Jay Thompson and Elvis Presley
The Wichita Falls Interview April 1956
- EIN Interview / Spotlight by Scott Wheeler -
In April 1956 Disc-jockey Jay Thompson, from Breckenridge radio station KSTB, interviewed a young Elvis Presley while he was touring through Texas on a string of one-night stands. In that 1956 interview Elvis interestingly revealed that he was previously training to be an electrician, that his first movie would be The Rainmaker and that he did not know Bill Black or Scotty Moore before their Sun session.
In 1982 Elvis fan Scott Wheeler befriended and interviewed Jay Thompson about the experience. Although Jay never actively participated in Elvis-related events or productions in later years he also never sought notoriety for the interview either. However we believe it's important that Jay Thompson be well remembered for his valuable contribution to the history of Elvis.
EIN Spotlight / Interview by Scott Wheeler with Piers Beagley...
Jay Thompson and Elvis Presley - An EIN Spotlight by Scott Wheeler
In April 1956 Disc-jockey Jay Thompson, from Breckenridge radio station KSTB, interviewed a young Elvis Presley while he was touring through Texas on a string of one-night stands. The now famous Wichita Falls interview was featured by RCA as one of the unreleased gems on their 1976 album ‘A Legendary Performer Vol.2’.
In that 1956 interview Elvis interestingly revealed that he was previously training to be an electrician, that his first film would be 'The Rainmaker' and that he did not know Bill Black or Scotty Moore before their Sun recording sessions. (the full 1956 interview is below)
Elvis fan Scott Wheeler, who later befriended and interviewed Jay Thompson, explains..
Back in about 1981 I was a 17-year-old Elvis fan who curiously looked Jay Thompson up in the phonebook. I did so because I was an Elvis fan since I was 12, heard Jay's 1956 interview with Elvis and I wanted to talk to him about the event knowing that he still lived in the Dallas area.
I was lucky enough to find him and to discover that he was a wonderful guy who was friendly enough to spend lots of time chatting with a kid who loved Elvis.
Around the time I got out of high school the next year, Jay was nice enough to invite me over to his home to see his record collection and we spent a fun afternoon chatting.
I recall meeting his wife as well and she too was a wonderful lady who unfortunately passed away a year or so after that.
Although Jay never actively participated in Elvis-related events or productions in later years he also never sought notoriety for the interview either. However, I believe it's important that Jay Thompson be well remembered for his valuable contribution to the history of Elvis. Luckily I recorded our interview on a cassette which I still have to this day.
Scott Wheeler interview with Jay Thompson, May 1982
Jay Thompson: Okay, my Elvis interview is pretty self-explanatory – in the fact that it was done cheaply and on cheap equipment, by a cheap announcer! (laughing) Because it really is not professional sounding - it was never meant to be professional sounding. If we had done the interview at the time to come out on record, nobody would have put it out. People would have said ‘it's too hokey’, and it was.
I had some reservations even at that later date about putting out it. Although I'm not an announcer any more or Disc-jockey, but after re-listening to it I realised it had real appeal because of the period of time we were in. We both sounded hokey but realised how much more Elvis had advanced and how he went on to be a superstar. Later on, he didn't stutter like he did on that interview.
The interview was done in 1955, (see EIN note below) but I've not been able to track down the exact date. RCA checked with Witchita Falls Auditorium but they did not have a date for that show. They didn't even keep records in those days. But you can trace it back, because Elvis says “last Saturday night was my last night on Louisiana Hayride”. I do know it was sometime in April.
On the album RCA say it was 1956 but I'm convinced it was 1955.
Scott Wheeler: But ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ didn't come out until January 1956…
Jay T: It could be a misprint on their part. For instance we are talking about his very first album being out but I think we had was disc-jockey copies before it came out, I don't think the album was actually released yet.
Elvis had made his screen test, like he mentions in the interview, but he’d made no pictures yet. Really he was just working one night stands. I remember him playing San Antonio and Dallas and so again it was just one night stands and that type of thing. We had no idea at that time about what the movies would offer and whether he may be a hit with the movies or whether he wouldn’t. The movie he mentions in the interview of course he was never in.
Scott W: The Burt Lancaster one..
