Sam Houston Coliseum
Houston, TX

Sam Houston Hall - c.1928
Photo courtesy Houstorian

Sam Houston Hall was a 20,000-person hall built for the 1928 Democratic National Convention. Constructed of wood it took only 64 days to complete. At the time, the plot of land was directly adjacent to Houston’s Fire Station Number 2.  Lasting less than a decade, the hall was razed in 1936.1

 Sam Houston Coliseum and Music Hall - c. 1930s
Photo courtesy the Greater Houston Preservation Allaince

The Sam Houston Coliseum, and adjacent Music Hall, formerly at 801 Bagby St. in Houston, TX was built in 1937 on the same site and as a replacement for Sam Houston Hall.  Designed by architect Alfred C. Finn, it was erected at a cost of 2 million dollars and was in effect two distinct auditoriums.

Sam Houston Music Hall auditorium - 1937
Photo courtesy the Greater Houston Preservation Allaince

The Coliseum was 370 feet long and 251 feet wide with 9,000 feet of clear exposition space. The Music Hall opened in April of 1938 and sat 3044, 1999 on the floor and 1045 in the balconies, giving the combined seating for the both facilities at about 16,500.

Coliseum forecourt - 1937
Photo courtesy the Greater Houston Preservation Allaince

One of the first tenants of the Coliseum in 1938 was the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition, which since 1932 had operated in there in the hall built for the Convention until 1936. 1938 also saw the first rodeo and horse show held in conjunction with the Stock show. In 1942 Gene Autry, "the Singing Cowboy," debuted as the first star entertainer for the Stock show at the Coliseum.2

Coliseum Ad - Oct. 1, 1955
Photo courtesy Billboard Magazine

Renovated and expanded Music Hall entrance - c.1950s
Photo courtesy

Postcard of the Sam Houston Coliseum - c.1950s
Photo courtesy

In May of 1946 the Coliseum closed for four months for a $332,000 expansion to the annex and installation of additional seats in the Coliseum.  It had 9014 permanent seats and sat 13,000 with additional floor seating for certain events, bringing the combined seating of both facilities to roughly 16,500.3  A concrete floor with permanent ice chillers was also installed in the Coliseum to accommodate an ice hockey rink for Houston's first pro ice hockey team - the Houston Skippers of the USHL. The Skippers changed their name the following season to the Houston Huskies and called the Coliseum home until their demise in 1949.4 Renovations were made to the main entrance on the Music hall side that included a new wider lobby.

Houston newspaper announcement advertising contest winners and wrong date
courtesy Gail Reaben added August 11, 2012

Backstage pass given to contest winners
courtesy Heritage Auctions

Houston newspaper ad for Coliseum Show
courtesy Gail Reaben

Fans wait to see Elvis Presley perform at the Coliseum in Houston - Oct. 13, 1956
Houston Post Photo: Bob Verlin courtesy Beaumont Enterprise, added Jan. 16, 2014

On October 13, 1956 Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ performed two shows, matinee and evening, at the Coliseum during a four day tour of Texas that also included stops in Dallas, Waco and San Antonio.  They were no strangers to Houston, having played many dates in and around the city since 1954 and most recently the previous April at the City Auditorium. Mike McKay, an announcer at one of Houston's stations had held a contest on the air and 50 winners were given backstage passes to meet Elvis before the show. The two Houston papers, the Chronicle and Post, both covered the shows:

Some Fainted - Joan Mehen was one of several Presley fans who fainted as they
waited for hours in a crushing crowd for the Coliseum doors to open Saturday
afternoon. The policemen helping her are B.E. Gerhart and H.A. Tucker.
Post Photo by Keith Hawkins courtesy Heritage Auctions

Fans crowded in to see Elvis at the Coliseum in Houston - Oct. 13, 1956
Houston Post Photo: Keith Hawkins courtesy Beaumont Enterprise, added Jan. 16, 2014

Changing Moods - Rocking and rolling through a variety of moods as he sang to a
full house of girls at the Coliseum Saturday, Elvis Presley exhibited, in turn, deep
feeling, boyish charm and homespun sincerity. The thousands of grinning fans
were completely under his control. Presley had only to bounce slightly on the balls
of his feet to evoke shrill thunder and a churning sea of movement.
But withal the crowd behaved itself
Post Photos by Dan Hardy

"The Power of Presley Over His Houston Followers"
"Anguished, Adoring Expressions were Typical At Coliseum Show"
Post Photo by Keith Hawkins courtesy Robert Gordon's The King on the Road

561014PostSec1p1.jpg (141455 bytes)561014PostSec1p14.jpg (141121 bytes)Houston Teen Agers Rocked By Presley

By Leslie Rich

Elvis Presley sprinted in a side door at Sam Houston Coliseum Saturday, fled to a downstairs dressing room, kissed about 50 teen age girls who were waiting for him, told reporters that faith was responsible for his success, and went out on the stage to give an afternoon show.
Surrounded by a phalanx of policemen, he ran to the microphone, his guitar slung over his shoulder, and stood there grinning while more than 8,000 fans, mostly girls between 12 and 17, screamed theit deafening approval.
THE YELLING died down, so Presley bounced slightly on the balls of his feet. This drew shrill thunder from the crowd and officers glanced about anxiously for evidence of violence.
There was no stampede and after a few minutes ovation the singing began. Scores of flashbulbs, only a few of which belonged to the press, went off continually like rockets in the darkened Coliseum. No one applauded, but the Presley voice was drowned out most of the time by screams of anguished delight.
The teen agers couldn't hear what was being sung, but they yelled and moaned in rhythm to the movements of the singer's body.
Limber-limbed and hips swinging, Presley faced a crowd of more than 8,000 at each of his two Saturday shows. For all the noise, the audiences generally stayed in their seats and Presley's managers said it was the "best controlled group" of the tour.
TRAVELING WITH a variety troupe, including Songstress Sherill Davis, Comedians Rex Marlow and Hubert Castle, some acrobats and a vocal quartet, Presley finishes up a four-day tour of Texas Sunday night in San Antonio. Then he will go to New York.
The rock and roll idol was unaware that he was to sing Saturday afternoon, believing that he had the day free until evening. He arrived with a police escort sometime after the show started, darted downstairs past a throng of kibitizers and met the winners of a contest held by Houston Announcer Mike McKay.
The 50 girls had been waiting in his tiny dressing room for more than two hours, but he kissed each one and Phyllis Winford, president of one of four fan clubs represented, said it was worth the wait. In a high state of nerves, the girls were escorted upstairs and reporters were then admitted.
"I BELIEVE in God," Presley said, explaining his success. "I advise young singers to have faith like I did. Everything happened so blame fast I don‘t know where I was yesterday and I don‘t know where I'll be tomorrow."

Sandra Friery Had Star In Her Eye - Elvis Puckered 50 Times
Post Photo by Keith Hawkins courtesy Heritage Auctions

Sandra Friery, 14, a late-coming fan club member, ran through the group and the singer awarded her a kiss.
"Don't sue me, honey," he pleaded.
Presley said that he might tour Europe soon and will make another movie after returning from New York television appearances.
He scoffed at reports that film actresses had been dating him for the publicity, and made light of the hysterical effects his singing has had on young listeners.
"IF YOU get a bunch of teen agers together," he said in his slight drawl, "they’re gonna have a ball regardless."
On the stage, meanwhile. Oscar Davis, Presley's agent, was asking the crowd to sit down before Presley's appearance.
"Just remember." he said to the relatively few parents, "it might be your child that gets trampled."
A sliding freight door behind the stage raised and the crowd began to scream, believing it signalled the singer‘s approach. The only arrival, however, was a man pushing a trash can on a hand truck.
The trash can was applauded warmly for a few moments.

Screaming fans at the Coliseum - Oct 13, 1956
Houston Post Photo: Bob Verlin courtesy Beaumont Enterprise, added Jan. 16, 2014

