Skip to content

Hot Times In Florida (1955 / 1956)

 

By Ger Rijff
 
 

ta10“The police filmed a show one time in Florida … they said ‘Man, he’s gotta be grazy!’ … so they, they … the police came out and they filmed the show … I couldn’t move, I had to stand still, the only thing I could move was my little finger …”
 
The ‘little finger-incident’ Elvis referred to during the ’68 NBC TV Special, happened in the city of Jacksonville. After his first (of 6 shows) in Jacksonville, Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding had told Elvis to tone down his stage act after many complaints from local church leaders and elderly citizens from a committee for good behaviour had reached Gooding’s office. The story went global after it had appeared in LIFE magazine, shortly after the incident had taken place. Elvis and the Colonel could not have wished for better publicity! Elvis and his wild gyrating performances were on everybody’s lips during the summer of ’56. While his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, a few weeks later, only added extra fuel!

 
 
 

212

 
 
 

ta5The Armory
 
It was in May of 1955, that Elvis, as part of Hank Snow’s All Star Jamboree package first played Florida. A love affair between the Memphis Flash and his Sunshine State fans was born!
 
During this tour Elvis, Scotty and Bill, performed two shows in Tampa at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory. And they would return to Tampa on three more occasions in the following 15 months.
 
 
 
 
Let us travel back to the Armory and recapture the excitement from those wild times in 1955/56!
 
Elvis at the Armory:
1955, May 8 (2 shows)
1955, July 31 (2 shows)
1956, February 19 (3 shows)
1956, August 5 (2 shows)

 
 

no 3c RobertsonAnd it was here in Tampa, two and a half months after Elvis’ first appearance, photographer William Robertson captured Elvis and the boys in action on the same stage.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
One of the photos shot on this day (July 31, 1955) landed on the cover of Elvis’ first long play album Elvis Presley (LPM-1254). The very first rock ‘n’ roll album cover ever! Released in March of 1956, Rolling Stone magazine lists it as one of the all time ‘classic’ album covers ever made.
 
hoes3 - kopie hoes4

tam6 31-07-55c ta8 31-07-55c

 
 

ELVIS PRESLEY AT THE FLORIDA THEATER ta2 19-02-56ccFebruary and August of the next year, Elvis this time headlining his own week-long Florida tours, saw him back on stage at the Armory for three performances on February 19, 1956 and two performances on the 5th of August, 1956.

To the right: Elvis outside the Armory in February.

To the left and below: on stage in August.

ta4c tam1 05-08-56c

 
 

tam5 05-08-56c tam3Here we have the back of the souvenir tour program that Elvis is signing (August 5, 1956).

 
 

1001There’s hardly a more fitting way to relive the excitement of Elvis on stage in the 50′s, than by observing the emotions displayed by his audience.
 
These five shots are from August 5th, and as far as I know these have never been published as such.
Similar, but different, pics (from the series focusing on this particular lovely lady) have appeared in The Cool King. And one of these five was used in Anne Rowe’s newspaper-article (though very heavily cropped).
 
Step into the timemachine, and let the pictures do the talking!

1000 1002

1003 1004

 
 

1899Before his first appearance that day at the Armory, Anne Rowe, reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, had a lenghty interview with Elvis. That is, if you can still call it an ‘objective view’ since the interview-subject was continuously charming the hell out of Mrs. Rowe! Well, I guess she didn’t really mind.

1900 1901 1902

 
 

2000+gThe next day (August 6, 1956) Elvis was in Lakeland, FL.
 
In these pics we see him checking out Anne Rowe’s fullpage article in the St. Petersburg Times that was published that day.
Needless to say, and unlike most of the articles written about him at this stage of his career, the female reporter gave him two thumbs up, claiming “Presley is the biggest thing in show business today”.
 
The next day, Elvis was scheduled to perform in St. Petersburg, FL.

1999+g 2001+g 2002+g

 
 

IMG_5102To round up this trip back to the 50′s, and to do it in style, with our sincere thanks to James V. Roy for making the following possible, we would like to present some THEN & NOW comparisons.
 
The modernday pictures were taken by James a few years ago, and they make it even easier for us to travel back in time since nothing much seems to has changed in the past 55 years.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In this picture we mainly see the back of the Armory.
To the right the side-entrance can also be seen.

 
 

IMG_5088

This photo provides a good view of the side of the building, in front of which Bob Moreland took most of the outdoor-shots in that summer of 1956.

 
 

IMG_5112

The side-entrance. We can clearly recognize the ornaments on the wall that are visible in the ’56 shots were Elvis is signing the souvenir program and also in some of the pics with Anne Rowe.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Below:
Next to the side-entrance we find these garagedoors.
In August ’56, this was the spot where Elvis had parked his brandnew Lincoln Continental.

IMG_5079 the Armory in Tampa-c img207

img208 img209

 
 

IMG_5115

In the back of this indoor-shot we see the railing that is visible in the orginal photo of the 1st album-cover (July 1955) and especially in the other action photo from that day.
During his later gigs at the Armory, there were no behind-the-stage-seats, and in the ’56 live shots we can see the drapes that are now hanging from this railing.

