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.
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
Well, we saw. Kinda amazing career.
Check out these fabulous shots from the afternoon set, by Cort Best of the Louisville Courier-Journal: