There is a long history of live jazz and blues in Vancouver, where, even before World War One, artists jammed into Chinatown’s commercial district. They played at small clubs and pubs, including The Patricia which still hosts live music. When Rock ‘n Roll rolled around, East Van was a first choice for travelling, world famous rockers. Empire Stadium at Hastings Park expanded an established musical tradition. The stadium and the Park’s other venues became action central, punching above their weight on the global music scene because, in the 1950s, Vancouver was still a small, sleepy town at the end of the railroad.
On August 31st, 1957, Elvis Presley, The King of Rock ‘n Roll and icon for a wartime born generation of kids, came to town. He arrived with The Jordanaires , his back-up band, by train from Seattle. It was only the third time he had performed outside of the USA, and it would be his last. The tickets ran in price from $1:50 – $3:50! Not bad, even for the era.
Empire Stadium was filled – 26,000 strong – with overexcited, screaming ‘teenagers. By the time the concert began, many had left their seats and occupied the field. And despite pleas from organizers, they refused to leave. When Elvis walked onto the stage, hundreds of them, en masse, rushed it. Elvis performed … for a grand total of 22 minutes, ran off stage, throwing his gold jacket to a helper who, acting as a decoy, was chased by ‘a mob.’ Elvis escaped and was driven back to the Hotel Georgia. He left town the next day.
One of Frog Hollow’s neighbours, Teresa, who was born in Italy but came to live in Hastings Sunrise as a young child, was an early Elvis fan. Now in her late 70s, she still remembers the night she saw him in her own neighbourhood. She was able to walk to the concert, join in the screaming and, a little annoyed that he sang and wriggled for such a short time, walk home again.
At the height of the Elvis phenomenon, perplexed adults were often heard remarking: “He’ll never last.” Last he did, and, while he never returned to East Vancouver, he put it on the map of his era’s popular culture.