HomeEntertainmentMusicCountry Throwback: Elvis Presley Bombed First and Only Opry Performance in 1954

Country Throwback: Elvis Presley Bombed First and Only Opry Performance in 1954

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Well, there’s a reason they call him the King of Rock n Roll and not Country Music. Elvis Presley did a lot of things in his career including Hollywood movies. But perhaps country music wasn’t his strong suit.

At least if his Grand Ole Opry performance was anything to go by. Presley would become an international superstar, beloved by millions, and forever change the face of music. But his style didn’t sit right with audiences at the Opry during his one and only appearance at the establishment.

The King actually loved country music and was successful in the genre. Some of Presley’s music, especially his early material, had a country music bent. The singer combined the sounds of country, gospel, and blues music to form an emerging genre. Presley was one of the leading figures of the rockabilly movement, striking through Memphis and the South.

But his style didn’t sit well with country music traditionalists.

Elvis Presley Plays at the Grand Ole Opry

In 1954, Presley was still in the early days of his career with a rockabilly edge to his music. He was an emerging talent, known as the King of Western Bop. But he had yet to reach the wide-scale appeal that would dominate his later career. The Opry invited Presley to play, and the young singer took his rockabilly sound with him.

Performing in October, Presley gave a rocking version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” which the audience absolutely hated. The King’s high energy performance failed to win over a crowd of country traditionalists. Presley bombed badly. In fact, the talent manager Jim Denny reportedly told him he should quit music altogether.

After that day, Presley promised to never come back to the Circle. His rejection ended up becoming a blessing in disguise. He signed a contract with the Opry’s competitor, the Louisiana Hayride. Playing the establishment for a year helped push Presley to national acclaim. Because without his fans, he would be lost.