Though his heart strings were forever tied to Graceland, Rock and n' Roll icon Elvis Presley's second favorite place might very well have been Hawaii. Most of us "baby boomers" remember the monumental world-wide satellite broadcast of his "Blue Hawaii" concert watched by a television audience that reached more than one billion viewers. But, it wasn't the first time Elvis mania had erupted on Hawaiian shores.
With a near breathless introduction in March 1961, Elvis, his manager Colonel Tom Parker and a contingent of the King's Memphis Mafia generated a mini-earthquake of excitement arriving for a special concert appearance in the 50th state. The greeting frenzy included piling on so many traditional leis around his neck the swivel-hipped singing phenom complained of not being able to move at all.
Actually, Elvis was a man on a "military inspired" mission. Just a few years removed from his release from the Army, Presley was the headliner of a benefit concert in support of raising funds for a memorial to the Pearl Harbor Japanese-destroyed battleship the USS Arizona.
On that "day of infamy," December 7th, 1941, 1400 sailors aboard the anchored Arizona were killed. Struck by a volley of torpedoes, the ship was rocked by a series of explosions, reportedly including a bomb skipping off the deck and igniting the gun powder storage areas. Though there is no video available of Elvis' sold-out show at Bloch Arena 51 years ago, there are audio interviews in which Presley admitted after a four year layoff from live performances between the Army and making movies, he felt a tad bit rusty.
"I was glad everybody was yelling and everything. It covered up my mistakes. Because I hadn't had any rehearsals, you know. I'd been out of practice. Hadn't been on stage since 1957," Presley said. "The band had forgotten the songs. I'd forgotten the lyrics to most of the songs. In fact, a lot of times I said the same lyrics over and over and over. Used the same line."
But, rest assured, none of the $5 apiece ticket buyers wanted their money back. Elvis' concert raised thousands for the construction of the memorial and earned him, among other gifts, an appreciation plaque from the Navy.
His Pearl Harbor concert would be the first of many trips Elvis would make to Hawaii.
In 1968 he returned to see the memorial his concert had helped to fund.
So, on this day of remembrance, we say, "Thanks and Aloha, Elvis."
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
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