How is it possible? That 21-year-old swivel-hipped singer I first met in Las Vegas in 1956, now somewhere up there serenading the angels, has still-loyal fans celebrating his birthday. For the record, his first appearance in Sin City was at the then-New Frontier Hotel, sharing the bill with Freddy Martin’s orchestra and comedian Shecky Greene.
A friend was public relations director for the Sands Hotel, and he told me I should go get an interview with the new sensation, billed as The Atomic-Powered Singer. I was an $80-a-week writer for a newspaper at the time, and happily accepted my friend’s free ticket. It meant I wouldn’t have to pay the costly $10 for the front row seat at the show, dinner and drink.
With a majority of older patrons in the showroom, the appeal of the tuneful 1940s Freddy Martin music and Borscht Belt stand-up comedy by Shecky Green was what they expected. After their polite applause, the stage was suddenly filled with colorfully-costumed Elvis and his crew jumping and howling out about hound dawgs and blue suede shoes.
I remember many in the audience just sat there staring in disbelief, while several others got up and left in anger. However, having been exposed to early rock and roll sounds just a few years earlier at a Navy air base in Texas, I enjoyed the lively show.
When I went backstage to interview Elvis, I expected a loud, blustering country boy. Instead, he politely offered me a Pepsi and moved us to a quiet corner. Totally different from his stage persona, he spoke softly and answered all my questions. During those memorable moments with me nearly 60 years ago, Elvis was anything but a hound dawg!