Jay T: So ‘Love Me Tender’ wound up being his first movie. I didn't mention it in the interview, I knew nothing about that at the time and I suspect nor did he.
That particular night bill black was playing the stand-up bass, Scotty Moore on guitar - and the kind of rock 'n' roll-ish sound was given to it by Scotty Moore and his electric guitar playing. Which incidentally in order to get that sound he used a little tape recorder through an amplifier that had a continuous tape on it and kept repeating, like a false echo sound. That was pretty much the start of the whole (rock’n’roll) thing.
As far as the interview was concerned it was very spontaneous, it was meant only to be played back on my radio show the next day, which it was.
Scott W: Of course when Elvis made it big, that interview made it big along with everything else!
Jay T: Well, it really took it a long time to because I’ve had the interview for almost 20 years before the thing was regarded as valuable. It wasn’t valuable to me from the standpoint of money. The only thing I asked RCA Victor to do, when they put the thing out, was put my name on the label. I wanted to see my name on the label! (Laughing).
Call it ego or whatever you want! I didn't want the interview wound up on the album with no identification as to who I was. Because as you can hear on the interview I did no identification as to who I was. I did no “this is Jay Thompson” - the reason for that being that it was going to be played back of my radio show the next day.
But RCA acknowledged me and they also did a nice write-up a little booklet that came along with it. So I have no qualms with them whatsoever.
EIN Note: Regarding the date of the interview. Elvis played two concerts in Breckenridge on April 13 and June 10 1955 - as well as playing Wichita Falls on April 25 1955. The following year, again in April, Elvis flew to nearby Wichita Falls to perform on April 9 1956 which is where Jay Thompson conducted the interview. We can gather that Jay's mind was playing tricks on him, simply confusing when he did the interview in Wichita Falls versus his photographs from June 1955. Of course, back in 1982 there was no internet to check these facts and presumably the 1955 photos were Thompson’s main reference.
Elvis performing in Breckenridge, June 10 1955 - Photos by Jay Thompson
In the interview Jay Thompson also mentions the San Antonio and Dallas concerts. San Antonio would be April 15 1956 and Dallas might be Elvis’ famous Cotton Bowl concert October 11, 1956 where he played to 26 thousand screaming fans.
Local newspapers reports on the Dallas Cotton Bowl concert reveal the excitement of Elvis' performances back in 1956.
..”Some of the cops moved about in the crowd flashing lights in the faces of patrons who were standing up and waving and seemed to be having convulsions in the aisles. Several girls were treated at the Cotton Bowl emergency room for bruises and hysterics immediately after Presley's part of the show.
Presley started off with Heartbreak Hotel, doing a staggering, shuffle-footed dance with the,
microphone. Sometimes, he went into a really classical Indian war dance. Other times it was sheer voodoo acrobatics as he threw his famous pelvis from the 50-yard line to the 35. When he was going through his Hound Dog finale he came down off the platform, got on his all-fours, and seemed to be gnawing at the turf like a sensitive football coach whose team was being murdered.
The stadium was dark except on the platform. Yet the photographers, ran around like panting hound dogs, sometimes shooting, into the crowd behind the 8-foot high restraining fence with these brief flashes of light showing you the strained faces of young girls. Some
of them had screamed themselves so hoarse that they could only sit and weep and moan: "Oh, Elvis! Elvis! Elvis"'…
Photo above- Delton Simmons, Elvis Presley, Jay Thompson in Breckenridge June 10, 1955
Jay Thompson Interview with Elvis Presley – Wichita Falls, April 9, 1956
Jay Thompson: Well now Country-and-Western fans of our Hillbilly Hit Parade, this is an interview we're gonna’ give you with Elvis Presley. It's taken from the Municipal Auditorium up in Wichita Falls, Texas, where we were last night. Elvis played a big show. In fact, a lot of you were up there.
We're gonna’ ask Elvis some questions and let him tell you straight because I think you'll get more out of it that way. And I know that each and every one of you are just waitin' to hear him talk.....
JT: Elvis, boy, we want to first ask you, how old you are?
EP: Uh, I’m twenty-one, Sir.
JT: You're twenty-one years old. You sure have got a few months on me, I'll tell for sure. Tell us, before you got into this music business, what were you doing for yourself?
