Lee Gordon Presents Elvis Presley
THE BIGGEST SHOWS OF 1957
by Peter Robert Hayden
Lee Gordon Presents Elvis Presley......The Biggest Shows of 1957 (Book 2), Peter Robert Hayden, Self-published, Australia, 2015, Softcover, Unpaginated (approx. 200pp), Illustrated (color and b&w), ISBN: none.
Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, June 2015
Images from the book were not available for inclusion with this review. The images shown are from the EIN Elvis Photo Archives and publicly available sources.
"WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?"
"Oh My Gosh", he's really coming right over to us. My heart is pounding.....
I just kept looking at him. His hair was dark black, shiny clean - not greasy. His complexion was beautiful (not greasy). And what a nice young man (!!) - a real gentleman.
(Gaylene Moos [Pope], aged 15, with her 12-year-old sister, Parmalee.......about to meet Elvis)
Lee Gordon Presents Elvis Presley - The Biggest Shows of 1957 Book 2 .........to say the second volume in Bob Hayden’s trilogy about the Biggest Shows of 1957 is a strong follow up to the first would be an understatement. Book 2 not only meets the high standard of narrative and visual exposition in Book 1, but well and truly exceeds it with an additional half century of pages laden with a wealth of information and visual treasures!!
Book 2 covers parts 3 to 8 of the 9 sections in the trilogy including Elvis' remaining "live" shows for the year. Along the way Elvis travels from Washington to Oregon, Tupelo, San Francisco, LA and Honolulu and also takes part in the Shower of the Stars fund raiser in Memphis.
The six parts in Book 2 are:
- Part 3: Shower of the Stars
- Part 4: Spokane to Portland
- Part 5: Tupelo
- Part 6: San Francisco to Los Angeles
- Part 7: Hollywood to Hawaii
- Part 8: Sound and Vision
Hayden's narrative features many great accounts of the magic of the young Elvis, his on-stage humour and his effect on fans:
Toward the end, Elvis stood quietly before the microphone and announced that the next number would be the National Anthem. He burst into “Hound Dog” instead.
The accounts Hayden includes in his exposition confirm that media sensationalism is not a new phenomenon:
The screams were deafening as he mounted the stage, and he just stood there grinning for a few minutes. When it quieted down a little, he grabbed the microphone and slowly purred "Well, in a Southern accent (the morning paper said the next day that "He belched", which taught me to never trust newspapers). The screams started all over again.
The audience reaction to Elvis is evocatively and somewhat humorously reflected in the words of one fan, Voorhees, who recalled that the screaming from the audience sounded like “12,000 girls all having their heads shaved at once”.
At another point there is an impressive account by Aline Lindrum (the waitress who served Elvis at the Little Shamrock Cafe during his visit to Cleveland) of what he ate for breakfast. And do you know what was the first thing Elvis circa 1957 was looking for in a wife? The answer can be found within the pages of Lee Gordon Presents Elvis Presley - The Biggest Shows of 1957 Book 2.
Many readers will also appreciate being able to read transcripts of Elvis’ Press Conference at the Hawaiian Village Motel and an interview with Cobey Black published in DIG magazine in 1958.
Another neat inclusion is rockabilly star Glen Glenn's detailed account of Elvis' two shows at the Pan Pacific in LA.
As with his previous books, the author has managed to unearth new information which adds appreciably to the Elvis story!
Hayden introduces the reader to new names in the Elvis story, one being Bob Blackburn. Blackburn was a DJ on P
ortland radio station KEX and had run the "Why I Want To Meet Elvis" contest. Hayden's account of Blackburn's connection includes a photo of him with Elvis and the very lucky, and undoubtedly very happy, contest winner, Nancy Welty. As an indication of the author's undying research, it has to be noted that neither Guralnick and Jorgensen's seminal Elvis Day By Day The Definitive Record of His Life and Music and the similarly impressive (and earlier published) book, Lee Cotten's All Shook Up Elvis Day By Day 1954-1977, include details of Blackburn or the contest!
A section ’30 Years Later – Fans Remember' makes for absorbing reading as we learn of Elvis’ impact and 50’s culture from fans who were there and whose recollections conjure vivid images of a Happy Days time now long gone!:
Heldreth: Most of us had these fruit jars or napkins or whatever they could gather to scoop up this dirt that he walked on.
Long-time Australian rock 'n' roll fans will enjoy the author's inclusion of deatils (albeit brief) about Lee Gordon's rock 'n' roll tours "downunder" including the inimitable and sadly largely forgotten, Johnny Ray, the BIG SHOW featuring the considerable talents of a few artists you will remember: Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Alis Lesley, not to mention the ALL AMERICAN ROCK SPECTACULAR starring among others Crash Craddock, Duane Eddy, Johnny Restivo, Eddie Cochran and The Diamonds.
