before the movie was completed.
You can still see what's left of the site -- the stretch of road has been renamed the Follow That Dream Parkway -- and stand on Bird Creek Bridge, from which Elvis "caught" a tarpon with a makeshift hook and line.
For one day, the movie company worked in nearby Ocala, where Elvis would wow the assembled female fans by mischievously shaking a hand or foot out the door of his trailer.
One visitor to the set was 10-year-old Gainesvillian Tom Petty, whose uncle, the assistant set director, got permission to bring a few family members down.
Watching the girls scream for Elvis, Petty said later, he knew that was the sort of power he wanted for himself.
"I had never seen a real mob scene before," Petty said. "I was really young and impressionable. Elvis really did look -- he looked sort of not real, as if he were glowing. He was astounding, even spiritual."-
Interesting. I love Tom Petty and he is a classic rocker in his own right.
Thanks nolvis...intersting post!
Daddy, I miss you more every day. You will always be my hero..