Sam Houston Hall was a 20,000-person hall built for the 1928 Democratic
National Convention. Constructed of wood it took only 64 days to
complete. At the time, the plot of land was directly adjacent to
Houston’s Fire Station Number 2. Lasting less than a decade, the
hall was razed in 1936.1
The Sam Houston Coliseum, and adjacent Music Hall,
formerly at 801 Bagby St. in Houston, TX was built in 1937 on the same
site and as a replacement for Sam Houston Hall. Designed by
architect Alfred C. Finn, it was erected at a cost of 2 million dollars
and was in effect two distinct auditoriums.
The Coliseum was 370 feet long and 251 feet wide with 9,000 feet of clear exposition space.
The Music Hall opened in April of 1938 and sat 3044, 1999 on the floor and 1045 in the balconies,
giving the combined seating for the both
facilities at about 16,500.
One of the first tenants of the Coliseum in 1938 was the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition, which since 1932 had operated in there in the hall built for the Convention until 1936. 1938 also saw the first rodeo and horse show held in conjunction with the Stock show. In 1942 Gene Autry, "the Singing Cowboy," debuted as the first star entertainer for the Stock show at the Coliseum.2
Coliseum Ad - Oct. 1, 1955
Photo courtesy Billboard Magazine
Renovated and expanded Music Hall entrance - c.1950s
In May of 1946 the Coliseum closed for four months for a $332,000
expansion to the annex and installation of additional seats in the
Coliseum. It had 9014 permanent seats and sat 13,000 with
additional floor seating for certain events, bringing the combined
seating of both facilities to roughly 16,500.3 A
concrete floor with permanent ice chillers was also installed in the Coliseum to accommodate an ice hockey rink for Houston's first pro ice hockey team - the Houston Skippers of the USHL. The Skippers changed their name the following season to the Houston Huskies and called the Coliseum home until their demise in 1949.4
Renovations were made to the main entrance
on the Music hall side that included a new wider lobby.
Houston newspaper announcement advertising contest
winners and wrong date
added August 11, 2012
Houston newspaper ad for Coliseum Show
Fans wait to see Elvis Presley perform at the Coliseum in
Houston - Oct. 13, 1956
Houston Post Photo: Bob Verlin courtesy
Enterprise, added Jan. 16, 2014
On October 13, 1956 Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ performed two shows,
matinee and evening, at the Coliseum during a four day tour of Texas
that also included stops in Dallas,
and San Antonio. They were no strangers to Houston, having played
many dates in and around the city since 1954 and most recently the
previous April at the City Auditorium. Mike McKay, an announcer at one of Houston's
stations had held a contest on the air and 50 winners were given
backstage passes to meet Elvis before the show. The two Houston papers, the Chronicle and Post,
both covered the shows:
Some Fainted - Joan Mehen was one of several Presley fans who
fainted as they
waited for hours in a crushing crowd for the Coliseum
doors to open Saturday
afternoon. The policemen helping her are B.E.
Gerhart and H.A. Tucker.
Post Photo by Keith Hawkins courtesy
Fans crowded in to see Elvis at the Coliseum in Houston -
Oct. 13, 1956
Houston Post Photo: Keith Hawkins courtesy
Beaumont Enterprise, added Jan.
Changing Moods - Rocking and rolling through a variety of moods
as he sang to a
full house of girls at the Coliseum Saturday, Elvis
Presley exhibited, in turn, deep
feeling, boyish charm and homespun
sincerity. The thousands of grinning fans
were completely under his
control. Presley had only to bounce slightly on the balls
of his feet to
evoke shrill thunder and a churning sea of movement.
But withal the
crowd behaved itself
Post Photos by Dan Hardy
"The Power of Presley Over His Houston
"Anguished, Adoring Expressions were Typical At Coliseum Show"
Post Photo by Keith Hawkins courtesy Robert Gordon's
The King on the Road
Houston Teen Agers Rocked By Presley
By Leslie Rich
Elvis Presley sprinted in a side door at Sam Houston Coliseum Saturday, fled to a downstairs dressing room, kissed about 50 teen age girls who were waiting for him, told reporters that faith was responsible for his success, and went out on the stage to give an afternoon show.
Surrounded by a phalanx of policemen, he ran to the microphone, his guitar slung over his shoulder, and stood there grinning while more than 8,000 fans, mostly girls between 12 and 17, screamed theit deafening approval. THE YELLING died down, so Presley bounced slightly on the balls of his feet. This drew shrill thunder from the crowd and officers glanced about anxiously for evidence of violence.
There was no stampede and after a few minutes ovation the singing began. Scores of flashbulbs, only a few of which belonged to the press, went off continually like rockets in the darkened Coliseum. No one applauded, but the Presley voice was drowned out most of the time by screams of anguished delight.
The teen agers couldn't hear what was being sung, but they yelled and moaned in rhythm to the movements of the singer's body.
