The other day as I surfed the internet, I discovered that Frank Zappa once recorded a song titled “Elvis Has Just Left the Building.” What a bizarre combination – Zappa and Elvis. So I Googled it to see if I could find the lyrics, or even better, the paper jacket for the 45 record if it had been released as a single.
My search found the lyrics (nothing special) but no picture sleeve, because it was not a single, but an album cut from Broadway the Hard Way, a live Zappa album from his 1988 world tour. However, my search did bring up numerous links to things connected to the classic phrase, “Elvis Has Left the Building.” Here is a brief history of this iconic five-word phrase and some of the more interesting ways it has been used.
“Elvis has left the building” originated at the Louisiana Hayride on December 15, 1956.
Between October 1954 and April 1956, Elvis performed forty-nine times on the Louisiana Hayride. He was contractually obliged to make more appearances there throughout 1956, but his soaring popularity put Elvis in much so demand nationally that Col. Parker worked out a way for Elvis to skip those shows. Parker cut a deal to pay the Louisiana Hayride $10,000, roughly $400 for each missed appearance. Plus, Elvis would do one last grand performance on December 15, 1956.
To accommodate the expected large crowd for this event, the venue was switched from the usual Shreveport Municipal Auditorium to the much bigger Hirsch Youth Center at the Louisiana Fairgrounds. Ten thousand kids jammed the Youth Building and screamed at the top of their lungs for the duration of the King’s 45-minute show. After Elvis had given his final encore and left the stage, the crowd headed for the exits, even though many other acts were still waiting to perform. Hayride founder and producer Horace Lee Logan took the microphone and made a plea to the audience just after Elvis walked off stage.
“Please, young people . . . Elvis has left the building. He has gotten in his car and driven away. . . . Please take your seats.”
Apparently, the fans’ screaming had made it useless to try and record the show, so there is some disagreement about what Logan actually said that night. Here is another version from Wikipedia.
“Alright, alright, Elvis has left the building. 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 policeman and he is now gone from the building.”
The man usually associated with the phrase is Al Dvorin. He first met Elvis in 1955 and worked with him for 22 years, helping to organize his tours and personal appearances. It was in the early 1970s that Col. Parker asked Dvorin to inform fans after a concert that Elvis would not be coming back for an encore. Dvorin took the stage and made his now legendary announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and goodnight.”
“Elvis has left the building” continued as a staple at Elvis concerts and has become part of the Elvis legend. It has lived on long past his death. Now the catchphrase has universal meaning that is clear to all: the show’s over, the curtain has fallen, the sun has set, that’s all she wrote, the fat lady has sung, our work here is done, end of story.
Now for some of the stuff this famous phrase has inspired.
This crudely drawn cartoon was inspired by the phrase’s origin, but the artist felt it necessary to ridicule the announcer’s Southern accent and Elvis’ hair.
This is much better. Elvis’ friend and the leader of the back-up group The Stamps released a tribute album after Elvis passed away.
Of course, EPE never misses a chance for a marketing opportunity and came up with this keychain for $9.
This 4” x 3” belt buckle appears on a Australian website, so it may have been made without any licensing from EPE (or copyright payment to Al Wertheimer for his photographic image).
This is one of several T-shirts bearing the phrase “Elvis has left the building.”
This is the artwork for an article in the Westbourne Academy on-line newsletter. “Elvis has left the building” was selected as their English Idiom of the Month. I wish they had selected a better picture.
This is a play that has appeared in local theaters around the country. We looked at it in an ElvisBlog article two months ago.
This is a pretty clever movie from 2004 starring Kim Basinger and John Corbett. ElvisBlog covered it six years ago.
This is from the opening credits of the movie. The pink lipstick is part of the storyline because Kim Basinger is a cosmetic saleslady who wears pink clothing and drives a pink Caddy convertible.
We could go on and on with examples of how “Elvis has left the building” has been used, but we’ll end here. This phrase makes the perfect title for a picture of Elvis and a collage of newspaper headlines from the day he died.
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