Minden and the History Lesson: The time Elvis Presley performed live at Joy’s Drive-In Theatre

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Minden and Webster Parish have quite a few secrets. Maybe they aren’t secrets to the locals, but some are new to me. I have been happy with the reception of the articles. This week, I want to share some of the things the readers have shared with me.  

My first article about Hank Williams got a lot of attention. It was pointed out that neglected to say that Hank and Billie Jean’s wedding was complicated by the fact that she wasn’t divorced yet. This is true. However, years later the marriage was recognized and Billie Jean, along with Hank, Jr. and Jett Williams became equal heirs to Hanks estate. Although his first wife, Audrey is buried next to Hank in Nashville, she was left out completely.

I wrote about Lefty Frizzell’s accident in Minden and found out that Harmon Drew is a pretty popular guy. I have enjoyed talking with him and getting to know him.

After the article about Percy Mayfield, I learned that locals, Tracy Campbell, Randall Wilson, and Brian Carlisle went to New Orleans to accept The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame award on his behalf!

I wrote an article about the legendary James Burton. I don’t use that title lightly and was pleased to receive this photo of James in Miss Winn’s fourth-grade class at Minden Elementary. That’s young James Burton on the bottom left.  Priceless!

After that article, I was reminded of another Minden music-related story.  In 1955, July 15th was on a Friday.  It was that night that John Cobb booked a young talented kid to perform at the Joy Drive-in Theatre for $25 for 1 performance.

He borrowed a flat-bed trailer from Almond’s Feed and Seed and parked it in front of the concession stand.  His sister, Miss Cheshire, managed the theatre and this night was the first time this future star would see his name on a marquee!

That young man was none other than Elvis Presley!  He came and performed his songs to a throng of young people.  He came out wearing a pink tuxedo with a black see-through blousy shirt.  Not everyone was enamored with his stylings.  One person told me that she thought his hair looked too greasy.  She wasn’t too impressed with his pink outfit.  She said his shirt looked girly-looking and thought his performance was intimidating. 

To the fans, it was a great event.  Behind the scenes, there was one catastrophe avoided.  It seems Elvis had forgotten his jacket back at the Bossier City motel.  So, John had to rush back to get it, and did, just in time for the show. 

Miss Cheshire’s daughter, Peggy (later Peggy Cheshire Baldwin) was dating a young man with a camera and a sense that history was being made.  His name is David Madalozzo, and he was stationed at Barksdale AFB at the time.  A few of his photos have survived and the quality is remarkable.  Young people may not realize, but in 1955, when you took photos, you didn’t know how they would turn out until there were developed.  These turned out great!

After the show, Madalozzo took a photo of his date, Peggy with Elvis.  You’ll notice that, although Elvis has his hand around Peggy, he isn’t touching her.  Peggy said that her boyfriend insisted he not get too close. 

In this photo, Elvis is relaxing in a chair at the manager’s house which was located on the property of the Drive-In.  If you’re wondering, the bottle at his feet is Vick’s Cough Syrup.

The guy in this photo with Elvis might be Bob Chandler.  He worked in the theatre and would have been there that night.

Writing about music history is made better when I hear personal stories from the readers.  Please feel free to share any stories you have or want me to investigate.  Thanks for reading.

Johnny Wessler is a historian and offers local and regional music tours. For more information contact Mr. Wessler at 318-393-3274 or Johnny.Wessler@gmail.com

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