The handsome, hip-swivelling rock ‘n’ roll sensation and former truck driver from Tupelo, Mississippi—was on top of the entertainment world in 1957.
November marks the anniversary of the King’s final concerts in the 1950s
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was a phenomenon in his day. This month marks the anniversary of Presley’s final concert appearances of the 1950s. On November 10, 1957, Elvis performed two concerts at Honolulu Stadium. The next day, the King shook his hips to an audience of 10,000 people at the Schofield Barracks (Conroy Bowl). The performance would be Elvis’ final concert in the 1950s before entering the army.
The handsome, hip-swivelling rock ‘n’ roll sensation and former truck driver from Tupelo, Mississippi—was on top of the entertainment world in 1957. According to Elvis biographer, Alan Hanson, in a January 2010 posting pointed out that the King had six number one hit singles from January 1956 to November 1957. Elvis’ third movie, Jailhouse Rock, was released on November 8, 1957.
Elvis arrived in Honolulu at 9 am on November 9, 1957. He was aboard the USS Matsonia. The King was welcomed by the screaming of approximately 4,000 fans. Elvis met members of the press aboard prior to disembarking.
Afterwards, Elvis and his road crew were escorted to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. According to the Travel at 60 website, the King stayed in room 14A in the Ocean Tower (today known as the Ali’i Tower). Tom Moffatt, a concert promoter, who passed away in 2016, remembered how Presley’s concerts in Hawaii came to fruition. “Elvis had an open time period, and I think Colonel Parker remembered all the fan mail that kids wrote from Hawaii,” Moffatt said in a 2011 PBS Hawaii broadcast. “So to fill that one date that they needed, they decided to come to Hawaii. And that’s why Elvis came to Hawaii in November of 1957.”
Before Elvis arrived in Hawaii, he sent a telegram to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper. The King wrote: “I know [that] I will enjoy your islands, [I] like to surf and swim. [I am] getting [a] good tan on board. [I] have read about Hawaiian hospitality and am eagerly looking forward to [the] same.”
Moffatt recalled organizers removing the boxing ring from Honolulu Stadium to prepare Elvis’ very simple stage: “And just about one of the most memorable experiences, just introducing Elvis on stage, and watch what happened. And watch him on stage, with really no visual support that performers have today.”
After Elvis’ matinee performance at Honolulu Stadium, he held a press conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Carousel Room. The King displayed his charm and sense of humour. He was asked by a reporter, “What’s the first thing you’ll look for in your wife?” Elvis quipped, “Female.” He was then asked if he felt he had an obligation to the public. The King replied, “I do feel an obligation. I’m very careful not to do anything that would disappoint my fans. I behave myself all the time. People have preconceived ideas about me…it’s natural. I’ve often said I won’t like that person, and then found out he’s a nice guy.”
According to the Elvis Australia fan club website, Elvis’ performance at Honolulu Stadium was not dissimilar to his previous live engagements. “[B]ut the screams drowned out his voice a great portion of the time,” the website stated. “Elvis had only to say, ‘Thank you very much,’ and the audience would come apart. He’d scratch his nose…another scream. He’d laugh…another scream. At times, Elvis seemed to deliberately drop his arm or wiggle his shoulder just to hear his fans react. He performed for about forty minutes. Surprisingly, he spent more time at the piano than he did with his guitar.”
During his final song, “Hound Dog,” Elvis gave the audience a memorable sendoff. “As he sang the closing number, ‘Hound Dog,’ he sat down on the edge of the stage…and then jumped down, off the stage, onto the grass section in front of the stage,” stated once again from the Elvis Australia fan club website. “He rolled on the grass and moaned out the words to, ‘Hound Dog.’ He kissed a girl across the barricade set up to keep his audience away from the stage, grabbed a coconut hat and paraded with it on his head. After he finished the song, he stepped into a waiting car and sped out of sight.”
On November 11, 1957, Elvis performed his final concert in the 1950s at the Schofield Barracks (Conroy Bowl). The Hawaii-Lightning News was impressed with the show, as it reported on November 14: “You gotta give it to him—he’s a great showman! Elvis Presley, the one-man hurricane who took the rhythm and blues and turned it into a multi-million rock [‘n’] roll rampage literally wiggled his way into the Post Bowl Monday night and shook up the some 10,000 squealing, screaming fans. The hottest thing to hit this post since the Honest John, Elvis led his audience, majority [were teenage] girls, into a state of mass hysteria.”
Significantly, Hawaii had a profound effect on Elvis. He returned to Hawaii several times for vacations. In March 1961, the King performed a benefit concert in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor’s Bloch Arena. The show supported the building of the USS Arizona Memorial. And that coincides with the latest documentary, Elvis and the USS Arizona (aired November 11 on PBS stations). In addition, Elvis made three motion pictures in Hawaii: Blue Hawaii (1961), Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) and Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966). Hawaii was also the site of his historic Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite concert on January 14, 1973—at the Honolulu International Center (now called Neal S. Blaisdell Center). Notably, in July 2007, a life-sized bronze statue of Elvis was unveiled outside the arena—solidifying his legacy in Hawaii. The King indeed left his mark in the Aloha State.