For Elvis Presley’s birthday, look back at his visits to Columbus


Saturday marks what would have been Elvis Presley’s 87th birthday.

Prior to his untimely death in 1977, The King performed in Columbus on at least two occasions, according to Dispatch records.

One came about two months after the release of his debut album, “Elvis Presley,” which remained at the top of Billboard’s pop album charts for 10 weeks and generated over $ 1 million in sales, this which earned Presley his first Gold Album Award.

Just after 7 p.m. on May 26, 1956, Presley appeared on stage at the former Veterans Memorial Auditorium wearing a Kelly green coat and navy pants, according to a Dispatch article the following day. He performed a second show later that night.

“With long hair blowing in the wind, he hit and rolled half a dozen numbers amid the screams of a house three-quarters full,” the article read. “The audience was made up of teenagers with a strong pinch of adults.”

Presley was only 21 and was already being treated by fans as a sensation.

“The six-foot, 160-pounder from Tupelo, Mississippi, cried out every time he gesticulated or contorted his lanky body,” the Dispatch article read. “His mouth was moving but you couldn’t prove he was singing above the almost hysterical din.”

Columbus landmarks: May 26, 1956 | When Elvis played at Veterans Memorial

Besides the green coat and blue pants, Presley reportedly wore a dark blue shirt, red socks and blue suede shoes on Saturday night.

“It is alleged that he delivered a song urging people not to step on it,” the Dispatch said in its coverage. “A light-wood guitar hung from the neck of this 21-year-old with loose joints. He pulled it every now and then, but relied heavily on a raucous three-way combo to provide the rhythm.”

The Flaims, the Jordanaires, Phil Maraquin, Jackie Little and Frankie Connors also appeared on stage that evening.

13-year-old defends Presley in letter to editor

About a week after Presley wowed crowds at the Veterans Memorial, the Dispatch published an op-ed ostensibly written by a 13-year-old girl.

Roberta Spiers wrote at the time that Presley had been “beaten up and talked so much” that it was high time someone came to his defense.

“Elvis Presley has been the object of mockery and mean talk from major newspapers and magazines, from most DJs, all males and most females,” Spiers wrote. “However, the few people who don’t despise him go to the other extreme and either pass out, scream, or simply breathe out at the sight of him. A frequently heard argument is that he’s ugly.”

Spiers said this claim couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Now look at his hair. It’s blonde and naturally curly, unless he straightens it. His eyes are a gorgeous, brooding blue and he has enchanting long lashes. His lips are neither too big nor too big. petite and her complexion is perfect. Her A muscular figure, due to a love for outdoor sports, as well as her beautiful face would bring shame to a Greek god. “

In his letter, Spiers criticized the Dispatch and other newspapers, saying the writers “brought out the fact that he was dressed in poor taste on the 7 o’clock show.”

“But you failed to mention on the second show that her clothes were not only crisp, but the colors matched perfectly,” Spiers wrote. “He was neatly dressed in a matching jacket and hot pink sox.”

Spiers went on to say that the Dispatch was not as hard on Presley as the other local papers.

“I would like to commend the Dispatch for being brief in your criticism and not as sarcastic as another newspaper,” Spiers wrote. “I hope you publish this because I defend it against all attacks and not just yours.”

Read more: 40 years after his death, Elvis’ unprecedented influence on rock

Bar fight in Toledo

Sidenote: Later that year, Presley, joined by his manager and band, was sitting at a table in a Toledo bar when Louis John Balint approached.

“This guy walks up to me,” Presley said in a November Dispatch article, “and says’ you ***, my wife carries a picture of you in her wallet, but doesn’t carry the one from me. Let’s get out. ‘”

A fight ensued and Balint was later arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. He pleaded guilty and was fined $ 10, plus costs $ 9.60. When he could not produce the money, Balint was ordered to serve the sentence by serving seven days in a work house.

Elvis Presley poses for a portrait in Graceland in March 1960.

Patrollers told an Associated Press reporter that when they arrived at the bar, Balint was throwing musician Scotty Moore over a railing on the floor about four feet below and that Presley was “beating” Balint.

“Presley is no slouch,” patroller William Kina told the reporter. “He was really working on this guy. He can handle really well. He threw several good punches.”

As police arrested Balint, six teenage girls who had observed the commotion from the lobby door reportedly rushed over and volunteered to give their names as witnesses. There were about 35 people in the bar when the brawl started. Presley said at the time that he was not going to press charges.

The 1950s give way to the 1970s

The King performed another show in Columbus almost 20 years later. By then, Presley had become a household name and an international sensation.

Tickets for a Tuesday night show at the St. John Arena on June 25, 1974 were $ 10 and scalped for $ 75 or more, or about $ 423 in today’s dollars. Almost 15,000 in total were sold.

Elvis Presley at a concert on March 20, 1974 at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis.  Elvis completed a 15-city tour with three performances in his hometown.  That same year, he performed in Columbus at the St. John Arena on June 25, 1974.

Eddie Fisher, then executive editor of The Dispatch, claimed in a column published two days before the show that he had received constant requests as to why Presley had not been booked to perform at Ohio Stadium, “where the crowd would definitely match any Michigan-OSU Football Participation.”

“The answer is twofold: 1, Elvis refuses to perform outside; 2, the more he plays with more people means a lot less take-home pay (Uncle Sam’s cut, you know),” Fisher.

Jack Willey, who covered the St. John Arena show for The Dispatch, spent little time on The King himself, focusing instead on the women who attended, including the way they dressed and behaved during the show.

But while Elvis shone and sparkled on stage, the audience was nonetheless spectacular and entertaining for anyone who took the time or the trouble to look away from the stage. Rhinestones and furs. The average age of the ladies-in-waiting was clearly over 25, but both ends of Father Time were represented. From the six-year-old skull to a 58-year-old grandmother, the distaff side was out, fr mass, “Willey wrote in his article, referring to the feminine side of a family.

Presley and his company spent the night in Columbus at the Hilton (Smuggler’s) Inn on Olentangy River Road, where a post-concert party reportedly lasted until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

[email protected]

@monroetrombly