Mayfair Building
Tyler, TX

Tyler, Texas is located just 90 miles east of Dallas/Fort Worth and 90 miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana.1 It was named after President John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States who in 1845 annexed the Republic of Texas.  Incorporated in 1850, it is the largest city in East Texas and the county seat of Smith County.2 


postcard depicting aerial view of Tyler, TX - ca. 1950s
courtesy eBay

One fifth of all commercial rose bushes produced in the United States come from Smith County. This burgeoning industry, which began at the turn of the century, has established Tyler as the “Rose Capital of the Nation.” It is home to the nation’s largest municipal rose garden. From early May until frost, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden blooms with 38,000 bushes exhibiting over 500 varieties of roses. Approximately 100,000 people visit the Rose Garden each year.3


early main gate with ticket windows at the fairgrounds - ca. 1930s
Photo courtesy the Smith County Historical Society and Images of America

In 1912, the East Texas Fair Association purchased 75.2 acres from the William Herndon estate for $4500 for use as its permanent site. The first fair to use the new grounds was held October 6-8, 1912. Included in the festivities were exhibits, rides, fireworks, hot-air balloon ascensions, as well as horse and automobile races. In time for the 1913 fair, the city extended electricity to the fairgrounds, as well as streetcar service.4


 aerial view of the fairgrounds during the 1938 event, Mayfair building at left
Photo courtesy the Smith County Historical Society and Images of America

Known later as the "East Texas State Fair," the fairgrounds at 2112 West Front have since been the home of the annual Fair which is held in the latter part of September and the property contains several large exposition buildings. During the off-season, the buildings are leased to other entities who hold their own attractions throughout the year.4


Johnny Horton at the Mayfair Building/Auditorium in Tyler, TX  - Dec. 1953
Photo courtesy Rockabilly Hall of Fame

During the '50s it was a popular venue for many local and touring artists such as Johnny Horton and Charline Arthur among others.


Buddy Brady, Charline Arthur and Roscoe Clark at the Mayfair Auditorium - ca. 1955
Photo courtesy Cherry Bomb Productions


Buddy Brady, Charline Arthur and Roscoe Clark at the Mayfair Auditorium - ca. 1955
Photo courtesy Rockabilly Hall of Fame


Buddy Brady, Lee Rose, Roscoe Clark and Jerry Gimble at Mayfair Auditorium - ca.1955
Photo courtesy Wired for Sound

In 1955 Elvis, Scotty and Bill performed three times there, all booked by Gladewater deejay Tom Perryman. Their first appearance was on January 25, 1955 on a tour of East Texas with Jim Ed and Maxine Brown that included stops in Hawkins, Gilmer, Longview and Gaston.  This tour included Jimmy Day on steel guitar.


Tyler Courier Times Ad for January tour and show at the Mayfair - Jan. 23, 1955
courtesy Tyler Public Library


Jimmy Day, Scotty, and Elvis at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Jan. 25, 1955
Photo courtesy Steve Bonner


Tom Perryman, Scotty, Elvis and Bill at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Jan. 25, 1955
Photo courtesy Tom Perryman's "Keeping it Country"

Photo removed at request of E. Jørgensen
Elvis at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Jan. 25, 1955
Photos courtesy Ger Rijff and Elvis Album

Photo removed at request of E. Jørgensen
Elvis and fan at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Jan. 25, 1955
Photo courtesy Cristi Dragomir

Photo removed at request of E. Jørgensen
Elvis at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Jan. 25, 1955
Photo courtesy Cristi Dragomir


Elvis at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Jan. 25, 1955
Photo courtesy Ger Rijff


Elvis at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Jan. 25, 1955
Photo courtesy Joey Kent's Elvis-The Louisiana Hayride Years


Elvis at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Jan. 25, 1955
Photo courtesy Ger Rijff

Their next appearance there was on May 23, 1955. The show came the day after a performance at Magnolia Gardens in Houston and several days before they attended and participated in festivities in Meridian, Mississippi for the 3rd annual Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival.


Tyler Courier Times Ad for May show at the Mayfair - May 20, 1955
courtesy Tyler Public Library


Elvis backstage at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - May 23, 1955
Photos courtesy Jim Curtin's Candids of the King


Elvis backstage at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - May 23, 1955
Photo courtesy Ger Rijff

Photo removed at request of E. Jørgensen
Elvis backstage at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - May 23, 1955
Photo courtesy Ger Rijff

Photo removed at request of E. Jørgensen
Elvis backstage at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - May 23, 1955
Photo courtesy Ger Rijff

Photo removed at request of E. Jørgensen
Elvis backstage at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - May 23, 1955
Photo courtesy Ger Rijff

During this appearance Elvis is pictured wearing what looks to be the "frilly" shirt that Mae Axton, as told by Peter Guralnick, described in Jacksonville in May. Before the show [in Jacksonville] Mae took Elvis and some of the other musicians out to dinner, and she tried to wheedle him out of the frillv pink shirt he was wearing. "Skeeter Davis was there, and June and Anita [Carter], and some of the boys with Elvis. and I said, 'Elvis, that’s vulgar. And it would make me such a pretty blouse.' And Skeeter said, 'I want it,' and June said, 'I want it.’ And he just kind of grinned. And I said, 'Elvis, you ought to give it to us, one of us anyway, because they are just going to tear it off you tonight?" 5  However, the shirt shows up in pictures in June as well and could have been torn off on any one of a number occasions.  Jimmie Rodgers Snow recalled it as common occurrence.


Tyler Courier Times Ad for August tour and show at the Mayfair - Aug 7, 1955
courtesy Tyler Public Library and Lanny Medlin

Their last appearance in Tyler was on August 8, 1955, which was the start of another weeklong area tour booked by Perryman that would also include shows in Henderson, Gladewater, Longview, and Kilgore. D.J. joined them for the first time as a regular member of the band. Scotty and Bill actually convinced Elvis who didn't want to spend the money to add him with his salary coming out of their split. By the first of October, however, they themselves would be put on a salary of $200 a week when they worked and $100 retainer when they didn't.  Jim Ed and Maxine's younger sister Bonnie was also now added to their act and they would eventually be known simply as "The Browns."


Lois Adair and Elvis at the Mayfair Building in Tyler, TX - Aug. 8, 1955
Photo from Lois Adair courtesy Stanley Oberst's Elvis in Texas


Elvis at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Aug. 8, 1955
Photo courtesy Ger Rijff

Photo removed at request of E. Jørgensen
D.J., Elvis and Bill at the Mayfair Bldg. in Tyler, TX - Aug. 8, 1955
Photo courtesy Cristi Dragomir

According to Billboard Magazine, the Mayfair Auditorium received extensive remodeling for 1960's fair which "featured name talent performances," though in appearance aside from decor it looks very much the same. It has remained in use since and today is still available for rental for events including concerts, family gatherings, weddings, company parties, circuses, and meetings.


 view of the stage in the Mayfair building in Tyler, TX - Aug. 2011
Photo © Deborah Newman

At 10,640 square feet, the building has an 18 by 30 foot permanent stage that recesses partly out the side wall of the structure. It seats over 500 people banquet style while still leaving room for a large dance floor and it seats 800 people auditorium style. At present, the Mayfair building rents for approximately $500 per event day, depending upon the needs of the event.4


the stage is 18ft by 30ft and the room is 152' by 70'

The East Texas State Fair, still in operation, is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. The annual event promotes education, entertainment and the spirit of competition while committed to agricultural heritage, families and service to the community. Their mission is also to create commerce for Tyler and Smith County by providing venues for others to utilize and by drawing participants to the complex. Since 1992 the East Texas State Fair has offered $315,000 in scholarships.6


The Mayfair Building in Tyler, TX - Oct. 8, 2011
Photos © James V. Roy

In June of 2005, the Park of East Texas, Inc (POET), the re-branded company of the East Texas State Fair Association, acquired approximately 240 acres outside of West loop 323.  It has future plans to move the fair to the much larger venue which will include a year round destination campus for entertainment, recreation, equestrian operations, convention and exhibit space.7  The ultimate fate of the Mayfair building and existing grounds is not now known.  It currently, however, is hosting the 96th annual East Texas State Fair which runs from September 22, 2011 to October 2, 20116

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Aerial views of the East Texas State Fairgrounds and Mayfair Building - 2010
Photos courtesy Microsoft EarthData

page added September 23, 2011

I have been requested to remove photos of Elvis in Tyler by Ernst Jørgensen who has claimed ownership to unspecified copies. My apologies for any unintended infraction.

Special Thanks to Barbara Galbreath and Susie Brown of the Local History Department of the Tyler Public Library and to Deborah Newman of the The Park of East Texas for their assistance with this page.

1 according to Tyler Economic Development Council
2 according to A Brief History of Tyler and Smith County, Texas by David Scott Stieghan
3 according to Tyler Convention and Visitor's Homepage
4 according to Images of America: Tyler by Robert E. Reed, Jr.
5 according to or excerpt from Last Train To Memphis by Peter Guralnick
6 according to East Texas State Fair
7 according to The Park Of East Texas

 

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

 
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