"Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

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"Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

A recent topic on Elvis' 1956 Louisville concerts led me to uncovering a terrific concert review of the first show.

Below is the lovely work of Virginia Boyd Cox, writing for the Lexington Leader about her experience at the afternoon show. Thanks to her we learn that Elvis even served up a rendition of "(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)" -- he would not record it in the studio until the following January -- because his paternal grandfather was there.

The piece is measured, intelligent, funny, coherent and on point. In other words, it's a rarity in live reports from Presley's break-through year. Most other contemporaneous articles I've found reach for cliches or vitriol, and seldom mention the music.

Also included below some wonderful news photo of this performance, and about eight minutes of concert footage! It was recently found and shared by member MikeFromHolland.

Enjoy.




Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory As Top Billing On Rock ’N Roll Program

By VIRGINIA BOYD COX
Woman’s Page Editor


It seems that about every decade someone comes along to make the teen-agers scream with ecstasy.

Do you parents remember when your mothers wouldn't let you attend a Rudolph Valentino movie and you read "The Shiek” by the light of a flashlight under a blanket?

Do you remember the homework that was neglected while you listened to the Connecticut Yankees and the nasal twang of Rudy Vallee on the radio?

"When the B-B-B-Blue of the Night" ushered in the 1930s with that "sensational" young singer, Bing Crosby, the word "crooner" became a national byword.

And croon led to swoon when it was reported that there were trained nurses in attendance at every Frank Sinatra appearance to take care of the fainting females.

There's really nothing new or alarming about the Elvis Presley hysteria.

Sunday in Louisville was my initiation into the cult of the “real gone.” I had a tremendous time and took an active part in the mob response to rhythm. I didn’t squeal but I beat my feet and clapped my hands along with the rest of them. There was nothing shady or vulgar about the show, in fact I have seen much more suggestive movements in the gyrations of chorus lines or so-called art dances than I found in the physical contortions of The Great Elvis.

The two-hour show at the Louisville Armory was a good old-fashioned vaudeville show, about the caliber we used to get at the Ben Ali, with Presley as top billing. Except for the featured singer it wasn’t too good. Neither was it too bad. We had a tap dancer, an Irish tenor, a magician and his glamorous helper, a team of acrobats, and an impersonator.

The audience was well behaved, but shrill. Several times while Presley was singing he had to cover his ear with his palm to hear his cue note.

His background music is furnished by a combo and a very excellent quartet the Jordanaires. Incidentally his guitar is a prop he never played a note. An electric guitar in the combo plays his accompaniment.

Presley was given a tremendous buildup. The show was 20 minutes late starting in order to "control the crowd backed up from the Armory for three blocks.” Suspense was created for his entrance by the master of ceremonies, one of the Jordanaires.

In all it was an almost unreal situation. I felt as if I were off in space watching something being played on Earth, despite our box seats. The whole Presley gimmick is a masterpiece of press agency control.

There was even a cordon of uniformed Louisvile police surrounding the platform to keep the audience in safe distance from the star There was also a rumor going around that the chief of Louisville police had ordered the show closed if it got too sexy. That’s as good a come-on as "Adults Only” hung In front of a movie house.

Now let’s talk about Elvis. The boy has a good voice with a wide baritone range that is mellow and sweet. (I am sure there will be those who will disagree with me)

He breaks every rule of voice training and control and I feel that he is misusing an excellent musical instrument, but he gives the audiences what they want to hear and he is making money for himself, his promoters and the RCA Victor Co.

Presley sang 12 numbers in his Louisville concert starting with Heartbreak Hotel and ending with the inevitable Hound Dog.

One thing that makes Elvis so terrific is his superior sense of showmanship. He is a natural born comedian and I imagine he knows it. He times his gestures and smiles, his scowls and toe-work, to make the most of them and to get the best of his audience response. At one time Monday afternoon he blew into the microphone and the girls all screamed as much as they did when he went into his St. Vitus dance. He has amazing energy alternating with an Insolent indolence.

There was only one time when the audience was quiet. He sang what I would call a "white spiritual” in a true clear ballad tone . . . an Appalachian or Cumberland Mountain hymn, "Peace in the Valley.” His parents and grandparents were sitting directly in front of him on the first row and his eyes never left them while he was singing this song.

