|Before the fire|
In the early to late-1950’s, the King of Clubs in Swifton, Arkansas was the center of a rowdy club scene along Highway 67. Future household names like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Conway Twitty, and Jerry Lee Lewis were paid $10 to perform at the roadhouse for rowdy audiences of drunk red-neck patrons. The performers often spent more of their set fending off the drunks with chairs, their musical instruments and in several cases, a whip, than they did actually singing songs. The manager kept a tear gas pistol behind the bar and used it on a number of occasions to disperse people when things got out of hand.
In 1955, Elvis performed there with his opening act, Johnny Cash. Cash only performed 3 songs, but he was so good the manager paid him $20 instead of $10. Elvis, who was by then already a rising star, was paid $450 and drew such a large crowd that no more people could get inside the building and more stood around outside in the gravel parking lot. Whenever Jerry Lee Lewis performed, he had a guy stand next to the stage with a fire extinguisher to help control the crowd which he always incited into a frenzy with his possessed, revival-preacher-gone-wild performances. During his closing number, his cover of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” he would jump around like a crazed madman pounding the piano keys with his elbows and feet. The bar always had to have new strings put in and the piano tuned after he performed.
|After the fire|