Elvis Has Left the Building

Elvis has left the building, unlike most idioms, is of recent origin. It does, of course, refer to Elvis Presley, but since he is dead, it cannot refer to him literally. What does this common expression mean and how did it come about?


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Meaning

When we say Elvis has left the building we mean the show or event has come to an end. It’s over, that’s it, there’s no more, finito. The fat lady has sung. That’s all she wrote.

It is sometimes used in its fuller form, “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.”

Elvis at Mississippi-Alabama Fairgrounds, Tupelo, Mississippi, September 26, 1956
This early Elvis performance from 1956 at the Mississippi-Alabama Fairgrounds, although outdoors, is probably a scene similar to that in which “Elvis has left the building” was first used.

This idiomatic phrase is often used in a half-joking way, usually to refer to endings that are not at all as interesting as Elvis himself, such as to refer to someone leaving a room, even though the fact they have left is not really noteworthy.

Like most idioms, it would be difficult to guess what this expression meant by the words used. Elvis, after all, left the building for good many years ago. So, how did it come to be used figuratively?

Origin

The origin of the phrase Elvis has left the building comes from actual words spoken by a producer named Horace Logan on December 15, 1956, in the days just before Elvis became a superstar. At a show called Lousiana Hayride in Shreveport, Lousiana, over ten thousand kids had gathered to see Elvis perform. Elvis rocked for 45 minutes but the adoring fans were hungry for more. They stormed the stage and the exits, hoping to get a few more moments with the King. Horace grabbed a microphone and said pleadingly, “Please young people, Elvis has left the building. He has gotten in his car and driven away.”

Of course, the phrase did not pass into common use just from that one instance. Instead, “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building,” became the closing announcements for all of his future concerts. And, Elvis being Elvis, everybody became familiar with the line.

“Elvis has left the building” was used for the last time at a concert on June 26, 1977, at Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, after he sang Can’t Help Falling in Love.

The Louisiana Hayride show, held at the Municipal Auditorium, was a live show that was broadcast over the radio, and later on television. It was very important to Elvis’ early career, along with many other famous artists, so it’s no wonder that the line first spoken at the Hayride was used at all of the King’s shows.

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