I was surprised at the audience. I was prepared to be in the Armory with 10,000 young females, all screaming their lungs out. If an average age was estimated I’d say it to be about 30 and the sex ratio was about equal as to male and female. The older group present was almost all women with the exception of some fathers accompanying their children. But in the teenage and early twenty group there were about as many boys as girls.

I made the trip to Louisville with four teen-age boys ranging in age from 13 to 17. In typical male fashion they pretended that the girls were all goofy and razzed their friends for being so "sent." But I noticed they were putting In juke box nickels tor Presley records while we were eating supper after the show. We were all suckers and bought booklets of Elvis photographs.

It’s all part of the mob hysteria and hypnosis built up by the Presley legend. Even the screaming is a chain reaction. One person lets out with a yelp and it is taken up within seconds by the yowling multitude.

A typical teen-age reaction might be summed up In a statement made by a girl we talked to after the show. She said, "I’m not paralyzed but I sure had a good time.”

If a singer can survive his press buildup and by his own merit make a place for himself, as have Crosby and Sinatra, he has it made.

As for Elvis we can only wait and see.


Lexington Herald-Leader - Monday, November 26, 1956
https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/683577572/


Well, we saw. Kinda amazing career.

:wink:





BONUS BEST



Check out these fabulous shots from the afternoon set, by Cort Best of the Louisville Courier-Journal:


'
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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

ADDENDUM


From the recent topic that inspired this one, I reviewed the existing video footage from this performance:



Thanks for this, Elvis live on film in 1956 is super-cool, and rare!

A little footage from the 11-25-1956 afternoon set at the Amory in Louisville has been around for a while, since at least 2014:











It runs under two minutes, quality is 480p. The one in your post runs to nearly eight minutes, but the quality is just 360p. I don't know who that YouTube uploader might be, but they definitely do not credit WHAS-TV Louisville for the media, or mention the station posted it in 2019.











Note we see the Jordanaires in both examples, just more of them in the 2019 upload. I'm pretty sure it's "Don't Be Cruel" they're singing with Elvis. Given the histrionics at the finale, I'd say the arrangement of it he witnessed by Billy Ward and His Dominoes in Las Vegas just two weeks earlier was already implemented. Sure wish we had the audio for this.


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

FWIW, Elvis would not return to Louisville after this visit until the 1970s, where he gave concerts in 1971, 1974, 1976 and 1977.


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by joekro1977 »

My God - can you imagine seeing him in that era?

Great stuff Doc - enjoyed reading and watching this.


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by joekro1977 »

I've got a question for folks to ponder and theorize on.

If you look at the photo of the whole band from behind, you see what looks an awful lot like an amplifier footswitch sitting on top of the amplifier.

I'm not enough of a guitar gear historian to know if footswitches were even a thing back then.

If it is a footswitch, why is it on the amplifier, and not on the floor (where the feet are!)

If it isn't a footswitch, what is it?


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by tinseltown »

Part of that footage was known since at least the early 90s, in "The Great Performances" video.



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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

joekro1977 wrote:
Fri Mar 24, 2023 4:19 pm
I've got a question for folks to ponder and theorize on.

If you look at the photo of the whole band from behind, you see what looks an awful lot like an amplifier footswitch sitting on top of the amplifier.

I'm not enough of a guitar gear historian to know if footswitches were even a thing back then.

If it is a footswitch, why is it on the amplifier, and not on the floor (where the feet are!)

If it isn't a footswitch, what is it?




You're referring to this:


561126as_Moore amp_Louisville.jpg


It's the foot switch for Scotty Moore's EchoSonic amplifier. You can see in in any number of photos in this period (one example below).

My understanding is it needed to be attached in order to use the built-in tape delay system which re-created the "slapback echo" sound of the Sun recordings. It had two channels, so if Elvis needed to run his voice through it at a gig, it could be done without putting the effect on his voice.

Scotty used it on everything he did with Elvis from July 1955 and "Mystery Train" to the small combo jams at NBC Burbank in June 1968. Yes, that life-altering rock 'n' roll performed by Presley while using Scotty's electric guitar have him playing through this same amp.

See:

Scotty Moore EchoSonic Amplifier
http://www.scottymoore.net/echosonic.html


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by joekro1977 »

Thank you for the link Doc - awesome stuff.

As the amplifier didn't sell I wonder where it is now?


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

joekro1977 wrote:
Fri Mar 24, 2023 10:43 pm
Thank you for the link Doc - awesome stuff.

As the amplifier didn't sell I wonder where it is now?



It was the original amplifier cabinet -- replaced after two years of use, in 1957 -- that didn't sell on eBay. Then a rebuilt amplifier -- using the 1955-1957 cabinet -- failed to meet the eBay auction price. Probably FECC member James V. Roy, who runs the Scotty Moore site can tell you more. The page in question is at least 15 years old now.


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by emshicks321 »

Here to bump this topic with the well-know footage from this show, except I've synced with audio to match each captured song. This was a little more difficult to discern each song – given the lack of visible cues (mouth movements, guitar chords, etc). Given what we know of the setlist, however, I think this will suffice :wink:




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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

emshicks321 wrote:
Mon May 22, 2023 10:55 am
Here to bump this topic with the well-know footage from this show, except I've synced with audio to match each captured song. This was a little more difficult to discern each song – given the lack of visible cues (mouth movements, guitar chords, etc). Given what we know of the setlist, however, I think this will suffice :wink:





That was really excellent, thank you!

Most pleasing was seeing how you synced up Scotty Moore's left hand soloing on "Hound Dog." Given how casually Elvis returns to the mic after Moore finishes, wiping his mouth with his sleeve, I thought it was something else. But then the damn newsreel cameraman stopped filming.

You effort makes these silent clips come to life. Again, thank you very much.

Where have I heard that before? :wink:


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

Memphisflash wrote:
Tue May 23, 2023 12:49 pm
Wow, more than an excellent post, I really enjoyed reading and seeing this! Just incredible




Elvis was on top of the mountain, ahead of everyone, and the world was trying to catch up.

Thanks for the kind words. The review was one of the best I've read from the year where he changed everything.

Thank you, Virginia.


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

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Where is the audio from?



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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by emshicks321 »

tinseltown wrote:
Wed May 24, 2023 6:10 am
Where is the audio from?
A myriad of sources, including: Little Rock, AK (5/56) • Shreveport, LA (12/56) • Tupelo, MS (9/56)



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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

emshicks321 wrote:
Wed May 24, 2023 8:26 am
tinseltown wrote:
Wed May 24, 2023 6:10 am
Where is the audio from?


A myriad of sources, including: Little Rock, AK (5/56) • Shreveport, LA (12/56) • Tupelo, MS (9/56)



Oh, to have the complete Louisville recordings (afternoon and evening).


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by Jaime1234 »

In her otherwise wonderful article, the reviewer writes that "He sang what I would call a "white spiritual” in a true clear ballad tone . . . an Appalachian or Cumberland Mountain hymn, "Peace in the Valley.". I guess she had no way of knowing, but that song is not a "white spíritual", as it was actually written by an African American, Thomas A. Dorsey, sometime in 1939, so that it could be recorded by Mahalia Jackson.

Six weeks after his concert in Louisville he delighted the 54.6 million viewers watching his third and last appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, at the CBS network with that same song, setting in fact a record that stands to this day as the most watched INSPIRATIONAL song other than a national anthem to have ever been sang and broadcast live in the history of US television, EASILY beating Aretha Franklin's version of "My country this of thee", sang at the first Obama inaugural which drew 38 million viewers across 17 channels.



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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

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Jaime1234 wrote:
Sun May 28, 2023 7:53 pm
In her otherwise wonderful article, the reviewer writes that "He sang what I would call a "white spiritual” in a true clear ballad tone . . . an Appalachian or Cumberland Mountain hymn, "Peace in the Valley.". I guess she had no way of knowing, but that song is not a "white spíritual", as it was actually written by an African American, Thomas A. Dorsey, sometime in 1939, so that it could be recorded by Mahalia Jackson.


Well, first of all, you must have no way of knowing that "(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)" was never recorded by Mahalia Jackson. The first recorded version was issued in 1947, by the Flying Clouds of Detroit, a black quintet.

You also must be completely unaware that the song did not become well-known until Red Foley's June 1951 Decca single, which reached #5 on Billboard's "Most Played Juke Box Folk (Country & Western) Records" chart for August 4, 1951, and became a best-seller.

In fact, most of the recordings prior to Elvis' January 1957 TV performance were done by white artists like the Jordanaires, Statemen Quartet, Gordon MacRae, Roy Rogers, and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet.