WHEN PRESLEY finally arrived his welcome was nerve-shattering, but police were able to keep the aisles more or less clear and most of the audience remained seated.
During his songs the rock and roller ambled loosely about the stage, waving but not playing his guitar, sometimes stiffening his legs and lowering his head like a fullback for particularly dramatic passages. He did no bumps but went through perpetual grinds, now and then, wriggling jokingly as if he were unable to understand the audiences frenzy.
At both shows, Presley sang "Don't Be Cruel to a Heart That’s True," "Love Me Tender" and most of his other record hits, ending up with "You Ain’t Nuthin But a Houn' Dog" just before running offstage to a waiting automobile on the Coliseum floor.
HE WAS ESCORTED away by police, his managers and Film Actor Nick Adams, a friend who is accompanying him on the tour. It was Adams who was mistaken for Presley in Dallas last week and erroneously served with a subpoena for a breach of contract dispute involving a Fort Worth booking agent.
No one fainted during the afternoon show but some 14 or 15 girls were overcome while waiting for the doors to open outside the Coliseum. Ticket holders began gathering at noon and those near the doors underwent considerable mauling as the crowd grew.

Sunday October 14, 1956 The Houston Post courtesy Houston Public Library

Reactions Varied - Shrill Screams, as on the left, and silent ecstacy, as on the right,
were some of the varied reactions noted among the teen agers as Elvis Presley sang
"Don't Be Cruel" in the Coliseum.
Post Photo by Bob Verlin courtesy Heritage Auctions

Scotty, DJ, Bill, Elvis and the Jordanaires at the Coliseum - Oct. 13, 1956
Photo © James V. Roy

561014ChronicleSecAp18.jpg (65249 bytes)ELVIS PRESLEY ROCKS 'EM

8000 Teeners Scream At Self-Winding Singer


Chronicle Staff

The wails and screams of more than 8000 rock 'n' roll idolizers gave a tumultuous opening to the first show of the famed Tennessee playboy, Elvis Presley, Saturday at the Sam Houston Coliseum.
The howling "hound dog" artist with his rhythmic accomplices were met with mob hysteria to open their two-performance stand here.
Presley's appearance was preceded by six variety acts to warm up the crowd into its frenzy. The circus prelude included one torch singer, two s acrobatic acts, a comedian, a slack wire act and a quartet.
Swept into the Coliseum by a police guard. the greasy, side-burned hillbilly- took to the stage an hour later.
Screams and lamentations kept up without relief for 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
He entered the arena like a wild calf and began his bellowing to the tune of his million-seller, “Heartbreak Hotel."
All that was heard of this number was the title. Screams from the crowd drowned out any other sound Presley could produce.
Three times be paused his panorama of bump and grind to plead with his audience to listen to him.
Deafening roars were the answers each time.
In the midst of the teenage tumult, a squad of 50 police officers, emergency corpsmen, and firemen were circulating the aisles to keep admirers from rushing the bandstand.
Elvis rolled and wiggled through “Blue Suede Shoes," added his hippy "oomph" to an agonizing rendition of "Love Me," and pulsated vigorously as he groaned his "Long Tall Sally."
Holding his hands to his ears, so he could hear him self, he wore his guitar slung around his neck, seldom striking a chord.
He rocked on his toes, pointed to kids in the audience and sang to them, and made a quick exit on a little number called "Hound dog."
Toward the end of Elvis' second show, Saturday night, a hysterical teen-ager with a flowing pony-tail broke through the police line surrounding the stage and rushed her idol.
Police carried her back to her seat, but she had broken the ice.
Teenage girls en masse clamored for Presley, and rushed the stage until the singer was whisked off in a waiting police car to his suite at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel.
Statistics: No one fainted. No one was injured.

Sunday October 14, 1956 The Houston Chronicle courtesy Houston Public Library

Elvis, Scotty, DJ and Bill at the Coliseum - Oct. 13, 1956
Photo © James V. Roy

These shows were the last time Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ performed together in Houston and San Antonio, the following evening, would be the last time they ever appeared together in Texas. 

On July 14, 1957 the Auditorium was the scene for crowning of the "Miss Houston" ceremonies with actor/comedian Jerry Lewis as the emcee.5

Construction of I-45 through downtown Houston (Coliseum on Right) - May 1961
Photo courtesy Texas

On August 19, 1965, the Beatles made their only appearance in Houston when they performed two shows at the Coliseum, each of which was seen by 12,000 fans. Their arrival in Houston had been publicized and several fans managed to walk on the wings and knock on the windows of the plane when they landed in Houston at 2 A.M. that morning. Tickets for the shows were $5 each, and The Beatles were paid $85,000 for the two performances. The other acts on the bill were, in order of appearance, Brenda Holloway and the King Curtis Band, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Sounds Incorporated, and the Young Rascals.6

reproduction ticket for the Beatles at the Coliseum Aug 19, 1965
Photo courtesy eBay

