Elvis Presley | Vancouver, Canada. Empire Stadium | August 31, 1957
On August 31, 1957, Elvis, Scotty Moore, Bill Black, D.J. Fontana and the Jordanaires went to Vancouver by train to perform at Empire Stadium. It was the second stop of a tour of the Northwest that had started the day before in Spokane. By this time Elvis had recorded eight No. 1 singles in two years, had made three movies and was about to release 'Jailhouse Rock' as his latest single. Having performed in Toronto and Ottawa in April, this was only the third time they ever performed outside of the U.S. and for Elvis it would be the last.
Vancouver's first rock-and-roll show had taken place barely a year before, when Bill Haley and the Comets drew 6,000 people to the Kerrisdale Arena. Now Elvis had drawn a crowd over four times larger.
The 26,500 fans in attendance went wild for the King of Rock 'n' Roll. The stage was set up on the empty football field, but fans wanted to be closer. Thousands bypassed security to find a place in front of the stage on the field. The show had to be stopped twice for safety concerns. Elvis' manager, Col. Tom Parker, suggested to Elvis that he tone down his show, but being a rock 'n' roll rebel, Elvis didn't listen to him. He did shorten the set, though, and - for safety reasons - he fooled the audience. He gave his gold jacket to a crew member to wear while getting into a car, so fans would think it was Elvis leaving. The fans followed the man in the gold jacket, and Elvis was allowed to calmly leave the stadium unharmed.
Canada was the only country outside the United States to experience an Elvis Presley Concert.
Above, audio interview of Elvis at 22 meeting informally with the press and radio in Empire Stadium, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Attendance 26000 August 31st 1957.
Elvis, Bruno Cimmoll, Mark Raines, RCA Rep. Ernie Henn, Tom Diskin and Norm Pringle of CDKA Radio
at the Press conference in the Stadium locker room.
Red Robinson, Elvis and Bruno Cimmoll of CKNW.
20 year old Red Robinson, the DeeJay for CKWX who had emceed the Bill Haley show and emceed Elvis' show said, 'That was the first time there was ever a performer in front of 26,000 people in a rented stadium. Sinatra, Crosby, no one ever rented stadiums before him'. According to records given to Red by the promoter Hugh Pickett shortly before he died, there were 25,898 paid admissions and at ticket prices of $1.50, $2.50 and $3.50, the gross receipts came to $61,099.86 of which Elvis probably earned $21,936.32.2
Norm Pringle of CDKA Radio, Elvis and Elsie Pringle.
Red Robinson said, 'With the press conference over, the reporters were ushered out. As Emcee of the show, I remained with Elvis. Let me tell you about an incident that happened while we killed the hour or so remaining until show time. It taught me that, while Elvis was always polite, he also had a wild streak of fun in him. After we’d been chatting for some time, Elvis opened the dressing room door at the stadium and invited one of the policemen outside to come in. He asked to borrow the cop’s handcuffs… then casually handcuffed me to a shower rod. Then he hid the key and laughed wildly at the joke'.
George Corrie (chauffeur) drives Elvis and fan club contest winner around Empire Stadium prior to start of the show
The crowd was seated in the stadium's stands on either side of the football field, and the stage was set up in the north end zone. It was constructed on the back of two flatbed trucks with a fence put up around it and between the stage and the audience was nearly 100 yards of empty football field with air cadets and police lined up as security. The opening band played for about 45 minutes before Elvis and the band went on. When the music began, more or less drowned out by the screams of the crowd, the crowd surged past the 'security' onto the field and sat down in front of the stage. Scotty said, 'We must have looked like ants to them back where they were sitting. All they wanted to do was to get closer. They didn't care if they had seats or not'.
Stadium officials stopped the show and told the crowd it would not continue until they got back off the field. D.J. Fontana remembers how defiant the crowd was. Stadium officials couldn't budge them. D.J. said, 'They tried and they tried, and they wouldn't move, so we finally started the show'.
Scotty, Elvis and the Jordanaires onstage at Empire Stadium - Aug. 31, 1957.
The concert had lasted all of 22 minutes. Frightened by the surging fans, Parker told Elvis to cut the show short. When Elvis abruptly left the stage Scotty and the others were left onstage to face the fans alone. Unknown to the audience, Elvis had gone into an alcove aside the stairs behind the curtain, gave his Gold jacket to one of his entourage (possibly Gene Smith) who then ran to the car to be whisked away pursued by the fans. Vancouver Sun photographer Ralph Bower said, 'they knocked the fence over and chased him, and that's when he got away. They came like a herd of cattle. I was standing there and they run right over the top of me'. Elvis walked across the field to the dressing rooms unnoticed in his black shirt.
D.J. Fontana said, 'The kids all ran up there and the platform kind of tilted to one side'. By the time they got their instruments loaded into their car, they were surrounded by fans. All they could do was sit and wait it out. 'They shook the car a little bit thinking Elvis was in there with us', said D.J., 'but finally they let us go. It took about two hours for us to get out. It usually took us about two hours to get out of all the buildings'.
Scotty and Elvis onstage at Empire Stadium - Aug. 31, 1957.
Bower snapped a shot of the crowd just before they trampled him, and the paper ran it on the front page, accompanied by a scathing review by John Kirkwood. 'It was like watching a demented army swarm down the hillside to do battle in the plain when those frenzied teenagers stormed the field," Kirkwood wrote. "Elvis and his music played a small part in the dizzy circus. The big show was provided by Vancouver teenagers, transformed into writhing, frenzied idiots of delight by the savage jungle beat music. A hard, bitter core of teenage troublemakers turned Elvis Presley's one-night stand at Empire Stadium into the most disgusting exhibition of mass hysteria and lunacy this city has ever witnessed'.
The kids who were at the show, of course, felt differently and they loved Kirkwood's hysterical condemnation of the show. Colonel Parker also enjoyed reading the accounts of the riot the next day. Scotty said, 'It really wasn't a riot, the fans were just trying to get closer to the stage to see, that's all'.
Audience rushing Elvis' stage at Empire Stadium.
Red Robinson recalls that at the show they played 'Money Honey', 'That's Where Your Heartaches Begin', 'Hound Dog' and 'Jailhouse Rock'. Red said the 'biggest single goof' of his long career was when he went on the radio the day following the show and divulged Elvis' room number. 'I went on the air the next day and said 'Wasn't that wonderful, Elvis stayed at the Hotel Georgia, room 1226. The kids went up and ripped up the carpet, tore pieces out of the bed. It cost CKWX about $5,000 to repair the room'.
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Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.