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Elvis Presley: Multnomah Civic Stadium Portland, OR : September 2, 1957

On September 2, 1957, Elvis, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana performed one show at Multnomah Civic Stadium as the last stop on a whirlwind five city, four day tour of the Pacific Northwest that included Spokane, Vancouver, Tacoma, and Seattle. It was only the second tour that year and was promoted by Lee Gordon, who had promoted the earlier tour in the Spring of Canada and the Midwest. According to Peter Guralnick, he had also been trying unsuccessfully to get the Colonel to agree to a tour of Australia. Gordon, originally from Detroit, had been promoting big names acts in Australia since 1953.

Elvis briefly interviewed at Union Station - Sept. 2, 1957
Elvis briefly interviewed at Union Station - Sept. 2, 1957

Reports by writers Don Horine and Dorothy Lois Smith in the Portland Journal the day following the show described the event as follows: A gold suit, an oft-plucked guitar and a sideburned bundle of the most enchanting, gyrating and just plain droolin' rock 'n' roll charmer ever to hit this world plopped right into the laps Monday of thousands of hysterical Portland teenagers. How they loved it!

Gene Smith, Elvis and Bitsy Mott departing Union Station in Portland - Sept. 2, 1957
Gene Smith, Elvis and Bitsy Mott departing Union Station in Portland - Sept. 2, 1957

They jammed the Union station, the Multnomah hotel, the Multnomah stadium gateways.

They thrilled to every word, every breath of the famed entertainer. Here was heaven, a haven in otherwise conservative life of studies, dishes and mowing the lawn.

Here was a miracle wrapped handsomely in a single package-a miracle wearing the exciting name of Elvis Presley. There were many who at the end of the day were slightly frustrated, in some cases even disillusioned. Some of these were among the 500 first jubilant and later disappointed Presley fans who crowded Union station at 4:30 p.m. Monday for a glimpse-oh, please, just a glimpse-of the man.

Others were included in the hundreds who blocked the front entrance of the Multnomah hotel where the man of the hour was to while away several of his Portland hours only to later discover that clever agents had smuggled him through the side door, unobserved by teenage eyes.

At the station he escaped the crowd by edging quickly from the last car on the train to a waiting convertible. Scarcely more than 15 fans not among the official party were able to reach the scene before the auto made its fast exit. Meanwhile, those 500 Presleyites at the station slowly grew aware of the disappearing act.

In theeighth-floor governor’s suite at the hotel he stayed with 12 troupe headliners, eating and making merry over the sounds of Presley records. No unauthorized persons were allowed near the floor, and the few diehards who did slip by advance guards were halted and quickly ushered from the area by an efficient squad of policemen, Presley’s three security officers and cleaning women. Then, at 8 p.m., on to the stadium, where again he bypassed scores of you-know-who expecting their idol to travel down the ramp into the stadium.

Instead, he jumped from a cab at the head of the Multnomah Athletic club, adjacent to the stadium, where he met with newsmen and photographers in a half-hour press conference. Numerous winners of local disc jockey shows posed with him following the conference. Everywhere, photographers’ shutters clicked.

Elvis and contest winner at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957
Elvis and contest winner at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957

I [Dorothy Smith] was completely shook up Monday night. Who wouldn’t be after exposure to two Elvis Presleys, in one evening? There’s definitely the on-stage Elvis and the off-stage Elvis.

And there was an equally shakeable Elvis in his dressing room for the mass press radio and TV interview before he donned the gold jacket to enter the stadium. This Elvis was impeccably clad in black slacks and shoes, white shirt with handsome black and silver tie and stickpin, and a suave, light blue dinner jacket.

Elvis at the press conference at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957

Elvis at press conference at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957
Elvis at the press conference at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957

The off-stage Presley answered the countless questions fired at him during the interview - a few of them sharply barbed-with poise and good humor. Concerning Anita Wood, the glamor-girl whose name is romantically linked with his. 'There’s nothin' serious. We’re more than friends, but nothin' serious'.

Elvis at press conference at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957

Elvis at press conference at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957

Elvis at press conference at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957

When asked about the many rumors of marriage, he explained. 'Often when I'm supposed to be marrying one girl a certain night, I'm out with another girl on a date. This is confusing to me, and I may be surprised and wake up and hear I'm married sometime', he laughed.

The idol is equally candid about his voice and the misconception, that he 'discovered' rock 'n' roll.

When asked if he had to get in a special mood before making his recordings, he said: 'I don't have the best voice in the world, so I must feel it. When you're singing ballads, I guess you do always think of some girl'.

'Rock 'n' roll', he added, 'was around a long time before me - it was really rhythm in blues. I just got on the bandwagon with it. Then, I lived in a country where there were all-day singings, and sang religious songs when I was real young in church. They were the rockin' type of music-spirituals.

