You’d be hard pressed to find many that haven’t heard the famous quote, “Elvis has left the building.” However, even some hardcore Elvis Presley fans may not know the origin of the quote.
In fact, most people link the quote to the end of Presley’s career when he left the stage after live shows. Yet few realize “Elvis has left the building” dates all the way back to the 1950s and to the early days of his iconic career.
The quote is so well-known it has transcended its original intent. For decades, the quote has been commonplace, used jokingly when someone has left a room or building. In addition, people use it as a term to end a particular moment, relationship, or when someone passes away. But we can’t discuss the origin of the quote without revisiting Presley’s early rise to fame.
Elvis Presley’s Meteoric Rise to Fame
On March 3, 1955, Elvis Presley made his local television debut. The budding singer performed at the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Louisiana Hayride hosted the show, which put on live country music shows for local radio.
Only five months before, he began his career with weekly radio spots at just 19 years old. In fact, Presley’s parents, Vernon and Gladys, had to co-sign his radio contract because of his young age. He made $18 each week for his radio appearances, but one year later his rate increased significantly as his popularity began to take off. In October 1955, he renegotiated his contract to $200 per week, a huge amount at the time.
Around this time, his manager Colonel Parker began a bidding frenzy within record labels for the rights to sign the young star. Presley had just released his debut single “Heartbreak Hotel” in January 1956, which quickly climbed to the top of the charts. Two months later, the legendary singer’s self-titled first album came out and stayed at No. 1 for ten straight weeks.
Presley’s meteoric rise to fame was well underway. Additionally, his manager had bigger plans for Elvis than local radio spots. Parker bought out Presley’s Louisiana Hayride’s contract for $10,000 so they could focus on television appearances and touring the country. The buyout had one stipulation though – Presley had to play one more concert for them, a charity show in December 1956.
That year, The King performed 143 live shows in 79 cities and made 11 national TV appearances. He also starred in his first movie, Love Me Tender, and released a second album, Elvis, that topped the charts as well. Within a year, Presley had already become one of the biggest stars in the country, and his fans couldn’t get enough of him. Elvis hysteria was already in full effect.
‘Elvis Has Left the Building’ Is Born Out of Necessity
That December, Elvis Presley honored his commitment to the Louisiana Hayride by playing their Christmas fundraiser for the local YMCA. “Elvis the Pelvis” became so large that they moved the show from Municipal Auditorium to the Louisiana State Fairgrounds. The local media covered the craze over the show.
“It was a big night for the Shreveport police force, too,” a local report said, according to an article from Express. “With teen-agers giving every indication of tearing the Pelvis limb from limb out of sheer admiration and animal spirits, the police threw up more or less effective barricades throughout the building. They were effective enough to keep Presley from being mobbed, but just barely.”
“It required considerable agility to keep up with him as he fled from one room to another—always a step or two ahead of his admirers,” the report added.
Presley performed all his early hits, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Hound Dog.” Per usual, Presley’s adoring fans went wild for The King. To the frustration of the event’s host Horace Logan, he couldn’t get the rowdy crowd to calm down. Even after Presley’s set ended, Logan had trouble quieting the crowd so the next band could begin. Logan could’ve never known that the simple and necessary words he spoke that day would go down in history.
“All right, all right, Elvis has left the building,” Logan desperately told the hysterical crowd. “I’ve told you absolutely straight up to this point. You know that. He has left the building. He left the stage and went out the back with the policemen and he is now gone from the building.”
Presley’s career continued to skyrocket, and promoters often used the famous phrase for the rest of his career following his performances. Like his hip-shaking and extravagant costumes, “Elvis has left the building” became another calling card of The King.