Heart O' Texas Coliseum
Waco, TX

Drawing of the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - c.1955
courtesy Billboard Magazine

Waco, Texas is located in North Central Texas in McLennan County 97 miles south of Dallas and 105 miles north of Austin. In January of 1952 construction began on the $1,242,000 coliseum which was what billboard magazine reported as one of Waco's Heart O' Texas Fair's main objectives of its post WWII buildup.  Financing was thru a $1,200,000 county bond issue, plus a $42,000 grant from the county.  It has a seating capacity of 7640 (4400 more when the 125 foot by 270 foot arena floor is used).  Originally plans called for building the coliseum and a number of other buildings but inflation cut the ultimate plan down to just the auditorium and one livestock barn the measured 142 feet by 66 feet at a cost of $71,300.  Additionally, $300,000 was to be spent on the big building when a vast heating and ventilating system was installed.1

Amusement Enterprises, owned and operated by R. G. McElyea was awarded the concessions contract for the Coliseum.1  McElyea's company was one of the country's largest food concessionaires and was also the concessionaire for the North Side Coliseum in Fort Worth, Cotton Bowl, Dallas Auditorium, San Angelo Coliseum, Baylor Stadium and Texas Tech Stadium. He ran his operations out of Fort Worth was likely instrumental in getting the eventual dates for Elvis in Waco.

The Coliseum, livestock barn, ticket booths and several small buildings were constructed, paving was done and fencing enclosed the grounds and in the spring of 1953, the Coliseum was completed.  The formal opening was held on April 11th.2

Destruction in downtown Waco from an F5 Tornado - May 1953
Photo courtesy txjg24belle

That same year also happened to be one of the worst for Tornadoes on record in American history with three of the worst happening in Flint, Michigan, Worcester, Massachusetts and Waco, Texas.  On May 11th, one month to the day after the dedication of the Coliseum, a F5 tornado touched down about 10 miles south of the city.  The tornado was moving almost due north when it reached Waco cutting a path of destruction a third of a mile wide through the heart of the city, killing 114 people and injuring nearly 600 more. More than 600 businesses, 850 homes and 2,000 cars were destroyed or severely damaged for an estimated loss of $41 million.3

Destruction in downtown Waco from an F5 Tornado - May 1953
Photo courtesy NWS Ft. Worth

It was the deadliest tornado in Texas history and the tenth deadliest in the nation. In total, 1953 reported 422 tornadoes resulting in 519 deaths. No year since 1953 has been as deadly.3

The Coliseum and 253 acre grounds are on the outskirts of the city and were spared and by August of 1953 Billboard reported that plans had been set for the first annual Heart O' Texas Fair from September 26th thru October 4th with an anticipated attendance of more than 200,000. It was organized and backed by Waco businessmen.  Pat Taggart was the president of the fair and M.D. Corbin the executive vice-president.  By then the Coliseum had already been in use for a number of events including an ice show and during the fair featured rodeo events.4

Billboard ad - Nov 27, 1954
Photo courtesy Billboard

The new General Exhibits and Livestock buildings - 1954
Photo courtesy Billboard

By the 2nd Annual fair in 1954 paid attendance was over 250,000 and two new structures had been added; a general exhibits building at 120 feet by 200 feet with a stage where three programs daily were presented during the fair and a 300 foot by 300 foot livestock building covering more than two acres providing housing for 1,200 head of livestock.  Othel M. Neely was now the Executive Vice-President of the fair and the General Manager of the Coliseum.5

Ad in The Waco News-Tribune, April 18, 1955
courtesy West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr.

Scotty, Elvis and Bill onstage in Waco - Apr 23, 1955
Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions, via FECC/the fool added Oct. 9, 2015

Elvis, Horace Logan and Bill onstage in Waco - Apr 23, 1955
Photo courtesy Colonel Snow, via theelvisforum, added Sep 4, 2015

Scotty, Elvis and Bill onstage in Waco - Apr 23, 1955
Photo courtesy Colonel Snow, via theelvisforum, added Sep 4, 2015

Elvis with the Sinclair Sisters in Waco - April 23, 1955
Photo courtesy Jim Curtin's Candids of the King

