American Legion Auditorium
Roanoke, VA

American Legion Auditorium in Roanoke, VA

Nestling in a beautiful amphitheatre formed by the Blue Ridge Mountains on the west and at the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley lies Roanoke - "The Magic City", key to Virginia's Valley Resort and Mountain Empire.

description on posctcard

Roanoke Auditorium, Roanoke, VA
Photo courtesy Downtown Roanoke (VA) (Images of America)

The Roanoke Auditorium was built in 1906, probably by the Roanoke Auditorium Company, Inc., which sold stock at $10 a share prior to the twenties.

The Ground Hog Club of America meeting from the stage in Roanoke, Feb. 2, 1926
Photo by George C. Davis courtesy Roanoke Public Libraries, Virginia Room

According to the 1922 Roanoke City Directory, The (Civic) Auditorium was located on Commonwealth Avenue at the corner of Wells Avenue NE.  It was near the Gainsboro neighborhood, the train station and in close proximity to the Hotel Roanoke. It operated as Roanoke's civic center for a   half century hosting shows, circuses, concerts and other public meetings. It was later purchased by the American Legion.1

Interior and stage of the American Legion Auditorium in Roanke, VA. Jack Dempsey stands second from left- ca. 1930
Photo by George C. Davis courtesy Roanoke Public Libraries, Virginia Room

Among the sporting events held there, Boxing was very popular and the facility hosted professional as well as amateur golden glove bouts.

aerial view of Hotel Roanoke, Gainsboro neighborhood in background, Auditorium seen in lower right - ca. 1940
Photo by George C. Davis courtesy Roanoke Public Libraries, Virginia Room

courtesy Keith Flynn

Elvis Scotty and Bill made their first appearance in Roanoke on May 18, 1955 while touring with Hank Snow. The billing include Faron Young, Martha Carson, the Wilburn Brothers, Slim Whitman, The Davis Sisters, Jimmie Rodgers Snow and Onie Wheeler. Lee Cotten wrote that Faron Young was back as the Hank Snow tour stopped for two shows at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. at the American Legion Auditorium in Roanoke, Virginia. Tickets were $1.00 in advance, $1.50 reserved seats, and fifty cents for children. The show was sponsored by the Roanoke Record Shop.2

aerial view American Legion Auditorium in Roanoke, VA - ca. 1940
Photo by George C. Davis courtesy Roanoke Public Libraries, Virginia Room

courtesy Keith Flynn

It was reported that Elvis did not have his back-up band but used members of other performers' bands. It is possible that Scotty and Bill actually backed other performers,[not likely], thereby confusing the issue. Following the show, the performers spent the night in the Hotel Roanoke.2

Ticket for show in Roanoke - Sep. 1955

Photo courtesy
Elvis Moments in Time

The following September 15th they returned and of this show Lee Cotten wrote that, the Elvis troupe rejoined the Hank Snow jamboree when they played the American Legion Auditorium in Roanoke, Virginia, at 8:00 p.m.  Elvis was billed as "extra special by popular demand,” and the Roanoke Times referred to him as the “Hillbilly Frank Sinatra." Tickets were $1.00 in advance from the Roanoke Record Shop or $1.25 at the door. The show was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, which was raising money to support the children’s sandlot baseball program.2

Elvis and fan (said to be) in Roanoke, VA - Sep. 15, 1955
Photo courtesy Erik Lorentzen

Just over two years later, the Auditorium caught fire and burned, in November of 1957.  In spite of several failed attempts to save it, it wasn't long before the Roanoke firm of J.C. Hoelle Wrecking company was hired to raze it and clear the rubble. By March of 1958 high winds and the wrecking ball had brought down the rest of it.3 Coincidentally and totally unrelated Elvis, Scotty and Bill performed their final concert together in Hawaii around the time of the fire and Elvis entered the Army as demolition was completed.

Demolition of the Auditorium, watch it online - March 1958

from WSLS-TV News Film Collection courtesy of University of Virginia Library

In October of 1971 the 10,000 seat Roanoke Civic Center opened and Elvis returned to Roanoke perform with the TCB band in 1972, 1974 and 1976 and was scheduled to appear again on Aug. 24, 1977, eight days after his death.  In the 1980s, Don Epperly, a local fan, built sort of a shrine to Elvis in Roanoke that has been referred to as Mini-Graceland which consisted of several miniature replicas of several structures associated with Elvis lore, including the Civic Auditorium.  During the 90s tourists were said to visit by busloads and it has been featured on Roadside America.

Elvis onstage in the Roanoke Civic Center in 1972, 1974 and 1976
Photos courtesy Francesc Lopez's Elvis Presley in Concert

page added August 12, 2013


1 according to Downtown Roanoke (VA) (Images of America) by Nelson Harris
according to or excerpt from Did Elvis Sing in Your Hometown? by Lee Cotten
according to script excerpts from WSLS-TV News Film Collection courtesy of University of Virginia Library


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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