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Elvis thrilled Tulsa teens at fairgrounds April 18, 1956


By: Debbie Jackson and Hilary Pittman
Source: www.elvis.com.au
April 8, 2016 - 11:05:44 AM
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On a Braniff airlines flight from Dallas to Tulsa, on April 18, 1956, my mother sat next to a young man whom she described as well-mannered, shy, with brown hair and the sweetest smile she had ever seen. She was the only one on the airplane who recognized him as Elvis Presley. Being the wife of a musician, she conversed with him during the flight. Upon arrival in Tulsa, he carried her luggage from the plane and signed the orange jacket cover of her Braniff ticket, "Thanks, Elvis Presley." My mother was a beautiful young woman who, no doubt, had his attention! He appreciated her attention and the autograph was one of her most prized possessions. She wrote on an envelope containing the autograph to take care of it as it was very rare. Toni
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Elvis thrilled Tulsa teens at fairgrounds April 18, 1956

If you were a teenage girl living in the Tulsa area on April 18, 1956, chances are you were screaming your head off at the fairgrounds Pavilion. 'Presley Leaves 'Em Limp - 8,000 Squeal at 1st Show', read the headline in the Tulsa World the next day. Elvis was a 21-year-old singer and former truck driver who performed two 'frenetic' Tulsa shows, 60 years ago next month. Most of the tickets were $1 each.

Oddly, neither the World nor The Tulsa Tribune carried a full-body photo of Elvis performing. Both published pictures of the fans and the Trib included one small photo of his head.

The first fainting was recorded five minutes before the 7 p.m. show began, the World reported. Concert-goers apparently were unhappy that had to sit through performances by Leon McAuliffe and his western swing band, rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson and a duo called the Farmer Boys before Elvis took the stage.

Elvis Presley is shown during his performance at the Tulsa fairgrounds Pavilion in 1956.
Elvis Presley is shown during his performance at the Tulsa fairgrounds Pavilion in 1956. Courtesy of Davit Souders.

Newspaper Ad April 18 1956.
Newspaper Ad April 18 1956.

'I can't stand it!'

'Why don't they hurry? Why don't they hurry? I can't stand it!' wailed one girl.

When Elvis finally began to sing, World reporter David Wood was clearly bemused by the teens' reaction.

'He hugged the microphone and complained rapidly and breathlessly that he was 'sooo lone-a-ly'. Many of the girls wept. Others just lifted up their eyes to the ceiling and screamed', he wrote.

He described Elvis as 'a slight young man with carefully combed hair, sideburns and a face more beautiful than handsome'. 'He danced with his hips during each number, doing a form of dance called 'Bop' and shaking himself as though there was an entire hive of bees inside his clothes. At each shake of the hip, a great collective shriek approved it.

The girls screamed whenever he ran his hands up and down his hips', Wood wrote.

Among the songs were 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'Only You', 'I Gotta Woman' and his finale, 'Blue Suede Shoes'.

He wore a black, gold-flecked sports jacket, a gold silk mandarin shirt, charcoal gray slacks, blue argyle socks and brown loafers.

'To the bobbysox set, he was Sinatra, Como and Caruso rolled into one. And he beat a savage rhythm on a leather-bound guitar and sang lonesome songs and heartbreak songs and frustrated songs that made every little girl in the audience his sweetheart or his wife or his fairy godmother', wrote the Tribune's Jim Downing, who took his 14-year-old daughter, Pamela, to the show.

Fears for audience safety

Between the two shows, Elvis relaxed backstage sipping a concession stand Coke from a paper cup as he spoke politely with reporters in his soft, Southern drawl. 'I get scared when the audience starts hurting each other', he said in response to a question about his fans' hysteria. 'That's why I stopped giving autographs. The bigger kids run over the smaller ones and I'm always afraid they'll get hurt'.

Elvis was forced to tone down his gyrations in Oklahoma City the next night after officials there received complaints that the Tulsa show was 'indecent' in places. Police Chief Roy Bergman assigned 40 police officers to keep order and sent word to Elvis that the show would be stopped 'if he pulled anything'.

Interviewed by an Oklahoma City Times reporter, Elvis explained, 'I wasn't trying to be vulgar and sexy. I just get carried away with the music'.

One observer who was not carried away at the Oklahoma City show was Dr. Rupert Naney, a Baptist minister and chairman of the city's board of censors, who remarked, 'He ought to calm down some of that shaking. In my point of view, the law of mental suggestion is the most difficult one we have to countermand. There were some suggestive actions done that I would be glad had they not been there'.

Elvis performed four more concerts in Tulsa - June 20, 1972; March 1 and March 2, 1974, and July 4, 1976.

PDF Elvis Presley story, Tulsa World, April 19, 1956

The April 19, 1956, Tulsa World contains a story about Elvis Presley's performance at the fairgrounds Pavilion (As reviewed above) the night before. The headline says, "Presley Leaves 'Em Limp - 8,000 Squeal at 1st Show." He played two back-to-back shows at 7 and 9 p.m. It was the first time Elvis had appeared in Tulsa and his fans shrieked their approval, the story said.

Elvis Presley Photos Elvis Presley : Oklahoma City : April 19, 1956
Elvis Presley Photos Elvis Presley : April 20, 1956 : North Side Coliseum, Forth Worth
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