This is why reporter Virginia Boyd Cox characterized the song in that manner, and it doesn't diminish her report at all.


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Dorsey wrote it so that it could be recorded by Mahalia Jackson. I am extremely aware of all the versions, and I knew of course that she did not record it. Nevertheless, the writer failed to identify the songwriter, an African American icon who has even been labelled as the "Father of Gospel Music".



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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

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Jaime1234 wrote:
Mon May 29, 2023 5:45 am
Dorsey wrote it so that it could be recorded by Mahalia Jackson. I am extremely aware of all the versions, and I knew of course that she did not record it. Nevertheless, the writer failed to identify the songwriter, an African American icon who has even been labelled as the "Father of Gospel Music".



The review was published less than 24 hours after the concert held in November 1956.

It is one of the best-written of any show Elvis gave in the 1950s. That's why I shared it as soon as I found it.

Again, this reporter did not "fail" here, and you're beating a dead horse by continuing to claim otherwise.

Blues and gospel musician Thomas A. Dorsey was not well-known to the general public at this time, and his consideration as the "Father of Gospel Music" came posthumously.

In fact, the Dorsey most famous in the country at the time was Thomas F. Dorsey, big band leader, hit-maker and trombonist, and most recently co-host of CBS-TV's "Stage Show" with brother Jimmy.

He became even more notable the very day of this Louisville news article, as he suddenly died at the age of 51.

Thank you.


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

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Personal confrontations with forum members (referring to another forum member as beating a dead horse, etc, etc, etc) may have have an effect on certain members of the forum, leading them to confront the other member, but I now
see them for what they are, personal confrontations which need not be addressed here, but rather in person. I also wish to thank all those who post here.



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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by drjohncarpenter »

Jaime1234 wrote:
Tue May 30, 2023 2:51 am
Personal confrontations with forum members (referring to another forum member as beating a dead horse, etc, etc, etc) may have have an effect on certain members of the forum, leading them to confront the other member, but I now
see them for what they are, personal confrontations which need not be addressed here, but rather in person. I also wish to thank all those who post here.


My last post to you here.

The idiom "beating a dead horse" is clearly to your repeated suggestion that the newspaper reporter failed at her job.

Hope you enjoyed the effort here to share a great review from 1956, and more.

:smt023


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I have many important things to follow up on, today, most notably the fact that we celebrate Mother's day here in this country. and that my wife deserves all the attention and love anyone can get. So I shall concentrate on her and enjoy the Chinese food we have ordered. This shall be my last post here.




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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by Gary Crawford »

Great and rare review with a 1950's journalist going into the whole thing with a very open mind and making a real effort to put to the side any positive or negative bias he may have formed on Presley prior to attending the show. It's always refreshing and surprisingly rare when a critic takes this approach even now, but especially then in more 'censored' times. What she does is really use her eyes and ears to form an incredibly nuanced and insightful analysis of what is going on for the subject of the review and those around him. She nails it with the 'natural comedian' observation and statement that this kid can actually sing (albeit without the training of voice control), the sincerity of him singing the gospel directly to his family and the infectious nature of crowd hysteria. The crowd demographic reporting is also fascinating. So very contrary to many contemporary reviews of the time that would have you believe that this 'flash in the pan craze' is all driven and supported by a population of impressionable (at best) or (at worst) delinquent teenagers. She also references the terms phenomenon and legend to let us know (even though she hedges her bets a bit) that there is huge potential here and that her gut tells her this in no fleeting craze. She even gets in the circus merchandising aspect (ala Parker) in terms of the photo books but never in a way that suggests that the act himself is a gimmick even if the environment built around him is. Think ' I hate Elvis' and 'I love Elvis' buttons here....

Journalism is always at it's best when the critic goes in trying not to have a set narrative to then only find evidence to support it whether positive or negative. Even if their values, judgements, existing knowledge of a subject has already established some form of opinion the true critic goes into the event to be observed with open eyes, equally prepared to be proven otherwise.

