How a famous Sheffield nightclub made a bid to book Elvis Presley – and it very nearly worked

It’s an unfortunate fact that Elvis Presley never played a concert in the UK – but a venue in Sheffield once came closer than anywhere else outside North America to booking the star.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 9:13 pm
Updated Friday, 24th April 2020, 11:17 am

The Sheffield City Archives has uncovered a copy of a newsletter published by the city’s Fiesta nightspot that features a large image of The King emblazoned across its front page, accompanied by an ‘open letter' of invitation to the singer penned by the club's owners, brothers Keith and Jim Lipthorpe.

The publication dates from 1972, when Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker was said to be seeking a ‘supper club showcase’ for his client rather than a stadium or arena appearance.

In the autumn of that year, Jim and Keith announced they had all but agreed terms for a concert, causing headlines across the globe.

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Receptionists at the venue confirmed to The Star they were taking regular calls from Colonel Tom – but negotiations broke down when the manager’s demands became too much.

It is understood he was insisting that 20 more phone lines should be installed, meaning a reconfiguration of the entire building, and also wanted an extra 16 bouncers on duty.

“I realised it was becoming hopeless,” Keith subsequently said. Elvis died five years later in 1977.

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The newsletter that suggests Elvis could play at the Fiesta.

The Sheffield City Archives on Shoreham Street are closed to the public to help enforce social distancing measures during the lockdown period.

However, the building’s staff are still taking part in the annual #Archive30 challenge, which involves archivists posting on Twitter about a new topic each day throughout April.

The Fiesta opened in 1970 on Arundel Gate, following on from a successful venue the Lipthorpe brothers had opened in Stockton-on-Tees in the mid-1960s.

Officially ‘the biggest nightclub in Europe’, the £500,000 purpose-built complex housed a 1,300-seat amphitheatre, a disco, several bars and a high-end restaurant that introduced Sheffield to a classic meal of the era – chicken in a basket.

The Fiesta club in 1976.

Within two months of launching it had attracted 15,000 members; the place had 150 staff, as well as its own mini travel agent that arranged weekend cruises.

The Beach Boys, The Jackson Five and Stevie Wonder all performed at the Fiesta, which is now the Odeon cinema.

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