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Yesterday in La Crosse

Playing “Twenty-One” with the King

Brad Williams

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This month marks the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Elvis was just 21 when he played his only concerts in La Crosse, two shows in one night at the old Mary E. Sawyer auditorium in 1956. Twenty-one years later, in August of 1977, Presley died at his Graceland mansion in Memphis. Twenty-one years after the death of Elvis, the very first ‘Elvis Explosion’ of performances by tribute artists was staged in La Crosse. It wasn’t a September event at the La Crosse Center, but a June attraction at the Bikini Yacht Club between La Crosse and La Crescent. That was June of 1998, 21 years ago.

The first big Elvis tribute show in La Crosse happened just a few months before his death. The Sawyer Auditorium hosted a singer named Alan in 1977, who was billed as the ‘best-ever Presley impersonator.’

Because of that 1956 Elvis show in La Crosse, one area citizen wrote to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, wanting the rock star investigated as a security threat to America. Not only did the FBI not investigate Elvis, he famously got to meet with President Nixon at the White House in 1970. Keeping up with the King, yesterday in La Crosse.

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