On April 23, 1955, Elvis, Scotty and Bill made their first of three appearances in Waco at the Coliseum during a show with other Louisiana Hayride acts broadcast on the radio from the Coliseum. Lee Cotten, in Did Elvis Sing in your Hometown, wrote, Elvis was a “great hit" when he appeared as part of the Louisiana Hayride’s "remote” broadcast from the Heart O' Texas Coliseum in Waco. The show began at 8:30 p.m. and cost $1.00 for adults and half that for children. More than 5,000 country fans attended, making it one of the Hayride’s largest draws. Also on the show were Slim Whitman, Jim Reeves, Johnny Walker, Jimmy Newman, and (probably) Jim Ed and Maxine Brown.6

Coliseum Ad in Billboard Oct. 1955

Duncan Renaldo as "The Cisco Kid"
Photo courtesy web

The 3rd annual Heart O' Texas Fair that year featured as a name attraction the movie and television star, Duncan Renaldo, most noted for at the time for his roles as "The Cisco Kid."  The Cisco Kid, and his sidekick Pancho portrayed by Leo Carrillo, traveled the old west on their horses, Diablo and Loco, in the style of the Lone Ranger.  Much as in the tradition of Robin Hood, righting wrongs and fighting injustice, the law regarded them as desperados. Their signature signoff was "Oh, Cisco" and "Oh, Pancho" as they rode off into the sunset.

The following year, on April 17, 1956, Elvis, Scotty and Bill again appeared at the Coliseum, this time with DJ also.  On the bill also were Hank Locklin, Wanda Jackson and others.  Having already made six appearances on national television on the Dorsey Brother's Stageshow and most recently had appeared on the Milton Berle Show in San Diego they were now the featured attraction and would soon make their debut in Las Vegas, after which they would no longer be touring with any act that could be considered contemporaries.

Ads from The Waco News-Tribune - April 16-15-17, 1956
courtesy West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr.

Lee Cotten wrote, 4,000 fans were on hand for the 8:00 p.m. show. Backstage, Elvis met Edward W. (Eddie) Fadal, a deejay at KRLD in Dallas, the home of the Big D jamboree. Fadal’s hometown was Waco, and he would become a close acquaintance of Elvis over the next two years. This was the last evening for the Hank Locklin contingent. Opening for Elvis had become the most thankless job in show business. Locklin, Wanda Jackson and Jimmy and Johnny were professionals and were not used to the openly hostile reaction of the crowd when they performed. ”6

Bea Ramirez of the Waco News Tribune reviewed the show the next day:

Shrieks, Squeals, Moans Meet New 'Cat' King Here

Waco Times-Herald Staff

The convulsive moans, shrieks and squeals of 4,000 teen-agers bounced off the walls of the giant Heart O' Texas Coliseum last night when they welcomed the
new king of the rock 'n roll set —Elvis Presley.
The show was staged just right for the big build·up.
The young people came to see and hear Presley——Elvis they call him just like a first name acquaintance. But Presley wasn't there. Not at first. That would have defeated the big build-up.
Instead. while the crowd fidgeted and squirmed, the dark and handsome 21 - year - old ex - truck driver from Memphis, Tenn., was conspicuous by his absence. He
had another bunch of hillbilly singers to perform. For 45 minutes they went through with the program—Hank Locklin, Wanda Jackson, and Rudy Grayzell and his band.
The group tried at first to entertain the predominantly teen-age crowd as the customers grew more and more restless and noisy. Soon the entertainers were running one song into another in an attempt to pacify the crowd, which did everything but boo and hiss them off the stage in growing impatience to see Presley behind the mike.
While all this went on. the current idol of the nation's hot music fans sat in a dark Cadillac limousine near the main floor entrance to the Coliseum. He bit his fingernails nervously, ran his fingers through his dark, wavy hair and stared out at the crowd. Every now and then, Presley would button and unbutton the coat to his black suit and pull at the collar of his red, high-necked sport shirt, the "latest" in "cat" circles.
All of a sudden the intermission was over, the Cadillac zoomed Presley to the side of the stage and he leaped out, took a strangle hold on his guitar and went right into his famous "Heartbreak Hotel," as thousands of teenagers seated on the floor and in the stands moaned, groaned and attempted to push their way nearer the stage.
From that moment on confusion reigned. Presley could barely be heard above the noise of chairs moving, falling, girls "ohhing" and "eeeeyeeeing."
Everything Presley did brought up thunderous scream from the girls. As he sang "I Got a Woman," hr grabbed the mike, pushed it up and down and fell against it. He shook and did about every bump and grind in the book and the crowd screamed and shrieked and girls swayed, closed their eyes. One girl finally moaned "I can't stand it, I gotta go back to my seat."
About that time Presley went into "I Wanta Play House With You," shook in epileptic-like movements, he reached up and unbuttoned his shirt. Up went a deafening scream that lasted a full five minutes.
Boys in the crowd limited their admiration of Presley to comments such as "See that shirt? Gotta get me one like it." One girl asked another "Are you alright?" Her companion answered with a feverish "NO!"
One hypnotized teen-age girl repeatedly walked up in front of the stage to take flash pictures. After taking several, she aimed once more, pushed the button and the camera burst into flame. A teenage boy explained it: "Gosh, he's so hot even the cameras are burning up!"
Presley sang a series of hot and heavy songs, which included "Blue Suede Shoes," "Money Honey," and "Only You" and interrupted his "singing" several times to tell a few off -color jokes, then after two encores, he leaped into the waiting Cadillac and was gone before the crowd knew what was happening. The getaway was arranged before the performance so that Presley could leave without being mobbed as he has been in other towns he has played.
This was Presley's third visit to Waco, but by far the most successful. What makes the girls go crazy over him? Elvis says he doesn't know, but that "it happened so fast, I'm scared. You know, I could go out like a light, just like I came on.
Anybody want to flip the light switch?

