Elvis Presley performed in only one other country besides the United States, and that one country is Canada.
Elvis made his first and last Canadian appearances in 1957. Young Elvis – having already released his first album and film in 1956, and had just purchased Graceland – arrived in Canada for the first two of these appearances in April 1957.
Elvis’ first Canadian performances were at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. April 2, 1957. Elvis wore his stunning, sparkling gold suit for this show – and this was the last time he wore the full suit. For future performances, Elvis would only wear pieces from this suit, such as just the jacket, belt and shoes, and in some shows, just the jacket.
At this performance, Elvis accompanied himself on piano for “Blueberry Hill,” Fats Domino’s chart-topping hit. Elvis loved Fats and owned several of his albums.
Elvis performed again in Canada the next day, April 3, at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Ottawa Auditorium in Ottawa. Elvis wore the gold jacket and shoes, but not the gold tie and pants.
Elvis’ career was in full swing, but he was still a bit of controversial figure. Parents and religious officials were concerned about their kids listening to rock ‘n’ roll and the potentially dangerous influence Elvis had on his fans (a funny notion nearly 60 years later, huh?). A local girls’ school, the Notre Dame Convent, forbade its students to attend the concert and suspended eight of its students who ignored the rule. Elvis was booked to perform in Montreal, too, but that show was canceled due to civic concern and pressure from local Catholic officials.
Elvis’ next Canadian concert was at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver on August 31, 1957.
The 26,500 fans in attendance went wild for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The stage was set up on the empty football field, but fans wanted to be closer. Thousands bypassed security to find a place in front of the stage on the field. The show had to be stopped twice for safety concerns. Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, suggested to Elvis that he tone down his show, but being a rock ‘n’ roll rebel, Elvis didn’t listen to him. He did shorten the set, though, and – for safety reasons – he fooled the audience. He gave his gold jacket to a crew member to wear while getting into a car, so fans would think it was Elvis leaving. The fans followed the man in the gold jacket, and Elvis was allowed to calmly leave the stadium unharmed.
Canadian fans still love Elvis that much to this day. Fans host Elvis festivals that celebrate the man, his music and his legacy.
The Penticton Elvis Festival is June 24-26, 2016, and it includes an Ultimate ETA Contest preliminary round, headlining concerts, gospel show and more.
One of the biggest Canadian Elvis events is the Collingwood Elvis Festival, set for July 20-24, 2016. The schedule of events includes an Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest preliminary round, ETA performances, Memphis RibFest, street party and much more.
And the feeling is mutual. Elvis’ hometown, Memphis, celebrated Canada last month as part of its annual Memphis in May International Festival.
For a full list of Elvis-inspired events taking place all over the world, check out Graceland.com’s Calendar of Events.