The King is dead, but did Elvis ever rule Orlando?


By: David Whitley
Source: Orlando Sentinel | FECC
November 24, 2023

In summer 1956, Elvis Presley played Orlando for his 3rd time in the 1950s, and the newspaper's 'On the Town' columnist Jean Yothers got a kiss for the cameras.

There was an ad in the newspaper May 11, 1955. The Hank Snow All-Star Jamboree was performing at Orlando's municipal auditorium.

Under Snow's photo was the list of warmup acts. Faron Young, The Wilburn Brothers, Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters, Slim Whitman, Elvis Presley ...

Hey, whatever happened to that guy?

In summer 1956, Elvis played Orlando for his 3rd time, and the newspaper's 'On the Town' columnist Jean Yothers got a kiss.
(ORLANDO SENTINEL FILE)
In summer 1956, Elvis played Orlando for his 3rd time, and the newspaper's 'On the Town' columnist Jean Yothers got a kiss.

That sort of brings us to this week's Ask Orlando question.

'Did Elvis ever come to Orlando and did he get in trouble for shaking his pelvis?'

Elvis was just a few months removed from driving a truck for a living. Sentinel columnist Jean Yothers had never been to a 'hillbilly music' show, much less heard of the guy in an orange jacket who came on before Slim Whitman.

Presley's performance at the Municipal Auditorium came just a month before his first appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show', 
(from the Corner Cupboard, August 16, 1956 / Joy Wallace Dickinson / Orlando Sentinel)
Elvis Presley’s performance at the Municipal Auditorium came just a month before his first appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.’ (from the Corner Cupboard, August 16, 1956 / Joy Wallace Dickinson / Orlando Sentinel)

'What really stole the show was this 20-year-old sensation, Elvis Presley', Yothers wrote, 'a real sex-box as far the teenage girls are concerned',

Elvis returned to Orlando two months later as part of the Andy Griffith Show. Like the Hank Snow Jamboree, it was two shows in one night. This time, Yothers got an autograph from Elvis that read 'Love Ya'.

She gave him some advice in the paper.

'He's wearing himself out giving customers more than their money's worth. I wanted to say to him, 'Slow down, boy… your fame won't disappear'.

A few months later, Sun Records sold Elvis' contract to RCA for $40,000, and Col. Tom Parker became his manager.

Elvis' days of warming up for Mother Maybelle were over when Parker set up a Florida blitz in August of 1956.

Nine days, seven cities, 25 shows. All sold out.

Girls scream for Elvis Presley during a performance in Orlando on Aug. 8, 1956.
(Orlando Sentinel)
Girls scream for Elvis Presley during a performance in Orlando on Aug. 8, 1956. (Orlando Sentinel)

By then, Elvis' dangerously gyrating hips were preceding him. The prudes in Jacksonville wanted them banned.

Rev. Robert Gray of Trinity Baptist Church said Elvis had 'achieved a new low in spiritual degeneracy', Judge Marion Gooding threatened to have Elvis arrested for 'impairing the morals of minors' if he broke into his 'suggestive' movements.

Elvis and his pelvis somehow made it through six shows without getting busted. There were no such threats for his two shows in Orlando, much to the joy of female minors.

The critics still weren't impressed. A Sentinel story had this prediction: 'He's a fad, a fellow girls turn to for one of those mad, impetuous infatuations, whereas Perry Como and Eddie Fisher will still be around, the dependable types, when Presley is back driving his truck in Memphis'.

Well, not quite. Twenty-one years, a few hundred million records and too many fried-peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches later, Elvis returned to Orlando in his private jet.

Elvis Presley performs in Orlando on Aug. 8, 1956, wowing his fans.
(Orlando Sentinel)
Elvis Presley performs in Orlando on Aug. 8, 1956, wowing his fans. (Orlando Sentinel)

He played the Sports Stadium on Feb. 17, 1977. The barn-like structure near Bithlo held 7,200 people and was packed.

At 10:10 p.m., the stage went dark and '2001: A Space Odyssey' cranked up. The Elvis appeared in full Elvis glory: white jumpsuit, gold chains and diamond rings.

'He appears healthy, but somewhat overweight', the Sentinel reported the next day.

The audience didn't seem to notice.

'I think he drrriiiips sex appeal', one woman said.

'I hope his pants split', a 25-year-old teacher said.

There was enough 'suggestive' gyrating to make Elvis drip with sweat. He wiped his face with silk scarves and tossed them into the shrieking audience. After 21 songs, he finished with 'Can't Help Falling in Love',

Then the lights came up. Elvis had left the building. Six months later, he left the Earth.

So to answer the original question, Elvis played seven shows in Orlando. Unlike Jacksonville, our morals weren't impaired by his pelvis.

And he never took Yothers' advice to slow down, boy.

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