Limber-limbed and hips swinging, Presley faced a crowd of more than 8,000 at each of his two Saturday shows. For all the noise, the audiences generally stayed in their seats and Presley's managers said it was the "best controlled group" of the tour. TRAVELING WITH a variety troupe, including Songstress Sherill Davis, Comedians Rex Marlow and Hubert Castle, some acrobats and a vocal quartet, Presley finishes up a four-day tour of Texas Sunday night in
San Antonio. Then he will go to New York.
The rock and roll idol was unaware that he was to sing Saturday afternoon, believing that he had the day free until evening. He arrived with a police escort sometime after the show started, darted downstairs past a throng of kibitizers and met the winners of a
contest held by Houston Announcer Mike McKay.
The 50 girls had been waiting in his tiny dressing room for more than two
hours, but he kissed each one and Phyllis Winford, president of one of
four fan clubs represented, said it was worth the wait. In a high state
of nerves, the girls were escorted upstairs and reporters were then
"I BELIEVE in God," Presley said, explaining his success. "I advise
young singers to have faith like I did. Everything happened so blame
fast I don‘t know where I was yesterday and I don‘t know where I'll be
Sandra Friery Had Star In Her Eye -
Elvis Puckered 50 Times
Post Photo by Keith Hawkins courtesy
Sandra Friery, 14, a late-coming fan club member, ran through the group
and the singer awarded her a kiss.
"Don't sue me, honey," he pleaded.
Presley said that he might tour Europe soon and will make another movie
after returning from New York television appearances.
He scoffed at reports that film actresses had been dating him for the
publicity, and made light of the hysterical effects his singing has had
on young listeners.
"IF YOU get a bunch of teen agers together," he said in his slight
drawl, "they’re gonna have a ball regardless."
On the stage, meanwhile. Oscar Davis, Presley's agent, was asking the
crowd to sit down before Presley's appearance.
"Just remember." he said to the relatively few parents, "it might be
your child that gets trampled."
A sliding freight door behind the stage raised and the crowd began to
scream, believing it signalled the singer‘s approach. The only arrival,
however, was a man pushing a trash can on a hand truck.
The trash can was applauded warmly for a few moments.
Screaming fans at the Coliseum - Oct 13, 1956
Houston Post Photo: Bob Verlin courtesy
Beaumont Enterprise, added Jan.
WHEN PRESLEY finally arrived his welcome was nerve-shattering, but
police were able to keep the aisles more or less clear and most of the
audience remained seated.
During his songs the rock and roller ambled loosely about the stage,
waving but not playing his guitar, sometimes stiffening his legs and
lowering his head like a fullback for particularly dramatic passages. He
did no bumps but went through perpetual grinds, now and then, wriggling
jokingly as if he were unable to understand the audiences frenzy.
At both shows, Presley sang "Don't Be Cruel to a Heart That’s True,"
"Love Me Tender" and most of his other record hits, ending up with "You
Ain’t Nuthin But a Houn' Dog" just before running offstage to a waiting
automobile on the
HE WAS ESCORTED away
by police, his managers and
Film Actor Nick Adams, a
friend who is accompanying him on the tour. It was Adams
who was mistaken for Presley
in Dallas last week and erroneously served with a subpoena
for a breach of contract dispute involving a Fort Worth booking agent.
No one fainted during the afternoon show but some 14 or
15 girls were overcome while waiting for the doors to open outside the
Coliseum. Ticket holders began gathering at noon and those near the
doors underwent considerable mauling as the crowd grew.
Sunday October 14, 1956 The Houston Post courtesy
Houston Public Library
Reactions Varied - Shrill Screams, as on the left, and silent
ecstacy, as on the right,
were some of the varied reactions noted among
the teen agers as Elvis Presley sang
"Don't Be Cruel" in the
Post Photo by Bob Verlin courtesy
The wails and screams of more than 8000 rock 'n' roll idolizers gave a
tumultuous opening to the first show of the famed Tennessee playboy,
Elvis Presley, Saturday at the Sam Houston Coliseum.
The howling "hound dog" artist with his rhythmic accomplices were met
with mob hysteria to open their two-performance stand here.
Presley's appearance was preceded by six variety acts to warm up the
crowd into its frenzy. The circus prelude included one torch singer, two
s acrobatic acts, a comedian, a slack wire act and a quartet.
Swept into the Coliseum by a police guard. the greasy, side-burned
hillbilly- took to the stage an hour later.
Screams and lamentations kept up without relief for 4 minutes and 50
He entered the arena like a wild calf and began his bellowing to the
tune of his million-seller, “Heartbreak Hotel."
All that was heard of this number was the title. Screams from the crowd
drowned out any other sound Presley could produce.
Three times be paused his panorama of bump and grind to plead with his
audience to listen to him.
Deafening roars were the answers each time.
In the midst of the teenage tumult, a squad of 50 police officers,
emergency corpsmen, and firemen were circulating the aisles to keep
admirers from rushing the bandstand.