EP: I was drivin' a truck.
JT: Driving a truck?
EP: Yeah, I was err, I was err.. Yeah, Uh-huh. (laughs)
JT: Was that back in Tennessee?
EP: Yeah, it was back in Memphis, where I live now. I was trying to say I was learnin' to be an electrician.
JT: You decided to stick to truck driving?
EP: Well, I was driving a truck, and I was studying to be an electrician too, see?
JT: I see. You got all mixed up in this crazy music business and that tore the electrician deal all to heck.
EP: Tore the electrician deal and the trucks all up.
JT: Tell us, how did you get your first break, or to make your first record with Sun Records?
EP: Well, I went into Sun Records, and there was a guy in there that took down my name, told me he might call me sometime. So he called me about a year and a half later. I went in and I made my first record ‘That's All Right, Mama’.
JT: Yeah, I mean from there on, why, we know a little about what happened 'cause those things been on the turntables like nobody's business. How did you get your start on the Louisiana Hayride? What brought all that about?
EP: I went down there, as a… just to try out, more or less. And, I, I, I went down there once, and I went back again a coupla’ weeks later, and uh, the people they ... they... they seemed to kinda’ go for my songs a little bit. So they gave me a job down there.
JT: So from then on you was a regular? You're not with the Hayride anymore, are ya'?
EP: No, last Saturday night was my last night down there.
JT: Last night with the Hayride. How did you pick up these boys, Scotty and Bill, you known them for a long time? They live there around you?
EP: Well they live in Memphis, but I never ... I never knew them until we made our first record.
JT: That right?
JT: Well, tell us, so what ya' doin' now? Just making personal appearances around the country, is that all you're doing?
EP: Yeah, we’re just touring the country, different place every night.
JT: Different places and working TV shows and this and that, whatever the occasion comes. Elvis, you made a screen test. Can you tell us the result of that now?
EP: Uh, yeah. W-w-we got a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures. We have a movie coming out, I don't know when, but we start making it in June. It is a movie with Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn called The Rainmaker.
JT: Yeah, we'll be looking forward to that as I know all our listeners will and everything. (both laughing)
I got a kick out of that on the Hayride last Saturday night, I'll tell you for sure. El, anything else in particular you wanna’ tell us before we break this little interview up?
EP: Well, I'd like to tell you that I sure appreciate all the spins you've been given me. You really helped me a lot and I'd like to, like to, tell you how much I appreciate it, and all the wonderful people that have been writing in, buying my records and coming out to see our shows. Because that's what really makes anybody - is the people, you can make 'em or break 'em.
JT: Well, I tell ya' for sure they sure go for your style, I'll tell ya' for sure. Because we get the cards and letters every day. We play the records. Incidentally, your new album’s just taking over our Hillbilly Hit Parade. That thing's going like a storm.
EP: That's good, and I'd like to tell you it's been a pleasure talking to you and I'll be seein' you again real soon.
JT: We'll be looking forward to it. Thank you.
Jay Thompson with Bill Black, June 10 1955 - Photos by Jay Thompson
Scott Wheeler footnote: Jay was only too happy to revisit his Elvis interview in 1982 and we had a nice discussion and I've saved the cassette recording ever since then. Interestingly, he also had in his home amongst all his memorabilia of his years as a DJ back in the 1950's the ORIGINAL 3.5" tape reel of that interview! And he played it on his reel-to-reel tape deck & allowed me to record it direct onto my cassette recorder. I'll say up front though that there is no "lost footage" or anything of any high interest on that recording unfortunately!
Thompson also had several original Elvis Sun 78s and played me a couple of them.
Anyway, Jay and I spoke several more times over the years, but unfortunately we never got the chance to meet up again. Jay Thompson passed away in 2012 at age 77.
Elvis in Breckenridge, June 10 1955 - Photo by Jay Thompson
It's a labor of love in memory of Elvis but just as important, in memory of Jay Thompson too. I've wished so many times over the past 38 years that during his life he had gotten more public notice for having done that interview – three wonderful minutes of pop culture history that he created.
You can click here to listen to the original Elvis interview plus Scott Wheeler's interview with Jay Thompson.
Spotlight / Interview by Scott Wheeler / Piers Beagley.
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