 
 
 

212

 

florida - kopie
For more info regarding the Florida ’56 tour, please click this link:
DOWN IN THE ALLEY (FLORIDA, 1956)
 
 
 
 
 
CREDITS:
 
Photography by BOB MORELAND and WILLIAM ROBERTSON.
Armory location photographs in color by JAMES V. ROY .

 

212

 
 
 

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Pretty Awesome!
    That’s Bitsy Mott, Bill and Gene with Elvis checking out the Lincoln in the then and now section.

    August 19, 2013
  2. Charley #

    Great article!

    August 20, 2013
  3. I should add, I took these pictures when on a work trip to Tampa years ago when the venue section on Scotty’s site was still only small. Scotty had recently retired and the site was winding down. I had only planned to do a few pages and then Ger sent me a lot of his materials and things from his collection which motivated me to keep it going. He’s been a great contributor as many of you know to Scotty’s site and I’m honored to see my pics presented among these others so creatively artistic as Ger and Bob have done here. Keep up the fantastic efforts guys.

    August 20, 2013
  4. As always guys – excellent research & thanks for sharing.

    August 20, 2013
  5. Paul Pearce #

    Absolutely wonderful!! Love the then & now photo’s. Is the building still there today?

    August 20, 2013
  6. Jans #

    Awesome, thanks again.

    August 20, 2013
  7. Paul, they had plans to convert the area into a sort of gated community while leaving the Armory as sort of a museumish type thing incorporated into their plan. I don’t think it ever evolved or know what the current status is but I believe its still there. See http://scottymoore.net/FtHomer.html

    August 20, 2013
  8. Alexander Nijeboer #

    What a treat to be on holiday and find this great researched and indepth article here on Echoes Of The Past. (Where else?) Thanks Ger and James for this great, great read. Lovely to see the building has survived the decades. It gives me goosebumps to see the building in its current state as photographed by JamesVRoy.

    August 20, 2013
  9. Alan #

    The May ’55 tour was the occasion of the first EAP riot, spontaneous or not is debatable, after EAP slipped in a “Girls, I’ll see you backstage” at the end of his show.

    According to Patricia Jobe Pierce, riots like this inspired Tennessee Williams to write Orpheus Descending, in which a god has the power to calm wild beasts with his songs only to be later torn to pieces by the same beasts.

    August 21, 2013
  10. Another winner, Ger!

    August 21, 2013
  11. Alan White #

    A fantastic piece of Elvis history.

    August 21, 2013
  12. Peter Tiel #

    Fantastic!! It’s a time machine

    August 23, 2013
  13. Craig Philo #

    Fantastic text and photos, love seeing then and now photos of backdrops to iconic pics….keep keeping the legacy alive.

    August 25, 2013
  14. SCOTTY and CARL reminisce…

    A beautiful professionally filmed interview with Scotty and
    Carl Perkins, reminiscing about Elvis in the early days,
    for all to enjoy:

    http://scottymoore.net/scottycarlavi.html

    It runs for nearly 10 minutes. Check it out!

    August 26, 2013
    • Bob #

      Indeed, very nice to watch these two gentle gentlemen talk about the very early beginnings! They were not only there when it started, but they were actually a part of it.

      I had the pleasure of meeting Carl Perkins in 1994, after a show (during which he kept on talking about two main subjects: God and Elvis), and he was so incredibly nice and friendly, just a most humble and down to earth guy. When it was time for him to step inside his waiting bus, I asked him to sign an album that I had brought, and after he noticed it was The Million Dollar Quartet, he said “that session was so nice, I’m gonna sign it twice!”. And he signed both the front and the back. A great guy!

      August 26, 2013
  15. Paul Pearce #

    Watching that video, Carl comes across as a really genuine and sincere guy, no bullshit. RIP Carl.

    August 26, 2013
  16. Hey guys, just noticed the photo you have as Feb. 19, ’56. I think this photo is actually from May 55 and that’s his 54 Caddy that burned up the following month. The roof of the replacement Caddy was still black in February of 56 I believe and he’s wearing the same clothes I have on my page from May.

    October 11, 2013
    • Ger Rijff #

      I guess you’re right, James. There’s this photo of him, same sportscoat
      and floppy quiff, with a girl on his side dated as May 1955. Thanks for
      correcting my mistake.

      October 12, 2013
  17. Would you believe its 25 years ago we published the book “Elvis The
    Cool King”!? A photo journal of Elvis playing dates in Florida.

    Check out what I’m doing, Elvis-wise, these days:
    GER RIJFF ON FACEBOOK

    September 22, 2014
  18. Peter Krogh #

    Cool King, cool work… Great work guys, and thank you for keeping the 50`s Elvis alive. Plenty of jumpsuits around….

    September 22, 2014
  19. Juan #

    Cool photos from 56.

    September 22, 2014
  20. Glenn Elkins #

    September 1955 was the year I was born, and also the birth of Rock & Roll!!!!

    September 3, 2015

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS