More: Elvis in Texas
In the December 2012 issue’s Speaking of Texas department, writer Gene Fowler explores Elvis’ early career in Texas. In 1954, before he was well-known, Elvis played more than 100 dates in Texas, appearing at high-school gymnasiums, dance halls, and other smaller venues from the High Plains to the Piney Woods. Gene writes:
Performing regularly on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport during the early part of his career, Elvis was geographically positioned to make frequent runs through Texas. Presley exerted an important influence on Texas musicians as well as fans. When future Rockabilly great Bob Luman saw Elvis in Kilgore, as he later told music journalist Paul Hemphill, he quit trying to sing like classic honky-tonkers Lefty Frizzell and Webb Pierce and pursued the new hip-shakin', soul-quakin' style. Out west, Midland/Odessa record store owner Cecil Holifield wrote to Billboard in October 1955 that West Texas had become Presley's “hottest territory to date,” and Presley’s performances proved a musical revelation for aspiring artists Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, and Waylon Jennings. Presley's mother, Gladys Presley, was reportedly a big fan of Big D Jamboree star Charline Arthur, and Elvis himself is said to have borrowed some of Arthur’s ecstatic gyrations. Early in his career, Freddy Fender was dubbed the Mexican Elvis.
Tom Perryman recorded his Elvis experience in the 2007 book, Sixty Years of Keepin' It Country. The platform rocker on which Elvis gently rocked the Perryman's three young children can be seen at the East Texas Museum (116 W. Pacific, Gladewater 75647; 903/845-7608; www.gladewatermuseum.org), along with Billie Perryman's banana pudding recipe, which Elvis is reported to have loved.
It seems that most everyone who met Elvis has vivid memories of the occasion. For example, Austin musician Jody Meredith remembers the time that someone stole the hubcabs from Elvis’ pink Cadillac at the Dessau Dance Hall in Austin. “I told him, Elvis, you ought to take your hubcaps off and put them in the trunk. Next time he played, he had his hubcaps in the trunk."