|Elvis Express Radio brings news of Elvis releases and provides free online entertainment & news to fans around the world. We DO NOT sell any Elvis products
|Elvis Express Radio News
|FLORIDA THEATRE TO CELEBRATE 60 YEARS SINCE ELVIS SHOWS
July 29, 2016 - Jacksonville.com / Elvis Express Radio
Three Jacksonville residents share their memories of the history-making performances
|Three Jacksonville residents share their memories of the history-making performances
Elvis Presley was well on his way to becoming a national sensation when he came to Jacksonville in August 1956.
By then he was playfully seducing listeners with such songs as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”
When he performed on stage, audiences got to experience the whole package: the sultry voice, the jet-black hair, the crooked smile that was both boyish and sexy.
And of course, those gyrating hips. They drove young women wild, and there were reports of adoring fans rushing toward the singer to try to tear off pieces of his clothing as a
result of the suggestive movements.
When Presley came to the Jacksonville in ’56, a local judge warned him to keep his moves in check, or face the prospect of going to jail. No hip-swinging motions “impairing the
morals of minors” would be tolerated.
That meeting with Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding, and the six shows that Presley did Aug. 10-11 at the Florida Theatre under Gooding’s watchful eye, ended up in a story on
Presley soon afterward in Life magazine. Eventually, the performances became part of pop culture history.
Those events helped inspire the Elvis Presley 60th Anniversary Bash scheduled at the theater on Saturday. The concert features Elvis impersonators Mike Albert and Scot Bruce,
who will be channeling the singer at different phases of his career. Albert will be backed by the Big E Band.
We caught up with three Jacksonville residents who went to see Presley at the Florida Theatre back in ’56: Marilyn Gooding DeSimone, one of Judge Gooding’s daughters; Jackie
Rowland, who dated Presley off and on for a few years; and former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold. Here are some of their memories:
MARILYN GOODING DESIMONE
Elvis was making appearances in South Florida, and everywhere he went, the kids would wreck the premises. It was all in good fun, but people got hurt. So city officials called
people [where Presley would be performing] to warn them. They said, “You can’t let that happen, it gets kids in a frenzy.” My father said, “I will have ‘Colonel’ [Tom] Parker [Presley’s
manager] and Mr. Presley come into my chambers and we will discuss the parameters.”
I think there was more than one meeting. My father said that Elvis could not have been more polite, but Colonel Parker was heavy-handed and a bully. He said that when he met
[Presley], he really liked him, and he spoke highly of his mother — Elvis was very devoted to his mother, and I think because of that, he respected an older generation.
But my father was not going to have an unruly show. He told Elvis he could do his entire act, but he couldn’t wiggle his hips, and Elvis promised he would not. My father and
members of his staff in juvenile court went to all six shows to make sure he would not do it. They also had policemen waiting in the wings, and they had warrants sitting on my father’
s lap, but they never had to issue them.
My mother took me down to the theater in our station wagon, loaded with kids. I would have just turned 17. I have two younger sisters, and they went, too, and some of our friends.
We came down Hendricks Avenue, and when we got to the foot of the Main Street bridge, we saw a line of kids snaking around the theater. My mother was trying to figure out what
to do and started driving around the theater. A police officer recognized us and insisted we [teenagers] go inside now. We didn’t want to do that, we weren’t raised that way, but they
I can’t remember which show we went to, but it was one of the evening shows. Inside, it was pandemonium — wonderful pandemonium, not bad pandemonium. But I was sitting there
judgmentally. I was not a happy camper — I was defensive of my father, who was getting a lot of criticism. So Elvis started the show, and in every single song, he’d almost wiggle his
hips, then catch himself.
Then he got to his last song, and he said, “I want to dedicate my last song to the judge.” And then he sang “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog. …” I laughed and laughed. My father
laughed, too. I don’t know if he [Presley] did that any of the other shows.
Everybody who went in came out happy and excited, and sad that it was over. But there were no problems, no arrests, and that’s because the community was prepared, when other
communities were not.
I went with my wife, Jean, but we were just dating then; we hadn’t gotten married yet. I don’t remember whose decision it was. We both agreed we wanted to see Elvis Presley. We
both liked him, and we’d be seeing him for the first time.
There was so much publicity, I think everybody in town was aware of the controversy. I think half the people wanted to see him shake from the waist down, and the other half didn’t
want to see him shake from the waist down. I may be exaggerating a little, but there was some concern.
I think we just liked his music and we wanted to see him. But at the time, I thought the judge was probably right, this was a pretty conservative town and maybe the shaking would be
a little too much. At the time, it wasn’t very acceptable around here.
But Elvis behaved himself, and there weren’t any problems. The judge was right there to make sure it stayed that way. Elvis was just a gentleman and he didn’t try to challenge the
When he came back years later, he came to the Coliseum, and we went to see him. It was a different time and a different show. I think it would have been un-American for him not to
shake. But he was a new phenomenon the first time we saw him, and we just didn’t have many shows that were that wild. People were excited and they were screaming. A lot of
times it was hard to hear Elvis’ music. He didn’t have a big band with him then. People loved him and loved his music and they were in the aisles dancing. But there were no
problems; nobody was trying to get on the stage.
I think the judge did the right thing for the time. He was a judge for children, and everybody had a great respect for him. There were no protests. It was a lovely day and everybody
walked away happy and proud that it worked out well for the town.
I’m not surprised people are still talking about this today. I thought then Elvis was going to be so big. I thought he’d still be alive today. I didn’t think we were going to lose him so
The first time I met him was at the Gator Bowl in 1955. My granddaddy was an officer in the police department, I was escorted by a policeman to the side of the stage, and that’s
where I saw him perform. It was more than a school crush. I was in love with the boy. Then my mother and I went to Memphis in July 1956. I was 14, I had been overweight, and she
promised me if I would lose weight, she would take me to meet him. We were standing outside the house on Audubon Drive, along with some other girls, and Mrs. Presley was there,
and apparently she had been watching me and my mother. She invited us in. His mother and my mother had a lot in common, and they got along quite well. [Elvis was on his way
back to Memphis from New York, and Rowland and her mother were invited back the next day to meet with Presley and his parents.]
Later we got a letter, saying come backstage [at the Florida Theatre] to meet him. My mother had the letter, we went to the stage door, but the guard refused to let us in. Colonel
Tom Parker said, “Oh, no, those are Elvis’ special guests,” and let us in. We were standing in the wings for the show. I felt so special. I have a picture of us together.
The meeting with the judge was in the newspaper. Everybody knew about it. Elvis made light of what could have been a very bad situation.
Can you imagine? It’s so wonderful to be part of history. I would have never thought in a million years that 60 years later I would still be talking about it. What a blessing, to have
something that brought me so much joy and to be able to share that with other people.
He was able to look at his audience and draw them in and make every single girl imagine that he was singing to them. He had that kind of charisma and talent.
I traveled to Memphis, Orlando, and other cities to see him. We had a relationship that went on for a couple of years. Wherever we went, my mother was always with me. I was
always chaperoned by my mother. My mother didn’t like the fact that he was an entertainer. She did her best to separate us so I would have an education. She said I was going to
finish school, and I did.