One disc jockey asked pointedly if Elvis had any other recording favorites 'other than yourself'.

To this, Presley answered goodnaturedly that he had many, including the Four Aces, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Pat Boone. When asked what he thinks of Little Richard, he laughingly conceded: 'I'll say there's no one in the world as long-winded as he'. Elvis said he has taken his physical for entering the service and is 'waiting for them to let me know'. 'I just take every day as it comes and don't look into the future', he said.

Elvis at press conference at Multnomah Athletic Club - Sept. 2, 1957

But by now the stadium show was in progress, mellowing an estimated 14,000 persons. Band instrumentals, tapdancing, comedy routines, vocals and numbers by the four Jordonaires all brought polite applause from a crowd still thirsting for Mr. Elvis. And he didn't disappoint. Not this time. It was l0 p.m. on the nose.

The second act started with a rambunctious vibraphone player setting the pace. It was zero hour.

Presley did not appear in the stadium until the second half of his big show. By that time the more than 14,000 fans were stamping and chanting: 'We want Elvis! We want Elvis!'

Down from the stadium ramp roared the convertible, carrying in it Mayor Terry D. Schrunk, Ken Moore, Presley's chief security officer, and the gilt-crested Elvis Presley. The roar was deafening. Voices pitched high above a normal screech echoed from one stadium wall to the next. He was here.

Elvis on stage at Multnomah Park - Sept. 2, 1957

Elvis on stage at Multnomah Park - Sept. 2, 1957
Elvis on stage at Multnomah Park - Sept. 2, 1957

However, the mass eruption from the stands of beserk teen-agers, such as greeted Elvis in Chicago and recently in Vancouver, B.C., did not materialize. Instead, the woozy fans, many of them members of two Presley fan clubs here, were content to stay at their seats, to shake and wiggle hands, hips and feet, and to convince the singer that Portland, like all other U.S. cities, is 'real gone'.

From the time his convertible swept along the track and the gold sleeve waved to the top row of the stadium, his fans became one vocal acclaim of ear-splitting tumult. It was sometimes almost impossible to know which of his rock 'n' roll hits he was singing, burping and wiggling for his fans. The blare of the music whistled through the right ear and the screaming of the audience pierced the left ear conking out my equilibrium. But my eyesight was perfect, and there's no doubt that it's the bumps and grinds, the wiggles and the sinuous writhings that the fans love most. Each wiggle brought forth another in the succession of ecstatic screams.

There was the dazzling, writhing, rock 'n' roll Elvis in his gold jacket with rhinestone lapels, sorcering his madly screaming fans at Multnomah stadium into one frenzy of ear-splitting ecstasy after another, mounting in intensity to a bomb-burst of emotion with his concluding 'Hound Dawg' number.

It seemed as if the shrill adulation couldn't be more intense than during the 'I Got a Woman' number, when the rock 'n' roll idol grabbed his guitar and did his rhythmic contortions back of it-sort of like doing a cheek-to-cheek dance with it instead of playing it. But it was the 'Hound Dawg' number - the last on the list of hits-that created pandemonium. If the audience was going to swarm out onto the field, completely out of control, it would have swarmed during that number. Presley sat on the edge of the stage, swinging his long legs. Then he wiggled to the turf and writhed in a half-crawling position during much of the song. With the last moan of agony, he appeared completely exhausted, and dragged himself back of the stage.

Neal Matthews and Elvis at Multnomah Park - Sept. 2, 1957
Neal Matthews and Elvis at Multnomah Park - Sept. 2, 1957

Following a 40-minute performance, Presley issued a hurried goodbye and sped in the convertible from the tumultuous cheers, an enthusiastic but very much exhausted young man.

In a flashhe was into the convertible, and the 14,000 were still wildly screaming and stamping when the loud speaker blared: 'Ladies and gentlemen. Elvis Presley has left the stadium!'

The silence was as deafening as the performance.

The sudden departure of Elvis left many of the fans in a frenzied, stifled condition. The announcement from the stage that Elvis had gone and the show was concluded was certainly not news. They had lost him, the lead actor in so many teenage dreams, and he was not to return. But for seven hours, give or take a few precious minutes, he belonged to Portland. The Oregonian reported that even the dirt Elvis Presley kneeled on was a souvenir for about 50 teenagers who swooped down out of the grandstand for a handful after Presley left the stadium. The crowd was extremely noisy but well-behaved.

Elvis fans scoop dirt where Elvis sang at Multnomah Park - Sept. 2, 1957
Elvis fans scoop dirt where Elvis sang at Multnomah Park - Sept. 2, 1957

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