The highlight of 1957 had a date: August 31. The place: Empire Stadium, Vancouver. The occasion: The live appearance of Elvis Presley.
More than 26,000 tickets were sold for the event. Presley arrived in Vancouver by train as his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, did not want Elvis to fly. The train arrived in the morning at the Great Northern Railway station, catching the media off guard as they had anticipated he would be arriving by plane. He was then driven by limousine to the Georgia Hotel. I took the elevator to the 12th floor and started walking down the hall toward Elvis’ room. I knocked on the door, it flew open and Tom Diskin, Elvis Presley's road manager, greeted us. The meeting was brief: a handshake, a question here, an answer there. Elvis was cautious at our initial meeting but when he realized that I was not there to interview him, he was most cordial. We talked about his success, the types of music we both enjoyed and his enjoyment of live performances where he could see immediate reaction to his stage act.
I guess one of the main reasons I have always been a Presley fan is that I discovered a down to earth individual who had not been affected by the incredible success that fell upon him. We said goodbye and I said that I was looking forward to his show and would see him later that day at the stadium.
The next scene opens at the Elvis press conference. I discovered that only the newsmen had brought tape recorders. The other deejays had not. I hadn't been used to doing interviews with a press group and was determined to get my piece in. As the microphones were pushed into Presley's face I fought to ask him questions mostly related to his music. He seemed to understand that I was not out to gather any sensational news. When the press conference ended, Elvis and I were joined by two Vancouver policemen. We stayed there together for what seemed like an eternity waiting for the stadium to fill up with fans. These were intimate moments with the "King".
We talked about growing up poor. We discussed the changing world, his family, my family, his love of rhythm and blues, country and gospel music. Elvis discussed at great length his ambitions with regard to his music. He asked me about my radio show, the kids that listened, how they reacted to his television appearances and his records.
Just before I left the dressing room to go out and bring on the opening acts, Elvis stood up, stretched out his hand and said, "It was nice meeting you. Good luck with your radio career and I hope we get to see each other again down the road."
With my heart pounding with excitement I left Elvis and walked toward the stage at the north end of Empire Stadium. I can't describe the feeling of looking out at a sea of 25,000 faces. I had to gather up every ounce of courage. My introduction was brief: I walked out to thundering applause and said "On behalf of the Teen Canteen, Canada’s largest teen show, I'm proud tonight to present to you, ELVIS PRESLEY!" The crowd went berserk.
Elvis performed for only 25 minutes. He sang many of his hits including "Heartbreak Hotel", "Don't Be Cruel", "That's When Your Heartaches Begin", and "Hound Dog". As the crowd grew more alarming, Presley was ordered by his manager to wrap up the show and depart in his Cadillac, now parked conveniently behind the stage. It was truly an unforgettable evening.
On August 31, 1982, to mark the 25th anniversary of Elvis' visit to Vancouver, CBC's Vicki Gabereau sat down with me and we covered some of the highlights of the concert. I thought I'd lost this interview, and it was a treat to hear it again. Hope you enjoy my recollections of one of the greatest days of my life.