Did you know that the Florida Theater in Jacksonville is home to one of Elvis’ most iconic looks?


JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The Florida Theater, which has been anchored in downtown Jacksonville for nearly a century, is home to one of Elvis Presley’s most iconic looks, but the man who would become “the king” of rock ‘n’ roll almost never had the chance to perform at the Florida Theater.

Elvis headlined six shows at the iconic Jacksonville venue on August 10 and 11, 1956, playing three concerts a day.

But there was a great threat before Elvis could even sing his first note.

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Florida Theater president Numa Saisselin said the performance took place before Elvis became “The King” and came with immense pressure.

“It’s famous because Marion Gooding, who was a juvenile judge in Jacksonville at the time, called young Mr. Presley into her office and told him there would be no hip swiveling or suggestive body movements,” Saisselin said.

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These were some of the moves Elvis was known for even early in his career that pissed fans off.

There were reports of fans rushing to Elvis at a concert in Jacksonville in 1955. They tried to rip pieces of his clothes off.

Elvis Presley performs at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville in 1956. (Courtesy of Florida Theater)

Judge Gooding did not want this to happen again.

He even threatened to arrest Elvis if he made the gestures and accused him of “undermining the morals of minors”.

Gooding and a member of a group who asked for the performance to be censored were on hand for the first show to make sure Elvis didn’t cross the line.

“By all accounts, he stood center stage on that stage and performed his show straight. No displacement,” Saisselin said. “But Scotty Moore, one of his bandmates, says that’s the night he started giggling because he was so mad he couldn’t move, that he developed that curvature of the lips that we had with Elvis.”

Elvis sang hits like “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel”, which were released earlier that year.

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“Heartbreak Hotel” was written by local teacher Mae Axton and Jacksonville-based singer/songwriter Tommy Durden.

“‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘Hound Dog’ were out but he hadn’t been on The Ed Sullivan Show,” Saisselin said. “So he was famous and on his way to being an all-caps Elvis, but he was still a bit of a Mississippi country boy.”

Elvis’ performance wasn’t the only iconic act to pass through Jacksonville in the city’s 200-year history.

The Beatles performed downtown nearly a decade later in what was then the Gator Bowl. It was the first integrated public in the history of the place.

This stadium has since been demolished and replaced with what is now TIAA Bank Field.

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