Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: Elvis headlines Robinson

Photo by Wayne Cranford

After two visits in 1955 where he was down on the bill, Elvis Presley made his third and final appearance at Robinson Auditorium on May 16, 1956.  This time he was the star and Robinson was packed. The tickets were $1.50 in advance at Walgreens and $2.00 at the box office.

The ads featured 8 great acts in “his” variety show which consisted of the Jordonaires; Rick and Emil Flaim and their orchestra; vocalists Frankie Conners and Jackie Little and comedian-magician Phil Maraquin. A second show was added at 9:30 p.m. to accommodate the ticket demand.

About 30 minutes late, due to a missed flight, Elvis appeared on stage in a purple blazer and started singing “Heartbreak Hotel.”  The crowd rushed the stage. Little Rock police officers were able to control them eventually and get the teenagers back to their seats.  While the crowd was impressed, the police officers were less so.  One of the patrolmen told the Arkansas Gazettereporter: “I wouldn’t know him if I saw him. And I wouldn’t be here unless I was being paid.”

Disc jockey Ray Green recorded the concert that night.  Copies of the concert on CD (which also includes an interview with Presley) are prized possessions of Presley collectors.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a special section on its website containing quotes from some of the concert attendees.


Little Rock Look Back: The first Elvis performance in Little Rock

Photo by Wayne Cranford

Photo by Wayne Cranford

Sixty-two years ago today, on February 20, 1955, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on stage in Little Rock. He performed at Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

He was billed as “an added attraction” to a Grand Ole Opry Show headlined by the Duke of Paducah.  Others on the bill included Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Charlie Stewart, the Singing Hardens, Sammy Barnhart, Bob Neal, Uncle Dudley and Smilin’ Mac Cyclone. (It is interesting to note that at least some of the advance tickets billed it as The Elvis Presley Show, though the newspaper ads billed the Duke of Paducah as the headliner.)

eap receits 05-little.rock_.feb_.55This concert was part of a weeklong tour of Arkansas and Louisiana.  There were two shows that day – one at 3p.m. and the other at 8:15p.m.  Tickets on the day of the concert were $1.00 for adults and fifty cents for children.  Advanced tickets had sold for 75 cents at Walgreens.

The night before, Elvis played the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.  Following his Little Rock appearance (for which he and his band were paid $350 instead of their usual $200), they played in Camden, Hope, and Pine Bluff.

It is believed that Elvis’ parents attended this concert in Little Rock. Gladys Presley was a big fan of the Duke of Paducah. Elvis apparently also wanted his parents to meet with Colonel Tom Parker, who would become inexorably linked with Elvis’ career.


Black History Month – Jackie Wilson and Robinson Center

jackie-wilson-9533886-1-402On February 5, 1960, Jackie Wilson headlined a concert at Robinson Auditorium.  With a four-octave range and boundless energy, he was nicknamed “Mr. Excitement.”

Wilson was born in Michigan and grew up alternating between time in church choir and street gangs.  After dropping out of high school, he boxed some before starting to sing professionally.  After singing in groups such as the Dominoes, he embarked on a solo career in the late 1950s.  By the time he played Robinson Auditorium, his song “Lonely Teardrops” had sold over one million copies and been number one on the R&B charts.

It was around this time that Wilson struck up a friendship with Elvis Presley. They were each impressed with the other’s musical ability and stage presence.  Reportedly Elvis referred to himself as “the white Jackie Wilson.”

Throughout his career his hit songs included “Night,” “You Better Know It,” “Doggin’ Around,” and “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.”

Wilson had a heart attack and collapsed on stage in New Jersey during a concert in September 1975. He slipped into a coma. After a brief recovery in 1976, he slipped back into a semi-comatose state. He remained in that condition until his death from pneumonia in 1984.


82 Years of Elvis

Elvis backstage at Robinson–photo by Wayne Cranford

Eighty-two years ago today, Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He would, of course, grow up to become a cultural phenomenon.

Elvis performed in Little Rock throughout his career. In April 1972, he played at Barton Coliseum (with tickets on the arena floor going for a whopping $10!). In the 1950s, he played three at Robinson Auditorium. His first appearance was as his career was just starting to take off. The final appearance on that stage, a mere 15 months later, was when he had become a national icon.
His first appearance at Robinson was on February 20, 1955. Billed as the “WSM Grand Ole Opry” show, Elvis Presley was third on the bill behind the Duke of Paducah and Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters as he began week long tour of Arkansas and Louisiana. On this date there were a pair of shows, at 3:00 and 8:15 p.m., at Robinson Auditorium. Tickets were 75-cents in advance, $1.00 at the box office and 50-cents for kids. It is believed that Gladys and Vernon Presley attended this performance, invited by Elvis who wanted to introduce them to the Colonel. Gladys was a big fan of the Duke of Paducah. Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black receive $350 for these two shows instead of their usual $200 per day. In August 1955, he returned and played Robinson as part of the All-Star Jamboree.
His third and final appearance at Robinson Auditorium was on May 16, 1956. This time, the Auditorium was packed. The tickets were $1.50 in advance at Walgreens and $2.00 at the box office. The ads featured 8 great acts in “his” variety show which consisted of the Jordonaires; Rick and Emil Flaim and their orchestra; vocalists Frankie Conners and Jackie Little and comedian-magician Phil Maraquin. A second show was added to accommodate the ticket demand.
About 30 minutes late, due to a missed flight, Elvis appeared on stage in a purple blazer and started singing “Heartbreak Hotel.” The crowd rushed the stage. Little Rock police officers were able to control them eventually and get the teenagers back to their seats. While the crowd was impressed, the police officers were less so. One of the patrolmen told the Arkansas Gazette reporter: “I wouldn’t know him if I saw him. And I wouldn’t be here unless I was being paid.”


