Perhaps there was no greater pop-culture event in Ottawa during the 1950’s than the Elvis Presley concerts held at the Auditorium in April 1957. Presley embodied the spirit of rock n’ roll, a new phenomenon unfamiliar to adults. His presence in the city sent thousands of teenagers and young adults into fits of impassioned hysteria.
The “King” arrived in Ottawa on April 3, 1957. Teenagers traveled from as far as Montreal to attend the shows. A special train, nicknamed the “Rock N’ Roll Cannon Ball” was packed with over 500 concert-goers. When Presley stepped onto the stage, the audience of over 9,000 were so loud it was almost impossible to hear Presley singing. The fans were in a frenzy of Elvis worship: “some wept, some moaned; some clutched their heads in ecstasy; everybody screamed, stamped, clapped hands, flailed arms, one person got down on all fours and pounded the floor” (Parmeler 13). The police were out in record numbers because there was concern that the screaming fans would rush the stage.
Elvis Presley was a controversial entertainer because his ‘suggestive’ pelvis thrusting and dance moves scandalized many parents and authority figures. The Notre Dame Convent, viewing Presley as immoral and un-Christian, forbade its students from attending the concert. Eight students were expelled after going to see the King, and controversy gripped the city. The nuns later nullified the expulsions, but at least half of the girls remained enrolled in different schools. Elvis Presley definitely made an impression on Ottawa.
Title/Description: Elvis Presley at the Auditorium. Elvis performing on stage with guitar.
Photographer: A. Andrews, C. Buckman, D. Gall, T. Grant.
Date: April 3,1957.
Credit: Andrews-Newton Photographers Fonds / City of Ottawa Archives / MG393-AN-049378-109.
Copyright: City of Ottawa Archives.