Jim Groves: We were true rock ‘n’ rollers back then; malt shops, pegged pants, wedged shoes, DA’s and coolness. Elvis was a cool guy and put on a great show.
An underlying theme in the various reviews, fan accounts and press clippings that are included in Lee Gordon Presents Elvis Presley - The Biggest Shows of 1957 Book 2 is the threat some believed Elvis posed to popular music, the morals of teenage girls and on a broader level, society. This underlying historical socio-cultural angst is incisively symbolised by this quote from an undated press news item:
The proposition, rather, is precisely this; is it right or necessary for Spokane or any other community to condone an entertainment spectacle based on vulgarity!
Elvis collectors will be drawn to Part 8: Sound and Vision which details audio-visual material taken of Elvis in 1957.
Mirroring Book 1, the author includes a fascinating array of press clippings, reviews of Elvis’ performances, (again) often with intriguing headlines:
..........Elvis Shakes Up Seattle
..........The Morning After
......... Presley Rocks 'N' Rolls Tacoma Teenagers Into A Frenzy At Bowl
..........Teenagers knocked out!
..........6000 kids Cheer Elvis' Frantic Sex Show
Suits of Armour Suggested during Presley Ticket Sales
..........Critic of Elvis Convinced “He must have something”
..........Teener tells Elvis story
For those who acquired Book 1, Book 2 includes an update of relevant information which became available after publication.
Elvis with Lou Costello, singer Marty Robbins and actress and Jane Russell (Lamar Fike in background)
The visual element to the book is as impressive as its narrative counterpart. It is rich in both colour and b&w images ranging from rare archival clippings and show flyers to venue photos and gossip magazine covers.
Visual highlights include:
Book 2 of Hayden’s trilogy is a much heavier book than its predecessor, the extra weight due to its significantly greater number of quality/durable "coated" paper stock pages.
Book 3 ("coming soon") will be devoted to Part 9: Photographs – a substantive visual record of the Elvis Presley story in 1957.
Verdict: Bob Hayden has hit another 'home run' with Book 2 in his Lee Gordon Presents Elvis Presley - The Biggest Shows of 1957 trilogy! Bringing to life "Presleymania" during its peak, this release (as with the preceding volume) achieves its importance due to the author's ability to produce a well balanced account through a combination of thorough historical research, strong narrative resonance and striking visual element.
That the author, who is based more than ten thousand kilometres from where the Elvis story took place, has been able to uncover new information nearly 60 years after events took place, is particularly laudable. This release will satisfy the casual fan, the Elvis scholar and the academic assessing how 20th century popular music (in particular, Elvis Aaron Presley) changed culture.
Elvis' impact in 1956 has been well covered by other authors, but Elvis in 1957 has not received the same level of attention. Thankfully, Bob Hayden is correcting this weakness in the Elvis book canon.
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About Lee Gordon
(Sources: Bob Hayden, Wikipedia, Australian Dictionary of Biography and EIN)
While Gordon could not achieve his dream of bringing Elvis “Downunder”, he did stage Elvis’ only live performances outside the USA – 5 shows in Canada, as well as a series of Elvis concerts across the USA, also in 1957.
Lee Lazar Gordon (born Leon Lazar Gevorshner, March 8, 1923 – November 7, 1963) was a self-confident American entrepreneur and rock and roll promoter who worked extensively in Australia in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He enjoyed a colorful (often for the wrong reasons) if somewhat tragic career.
Gordon's jazz and rock 'n' roll tours had a major impact on the Australian music scene and he also played a significant role in the early career of pioneering Australian rock 'n' roll singer Johnny O'Keefe (often referred to as Australia’s King of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and other rock 'n' roll luminaries of the period including Lonnie Lee, Laurel Lea and Barry Stanton.
A highlight of Gordon's shows in Australia was the 1957 tour of Bill Haley and His Comets.....over three weeks 300,000 patrons saw their performances and Gordon offered Haley $US100,000 to stay for an additional week.
Gordon also founded his own record label in Australia (Lee Gordon Records Pty Ltd, which operated as Leedon – formed from his first name and the last three letters of his surname). Despite having generated multi-million dollar profits through his music promotion, Gordon lost it all in failed investments.
Frank Sinatra was reportedly best man at Gordon's marriage to Queensland born Arlene Topfer in 1962 (they were twice married to each other and twice divorced). Gordon died far too young at the age of 40 due to a coronary occlusion. His wife, Arlene, gave birth to their son in 1964.
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