1957 : Elvis Presley Performs at Olympia Stadium

March 31, 2023 all-day

On Sunday March 31, 1957 Elvis Presley made his second appearances in Detroit, this time performing at the Olympia. Less than a year earlier they had performed in Detroit at the Fox Theater to about 15,000 fans. On the day after the Olympia shows the Detroit Free Press reported they had this time performed to at least 24,000.

It was like a Saturday matinee at the movies, only a thousand times more shrill, penetrating and hysterical. His fans shrieked, sobbed, moaned and writhed in their seats, the noise reaching deafening crescendos with each intonation of the palpitating Presley voice. Only occasionally could his songs be heard and recognized. But sing, stomp, stagger and strum he did for a perspiring 40 minutes. And when he got around to his closing number, ‘You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Houn’ Dog,’ the ultimate in acoustical terrors was achieved. Hearing became a liability for uninitiated eldsters.

The 140 extra Detroit policemen assigned to Olympia, including a squad of police commandos (12 men) and 10 policewomen, in addition to the reinforced Olympia ushering staff, fought a nip-and-tuck battle to keep Elvis out of the clutches of his fans. Flashbulbs popped like frantic fireflies on a summer evening. Presley’s security squad of four huskies got him on and off the stage without damage, whisking the steaming singer through a cordon of policemen and into a waiting cab after each appearance.

An unnerving situation developed after the afternoon show, with Presley safely out of the building. His fans, refusing to believe he was gone, piled up behind police barricades about 1,000 strong and threatened to trample the police and each other in an effort to get to Presley’s dressing room. The evening crowd, equally as large, was older and more orderly. It set up a tremendous din on occasion, but generally it reacted to Elvis’ wailings and wiggles on cue.

In an interview before his first show, Presley met officers of his fan clubs and autographed his new album. He answered questions readily and was scrupulously polite. Would he have his hair cut when he is inducted into the Army? Elvis said he wasn’t worried about it, since his famous hairdo, sideburns and all, would soon fall on the cutting room floor of a Hollywood studio. (He is to play in a prison melodrama, ‘The Hard Way,` following his current tour. Will he seek a special services assignment in the Army as an entertainer? ‘I don’t intend to ask for any favors,’ Presley said. ‘What I do is up to them.’

Is he considering marriage? Elvis’ smoky, black eyes roved over his audience, composed largely of females, and he said he wasn’t thinking of anything of the sort. There were sighs of relief from the officers of the Presley fan clubs. Would he share a proffered spot on the first television program of a series planned by his crooning rival, Pat Boone? Elvis said, ‘Sure, if I am invited and it can be arranged.’ As for continuing his singing career after his service in the Army, Presley said he would ‘if people haven’t forgotten me by then.’

1957 publicity shot of Elvis for Jailhouse Rock, courtesy of Wikipedia

For those who relish statistics, the pouty-looking Lothario of the guitar supplied the information that he is 22, weighs 180 pounds and is six feet tall. He now owns eight automobiles, including a sports car, and is building a colonial-style Southern mansion, ‘with pillars,’ on an 18-acre tract in the suburbs of Memphis, Tenn.

For his appearances yesterday, Elvis wore a coat of gold metallic material, gold shoes and tie, and twanged a guitar on which his first name was written in gold script. One of Presley’s sidekicks said the gold coat with matching pants cost $2,500.

Elvis also retains a golden touch at the box offices, his Detroit representatives said. Seats sold for up to $5 for his show. They figured he would collect more than $10,000 for each performance here, adding that his appearances in Chicago and St. Louis were both sellouts.

Not bad for a lad who three years ago was attending a Memphis high school and fooling around with a ‘gee-tar,’ who since then has become a singing and recording phenomenon (more than 13 million records). No one can quite explain his success—not even his most avid fans. An enraptured teen-ager, wearing an ‘Elvis for President` button, was asked—between sobs and screams—the question. ‘I don’t know—and I don’t care,’ she shrieked. ‘He’s just wonderful. It’s the way he does it. When he sings I get goose bumps all over. I just can’t explain it.’

Another article in the Free Press read, The trouble with going to see Elvis Presley is that you’re liable to get killed. The experience is the closest thing to getting bashed on the head with an atomic bomb. Elvis gave two performances Sunday in the Olympia —each to shrieking audiences of around 14.000.

PRESLEY, the singing troubadour with the long sideburns, gives off more electricity than the Detroit Edison Co’s combined transmitters. When he made his grand entrance, pandemonium broke loose and carnage waited in the wings. Most of the afternoon throng were little girls, nice little girls who just adore Elvis. They wore Elvis buttons, Elvis hats and carried Elvis pictures.

Sources :

John Fislayson, “Elvis Wiggles and Wails as 24,000 Scream and Sob”, Detroit Free Press, Apr. 1, 1957

Frank Beckman and Carter Van Lopik, “Hysterical Shrieks greet Elvis in his Gold Jacket and Shoes”, Detroit Free Press Apr. 1, 1957

Scotty Moore’s Olympia Stadium website including numerous photographs.

George Bulanda, “The Way It Was : Elvis Visits Detroit”, Hour Detroit, February 29, 2016

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