I hope by the point it was clear that Presley was an undeniably worldwide enduring phenomenon (perhaps 17 years later with Aloha) that this critic allowed herself a pat on the back with the thought, 'yip I could spot talent all right ' :D
Last edited by Gary Crawford on Sun Jun 04, 2023 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

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Gary Crawford wrote:
Sat Jun 03, 2023 12:07 pm
Great and rare review with a 1950's journalist going into the whole thing with a very open mind and making a real effort to put to the side any positive or negative bias he may have formed on Presley prior to attending the show. It's always refreshing and surprisingly rare when a critic takes this approach even now, but especially then in more 'censored' times. What he does is really use his eyes and ears to form an incredibly nuanced and insightful analysis of what is going on for the subject of the review and those around him. He nails it with the 'natural comedian' observation and statement that this kid can actually sing (albeit without the training of voice control), the sincerity of him singing the gospel directly to his family and the infectious nature of crowd hysteria. The crowd demographic reporting is also fascinating. So very contrary to many contemporary reviews of the time that would have you believe that this 'flash in the pan craze' is all driven and supported by a population of impressionable (at best) or (at worst) delinquent teenagers. He also references the terms phenomenon and legend to let us know (even though he hedges his bets a bit) that there is huge potential here and that his gut tells him this in no fleeting craze. He even gets in the circus merchandising aspect (ala Parker) in terms of the photo books but never in a way that suggests that the act himself is a gimmick even if the environment built around him is. Think ' I hate Elvis' and 'I love Elvis' buttons here....

Journalism is always at its best when the critic goes in trying not to have a set narrative to then only find evidence to support it whether positive or negative. Even if their values, judgements, existing knowledge of a subject has already established some form of opinion the true critic goes into the event to be observed with open eyes, equally prepared to be proven otherwise.

I hope by the point it was clear that Presley was an undeniably worldwide enduring phenomenon (perhaps 17 years later with Aloha) that this critic allowed himself a pat on the back with the thought, 'yip I could spot talent all right ' :D




This is a wonderful and insightful look at the review published in November 1956. Thank you!

Please do note that it may be even more unique due to the fact it was written by a woman, Virginia Boyd Cox.

Back then they likely made up no more than 10% of the newspaper reporting pool.


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Re: "Presley Wows ’Em In Louisville Armory" --> Nov '56!

Post by Gary Crawford »

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Sat Jun 03, 2023 10:21 pm
Gary Crawford wrote:
Sat Jun 03, 2023 12:07 pm
Great and rare review with a 1950's journalist going into the whole thing with a very open mind and making a real effort to put to the side any positive or negative bias he may have formed on Presley prior to attending the show. It's always refreshing and surprisingly rare when a critic takes this approach even now, but especially then in more 'censored' times. What he does is really use his eyes and ears to form an incredibly nuanced and insightful analysis of what is going on for the subject of the review and those around him. He nails it with the 'natural comedian' observation and statement that this kid can actually sing (albeit without the training of voice control), the sincerity of him singing the gospel directly to his family and the infectious nature of crowd hysteria. The crowd demographic reporting is also fascinating. So very contrary to many contemporary reviews of the time that would have you believe that this 'flash in the pan craze' is all driven and supported by a population of impressionable (at best) or (at worst) delinquent teenagers. He also references the terms phenomenon and legend to let us know (even though he hedges his bets a bit) that there is huge potential here and that his gut tells him this in no fleeting craze. He even gets in the circus merchandising aspect (ala Parker) in terms of the photo books but never in a way that suggests that the act himself is a gimmick even if the environment built around him is. Think ' I hate Elvis' and 'I love Elvis' buttons here....

Journalism is always at its best when the critic goes in trying not to have a set narrative to then only find evidence to support it whether positive or negative. Even if their values, judgements, existing knowledge of a subject has already established some form of opinion the true critic goes into the event to be observed with open eyes, equally prepared to be proven otherwise.

I hope by the point it was clear that Presley was an undeniably worldwide enduring phenomenon (perhaps 17 years later with Aloha) that this critic allowed himself a pat on the back with the thought, 'yip I could spot talent all right ' :D




This is a wonderful and insightful look at the review published in November 1956. Thank you!

Please do note that it may be even more unique due to the fact it was written by a woman, Virginia Boyd Cox.

Back then they likely made up no more than 10% of the newspaper reporting pool.
Thank you. I've gender corrected my post. Can't believe I missed that! If the name Virginia was to have left any doubt one would have thought 'woman's page editor' may have given me a clue :facep: It perhaps explains the narrative being so open in terms of it being from a female perspective as opposed to (as you point out) the 90% chance that a review like this in the 1950's would have been written by a male.


Vegas Nights