Swooning, Screaming, Crying: Vintage Photographs of Teenage Fan Girls at Elvis Presley Concerts in the 1950s
In the mid-1950s, Elvis Presley’s concerts were marked by an unprecedented phenomenon: intense, loud screaming from female fans. This screaming was so overwhelming that it often drowned out Elvis’ singing, even making it difficult for his band to play. Scotty Moore, Elvis’ guitarist, humorously noted that they had to follow Elvis’ movements for cues since they couldn’t hear him. In 1957, Elvis had to cover his ears to hear his own voice.
This kind of fan behavior was novel and somewhat alarming to adults at the time. While Frank Sinatra’s fans had shown excitement, the level of hysteria at Elvis’ shows was unmatched.
A 1956 New York Daily Mirror article by Norman Miller and James McGlincy consulted experts to analyze this craze. Psychiatrists and psychologists suggested that Elvis represented a sexual fantasy for young women, a safe outlet for their desires. They noted the ecstatic, almost trance-like reactions of his female audience. This was not just confined to teenage girls; adult women, feeling constrained by a male-dominated society, found in Elvis a temporary escape to their ‘natural femaleness’.
One psychiatrist described this as a safe, vicarious experience, free from the complications of real romantic relationships. A psychologist added that Elvis’ appeal lay in his embodiment of ‘primitive man’, suggesting his style and music tapped into basic instincts. They believed that without his distinctive appearance and dynamic performance, Elvis would be just another entertainer.