With Beatlemania at its height, the concerts were said to be among the most frenzied of the tour. Conditions backstage were chaotic, with no dressing room and hot weather making things less tolerable. The emcee, local DJ Russ Knight - known as The Weird Beard - threatened to cancel the first show prior to Help!, saying: "People are getting hurt on the front two rows. The show will be stopped if you don't move back. This is the Houston Security Beatle Division." John Lennon sarcastically replied with the words: "Thank you very much, that was wonderful."6

The Beatles at the Sam Houston Coliseum - Aug. 19, 1965
Photo courtesy Beatles Rarity

The Beatles at the Sam Houston Coliseum - Aug. 19, 1965
Photo courtesy Chronicle Archives

Their set for both shows featured 12 songs: Twist And Shout, She's A Woman, I Feel Fine, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Ticket To Ride, Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby, Can't Buy Me Love, Baby's In Black, I Wanna Be Your Man, A Hard Day's Night, Help! and I'm Down. The concerts were recorded and broadcast by local radio station KILT, which was sponsoring the event, and have since been circulated widely as bootlegs.6


The Beatles visit Houston Part 1
courtesy MyHouston'

The Beatles visit Houston Part 2
courtesy MyHouston'

The Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition, now officially called the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moved from the Coliseum to the new Astrodome complex in 1966. The first performance in the new domed stadium drew 25,340 spectators, and attendance even topped 40,000 for one performance - almost five times the number of people the Coliseum could hold.2

Elvis on stage with J200 and Gretsch CG - Houston, TX - March 1, 1970
Photo © Eter Silvester courtesy Elvis in Concert

Elvis returned to Houston in 1970 but now, like the Livestock show, he played the Astrodome. He performed six shows in three days from February 27th through March 1st. One February 27th performance set an all-time attendance record with 43,614 spectators that remained unchallenged for eight years.2

The Houston Apollos in the Coliseum
Photo courtesy Habs Eyes on The Prize

The Coliseum was also home to Houston Wrestling, run by legendary wrestling promoter, Paul Boesch.4 It had since been used to also host the Shrine Circus; International Auto Show; Boats, Sports and Vacation Show; the Ice Capades; Boxing; Basketball and various conventions.

Over the years the Coliseum also played host to several minor pro Hockey teams like the Houston Apollos of the CPHL and CHL and the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association. The Houston Mavericks of the American Basketball Association played their home games in the Coliseum from 1967 through 1969.4

Karen Burstein acted as a whip for the New York delegation, using paper plates on which
were written "YES" and "NO" to tell delegates how the leadership wanted them to vote.
Photo © Jo Freeman

The First National Women's Conference, a milestone for the modern women's movement, was held at the Coliseum in November of 1977.  Over 20,000 people gathered in to celebrate International Women's Year and identify goals for women for the next decade. This was the first and only national women's conference to be sponsored by the federal government.7

The Black Crowes at the Sam Houston Coliseum - 1993

The Coliseum eventually hosted almost every major rock concerts through the '60s and '70s which included Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, KISS, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Queensr˙che, among many others. The Black Crowes played a free concert at the venue in 1993 that was broadcast on radio across North America and videotaped for the video "Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye".4

The William P. Hobby Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
Photo courtesy Wikimapia

In 1999 the Sam Houston Coliseum and adjacent Houston Music Hall were demolished to make way for the new Hobby Center for the Performing Arts which consists of two theaters constructed specifically for theatrical and musical performances. It opened to the public in 2002 and is named in honor of former Texas lieutenant governor and Houston businessman, William P. Hobby, Jr., whose family foundation donated the naming gift for the center.8

page added October 4, 2010

1 according to the Houstorian
2 according to History of Houston Livestock and Rodeo
3 according to Billboard Magazine May 4, 1949
4 according to wikipedia
5 according to Billboard Magazine June 24, 1957
6 courtesy of The BeatlesBible
according to The National Women's Conference in Houston, 1977 by Jo Freeman
8 courtesy The Hobby Center - wikimapia

In addition, the history of the Sam Houston Coliseum presented here was collected from various other sites online.


All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

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