But the man who would become The King stole the shows.
Elvis Presley was not yet a national star, but was making a
name for himself as a standout on the popular "Louisiana Hayride"
live radio shows out of Shreveport. Word was getting around that this guy with
the funny name was somebody you had to see (and hear) to believe.
On the night of Sept. 23, 1955, the Civic Auditorium in
Kingsport was packed with teenage girls and their parents. The adults came to
see the Opry stars. Their daughters came to see Elvis. Among the teens in the
audience was Billie Mae Smith.
"Elvis was real cute," remembers Smith , who went
to the show with a girlfriend.
Before the show, Presley and his band set up in the hall outside
the stage door to sign autographs and sell souvenir photos. When the line died
down, Presley urged a group of female fans to follow him outside and admire his
"My girlfriend wanted his autograph, but was too shy to
ask, so she asked me to do it," says Smith. "So I went over to him
and said, 'whenever you are done showing off your car, my friend wants your autograph."'
"Don't you want it, too?" Presley asked.
Not particularly, she told him. "I was playing hard to
To her surprise, the singer asked Smith if she would come
backstage after the show and go out to dinner with him.
"And I told him, 'maybe I will, and maybe I won't."'
Elvis, she recalled, looked dumbfounded.
After Presley's performance, Smith (now thoroughly smitten)
hurried backstage to take Elvis up on his offer. She jumped in the front seat
with Elvis and told her girlfriend to follow in her car with the band members.
At Jimmy's Steak House in Kingsport, the group enjoyed
hamburgers and talked and laughed. "Elvis was real nice and polite,"
says Smith." He just had something special. He was so sweet and kind and
After the latenight dinner, Smith invited Elvis and his
band over to her house for coffee. While her parents were asleep in the
bedroom, Smith and her new friends drank coffee, talked and played spin the
"We didn't do much in those days," says Smith, blushing
even now, a half century later. "But we sure did kiss."