The Waco News-Tribune, April 18, 1956 courtesy West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr.

Just prior to Elvis' performance he was interviewed by Bea Ramirez and on the 19th she wrote:

Elvis Gives Out With Crazy COOL Interview

Waco News-Tribune Staff

Shortly before he was to go on stage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum, Elvis Presley, the new 21-year-old king of the nation's rock n' roll set, sat in a darkened Cadillac limousine for an interview—well hidden from the sight of nearly 4,000 screaming squealing teen-agers who were on hand to welcome him Tuesday night.
All the hep cats were there and not enough fuzz (cops).
Out in the stands and on the floor, his audience of idolizing teen-agers did all but hiss and boo to rid the stage of a group of other hillbilly entertainers and bring Presley out behind the microphone that he handles more like a limp blonde than a mechanical gadget.
Still Elvis made them wait. . . and he stared out at them, half scared and half unbelieving.
Then with some sort of spasmodic movement, he turned to talk about himself.
"What do you want to know about me, honey?"
"Elvis, have you any idea at all about just what it was that started the girls going crazy over you?"
"No, I don't. I guess it’s just some thing God gave me. I believe that, you know. Know what I mean, honey? And I am grateful. Only I’m afraid. I'm afraid I’ll go out like a light, just like I came on. Know what l mean, honey?"
Presley has a way with that "honey" business. When he talks, he looks straight ahead, or sort of dreamy like in no direction at all. Then he turns with that "know what I mean, honey?" His face is close, real close. Right in your face — almost.
"When do you start making your first movie, Elvis?" {Everybody calls him Elvis.)
"Oh, early in June, I think, because . . ." At this point he stopped talking and stared ahead into the crowd. He squinted his eyes, jerked up a pencil (which had no lead} and began scribbling on the dash of the car. Then he turned and said: "Huh, did you say something."
"Elvis, when you start acting, will you keep the sideburns?" (The side burns come down below his ears).
"Oh, I don't know, it depends on what type part they put me in. You know, I'm supposed to do ‘Billy the Kid’ pretty soon."
"But Elvis, ‘Billy the Kid' has been done to the ground."
"Yeah, I know, but this time it will be different." The way he says "different" it really will be.
"Elvis, will you sing in your first movie?"
"No, honey, sure won't. Going to be in it with Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster, and I won’t sing. I don't want to, I want to be an actor."
Then he turns and stares into the crowd again, listens to one of the other entertainers singing and grins slowly.
"But Elvis, have you thought how unhappy all these girls are going to be if you stop singing?"
"Huh, what was that? Oh, I'll never stop singing, honey, never."
He was beginning to make me wonder if I knew what I was talking about, so I changed the subject:
"Elvis, I hear you walk in your sleep."
"Well, I have nightmares."
"What kind?"
"I dream I'm about to fight somebody or about to be in a car wreck or that I'm breaking things. Know what
I mean, honey?" (I don’t have any idea what he means).
"Where are you from?"
"From Memphis, Tenn."
"Oh, yes, that’s where all the hillbilly singers come from, isn’t it?"
"Maybe so, but I’m no hillbilly singer."
"Well, have you typed yourself. . . I mean your type of singing?"
"No, I don't dare."
"Cause I’m scared, know what I mean, honey? Real scared."
"What of?"
"I don’t know. . . I don't know. Know what I mean, honey?"
At this point I thanked him for his time and started to make a beeline for the door. He grabbed my hand, sat there looking sleepy-eyed into my face and fanned his long lashes while he said:
"Write me up good, will you, honey?"
And he drove out to meet the hysterical adoration of young girls and boys whose emotions he has found are easy to stir up with a song.