Elvis rolled and wiggled through “Blue Suede Shoes," added his hippy
"oomph" to an agonizing rendition of "Love Me," and pulsated vigorously
as he groaned his "Long Tall Sally."
Holding his hands to his ears, so he could hear him self, he wore his
guitar slung around his neck, seldom striking a chord.
He rocked on his toes, pointed to kids in the audience and sang to them,
and made a quick exit on a little number called "Hound dog."
Toward the end of Elvis' second show, Saturday night, a hysterical
teen-ager with a flowing pony-tail broke through the police line
surrounding the stage and rushed her idol.
Police carried her back to her seat, but she had broken the ice.
Teenage girls en masse clamored for Presley, and rushed the stage until
the singer was whisked off in a waiting police car to his suite at the
Shamrock Hilton Hotel.
Statistics: No one fainted. No one was injured.
Sunday October 14, 1956 The Houston Chronicle
courtesy Houston Public Library
These shows were the last time Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ performed together in
Houston and San Antonio, the following evening, would be the last time they
ever appeared together in Texas.
On July 14, 1957 the Auditorium was the scene for crowning of the "Miss
Houston" ceremonies with actor/comedian Jerry Lewis as the emcee.5
Construction of I-45 through downtown Houston (Coliseum
on Right) - May 1961
Photo courtesy Texas
On August 19, 1965, the Beatles made their only appearance in Houston
when they performed two shows at the Coliseum, each of which was seen by 12,000 fans.
Their arrival in Houston had been publicized and several fans managed to walk on the wings and knock on the windows of the plane when they landed in Houston at 2 A.M. that morning. Tickets for the shows were $5 each, and The Beatles were paid $85,000 for the two performances. The other acts on the bill were, in order of appearance, Brenda Holloway and the King Curtis Band, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Sounds Incorporated, and the Young Rascals.6
reproduction ticket for the Beatles at the Coliseum Aug
Photo courtesy eBay
With Beatlemania at its height, the concerts were said to be among the most frenzied of the tour. Conditions backstage were chaotic, with no dressing room and hot weather making things less tolerable. The emcee, local DJ Russ Knight - known as The Weird Beard - threatened to cancel the first show prior to Help!, saying:
"People are getting hurt on the front two rows. The show will be stopped if you don't move back. This is the Houston Security Beatle
Division." John Lennon sarcastically replied with the words:
"Thank you very much, that was wonderful."6
The Beatles at the Sam Houston Coliseum - Aug. 19, 1965
Their set for both shows featured 12 songs: Twist And Shout, She's A
Woman, I Feel Fine, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Ticket To Ride, Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby, Can't Buy Me Love, Baby's In Black, I Wanna Be Your Man, A Hard Day's Night, Help! and
I'm Down. The concerts were recorded and broadcast by local radio station KILT, which was sponsoring the event, and have since been circulated widely as bootlegs.6
The Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition, now officially called the
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moved from the Coliseum to the new
Astrodome complex in 1966. The first performance in the new domed
stadium drew 25,340 spectators, and attendance even topped 40,000 for
one performance - almost five times the number of people the Coliseum
Elvis returned to Houston in 1970 but now, like the Livestock show, he played the Astrodome.
He performed six shows in three days from February 27th through March 1st.
One February 27th performance set an all-time attendance record with 43,614 spectators that remained unchallenged for eight years.2
The Coliseum was also home to Houston Wrestling, run by legendary
wrestling promoter, Paul Boesch.4 It had since been used to also
host the Shrine Circus; International Auto Show; Boats, Sports and
Vacation Show; the Ice Capades; Boxing; Basketball and various
Over the years the Coliseum also played host to several minor pro Hockey teams like the Houston Apollos of the CPHL and CHL and the Houston Aeros
of the World Hockey Association. The Houston Mavericks of the American
Basketball Association played their home games in the Coliseum from 1967
The First National Women's Conference, a milestone for the modern women's movement, was held at the Coliseum in
November of 1977. Over 20,000 people gathered in to celebrate International Women's Year and identify goals for women for the next decade. This was the first and only national women's conference to be sponsored by the federal government.7
The Black Crowes at the Sam Houston Coliseum - 1993
The Coliseum eventually hosted almost every major rock concerts through
the '60s and '70s which included Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, KISS, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Queensr˙che, among many others. The Black Crowes played a free concert at the venue in 1993 that was broadcast on radio across North America and videotaped for the video "Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye".4
The William P. Hobby Jr. Center for the Performing
In 1999 the Sam Houston Coliseum and adjacent Houston Music Hall were demolished to make way for the new
Hobby Center for the Performing Arts which consists of two theaters constructed specifically for theatrical and musical performances. It opened to the public in 2002 and is named in honor of former Texas lieutenant governor and Houston businessman, William P. Hobby, Jr., whose family foundation donated the naming gift for the