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Back in the day, Elvis rocked and rolled DFW

The anniversary of Elvis Presley s untimely death on August 16, 1977, brings back memories of his first appearance in Fort Worth. Elvis performed in two concerts at the North Side Coliseum on Friday, April 20, 1956. The Star-Telegram reported an animalistic roar split the coliseum as Presley sauntered on stage , guitar around his neck. Shrieks rose as Elvis closed his eyes, began his sensual gyrations, and pitched his first number, Let s Play House. An estimated 7,000 ecstatic fans attended the two shows. These two Dallas high school coeds, Georgiana Blaylock and Dolores Orms, etched Elvis name on their forearms.
The anniversary of Elvis Presley s untimely death on August 16, 1977, brings back memories of his first appearance in Fort Worth. Elvis performed in two concerts at the North Side Coliseum on Friday, April 20, 1956. The Star-Telegram reported an animalistic roar split the coliseum as Presley sauntered on stage , guitar around his neck. Shrieks rose as Elvis closed his eyes, began his sensual gyrations, and pitched his first number, Let s Play House. An estimated 7,000 ecstatic fans attended the two shows. These two Dallas high school coeds, Georgiana Blaylock and Dolores Orms, etched Elvis name on their forearms.

Elvis Presley played Fort Worth and Dallas several times throughout his career, although there was a big gap from about 1956 to 1971, in part because of Elvis’ stint in the Army, in part because of his movie career.

The website Elvis Presley in Concert (www.elvisconcerts.com), which has gathered as many reviews as it can find from Elvis’ career, has many of the DFW reviews and ads online; we’ve compiled a timeline below, with additional help from Star-Telegram archives.

1955: Elvis plays several multi-act shows, such as “The Big ‘D’ Jamboree” and Grand Ole Opry bills in Fort Worth and Dallas. The most recognizable names on those bills, which according to ads from the time could feature as many as 50 acts, are country singers such as Sonny James, Hank Locklin and Hank Snow. The first “Big ‘D’ Jamboree” costs 60 cents for adults, 30 cents for kids.

April 20, 1956: Elvis plays two shows at Fort Worth’s North Side Coliseum, considered pivotal in his career. Top seats are up to $2. A Star-Telegram photo of two screaming young women bears a caption that begins: “The two high school girls from Dallas used a knife to scratch the word ‘Elvis’ on their forearms when the guitar-playing bobby-sox idol ... came to town Friday night.”

Longtime Star-Telegram entertainment writer Elston Brooks spent a great deal of his report addressing the female hysteria surrounding Elvis. Brooks concludes the report with Elvis dismissing rumors that he will die in six months — and with a New York paper calling the Star-Telegram seeking confirmation of a rumor that Elvis had died in Fort Worth.

Brooks reported later that Presley ran out of gas on the way to the Coliseum: “I ran out of gas on North Main and had to walk,” Presley said. “Almost missed the show.” Elvis wouldn’t play Fort Worth again till 1972.

Oct. 11, 1956: Elvis plays to a crowd of, as an Amarillo Globe News story puts it, “26,500 teen-agers and a few moms and pops” at the Cotton Bowl — his second-largest crowd he’s played to so far.

All reviews note that screams drowned out much of Elvis’ music, but the Houston Press has the best headline: “Elvis Fans in Little D Screamed in High C.”

Nov. 13, 1971: Elvis plays his first DFW show in more than a decade at Dallas’ Memorial Auditorium. “[He] performed to a tune that has accompanied him all of his career,” writes the Star-Telegram’s Bob Ray Sanders: “the high shrieks of screaming females.”

A Presley aide won’t let anyone close to Elvis: “Even the New York Times reporter who flew down had to view the star from 40 rows back,” Sanders quotes the aide as saying.

Sanders notes that Elvis forgets lyrics several times, but the audience doesn’t seem to mind.

June 18, 1972: Elvis plays the Tarrant County Convention Center, his first Fort Worth show since 1956, drawing a crowd of 14,122 to the center, the Fort Worth Press reports (previous record-breaker: the Moody Blues).

The King recalls his previous Fort Worth show, and sings Hound Dog in its honor. But he apologizes for less hip-swiveling, saying that he’s older now. “Wouldn’t want to strip my gears,” he says.

Elvis and his entourage stay at the Sheraton Fort Worth’s tower annex on Commerce Street, with a gaggle of fans waiting to meet him, only to have his limo pass right by them.

When Colonel Parker declines an interview request with Elvis, the Press notes: “As a recluse, Presley could give hideaway lessons to Howard Hughes.”

June 15, 1974: Elvis plays four sold-out shows at the Tarrant County Convention Center over a two-day period. The convention center’s executive director estimates that a 65 percent of the 56,000 people attending the shows have come in from out of town.

The concert occurs just after another big star plays Fort Worth: “As surely as Dallas pays its dues each year by enduring Texas-OU Weekend,” The Dallas Morning News reports, “Fort Worth has paid its dues in 1974 by hosting two of the biggest names of pop music. First, of course, came Dylan. And now, The King himself.”

Less than two weeks later, the Rolling Stones play the TCCC.

A Fort Worth Press writer spends a third of her report on what the women at the show are wearing: “Super low-rise pants with super rise tops displayed more navels than could probably be found in any given orange grove” but the crowd in the most expensive ($10) seats “was filled with businessmen in conservative suits and white patent leather shoes.”

June 6, 1975: Elvis plays Dallas’ Memorial Auditorium. The Dallas Morning News’ Don Harris uses an extended revival-meeting metaphor in his review, right down to questions about Elvis’ physical health and appearance.

“Some of the die-hard cynics dragged to the meeting by their Elvis-religious mates were looking for aging signs on the ex-Tennessee truck driver,” Harris wrote. “Others had heard he was getting fat and peered at him through binoculars looking for a bulge or roll.”

June 3, 1976: Elvis plays his last Fort Worth concert, and Dallas Morning News reviewer Pete Oppel finds it a depressing experience, describing Elvis as a shadow of his former ’50s self who doesn’t care anymore.

“He acts like a piece of merchandise — another one of the ‘super souvenirs’ that were hawked throughout his show Thursday night at the Tarrant County Convention Center.”

Dec. 28, 1976: Elvis plays his final Dallas show, at Memorial Coliseum, and The Dallas Times Herald and The Dallas Morning News have differing opinions about the concert: The Herald notes that he doesn’t move as he once did, but adds that he doesn’t have to, as the crowd has become part of the show: “Whether Elvis is the Elvis of old didn't seem to matter. He was Elvis the magician, Elvis the Pied Piper.”

The News sees the same thing through a different lens: “ It didn’t seem to matter that Elvis looked only half awake or that the gyrations remained a parody all night.”

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