The Waco News-Tribune, April 19, 1956 courtesy West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr.

Cotten wrote that After her review of the show appeared in the Waco News Tribune, Bea Ramirez received several telephone calls from unidentified fans who were upset with her assessment of Elvis’ stage act. One gave her "two hours to get out of town." Miss Ramirez blithely responded, “But I don’t get off work until 5 o’clock!" 6

Ad in Billboard - Nov. 26, 1956

Ads from The Waco News-Tribune - Oct 11 & 12, 1956
courtesy West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr.

Later that year, the 4th Annual Heart O' Texas fair closed its seven day run on Friday, October 5th, and according to Billboard attendance was down 10% attributable to a drought that had been affecting the area for seven of the last eight years. One week later, on October 12th, Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ made their last of three appearances at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum.  By this tour the Colonel had special contracts made up that evidently included waivers for items learned from prior experiences.  The one listed below lists the standard items in bold and the items typed specific to Waco italicized.  It was signed by Othel M. Neely:

Personal Appearance Contract



with   his variety show vaudeville acts

on the following date  Waco Coliseum one performance 8:15 pm. Friday, October 12, 1956

for the following terms  $5,000 (five thousand) guarantee and percentage coverage if any at closing of box office.

No other talent is to appear on this show date other than listed above. The above listed talent and show is contracted from Col. Tom Parker by party known in this contract as the sponsor.

Sponsor's name Heart O ’Texas Fair, by Mr. Othel Neely, general manager.

Sponsor agrees to pay for all advertising cost, Radio, Newspaper, furnish suitable Auditorium, Sound System, Stage Hands, Ticket Takers, and pay for same. Pay all Amusement Taxes, City, State, Federal, County and Licenses if needed.

It is understood that the sponsor is in good standing with the Federation of American Musicians.

It is mutually agreed by Both Parties that if either Party to this agreement; should be unable to carry out terms of this agreement, by reason of sickness, accident, or death, strikes, or any other act of Providence, then and in that event neither party shall be held liable upon this agreement.

Col. Tom Parker reserves the right to substitute other talent if necessary, or desirable. This however does not apply to the star of the show, ELVIS PRESLEY.

Admission prices for this Attraction must be approved by both parties.  All seats $1.50 advance, $2.-- or the door. Sit where you like. Including federal taxes.

It is understood that the ELVIS PRESLEY SHOW will have the free and exclusive privilege to sell its souvenirs, novelties, songbooks, Phonograph Records and photos at all shows. And any Elvis Presley Merchandising they decide to sell at this performance on on exclusive basis only at no cost to show.

Special added terms: Sponsor to furnish at least a minimum of 10 (ten) police qtficers to supervise the stage presentation on the inside of the coliseum and suitable police protection at the front and back stage.

Dressing rooms, a minimum of two microphones, piano, spotlight, at least one hundred radio spots to advertise the show and not less than sixty inches of newspaper advertising, and promote the appearance of the show to the fullest through all mediums possible. Advance sale of tickets must be at least ten days before show date. Police escort to be furnished to Mr. Presley from coliseum to hotel and back.

No Elvis Presley Merchandise of any type can be sold in the coliseum except through the Elvis Presley Concession Department. This also includes in front of the coliseum on the outside. Show will expect 100% protection on this agreement.

Deposit check to be mode out to Elvis Presley Enterprises.

Guarantee as per contract.

Show to be presented in its regular presentation as per show police established on other appearances.

Stage show to run approximately one and a half hours. The show management preserves the right to inject an intermission at their discretion. No advertising of any nature can be sold in connection with Elvis Presley's appearance. The name Elvis Presley on its singularity cannot be used for any endorsement on any merchandise other than under our own contracts. Our advance agent, Mr. Oscar Davis will be in Waco to set up the advertising campaign with Mr. Neely and his representative, prior to the opening of the show.

Television: no television appearance of any nature before or during the show can be permitted due to exclusive contracts in effect.

Radio: no radio appearances before or during the show can be permitted.

Motion picture: the show reserves the right to cancel the contract due to motion picture commitments.

Signed for the ELVIS PRESLEY show:                                                    Approved by Sponsor:

_____________________                                                                         __________________
Col. Tom Parker, Manager

Exclusive Management - Col. Tom Parker - P. O. Box 417
Madison, Tennessee

contract and transcription courtesy Eddie Fadal estate and Lee Cotten6, unsigned contract courtesy Heritage auctions

Like all the Coliseum shows, tickets were available in advance locally at the Disc Record Shop in downtown Waco at 1207 N. 25th street.  The Disc was owned and operated by Leonard Mixon who was also apparently a huge fan and would often visit with many of the acts backstage having his picture taken with them in the process.

Leonard Mixon and Elvis at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Oct. 12, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Leonard Mixon and Elvis at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Oct. 12, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

On the day of the show the Waco News-Tribune reported that they were expecting an orderly crowd while also reporting about the papers Elvis had been served in Dallas:

Elvis Crowd Is Expected To Be Orderly

Though disorderly crowds have been the order of things in many places where Elvis Presley has played, nothing of the sort is expected here, says Othel Neely of the Heart O' Texas Coliseum, where the teen-age rage is to appear Friday night.
But just in case, Neely says, 14 off-duty policemen and two deputy sheriffs will be on hand, and there may be additional auxiliary police.
Though Neely is not expecting a disturbance, he is expecting a sizable crowd. on the basis of ticket sales, they will be there in large numbers from Waco. And as an indication of Presley's out-of-town appeal, Neely says, is the chartering of several buses by the Dallas Presley fan club which apparently did not expect to get enough of him Thursday night.
Ticket sales have been heavy at Stavinoha's in Temple, at Radio KBUF in Mexia, and there have been orders from Austin, Tyler, Walnut Springs and other cities.
The Coliseum is prepared to take care of 7,000 (there were 4,500 on hand for Presley last April). No seats are reserved and Neely is expecting a heavy crowd.
Neely says he doesn't know how Presley is traveling, when he will arrive or where he will stay, and if he did know he wouldn't want it publicized.
Tickets are on sale in Waco at the Disc Record Shop at 1207 North Twenty-fifth Street and will be available at the Coliseum box office Friday night. The show will begin at 8 o'clock
The Cotton Bowl rocked and rolled as 26,500 teen-agers and a scattering of moms and dads turned out to hear Presley.
Charles Meeker, vice president of the State Fair of Texas, sponsor of Presley's appearance said it was the largest crowd ever to attend the Cotton Bowl for such a show.
Presley, in a green jacket and black slacks, came into the stadium through a ramp used on Saturdays by football players.
The crowd became hysterical when he came into view, sitting on the back of an open convertible. He circled before the tightly packed and pushing throng. Hundreds of flash bulbs from teenagers cameras produced a wave of light.

Elvis and fans at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Oct. 12, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Elvis Facing Suit
FORT WORTH, Oct 11 - Elvis Presley, the Rock 'n' Roll sensation, was tapped with a $38,000 breach of contract suit here today.
R.G. McElyea, coliseum promoter, lodged the suit in district court against the bobbysox idol an his manager, Thomas A. Parker.
The two were accused of ignoring alleged contract terms for four Presley appearances in Fort Worth last March.

The Waco News-Tribune October 12, 1956 courtesy Andy Crews and the San Antonio Public Library and West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr.

Tom Diskin , Elvis, Jimmie Willis and fans at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Oct. 12, 1956
Photo courtesy Steve Bonner

Johnny Vanston, Elvis and Othel M. Neely at the Coliseum - Oct. 12, 1956
 Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr.

Johnny Vanston was the secretary, and eventually, president, of the musician's union Local 306, in Waco.  Both he and  Othel M. Neeley, along with several others, were also photographed backstage with Elvis.

Nick Adams, Eddie Fadal and Elvis at Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Oct 12, 1956
Photo by Fadal estate courtesy FECC/Claude91

Elvis backstage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum, Waco, TX - Oct. 12, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis  courtesy FECC/DesertStorm

The Waco News-Tribune reported its review the following day while also reporting of an incident of an Elvis rumored Hotel stay in nearby Temple, Texas and McElyea's breach of contract suit dropped:

Presley Fans React In Regular Fashion

Elvis Presley kept an estimated crowd of 5,000, mostly teen-agers, on the edge of their seats for 33 minutes Friday night and then showed them how he got his nick-name, "The Pelvis."
When Presley appeared on the Coliseum stage, an hour and 12 minutes after the show started, a deafing roar went up that lasted a full three minutes.
After things finally quieted down Presley looked one way, then the other, took a deep breath and said ugh, and another uproar lasted three more minutes.
Presley was dressed in a green sport coat, green tie, black slacks and blue suede shoes and wearing his trade mark, long sideburns.
The teen-age girls who occupied most of the main seating area cringed, cried and even pulled hair at every move Presley made.
One 14-year-old blond girl, who was sitting a scant few feet from the stage almost fainted when Presley asked the crowd, "Do You Love Me?" She jumped up, grasped at her neck and fell to the floor apparently unconscious.
A friend helped her up and she said, "Isn't it wonderful".
Presley made the most of his short stay on the stage and never let up from the second he started until he left. The songs which drew the greatest applause were "Heart Break Hotel", "I Got A Woman", "Don't Be Cruel", "Money Honey", and "Blue Suede Shoes".

Elvis and Bill onstage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum, Waco, TX - Oct. 12, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Ger Rijff

Presley went through his regular "routine" of dancing all over the stage, pulling at his hair and having the appearance of being unable to control himself.
One of Presley's most avid fans, Kay Wheeler, 17, of Dallas, who calls herself the president of the National Elvis Presley Fan Club, says she was ashamed of the turnout and called Waco "the squarest town in America."
Miss Wheeler called Presley "the hottest piece of property in America" and thinks the "unfair" publicity has made the kids afraid to think their own minds.
When asked if she thought Presley was a flash in the pan she said "Elvis will last as long as there are women around".
More than 20 policemen were stationed near and around the stage and had their hands full.
Many of the fans had cameras and "just had to get one picture".
The crowd which sat back while the other performers went through their paces started moving toward the stage when "he" made his appearance. They continued moving up until the show was over.
As usual, no one knew when the end was coming. Presley playing his part to a tee broke into his rendition of "Houn' Daug" while the crowd went "crazy."
Presley approached the edge of the stage and pointed his finger at one of the girls and said "honey you ain't nuthing but a houn daug", the girl almost fainted, the crowd went wild and Presley turned on more steam.
He pulled at his collar some more, loosened his tie again and sang louder, faster, and harder. As the song neared the end he backed to the rear of the stage, and disappeared behind the curtain.
Before the crowd realized what had happened his Cadillac has whisked him from the Coliseum.
For Presley another day and another dollar, for Waco teenagers a day long remembered.

Elvis onstage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum, Waco, TX - Oct. 12, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy James Jacek Collection and Andy Crews

Fans Mob Temple Hotel for Elvis

TEMPLE, TEX Oct. 12 - Wild-eyed and almost hysterical teen-age rock 'n' roll fans went on a rampage today after a rumor started that singer Elvis Presley was a guest at the Kyle Hotel.
The rumor first circulated late last night and hands of teen-agers harassed the hotel staff into the wee hours of the morning for information about Presley.
They took up their search again this afternoon when school ended. For more than two hours groups of frenzied fans pushed through the lobby and upper floors of the downtown hotel in search of the rock 'n' roll artist.
Hotel guests, mistaken for Presley's parents and his press agent, were surrounded by screaming fans.
Apparently Presley did not get closer to Temple than Waco where he was to make a personal appearance tonight. He appeared in the Cotton Bowl at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas last night.

Elvis Suit Dropped

FORT WORTH, Oct 12 - A $38,000 breach of contract suit filed by Fort Worth promoter R. G. McElyea against rock 'n' roll singer Elvis Presley and his agent, Thomas A. Parker, has been called off, McElyea said today.

The Waco News-Tribune October 13, 1956 courtesy Andy Crews and the San Antonio Public Library and West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr.

Elvis backstage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum, Waco, TX - Oct. 12, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Ger Rijff

The review of the show was also carried by the United Press and appeared in the San Antonio papers prior to their appearance there several days later:

Hysteria Greets Presley's 'Uh'

WACO (UP)-Rock 'n' roll artist Elvis Presley caused more mass hysteria here Friday night than the 1953 tornado, but one of his fans, disappointed with the size of the crowd, said, "Waco is the squarest town in America."
Some 5,000 fans turned out to see Presley in the Heart O' Texas Coliseum as he continued his tour through Texas. He appeared at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas Thursday night before about 26,500 and is to appear in Houston Saturday and San Antonio Sunday.
As in Dallas, the fans made more noise than Presley did last night.
The singer was greeted by a three-minute scream and roar when he stepped onto the stage. He stood silently surveying the crowd for a moment.
"Uh," he said.
That set off another three-minute scream from the teen-aged girls who made up a larger part of the audience.
One girl fainted.
A policemen who was one of 20 helping to guard Presley from adoring fans said "it's the biggest mass hysteria to ever hit Waco."
The idol of teen-agers sang, bumped and gyrated for some 38 minutes. Young girls pulled their hair and beat their heads and hands on the floor shrieking in high C voices.
Presley suddenly turned and said "do you love me?"
That was too much for a 14-year old blonde sitting close to the stage. She jumped up, grabbed her neck and fainted.
Her friend grabbed her and cried:
"Isn't it wonderful".

UP in The San Antonio News  October 12, 1956 courtesy Andy Crews and the San Antonio Public Library

Tam O'Shanter Hotel Courts - Waco
postcard courtesy Great Uncle Bill

Cotten wrote that, following the show, Elvis and his entourage ate midnight snacks at the home of Eddie Fadal, 2807 Laskar Avenue. Later, Elvis spent what was left of the evening at the Tam O’Shanter Hotel Courts, a motel very close to what is now I-35 at the Waco Circle – one of Texas' few rotaries (roundabouts).6

Dallas ad with same lineup for Waco on November 17, 1956
courtesy Steve Bonner

In the following months and years the Coliseum would also see other rock 'n roll performers.  A touring review played there the following November that featured Bill Haley and the Comets, The Platters, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and many others.  Leonard Mixon sold tickets for those shows too.

Bill Haley and Leonard Mixon at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Nov.  17, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

The Clovers and Leonard Mixon at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Nov.  17, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Clyde McPhatter  and Leonard Mixon at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Nov.  17, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

The Flairs  and Leonard Mixon at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Nov.  17, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers  and Leonard Mixon at the Coliseum - Nov.  17, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Shirley & Lee and Leonard Mixon at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Nov.  17, 1956
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

In 1957 the Coliseum also saw artists such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and LaVerne Baker.

Fats Domino onstage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Mar 22, 1957
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Fats Domino at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Mar 22, 1957
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Little Richard onstage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - July 17, 1957
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

 Leonard Mixon and Little Richard at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - July 17, 1957
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Buddy Holly and the Crickets at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Oct. 3, 1957
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Chuck Berry  and Leonard Mixon at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - Nov. 3, 1957
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

LaVerne Baker  and Leonard Mixon at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - 1957
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

Jimmy Reed onstage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - 1961
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

610629.jpg (897530 bytes)Brawl Climaxes Local Teen-Age Dance

About the wildest teen-age party ever staged in Waco took place at the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum last Saturday night according to eye witnesses.
The occasion was a rock and roll dance featuring the Jimmie Reed orchestra. Apparently the adults at the party were very few, besides the four policemen. 
The dance was not chaperoned by parents of the teen-agers.
The dance was to have lasted until 1 a.m. When most of the kids got soused it was shut down at midnight.
The youngsters sat around the tables filled with booze of every description almost. There was an abundance of whiskey, lots of gin, a supply of rum with all the fixings. The teenagers helped themselves freely to the drinks. 
When a table would be cleaned out occasionally while the occupants were dancing others from adjoining tables went over and swiped the booze and drinks off the vacated table. It was a free for all affair in many respects, witnesses reported. After the gang fights inside the building, a whole sale fist encounter took place on the outside. They fought until the boys and girls participants wilted in their tracks. Finally some police squad cars were supposed to have been summoned. Word was passed around that police were coming. The fighters said they would depart down the road a way to finish the affair
Some of the girls were so near passed out in the drinking party that they fell all over the tables. One or two of the girls were so looplegged that it took the tables to hold them up. On the outside when one girl collapsed she begged her boy escort not to leave her as he was threatening to do.
There wasn’t much the officers could do. They watched and tried to keep order but it got out from under control. Finally some of the uniformed cops succeeded in escorting a few of the drunken participants out of the coliseum.
No arrests were made and no police reports were recorded at the police station.
Witnesses say they counted at least seven fights on the outside with a half dozen on the inside.
The shirts and dresses were badly torn off the participants.

