By Sandy Zimmerman
It all began on October 16, 1954, when the announcer said, “He’s only 19 years old, he has a new distinctive style, Elvis Presley, lets give him a nice hand.”
Yes, Elvis made his first national public appearance on “Louisiana Hayride” at the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium and the rest was history!
Elvis Presley’s salary began at $18 a show, and in only three years, he had to move from the 3,200-seat auditorium to the State Fair Grounds so that 10,000 teenage girls could see The King.
The term “Elvis has left the building” originated here, and was announced when his fans would not stop yelling for encores. The auditorium became known as the “Cradle of the Stars.”
“Louisiana Hayride” was a popular live, weekly CBS country radio show which launched the careers of many of the biggest country singers, songwriters, and performers. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Slim Whitman, Jim Reeves, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Tex Ritter, Doug Kershaw, David Houston, Floyd Cramer, Hank Snow, Jim Reeves, Claude King, Jerry Kennedy, Merle Kilgore, and many others graced their stage.
Today the auditorium continues to schedule musical performances, comedians, festivals, and community events. The stars have come and gone, the wooden stage is worn, but we still feel the thrill of being at this historic auditorium. Their museum houses an impressive collection of celebrity memorabilia showcased in several rooms.
We have souvenir copies of 3 of Elvis Presley’s original contracts for his appearances in 1954, 1955, and 1956. I especially enjoyed seeing Elvis’ dressing room and hearing the tour guide’s inside stories about Elvis and the other singers. The public is invited to take guided tours. During the tour you are allowed to stand on the very stage where it all happened! For information, call Johnny Wessler at (318)-220-9434, the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium, 705 Elvis Presley Avenue, Shreveport.
Between seeing the sights, you MUST stop and try some of Shreveport’s famous restaurants. The Bella Fresca Restaurant attracts people from around the United States. Chef/ Owner David Bridges has created a delightful assortment of Asian, Italian, French, Southwestern, Cajun, West Indian, Southern, and regional cuisine.
David explains, “I sleep, but am kinda’ awake, then I think of food, and wake up. Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea, I have a new recipe! We are not afraid to take chances. Our recipes are so diverse. They are pulled from any influence of the world, using local ingredients, and turning it into an original dish.
He infuses Southern influences into everything on the menu, even his Thai dish. David purchases wet aged prime beef and rib eye steaks from organic farms in Arkansas. This is called “Salad Bar Beef” because the cows do not eat grain, just grass which gives it a richer flavor. David butchers his own meat, and portions each cut himself. I ate the awesome, juicy chipotle ribeye steak with goat cheese grits. Call (318)-865-6307, Shreveport.
There is so much to see and so many things to do in this area, just call the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau for free information (800)-551-8682.
GETTING THERE Just a 3 hour flight from Las Vegas to Shreveport, Louisiana.