Presley rocks 'n rolls Tacoma teenagers into frenzy at bowl
By Don Duncan - The News Tribune original review - September 2, 1957
A smile played on the full lips of the husky, loose-jointed young man in the gold jacket. His black shirt was unbuttoned to his breastbone. He wiggled his hips in tight fitting black pants and several thousand girls gasped and screamed in unison. He spread his arms and they shrieked again.
'I'll take care of you in a minute', Elvis Presley said husky-voiced to the loudest of his fans. And 6,000 people in Lincoln Bowl yesterday erupted in shouts, screams and hand-clapping.
Suddenly a piano player grabbed a mittful of notes, two guitarists and a drummer caught up the slugging beat and Elvis Presley snatched the microphone, pressed it to his lips, and began to pour out his throbbing, syncopated baritone: '… Don't be cruel to a heart that's true … don't be cruel …'
As he sang he began a slow, rhythmic movement of his pelvic region, his legs vibrated, his upper torso caught up the movement and alternately swayed and shimmied. Each new movement was greeted by fresh screams.
He fell to his knees and socked out the rock 'n roll beat with his body. He waved at the crowd. And he sang, always in that pulsating, almost native, beat – 'I l-u-u-u-v yew-ew-ew-ew'.
Sometimes he chuckled in the middle of a song. He clowned impishly. And once he corned up that old jazz perennial 'I Found My Thrill on Blueberry Hill' by substituting blackberry for blueberry.
Screams Drown Voice
Often the great roar of the crowd snuffed out the words. But no stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Elvis at the mike. He sang at least a dozen songs, this creator of mass hysteria, this modern-day answer to Austin, Vallee and Sinatra. But where they depended almost exclusively on voice, his was a combination of earthly body movements and a rhythm that smacks of the revival tent.
It was burlesque with a twist as if Gypsy Rose Lee had donned men's clothing.
Elvis came in a black limousine, surrounded by a cordon of beefy policemen. He stepped from the car and leaped lightly to the stage, amid frenzied cheers. Jugglers, quartets, marimba players and lesser vocalists had warmed up the audience to feverish pitch. Elvis was here to make them cast, inhibitions aside, to blend his personality into theirs so each would think he was singing just for them. He succeeded.
The Frenzy Mounts
The tempo mounted agonizingly toward a final thundering crescendo. Elvis, his dark, handsome face glowing with inner pleasure, played it for all it was worth. Each word mumbled into the microphone, and indeed most of the words he sang were similarly slurred, was greeted with deafening screams. Each squirm was as carefully calculated as a Shakespeare soliloquy to heighten the dramatic effect.
This rock 'n roll, personified by its sideburned king, is the antithesis of the cool, restrained bop from whence it sprung. Emotions, tenseness are relieved by handclapping, clasping the hands to the head and moaning, and those shrills piercing Indian warwhoops.
Cool, Man, Cool
A chunky, effeminate-looking man with long hair, later identified as a member of Presley's entourage, seemed almost in a trance as he snapped his fingers, wiggled his body and shouted over and over:
'Yeah man, Yeah man, yeah, yeah, yeah …'
Elvis climaxed the show with what he called 'The Elvis Presley National Anthem', a frentic, whirling-dervish rendition of Houn' Dog. 'You ain't nothing but a houn' dog, c-ry-y-y-in' all the time … they said you was high class, but that was just a lie … you never caught a rabbit and hew hain't no frien' of mine…'
Once through in normal voice, the second time in a hoarse, strained voice that rasped the frayed emotions of the teenage girls and had them on the verge of collapse.
He strutted like a duck, his hands dangling loosely in front of him. He went to his knees in an attitude of prayer, taking the slender microphone with him. And he finished with a burst of shimmying that left him limp, his thick black hair hanging over his eyes and perspiration pouring down his pancake makeup.
Elvis did a Douglas Fairbanks-type leap from the stage, raced to the waiting limousine and was whisked away in a cloud of dust as shouts died on the lips of his fans.
Girls, dragging unwilling boys by the hand, rushed to the spot where Elvis vaulted into the car. They scooped up the dirt, kissed it and poured it into pockets and purses.
Then they tore off to the stands, these wives and mothers of tomorrow, to where the hucksters were doing a brisk business in Elvis Presley buttons, hats and pictures. The show was over.
Earlier a different Presley–shy, polite and almost boyish in appearance–greeted newsmen and officers of Seattle and Tacoma, fan clubs in the low, concrete building used by Lincoln High athletes before sports events.
He wore a straw hat, and expensive-looking blue and white sweater and loafer shoes.
No, he said, the girl he left crying at a Memphis, Tenn., airport isn't going to become Mrs. Presley, 'although you all can say she's more than just a friend.:
'I'll know when the right girl comes along', he added.
The idol of America's teenagers, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pounder, lowered his lashes over the deep blue eyes, and said, no sir, I certainly don't mean to be vulgar when I wiggle my hips during a song.
'It's just my way of expressing my inner emotions'.
Elvis is ready to go into the service when Uncle Sam beckons and won't ask to be put special services, he said. He hinted that he'd gladly be a foot soldier for his native land if the War Department decides that's where he belongs. The man who has four Cadillacs (two white, one pink and one blue), a Messerschmidt, a Lincoln, a Mark II and two motorcycles, said he's saving his money.
Lots of Teddy Bears
And he branded as 'just a rumor' reports he's crazy about teddy bears. 'Sure I have about 70 all over the house', he said. 'But they were all sent to me by fans after a reporter saw me carrying home a teddy bear I'd won at the fair. Besides, little kids who visit my home go nuts when they see all the bears'.
Elvis has earned 17 gold records (1,000,000 record sales) from RCA since he came out of obscurity with a $2.98 guitar and an entirely new approach to singing.
'Don't Be Cruel' is his personal favorite because 'it was my first big hit'.
The singer said he doesn't think of the new vocalists coming up as threats 'because there's plenty of room for all of us'. He tabbed Tommy Sands and Ricky Nelson as his favorites newcomers.
But, he added, there'll always be plenty of people who prefer Perry Como and Bing Crosby.
'After all, they've been around for years and me, I've just been on top for a year and a half', he said.
Jekyll and Hyde
Elvis smiled in approved All American boy manner and confided he's a different man when he's out there with the crowd. 'I lose myself in my singing', he said. 'Maybe it's my early training singing gospel hymns.
'I'm limp as a rag, worn out, when a show's over'. 'Why I had a couple of nervous breakdowns a while back when I was making too many of these one-night stands'.
Elvis taped an interview to be sent to little Caroline Jardeen, a bed-ridden Tacoma girl. He wished his fan a speedy recovery so she could see him on his next visit.
Lucky fan club members who entered the dressing room were bathed in the full Presley personality. He signed autographs for everybody, even the policemen who crowded around him.
And when he put his arms around one of the girls, she moaned:
'I-I-I think I'm going to faint'.
The Boss Speaks
Col. Tom Parker, who promotes Presley's shows, is also famed as the man who got America to drinking Hadacol. 'Some folks still drink it', he said.
'Yeah, but not if there's water available', said Tom Durnin, Presley's personal manager.
'Elvis is a good kid, no trouble at all', said Parker. 'I don't know which was easier to sell – him or Hadacol'.