Sunday, February 05, 2023

Review Elvis 1957 April 4 to April 30 Book

Released early January 2022 was the latest addition to Paul Bélard’s visual biography series. This installment covers April 4th to 30th. Let’s have a look at this new Elvis Presley time-capsule. 




With over 20 titles in this series, this volume follows the design we know by now: a mainly black and white illustrated day-by-day account of Elvis’ whereabouts in a certain time-frame. Added to the photographs are original newspaper reviews and articles (also by teenagers from Philadelphia schools), memorabilia and observations from the author. This additional material makes the photographs come alive. 


The author has to find a balance between adding the available photographic material and telling the complete story for the period he covers. Readers wanting to dive into certain sections on the Elvis Presley time-line are well served. 

Bélard’s series of books are not deluxe coffee table releases. Fans of high resolution photographs should look for the book by Erik Lorenzen like ‘Greater Than Ever - A Touch of Gold Lame’ or ‘Elvis In Person, One Night in Toronto April 2, 1957’ or one of the Ger Rijff originals covering this era.




This book is the second volume in this series on 1957, the previously released ‘Elvis In Hawaii’ covers the month November. 


April 1957 started out with a clash between Elvis Presley and the Catholic Church in Canada, and Elvis lost … Due to pressure from the omnipresent and very powerful Catholic Church Elvis was kicked out of Canada and his Montreal concert (April 4th) was cancelled. He continued his tour and travelled to Philadelphia for two shows. The review of the shows in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin read like a summary of Elvis meteoric rise to fame and society’s (and for that matter the Church’s reaction) to “the former Tennessee truck driver” with headers like "Hysterical Mob Drowns Out Elvis’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Songs", "Rhythm in the day and Blues in the Night ... If He Doesn’t Slow Up, He May Burn Himself Out" and “Bedlam at the Arena. Elvis Rocks, His Fans Roll”. 


The articles state: “The audience screamed, yelled, clapped, stomped and popped flashbulbs at the Caruso of rock ‘n’ roll. Anybody who wanted to hear Elvis had a pretty hard time. The shrieking was so loud that there wouldn’t have been an eardrum intact if there had been a full house at the Arena, 46th and Market Sts. Less than half of the 6,500 seats were filled at each of the shows last night, at 7 and 9 P.M. … 


Every new gesture and wiggle brought a variance in pitch from the howl of the audience, mostly young girls. It was rare that a word could be discerned even by those standing only a few feet from the stage. … There was little disturbance, except for the earsplitting screaming. Policemen stopped a few girls from rushing down the aisles on several occasions.”


Newspapers reports like this are the beauty of Bélard’s series as they illustrate the timeboxes he compiles for us. Browsing through the book he offers us more insights in how “Mr. Dynamite blasted onto the scene” and how Elvis was perceived, during the halcyon days of "Presley mania". All presented in a day-by-day format and illustrated with photographs.


Also great to see that Elvis borrowed Scotty’s Gibson L5 guitar to accompany himself on ‘One Night’ in Philadelphia or the screencaps from a screentest for the then forthcoming movie ‘Jailhouse Rock’, filmed backstage. It consisted of Elvis close-ups, mostly smiling, then playing with his guitar for a while, before ending standing up and waving at the camera, much like the screentest he did at Paramount Studios almost a year earlier to the date. 


We also learn about the caring side of Elvis. After receiving his copy of ‘The Elvis Game’ he presents it to young polio victims and later on in the book we see that Elvis buys the first button for Coffee Day for Crippled Children in Memphis. So perhaps he isn’t as evil as some of the media make him out to be … The release of Extended Play ‘Peace In The Valley’ illustrated another side of our man and his link to his faith. 


The shots of Elvis’ performance at the Sports Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are great to watch. Wearing his Gold Lame jacket there is no doubt who the new King is. Although there are still signs of rebellion to the new King among the 5,329 people in the arena, as the new ruler (actually his guitar) got egged during the show. 

Other images from April 1957 show Elvis welcoming Yvonne Lyme, the installation of the famous musical gates at Graceland - including the sales receipt for the gates - and Elvis recording the ‘Jailhouse Rock’ soundtrack.




The beauty of this series are the day-by-day walk throughs of era’s from the Elvis Presley timeline in a pleasing mix of the visual, the narrative and archival material. It shows a very busy schedule for our man (with one month of time, spread over 200 pages) with the many recognizable topics we as fans know so well. Seeing is presented like this, we see what we kind-off take for granted as part of Elvis’ history and legacy.