Elvis Presley’s dance moves were iconic, but did you know they came close to getting him arrested?

On 24 June 2022, Baz Luhrmann released his highly anticipated musical drama, Elvis. The biopic narrates the life of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and has reignited the world’s interest in the legend.

Although his signature moves were a staple feature of the Jailhouse Rock singer’s performances, they also caused a lot of controversy. In fact, he was almost arrested for his moves…

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How Elvis Presley’s dance moves caused controversy

During his June 1956 performance of Hound Dog on The Milton Berle Show, Elvis did a pelvis-shaking dance move that received a lot of love but a lot of criticism.

Many, particularly older, viewers slammed his performance with PBS reporting some critics had labelled it “vulgar” and “animalistic”.

Other critics included the Catholic Church, which published a piece entitled “Beware Elvis Presley”. The controversy led Ed Sullivan’s CBS show to only film Presley from the waist up so as not to shock unsuspecting viewers.

In 1956, Elvis spoke with TV Guide, defending his dance moves: “I’m not trying to be vulgar, not trying to [simulate] 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.”

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Elvis Presley was so close to getting arrested for his dancing

One of Elvis’s girlfriends, June Juanico, published a book in In 1997 entitled Elvis: In The Twilight Of Memory. In it, June recalled a Florida judge threatening to arrest the singer in 1956 for his dance moves.

Presley’s friend Buddy Conrad found out a Jacksonville newspaper had published a piece on Elvis’s dancing and told the couple. Conrad revealed: “Judge Gooding, a Juvenile Court judge, said he felt Elvis’s bumps and grinds were objectionable for the teenage audience, and he ordered Elvis to tone down his act.”

June wrote in her book: “Warrants were made out in advance for Elvis’s arrest. The police were there to watch for any little wiggle, and vowed to arrest him if he made one wrong move. They were even filming the show for proof.”

His six shows at the Florida Theatre in August 1956 went ahead but he had to stand on stage and sing without his classic moves. This is because Gooding had summoned Mr Presley to his offices and told him there would be no “hip-swivelling” and no “suggestive body movements”, as Florida Theatre president Numa Saisselin told News4Jax.

His gyrating dance moves are also spotlighted in the film biopic. Community leaders take a stand against Elvis, threatening he’ll be arrested if he continues. Presley ignores the warnings in the film but in real life it appears he sometimes thought it best to stick to the rules.

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