Bud Kennedy

When ‘The King’ came to Cowtown

Elvis Presley, 21, on stage during an early visit to Fort Worth at North Side Coliseum April 20, 1956.
Elvis Presley, 21, on stage during an early visit to Fort Worth at North Side Coliseum April 20, 1956. UT-Arlington Special Collections

Elvis Presley, born 80 years ago Thursday, has been gone now nearly as long as he lived.

But until the complete Star-Telegram archives went online last year, we didn’t know about a forgotten show in Fort Worth.

Before his well-documented April 1956 show for 7,000 fans in what is now Cowtown Coliseum, Presley stopped here three times with touring shows.

Historians and readers list May 1955 and January 1956 shows. But Presley also played here in June 1955.

The ad shouted: “Tonight — All-Star Country Road Show,” on what is now WBAP/820 AM. History books list Presley in Dallas that night, but promoters often booked shows in both cities and had performers do a set in each.

That means Presley played here seven times: four in 1955-56 in the coliseum, and three in 1972-76 in what is now the Fort Worth Convention Center.

On one of the early 1955 visits, Presley’s car ran out of gas on North Main Street, and he walked alone to the coliseum.

By his return in 1956, it took 20 police officers to guard him.

The $4 receipt for his stay at the now-gone Westbrook Hotel is in the county historical archive.

The Star-Telegram described Presley, by then 21, as a “drake-tailed, guitar-playing crooner” playing to a “crush of women.”

As police escorted Presley away afterward, a woman and four teenage girls with autograph books “gunned after the vehicle.” A photo showed two Dallas girls, both 16, who had used a pocketknife to cut “Elvis” into their forearms.

Returning in 1972 after a long absence, Presley slept in what is now the Hilton Fort Worth hotel downtown, the same hotel where President John F. Kennedy slept his last night in 1963.

When Presley’s spokesman declined an interview, the Fort Worth Press’ Jack Gordon sent him a note naming another screen idol:

“Who do you think you are are now — Fabian?”

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