Gator Bowl Department of Commerce. Aerial view showing Gator Bowl, the Coliseum and downtown Jacksonville. Florida Memory, photographed in 1982.

Gator Bowl

The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville opened in 1928 as Fairfield Stadium, the city’s first football venue. During the 1950s and ‘60s, the stadium hosted some of the biggest names in music. Elvis performed there February 23-24, 1956, during a short tour with stops in Florida and Georgia. He was touring extensively from 1955 into 1956, which led to him collapsing from exhaustion after his first performance at the stadium on February 23. The doctor who treated him recommended he slow down, but Elvis did not heed this advice and performed again at the stadium the next night. One month later, on March 23, Elvis released his first studio album, Elvis Presley, which is now considered one of the first rock and roll albums ever produced. 

Nearly ten years later, the Gator Bowl hosted the most influential rock band in history. When the Beatles came to Florida for their first and only concert performance in the state, Beatlemania was in full swing. Unfortunately, the day before the Beatles were set to perform, Hurricane Dora made landfall in the area as a Category 3 storm leading to uncertainty about whether the concert would happen. It was decided that the concert would go on as planned, so 23,000 fans made their way to the stadium. After doing a press conference at the George Washington Hotel and avoiding crowds of screaming fans, the Beatles went on stage to perform. The wind was so intense even after the hurricane passed that Ringo Starr had to nail his drums to the stage so they wouldn’t blow away. The concert lasted about 30 minutes, and then the Beatles were whisked away to Imeson Airport to fly to their next performance in Boston.