RobinsoNovember: E. E. “Ned” Beaumont

e-e-beaumontOnce Mayor J. V. Satterfield was ready to appoint a new Auditorium Commission, he chose longtime banker E. E. “Ned” Beaumont to lead it.

After graduating from Little Rock High School in 1910, Beaumont entered the banking world. His first stop was with State National Bank. In 1914, he moved to Exchange National Bank.  Four years later, he was hired by Bankers Trust Company. After sixteen years there, he joined Commercial National Bank.  He would be with them from 1934 until his death in 1968.

In January 1940, Mayor Satterfield appointed him to be chairman of the reconstituted Auditorium Commission.  As such, he took a leadership role as a spokesman for the facility during its opening in February 1940.  Beaumont served as chairman of the Commission from January 1940 until his death in July 1968.  During his tenure the building saw the touring industry change.  With the rise of Las Vegas and Miami and longterm performance destinations, fewer top name singers were touring by the mid-1950s.  The music scene also changed in content as it went from Big Band to rock and roll.  (No word on his thoughts of Elvis Presley.)

On August 19, 1968, the City Board of Directors adopted a resolution memorializing Beaumont’s contributions to Little Rock civic life.  In addition to his long service on the Auditorium Commission, he had also served as treasurer of the Little Rock School District and of the Pulaski County School District.


Little Rock Look Back: Elvis in his final Robinson Auditorium Show

Photo by Wayne Cranford

Photo by Wayne Cranford


After two visits in 1955 where he was down on the bill, Elvis Presley made his third and final appearance at Robinson Auditorium on May 16, 1956.  This time he was the star and Robinson was packed. The tickets were $1.50 in advance at Walgreens and $2.00 at the box office.

The ads featured 8 great acts in “his” variety show which consisted of the Jordonaires; Rick and Emil Flaim and their orchestra; vocalists Frankie Conners and Jackie Little and comedian-magician Phil Maraquin. A second show was added at 9:30 p.m. to accommodate the ticket demand.

About 30 minutes late, due to a missed flight, Elvis appeared on stage in a purple blazer and started singing “Heartbreak Hotel.”  The crowd rushed the stage. Little Rock police officers were able to control them eventually and get the teenagers back to their seats.  While the crowd was impressed, the police officers were less so.  One of the patrolmen told the Arkansas Gazette reporter: “I wouldn’t know him if I saw him. And I wouldn’t be here unless I was being paid.”

Disc jockey Ray Green recorded the concert that night.  Copies of the concert on CD (which also includes an interview with Presley) are prized possessions of Presley collectors.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a special section on its website containing quotes from some of the concert attendees.


Little Rock Look Back: The first Elvis concert at Robinson Auditorium

eap feb 55 adSixty-one years ago today, on February 20, 1955, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on stage in Little Rock. He performed at Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

eap receits 05-little.rock_.feb_.55He was billed as “an added attraction” to a Grand Ole Opry Show headlined by the Duke of Paducah.  Others on the bill included Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Charlie Stewart, the Singing Hardens, Sammy Barnhart, Bob Neal, Uncle Dudley and Smilin’ Mac Cyclone. (It is interesting to note that at least some of the advance tickets billed it as The Elvis Presley Show, though the newspaper ads billed the Duke of Paducah as the headliner.)

This concert was part of a weeklong tour of Arkansas and Louisiana.  There were two shows that day – one at 3p.m. and the other at 8:15p.m.  Tickets on the day of the concert were $1.00 for adults and fifty cents for children.  Advanced tickets had sold for 75 cents at Walgreens.

The night before, Elvis played the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.  Following his Little Rock appearance (for which he and his band were paid $350 instead of their usual $200), they played in Camden, Hope, and Pine Bluff.

eap 02-little.rock_It is believed that Elvis’ parents attended this concert in Little Rock. Gladys Presley was a big fan of the Duke of Paducah. Elvis apparently also wanted his parents to meet with Colonel Tom Parker, who would become inexorably linked with Elvis’ career.