Goodbye Little Rock and Roller
Marshall Chapman’s book Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller – excerpt:
February 9, 1956
The first time I ever heard the name Elvis Presley was the same day I saw him play live.
“They say he white, but sing like he colored,” Cora said. Cora had been talking about Elvis all week.
“Elvis . . .” she repeated slowly. “Now what kind of name is that?”
The ad in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal proclaimed Elvis “The most talked about new personality in the last ten years of recorded music.” It also said he was playing four shows at Spartanburg’s very own Carolina Theater. “Today only!” it said, like there might not be a tomorrow. This was Thursday, February 9, 1956–a school day. I was seven years old and halfway through the first grade.
The first two shows were matinees, and patrons were notified that the theater would be cleared before the evening shows to “accommodate the crowds.” Sounded like a happening to me. Like the circus that time in Greenville or the Piedmont Interstate Fair.
I remember Cora taking off her apron, saying, “come on, child, let’s go see what all the fuss is about!” I’d just walked in from riding my bike home from school. Next thing I knew, I was upstairs shaking out quarters from the plastic pill bottle I used to stash my weekly allowance.
The paper said the admission price for children was fifty cents. White children, that is. Admission prices for all shows were listed as follows:
ADULTS 85 cents
CHILDREN 50 cents
Then underneath, in a small font size:
Co.Balc. Adults 60 cents Child 25 cents
It’s interesting to note, that of the hundred and thirty-five words used in the ad, colored and balcony are the only two that were abbreviated. Like they were writing in code or something. “They” being the abbreviated minds that would think something like segregation was okay. I once wrote a song with the lines: “But that was then / and this is now / and now is all I know / It might as well have been a hundred million years ago.”