The August night the King rocked Empire Stadium
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Elvis Presley toured outside the United States once in 1957. It was to do a short tour of Canada.
The King in 1957 was 22 years old, young, good looking, and a sex symbol for teenage girls across North America. Vancouver impresario, Hugh Pickett, was the man responsible for securing the Elvis booking in Vancouver. Tickets for the concert cost $1.50, $2.50, and $3.50 apiece.
Before his concert, the King held a long press conference inside the dressing room at Empire Stadium, occupied by the BC Lions football team. Newspaper reporters, photographers, and CBC television cameramen were covering the press conference. Elvis was sitting on a table surrounded by members of the Vancouver media: Marke Raines (CKNW Radio), Norm Pringle (CKDA Radio), Bruno Cimolai (CJOR Radio), and legendary Vancouver disc jockey, Red Robinson (CKWX Radio).
Elvis was asked what he thought about the Pacific Northwest, with the King stating, “It’s terrific. It’s really, really beautiful country up here.” The King also showed that he had a wonderful sense of humour. He was asked by a reporter what his opinion was of his audience, with the King replying, “I mean, it would look pretty funny out there without one.” He was also asked if he enjoys not being able to hear himself sing due to the endless screaming of the audience. Elvis quipped, “Actually, it’s good because it covers up my mistakes. Whenever I hit a sour note, nobody knows it but me.”
However, when the King started his concert, the crowd at Empire Stadium began rushing out of their seats and headed to the stage where the King’s hips and lips were moving in unison. Police and air cadets were overwhelmed, holding hands to form a chain—trying to hold the crowd back. Sensing the chaos ensuing, Elvis ended his performance after 22 minutes.
Six decades after the Elvis concert in Vancouver, fans such as Marg Durrance (who at the time was 16-years old) still recall the concert-cancelling hysteria caused by Elvis shaking his hips at Empire Stadium. “We were not yet seated when the concert started so we stayed standing at the back,” Durance said in an email interview with the Other Press. “We were just pondering where to sit when all hell broke loose and kids started charging for the stage, along with one of my girlfriends whom we lost there. Elvis was whisked away by a pink Cadillac. Yes, it was very disappointing. It seemed more like 10 minutes than 20.”
Len Corben, a North Vancouver resident, was 15-years old when he attended the Elvis concert in Vancouver. “Elvis got a bum rap in the papers the next day,” Corben said in an email interview with the Other Press. “They said he didn’t give the crowd its money’s worth because he left early. One claimed he sang only five songs. But he sang more than twice that because I could name them. More than 60 years later it seems like a very good bargain to me for a $3.50 ticket.” Lastly, legendary Vancouver disc jockey, Red Robinson, reflects fondly on the night when the King rocked Vancouver. “It was the biggest crowd of his early career,” Robinson said in a post on his official website. “Walking out on stage in front of that massive crowd was a thrill. […] No one prior to Elvis rented stadiums but many would follow. It truly was a night to remember.”