One night: looking back at Elvis Presley’s Bloch Arena concert

(Far left) Elvis Presley performed a charity concert to raise money for the USS Arizona Memorial at Bloch Arena March 25, 1961. (Left) Elvis Presley visited the completed USS Arizona Memorial Aug. 15, 1965. Photos courtesy of Honolulu Star-Advertiser archives.

(Far left) Elvis Presley performed a charity concert to raise money for the USS Arizona Memorial at Bloch Arena March 25, 1961.

(Left) Elvis Presley visited the completed USS Arizona Memorial Aug. 15, 1965.

Photos courtesy of Honolulu Star-Advertiser archives.

Brandon Bosworth

Staff Writer

On Jan. 14, the classic Elvis Presley concert film “Aloha from Hawaii” will be screened at the Neil Blaisdell Arena. This screening commemorates the 40th anniversary of Elvis’s famous 1973 Honolulu concert. The show was broadcast live via satellite with over 1 billion people watching worldwide, and “Aloha from Hawaii” is considered to be the most watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in television history.

Yet just over a decade earlier, Elvis had put on another concert in Hawaii, and that show, while not as well known, remains an important part of the history of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

On March 25, 1961, Elvis Presley performed a benefit concert at Bloch Arena to raise money for the construction of the USS Arizona Memorial. More than 4,000 fans attended the show, paying from $3 all the way to $100 a ticket. The concert, which Elvis hoped would raise $50,000, in fact raised $54,000.

The money was sorely needed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had approved the creation of memorial in 1958. $500,00 was needed for its construction. However, within a couple of years, donations slowed and the memorial fund was in dire need of cash. Elvis Presley’s infamous manager, Col. Tom Parker, heard about the situation, and he and Elvis offered to do a benefit concert.

Rear. Adm. Robert L. Campbell introduced Presley, saying, “He is a fine American. He has had many starring roles, not the least of these has been as a soldier in the U.S. Army.” During his hour on stage, Elvis sang 15 songs: “Heartbreak Hotel,” “All Shook Up,” “A Fool Such As I,” “I Got a Woman,” “Love Me,” “Such a Night,” “Reconsider Baby,” “I Need Your Love Tonight,” “That’s All Right,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “One Night,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “It’s Now or Never,” “Swing Down Sweet Chariot,” and “Hound Dog.”

The Bloch Arena concert received rave reviews from the Honolulu Advertiser, which described it as “fast-paced and slick. It jumped. When Elvis came on the teenagers screamed for 2 1/2 minutes without let-up. Elvis was wearing his famous gold jacket with silvery glints like sequins, dark blue trousers and a white shirt and a blue string tie.”

This would be the last time Elvis would wear his “famous gold jacket” in concert. It was also the last he would perform live for over 8 years.

The USS Arizona Memorial was finally dedicated Memorial Day, May 30, 1962 just over a year after Elvis’s charity concert. It marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941

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Category: News