Concert for the U.S.S. Arizona


USS Arizona  was a Pennsylvania-class battleship built for and by the United States Navy in the mid-1910s. Named in honor of the 48th state’s recent admission into the union, the ship was the second and last of the Pennsylvania class of “super-dreadnought” battleships. Although commissioned in 1916, the ship remained stateside during World War I.

WoodrowWilson1Shortly after the end of the war, Arizona was one of a number of American ships that briefly escorted President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference.

USSArizona2The ship was sent to Turkey in 1919 at the beginning of the Greco-Turkish War to represent American interests for several months. Several years later, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and remained there for the rest of her career.

USSArizona4AWhen an earthquake struck Long Beach, California, on 10 March 1933, the Arizona’s crew provided aid to the survivors. In July 1934, the ship was featured in a James Cagney film, “Here Comes the Navy”, about the romantic troubles of a sailor. Here’s a gorgeous photo of her in dry dock.

USSArizona3In April 1940, she and the rest of the Pacific Fleet were transferred from California to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as a deterrent to Japanese imperialism.

During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Arizona was bombed. After a bomb detonated in a powder magazine, the battleship exploded violently and sank, with the loss of 1,177 officers and crewmen. Above is a rare color photo of the explosion.

USSArizona6Unlike many of the other ships sunk or damaged that day, Arizona was irreparably damaged by the force of the magazine explosion, though the Navy removed parts of the ship for reuse.

The wreck still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.

USSArizona9Dedicated on 30 May 1962 to all those who died during the attack, the memorial straddles but does not touch the ship’s hull. It is accessible only by boat.

RipleysBelieveItOrNotRobert Ripley, of Ripley’s Believe It or Not fame, visited Pearl Harbor in 1942.

RobertRipleySix years later, in 1948, he did a radio broadcast from Pearl Harbor in which he stated “I am sure that all my listeners will join with me in tribute to the heroes of Pearl Harbor.

440px-ADM_Arthur_RadfordWhile Ripley’s original idea for a memorial was disregarded due to the cost, the Navy continued with the idea of creating a memorial. Admiral Arthur W. Radford, commander of the Pacific Fleet, requested funds for a national memorial in 1951 and 1952, but was denied because of budget constraints during the Korean War.

USSArizona8President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the creation of a National Memorial in 1958. Enabling legislation required the memorial, budgeted at US$500,000, be privately financed; however, $200,000 of the memorial cost was government subsidized. Originally run by the Department of the Navy, 1980 the current visitors center is operated by the National Park Service.

ConcertTicket1Sat. Mar. 25th, 1961 Elvis Presley U.S.S. Arizona Benefit Concertraised more than $50,000. That covered more than 10% of the final cost of the USS Arizona Memorial.

ColParkerHawaii1961According to Ernst Jorgensen and Peter Guralnick in their book, Elvis : Day By Day, the genesis of the ’61 concert in Hawaii occurred on December 4, 1960, when Colonel Parker read an editorial in the Los Angeles Examiner about the effort to raise funds for a memorial to the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. The Colonel seen here during the concert, watching over “His Boy”.

ConcertTicket2The initial fundraising efforts to build the Memorial had stalled, with only half of the funds needed raised. In an effort to re-energize the campaign, Hawaii journalists sent out an appeal to newspaper editors across the country asking for editorial support. Elvis agreed and The Colonel held a press conference to publicly announce the coming concert on January 11, 1961, at the Hawaiian Village Hotel in Honolulu. ‘Every penny of that taken in must go to the fund’, Parker explained, ‘otherwise, we are not interested in doing the show.

ConcertAudienceMore than 4,000 fans attended the concert on March 25, 1961, purchasing tickets ranging in price from $3 to $100. The concert, which featured Elvis Presley and an all-star lineup of entertainers, raised just over $54,000 toward the $500,000 goal. Many public and private donations followed the show.

USSArizona10The Bloch Arena at Pearl Harbor would be the venue. Of the 4,000 seats available, 100 ‘ringside’ seats would be sold for $100 each. The rest of the tickets, scaled at $10, $5, $3.50, and $3, would go on sale March 13. ‘Not a living soul will get a free ticket to this show’, stated H. Tucker Gratz, chairman of the memorial fund commission. ‘And that includes the performers, and even Colonel Parker’. Parker said he and Elvis would pay all other performers out of their own pockets, and all expenses would be donated.

PlaneSeatListThe morning of March 25, 1961, Elvis boarded a Pan American Airways jet in Los Angeles to start what he knew would be a long, tiring day for him. Even before the plane took off from LA, an estimated crowd of 3,000 began gathering at Honolulu International Airport to greet Elvis on his arrival.

ElvisConcert1At 12:15 p.m. the plane carrying Presley touched down in Honolulu, and at 12:27 Elvis, wearing a black suit and a ruffled white shirt, appeared at the rear door.

ElvisConcert2Elvis and his party didn’t venture into the crowd. Looking pale, Elvis paused only twice in his march up and down outside the fence.

BlockArenaMeanwhile, lines were already forming at the entrances to Bloch Arena. ‘At 6:30 p.m., two hours before show time, the crowds extended for blocks’.

ElvisConcert3The show was opened by the Phil Ingall Orchestra, followed by an Hawaiian comedian; Sterling Mossman. Then there were performances of Boots Randolph (sax) , Floyd Cramer (piano) and The Jordanaires (vocal) before country comedian, Minnie Pearl hit the stage. Finally after the break, Rear admiral Robert L. Campbell introduced Elvis on stage. Elvis wore his gold lame jacket and black dress pants. This would be the last time Elvis would ever wear the gold lame jacket.

ElvisConcert4The concert itself would become the last performance on stage till Elvis return on stage, almost 8 years later in Las Vegas in 1969. The show raised nearly $65,000 for the USS Arizona Memorial building fund. This show created one of the biggest private donations to the memorial.

ElvisConcert601. Heartbreak Hotel,

ElvisConcert702. All Shook Up,

ElvisConcert803. A Fool Such As I,

ElvisConcert904. I Got A Woman,

ElvisConcert1005. Love Me,

ElvisConcert1106. Such A Night,

ElvisConcert1207. Reconsider Baby,

ElvisConcert1308. I Need Your Love Tonight,

ElvisConcert1409. That’s All Right,

ElvisConcert1510. Don’t Be Cruel,

ElvisConcert1611. One Night,

ElvisConcert1712. Are You Lonesome Tonight?,

ElvisConcert1813. It’s Now Or Never,

ElvisConcert1914. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,

ElvisConcert2015. Hound Dog.

1957-november-10bElvis concluded his performance by sliding six feet across the stage on his knees while singing ‘Hound Dog’. Now this photo is from November, 1957. BUT it is from a show he did in Hawaii. So you get the Idea.

ElvisConcert21Gross ticket sales were $52,000, surpassing the $50,000 goal Colonel Parker had originally set. An additional $5,000 check from Colonel Parker and Elvis, along with concessions revenue and additional donations collected at the arena, pushed the memorial commission’s proceeds over $62,000. Although the amount was not enough to complete the memorial, it was enough to prepare the memorial for dedication.

PearlHarborConcertPlaque1Today the more than 1 million annual visitors can view a plaque that recognizes Elvis Presley as one of the contributors to the memorial.

PearlHarborConcertPlaque2Various Presley merchandise and artifacts from the 1961 benefit show are kept in the memorial archives and can be viewed by appointment.

TapeRecorderA tape recording of this show was made.

ConcertL.P.1978The recording was released on a “Bootleg” L.P. around 1978-79.

SilverBoxSet1It was officially released by RCA in 1980 on the box-set ‘Elvis Aron Presley’. Unfortunately there was NO sound quality difference. R.C.A. had some technologies at that time to improve the sound but chose not to.

SuchANightPearlHarborLPRe-released again in 2015 as the “Such A Night” L.P. & CD. This is my FAVORITE “LIVE” recording of ANY Presley concert. The folks at the “Memphis Recording Service”, probably from Europe, chose to use modern technology to enhance the sound and it’s AMAZING what that old reel to reel recorder picked up! There was probably only one microphone used but the people in charge of this re-release really showed their “LOVE” for this project. I highly recommend it to any Presley or just Rock ‘n Roll fans in general.

RockTheBlockAlso released in 2015 is this awesome book totally dedicated to the concert. Another HIGHLY recommend.

PearlHarborConcertPlaque3Another award for the same show but presented in 1975 by the Survivors Association.

ElvisConcert5As was said many times “Elvis has left the building. ALOHA!