No AMA, No Elvis?

Elvis at KOSY in Texarkana, 1955. He loved it here and dated several local girls.

The Arkansas Municipal Auditorium is a place that for about 2 years in the first half of the decade of the 1950s served as the launching pad for so many. Others will be covered by the RMHC as our research continues, but for the moment we’ll concentrate on Elvis Aaron Presley and his remarkable affinity for Texarkana. He made many friends here, and they uniformly report him as honorable, friendly, of high integrity, and humble. He spent a lot of time in the region, especially Texarkana and Shreveport, and seems to have thoroughly enjoyed his experiences and the friends he made here.

Credible reports have Elvis performing several times at the Arkansas Muncipal Auditorium in 1954. It’s likely that’s how rockabilly came to the attention of Cheesie Nelson and others in the area. But it’s likely that history was made in January of 1955 in a show hosted by Texarkana’s legendary Uncle Dudley. It’s believed that it was Uncle Dudley’s report of the crowds enthusiasm that brought Elvis to the attention of Col. Tom Parker and Tom Diskin. Those were, of course, the connections that created Elvis. Elvis next appearance was in May, and likely due to having a Louisiana Hayride show scheduled for Saturday. Most of his Texarkana stays and appearances were due to his filling a Friday before a Hayride performance by doing the AMA. On the 20 th of May he’s back in Texarkana and then in Shreveport the next day.

On 5 June, Elvis plays Hope and after the show drives his Cadillac with a Texarkana girl back to Texarkana. At Fulton the car catches fire and burns. Some report him sitting on the side of the road with head in hands. His mother reported that she awoke in alarm for him at about the time of this event.

Elvis sincere connection to the people of Texarkana is clear in his August, 1955 interview in Memphis, TN.

Proof that Elvis Cadillacs didn’t fair well in our area came only a couple of months later on 5 September when Scotty Moore drove his replacement into another vehicle on US 71 south of Texarkana. The other driver was injured, but Elvis and band were not and arrived late. Pat Cupp and Cheesie Nelson were filling in for them in fine form. Elvis was impressed and befriended them both. Johnny Cash is also on the show that night.

In spite of the prediction in the Neal interview they’d not be back to Texarkana after the September gig, the band returned on Thursday, 17 November and Johnny Cash is on the bill again. Johnny recorded that he was quite impressed that Elvis personally hand washed his car due to rain and mud from the trip.

However, Elvis was about to become too big to play the small venues like our region had to offer and he was not to return. 4 days later, Elvis’ Sun assets and his contract were sold to RCA where Sam Phillips, legendary Sun producer, were sold to RCA for 6,000.00 with his mother Gladys beaming with pride.

The next day, Elvis sent the following telegram to Colonel Tom Parker, his agent who came to his attention via the enthusiasm of our own Uncle Dudley:

“Dear Colonel, Words can never tell you how my folks and I appreciate what you did for me. I’ve always known and now my folks are assured that you are the best, most wonderful person I could ever hope to work with. Believe me when I say I will stick with you through thick and thin and do everything I can to uphold your faith in me. Again, I say thanks and I love you like a father. Elvis Presley

In two months, Elvis would rocket to world prominence and leave the world of his youth forever.

Ernest “Uncle Dudley” Hackworth was a serial entrepreneur, promoter, and did a single radio show that may be the longest running in American history. It was Uncle Dudley who brought Elvis to the Colonel’s attention. It is quite possible that, without this recommendation, Elvis would have faded with rockabilly into obscurity. The photo at the left is Tom Parker on the phone speaking with one of his stars, Patti Page, in Las Vegas. Hackworth den at 1100 Senator Street, Texarkana, Arkansas in the early 50’s. The two produced a number of shows together and it was for this reason that Parker trusted Hackworth’s judgement.

The “Million Dollar Quartet” in 1956 of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. All played at the
Arkansas Municipal Auditorium.

Scott Joplin relative Joyce Grant performing at the 2019 Regional Music Heritage Arkansas Municipal Auditorium event
Rock Comes Home with Rafael Espinoza and the Rockabilly Rockets. “Hound Dog” will be heard at about 4 minutes.

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