His Signature Moves in His Own Words — What Elvis Thought of His Public Reception in 1956

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images & Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images

The story was called “He Tells How the Little Wiggle Grew.” TV Guide Magazine’s three-part series of Elvis Presley features concluded in the September 29, 1956, issue (cover below) with the King addressing the furor over his, uh, expressive dance moves.

From an overheated dressing room in Lakeland, Florida, alongside manager Colonel Tom Parker and a couple of his band members, Presley spoke to a visiting reporter. Topic No. 1: that nickname.

“Naw, sir,” he said. “I don’t like them to call me Elvis the Pelvis. It’s the most childish expression I ever heard from an adult. Elvis the Pelvis.”

Elvis was wearing black pants, white suede shoes and a baby-blue shirt. The silk of the shirt stuck flat to his shoulders and back. He continually dragged a sleeve across his sweating face, rocked back and forth in his chair, crossed and uncrossed his legs.

“And another thing,” he said. “I don’t roll my — what they call ‘pelvic gyrations’ — my pelvis has nothing to do with what I do. I just — I get rhythm with the music. I jump around to it because I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m not trying to be vulgar, not trying to stimulate [sic] sex. I just do a lot of wigglin’ and quiverin’, but I never do a bump or grind. I can’t sit still when I sing, so the kids can’t sit still.”

“I’m going to get a wiggle meter to time the wiggles,” Parker, his manager, interrupted. “When Elvis stops singin’, we’ll put him on the stage and just let him wiggle.”

Today, the wiggle has made Elvis Presley one of the most popular recorded singers in the country, the most sought after guest star on TV, a movie star and, in less than one year, a half-millionaire. It has also brought down on him the scorn and the wrath of music critics, TV critics, some sociologists and many parents. With this in mind, did Elvis still enjoy employing the wiggle?

“I get tickled,” he said. “I remember this blonde girl in Atlanta, she came to three different shows. And she sat in the first row and screamed, all through all of them. And the night we closed…she made a dive for the stage and got almost up there when about five policemen grabbed her and she was screamin’, ‘Let me at him!’ and it broke up the house. Well, I got so tickled I had to walk off that stage.”

What was Presley’s answer to magazine and newspaper critics who have run him down as a performer and labeled his followers juvenile delinquents, unwashed adolescents, idiots?

“They’re somebody’s decent kids, probably that was raised in decent homes…. If they want to pay their money and come out and jump around, it’s their business. They’ll grow up some day and grow out of that. But while they’re young, let them have their fun.”