Great read JC, thank you.
Attachment 32397Elvis' First Visit in 1956 Not Forgotten
He wiggled and waggled on the stage.
The girls giggled and squealed, screamed and sighed.
The parents no doubt rolled their eyes and wondered how long the frenzy would last.
"The present fervor of teen-agers for him will subside," the Lakeland Ledger stated in an editorial. "His contortions are vulgar and his quivering, high-strung, nervous style of singing is a long way from being high-class art."
Yet the phenomenon that surrounded Elvis Presley did not die. Fifty-three years after "The King" performed in Lakeland, his visit remains a cultural touchstone, while his signature on the wall of the Polk Theatre where he performed is a treasured relic.
Elvis had been on the music scene a little more than a year when he arrived for his three-show stint Aug. 6, 1956. "Hound Dog" was his current hit, and tongues everywhere were waggling about his wild hip gyrations.
"It is impossible for the young man to stand still and sing rock 'n roll," Elvalee Donaldson wrote for The Ledger days before Elvis' arrival. "He says it shouldn't be sung without motion and claims all his wiggling only emphasizes the natural emotion which he feels."
Another Ledger reviewer was less kind.
"Elvis Presley is the first burlesque dancer I've ever seen who didn't wear a rhinestone in his navel," Bob Swift wrote. "Of course, he kept his shirt and pants on during his routine, so it's still a moot point."
Teenaged girls, of course, didn't care about critics. They simply loved Elvis.
"Frantic, determined teenagers jammed South Florida Avenue for a block each way in front of the Polk Theater today, determined to be the first to see Elvis Presley," Donaldson wrote.
"One girl fainted."
For all the hoopla, Elvis' Lakeland performances were exceedingly brief. His manager, Col. Tom Parker, was an old carnival man and knew how to keep audiences on the hook. The "performances" served as a showcase for other up-and-coming talents of the day, including singers Ray Brankey, Nancy Ford, Frankie Connors, the Jordanaires and comedian Phil Maraquin. Elvis himself didn't appear until the last 15 minutes of the $1.50 show.
"At the end of a two-hour show, they saw a man walk across the stage in a two-tone tuxedo, guitar slung across his shoulders, and utter the following vocal tones for 15 minutes: 'oh, ooo, ah, hee, oo, eee, ah, oo.' That was it," Jack Skelly wrote in a Ledger review.
(If you can't tell, the snarky comments I found concerning Elvis' appearance absolutely crack me up. My favorite came from a local shopkeeper: "I'd be darned if I'd stand out there in the sun without any vittles all day long just to hear some guy play banjo.")
Although Elvis appeared in Lakeland twice more, it's his 1956 appearance that has remained the most memorable. And it was during that visit that he signed the dressing room wall at the Polk Theatre.
Five decades later, the signature remains, although it's endured some damage. Recent flooding at the Polk Theatre damaged the wall and forced the autograph's temporary removal. The signature has since returned to the building, but the future of the theater itself remains to be seen.
Last edited by john carpenter; 09-28-2009 at 12:03 PM.
I'm the King of the Jungle, They call me Tigerman
Great read JC, thank you.