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In 1956, Elvis Presley was a massively successful performer, but he also put on one of his worst-ever concerts in Las Vegas. He put on his first sit-down show at the New Frontier Hotel, a decision that ended up being a mistake. It didn’t take long for the crowd to turn on Elvis and for him to grow fed up with the concert situation.

Elvis did not enjoy an early performance in Las Vegas

In 1956, Elvis arrived in Las Vegas to perform two weeks of shows at the New Frontier Hotel. Elvis was still early enough in his career to have not yet played a sit-down show. Still, he was incredibly popular. It didn’t seem like it when he took the stage, though.

According to author Peter Guralnick in the book Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, you could hear a “pin drop” when Elvis began playing “Heartbreak Hotel.” At one point, a guest of New Frontier vice president T. W. Richardson yelled, “Goddamn it, s***! What is all this yelling and screaming? I can’t take this, let’s go to the tables and gamble.”

The musicians onstage immediately noticed how poorly the performance was going.

“For the first time in months we could hear ourselves when we played out of tune,” Bill Black said. “After the show our nerves were pretty frayed, and we would get together in pairs and talk about whoever wasn’t around to defend himself.”

Newsweek reported that Elvis was like “a jug of corn liquor at a champagne party” and that the crowd “sat through Presley as if he were a clinical experiment” (per EW). After their first show, the hotel bumped Elvis from first to third billing.

“We didn’t even know we were failures,” guitarist Scotty Moore said.

Elvis seemed to, though. The slog of playing bad shows wore on him, and he eventually claimed he wouldn’t play a nightclub again.

“I don’t want no more nightclubs,” Elvis said. “An audience like this don’t show their appreciation the same way. They’re eating when I come on.”

Elvis eventually put on more successful shows in Las Vegas

While Elvis had little luck with his series of shows in 1956, he established himself as a top act in Las Vegas by the 1970s.

“They loved what he did. They loved what he stood for. He was America,” comedian Sammy Shore, who opened for Elvis at the International Hotel, said. “He was a Southern boy who became the world’s idol.”

While Elvis had disgusted audiences in the 1950s, he was by no means the most shocking act of the 1970s. He drew huge crowds who cheered when he took the stage. 

He listed a different performance as his most embarrassing

While Elvis was not happy with the crowd’s reaction, he said that a different onstage moment was more embarrassing. In 1956, he appeared on The Steve Allen Show. NBC forbade him from moving his lower body in the performance and made him sing “Hound Dog” to a basset hound. According to Graceland, Elvis later described this as “the most embarrassing moment of his career.”