top of page

Iowa Time Machine: Elvis Rocks Vets - May 22, 1956

Iowa Time Machine ⏰: On May 22, 1956, Elvis Presley took the stage at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines as “Heartbreak Hotel” sat atop the Billboard Chart. The first visit of Elvis to Iowa, the concert also marked the first major event at the iconic downtown Des Moines arena commonly called “Vets” or “The Barn” by adoring Iowans across generations.

After arriving from a concert in Topeka, Kansas, the evening prior, the King sent the audience into a frenzy by opening with the current #1 song in the land. Throughout a set also featuring classics like “Blue Suede Shoes,” the crowd went wild before Elvis closed to a resounding ovation following a rendition of “Hound Dog.” 

Des Moines Register reporter, Nick Lambarto who covered the concert wrote: “A lot of the “fallout” from Elvis Aaron Presley’s “atomic” singing hit empty seats during his concert May 22, 1956, but the estimated 4,000 who were present – most of them teenagers – absorbed enough to keep them staring into space for the rest of the school term.”

As the opening act of the brand new auditorium built to honor Iowa’s World War II Veterans, Elvis served in the 1st Medium Tank Battalion in Germany during his own military service. The concert marked a successful first event for a venue which would welcome thousands of Iowans a year for concerts and sporting events. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


bottom of page