The Waco Citizen June 29, 1961, courtesy Andrew D. Crews - San Antonio Public Library

Jimmy Reed  and Leonard Mixon onstage at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum - 1961
Photo by Jimmie Willis courtesy Steve Bonner

The Heart O' Texas Fair is still held each year in September and/or October and in addition the Coliseum has served other uses from sporting events to graduations.  Until the Ferrell Center was built in 1988, the Coliseum also served as Baylor University's primary indoor athletic facility, home to the Baylor University Bears basketball and volleyball teams.

Texas State Technical Colleges Coliseum Commencement at the Coliseum - 2009
Photo courtesy Technical Education Awareness

All facilities and grounds of the Fair Complex underwent renovations and/or reconstruction throughout the years of 2000 to 2005. The Complex now covers 50 acres of land containing modernized facilities, 700 stalls, 250 RV hook-ups and parking areas able to accommodate over 3800 vehicles. Its facilities consist of the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum, Back Porch Club, Show Pavilion, General Exhibits Building, Creative Arts Building and the recently constructed Stall Barn.2

Rodeo at the HOT Fair in the Coliseum - Oct. 10, 2009

Photo © Mywisewife.com

Rodeo at the HOT Fair in the Coliseum - Oct. 10, 2009

Photo © Mywisewife.com

Rodeo at the HOT Fair in the Coliseum - Oct. 10, 2009

Photo © Mywisewife.com

On August 24, 2010, Fair officials announced that Extraco Banks signed a long-term naming rights deal, officially changing the name of the grounds to the Extraco Events Center. This new naming rights deal follows the June announcement of a master plan for the grounds, which includes expanded hard surface parking lots, equestrian facility extension, a new larger exposition hall to replace the two halls and a hotel site. The coliseum is getting a make-over with a new large back-lit sign of the Extraco Events Center name above the main entrance. Additional lit signage will also be added to the East and West sides, as well as updated signage throughout the grounds. Installation should be completed in time for the annual Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo in October. The iconic hearts on the North and South ends of the coliseum will remain.2

The Heart O' Texas Coliseum in Waco
Photo courtesy web

According to a study by Baylor University economist Dr. Tom Kelly, the complex today hosts more than 225 events attracting more than 420,000 people annually has a $40 million annual economic impact on the area.7

Aerial views of the Heart O' Texas Coliseum
Photos courtesy Microsoft EarthData

Page added October 9, 2010

All ads and articles unless otherwise specified are courtesy the West Waco Library & Genealogy Ctr. and the San Antonio Public Library. Special thanks to Othel M. Neely, Andy Crews, Linda Merryman, Gillian Wiseman and Steve Bonner for their assistance with this page.

Many of the photos taken at the Coliseum through the years, and many appearing here, were taken by Jimmie Willis, a Waco photographer who also shot for the Waco News-Tribune. In 1953 he published a book called "The Waco Texas tornado in pictures: A collection of 24 scenes of the ruin caused by the tornado that struck Waco, Texas, at 4:40 P.M. on Monday, May 11, 1953," now out of print, and later in 1995 "The photographer's views of Waco," also out of print.

1 according to Billboard Magazine - April 25, 1953
2 courtesy Extraco Events Center - Who We Are
3 according to 4 according to Billboard Magazine - August 15, 1953
5 according to Billboard Magazine - November 27, 1954
6 according to "Did Elvis Sing in your Hometown?" by Lee Cotten
7 courtesy KWTX.com, Goodbye Heart O’Texas Fair Complex, Hello Extraco Events Center - August 24, 2010

Extraco Events Center in Waco, TX - Oct. 15, 2010

Extraco Events Center in Waco, TX - Oct. 15, 2010

Extraco Events Center in Waco, TX - Oct. 15, 2010

Extraco Events Center in Waco, TX - Oct. 15, 2010


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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This site created and managed by James V. Roy for Scotty Moore with the sole intent to help promote the arts and history of American popular music and Scotty's major role in it. Every attempt was made to give credit for any images or text borrowed from the World Wide Web and we greatly appreciate the use of it. Technical difficulties or questions dealing with this Server should be addressed to the Webmaster. Copyright © 2002, 2014