— by Kim Davenport
60 years ago this week – on September 1, 1957 – Elvis Presley performed a matinee concert at Tacoma’s Lincoln Bowl as part of a five-show sweep of the Pacific Northwest over Labor Day weekend.
A crowd numbering somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 enjoyed a fairly intimate performance, with seating on the floor of the Bowl directly in front of the stage, as well as in the stands. Judging by photographs from the concert, the vast majority of those in attendance were teen girls.
Some young men, including Kent Morrill of The Wailers fame, refused to buy tickets, jealous of Elvis’ popularity among the girls, but later admitted watching the concert through binoculars from the trees in Lincoln Park.
Although Presley had been on the scene for several years by 1957, his northwest tour came on the heels of his burst into the mainstream, in the months following his first appearances on national television. Over a span of a few months, he appeared on shows hosted by Milton Berle, Steve Allen, and finally Ed Sullivan.
Newspaper accounts mention briefly the dozen-or-so songs Elvis performed from the stage at Lincoln Bowl – including 1956-57 hits such as Hound Dog, (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, and Jailhouse Rock – but spent more time discussing his behavior and performance style. A few choice quotes from the News Tribune account:
“Each squirm was carefully calculated as a Shakespeare soliloquy to heighten the dramatic effect.”
“He strutted like a duck, his hands dangling loosely in front of him. He went to his knees in an attitude of prayer, taking the slender microphone with him. And he finished with a burst of shimmying that left him limp, his thick black hair hanging over his eyes and perspiration pouring down his pancake makeup.”
And finally: “The idol of America’s teenagers, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pounder, lowered his lashes over deep blue eyes and said, no sir, I certainly don’t mean to be vulgar when I wiggle my hips during a song. It’s just my way of expressing my inner emotions.”
When the music came to an end and the musicians made a quick exit from Lincoln Bowl, screaming girls followed. Again, from the News Tribune report: “Girls, dragging unwilling boys by the hand, rushed to the spot where Elvis vaulted into the car. They scooped up dirt, kissed it, and poured it into pockets and purses.”
These were the days before portable recording devices, so our best guess is there are no existing recordings of Elvis at Lincoln Bowl. Here is live video, though, captured at a concert later that same month, in Tupelo, Mississippi. The stage banner appears to be the same one used for the Tacoma concert!
Looking for even more details? There are several sites around the Internet devoted to accounts and photographs from this concert, including: