Tahoe Pine Nuts: The night Elvis laid an egg in Las Vegas
I was comfortably ensconced in Eric Moody’s fine magazine of popular history, “Nevada in the West,” and was enjoying an essay by my favorite Nevada author next to Michael Makley, that being the inimitable Jim Hulse, when I came across an article by Larry Cragg entitled, “THEY WEREN’T MY KIND OF AUDIENCE”: Elvis Presley’s First Appearance in Las Vegas in 1956.
Cragg’s article grabbed my attention, as by the luck of one social mishap, I was invited, at the age of twelve, to see Elvis perform live at the Oakland Auditorium on June 3rd of 1956.
My older brother, 16, had just obtained his driver’s license and had purchased two tickets for $2 each to see Elvis. He asked his favorite girl to accompany him but she came down with the mumps and my brother was stuck with a $2 ticket.
He knew he could beat $2 out of me, so guess who got to go? I knew who Elvis was, vaguely, but would have chosen a dog show, given the choice.
The moment we got inside the auditorium my brother ditched me and found himself a seat in the front row, the only male in that row I might add, but I got in right behind him, the only male in the 2nd row.
When Elvis finally appeared I covered my ears while The King wasted little time getting into his gyrations as “Elvis the Pelvis.” It was a wonder to behold. Even at the age of twelve I knew I was witnessing an extraordinary 21 year old that had something I knew nothing about, sex appeal.
Upon arriving home I talked my parents into buying me a drum set, then went to work driving them out of the house by drumming day and night to “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”
But I never knew Elvis had a bad day, until I read Cragg’s article…
In April of 1956, Colonel Parker booked Elvis into the new Frontier Hotel, where he took third billing behind Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, and Shecky Greene. This was an older crowd picture Sam Giancana. They were not ready for Elvis, and Elvis was not ready for them. He laid an egg. “Not my kind of audience,” he would later pout.
Following that bomb, Elvis walked around outside in the Vegas night by himself. “It was awful,” he would candidly admit. But he didn’t give up like I would have done. No, Elvis would roar back to draw over a million fans to 636 consecutive sellout performances at the International Hotel.
It was no longer the hips, but love for his mother, a generous nature and humble disposition that stole America’s heart.
I want to thank Larry Cragg for that expose on Elvis in Eric Moody’s exemplary magazine, “Nevada in the West.” I want to thank my brother for dragging me along to see Elvis in 1956.
But most of all, I want to thank The King himself for giving us a reason to drum on the dashboard while driving down Highway 101…
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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