Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: Musicians Behaving Badly

Manuel de Falla
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Before getting on to our central topic for today’s post – naughty, naughty musicians – we need to give a shoutout to the great Spanish composer and conductor Manuel de Falla who was born on November 23, 1876 – 144 years ago today – in the Andalucían port city of Cadiz. We will celebrate de Falla tomorrow in my Dr. Bob Prescribes post, which will focus on his ballet El amor brujo (meaning “The Magician Love”) of 1915, and the Carlos Saura movie of the same title (from 1986) based of de Falla’s ballet.

On to today’s feature presentation, Musicians Behaving Badly.

On November 23, 1956 – 64 years ago today – a sheet metal worker named Louis Balint was arrested after attacking the King – Elvis Presley – in Toledo, Ohio.

Here’s what happened.

Elvis Presley (1935-1977) backstage at Toledo, Ohio’s Sports Arena, November 22, 1956
Elvis Presley (1935-1977) backstage at Toledo, Ohio’s Sports Arena, November 22, 1956

On November 22, 1956, Elvis Presley and his band played two shows in Toledo’s Sports Arena. Elvis’ fame and popularity had skyrocketed since his first two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show just a few weeks before, on September 9 and October 28, 1956. Along with the concerts, November 22, 1956 was an auspicious day for Elvis and his fans in Toledo, as that was the day Presley’s first movie – Love Me Tender – opened its local run at Toledo’s Paramount Theater.

A reporter for The Toledo Blade named Charles Gilmore covered the concerts. He reported that Presley’s “bumps and grinds” drove his screaming fans to a level of hysteria he had never before witnessed.

“and when Elvis went into the show closer with Hound Dog, the kids broke from their seats and rushed the stage and the aisles as 20 security guards watched helplessly.”

After the concert, Elvis and his bandmates retired to the Commodore Perry Hotel’s Shalimar Room bar. It was there that he was confronted by a supposedly 19-year-old local named Louis Balint, who threw a punch at Elvis after shouting:

“My wife carries your picture but doesn’t carry mine.”

According to The Toledo Blade, a “free-for-all” ensued. When the police arrived to break it up, they found Presley punching Louis Balint:

“who was trying to toss one of the musicians, Scotty Moore, over a railing.”

Balint was carted off. By the time he was formally arrested, it was November 23. For our information, he was sentenced to seven days in the local “Workhouse” when he couldn’t pay the $19.60 fine (about $185 today) that had been levied against him.

Great story, yes?

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