15-year-old girl got Elvis to play Bono concert

Betty Craft Klinke
Betty Craft Klinke(Diana Davis)
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 11:06 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2022 at 4:00 AM CDT
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BONO, Ark. (KAIT) -The small town girl that brought a big-time star to Bono.

Elvis Presley played to sold-out crowds in Las Vegas, stadiums all around the country, and even a satellite concert broadcast all over the world.

But there was that one time when Elvis played a concert at Bono High School.

A young Region 8 woman got the idea from her mother and the rest is history.

“I was Betty Craft from Bono,” Betty (Craft) Hogue Klinke said.

At just 15-years-old, Betty was quite taken with the singer from Memphis.

“I had seen him in Nettleton and oh, I just fell in love with him,” Klinke said.

A few months later, her class was trying to raise money for a senior trip and her mother suggested...

“Why don’t you get Bob Neil to bring the show over from Memphis with Elvis?” Mrs. Craft told her daughter.

Bob Neal was a radio announcer in Memphis.

“He’d come on every morning at 6 o’clock,” Klinke said.

Not only did he play big names on the radio, but he also represented them. So Klinke called him.

“He said, “‘I’ll be sending you posters.’” Klinke explained what Neal expected.

And, he sent a letter finalizing plans for the big show at the Bono High School Gym on September 6, 1955.

“It had the Elvis Presley Show starring Betty Craft and Bob Neil (on the posters) and I thought, oh... what am I gonna do?” Klinke said.

Her mother insisted she tell her Dad, who ran the Pride of Dixie Syrup Company, but there was nothing sweet about his reply.

“He stood up from his desk and he shook his finger at me. ‘No daughter will have her name on a billboard with Elvis Presley with those sideburns and he didn’t know about the shaking hips!’” Klinke explained.

Those posters went in the trash, but Neal sent more without her name.

The night of the concert...

“Cars were parked all the way along the highway and all the way down,” Klinke pointed out where the traffic jam was.

Her job that night was to show Elvis to his dressing room.

“He stood in the door there with his guitar and a smile you know that lop-sided grin...and I melted,” Klinke said with a big smile and a giggle.

Klinke remembers it like it was yesterday.

“You were 15,” I said.

“And he was 19,” Klinke said.

“Then he looked at me and picked up that guitar and strummed, “Baby won’t you play house with me and I thought goodness gracious!” Klinke said. “This is wonderful!”

He even shared...

“I just got my first Cadillac and I just can’t wait to get home and show it to Momma,” Presley told her.

“So this is it!” I said. “This is where Elvis played.” I pointed at the Bono High School Gym overrun with weeds. Several of the windows are broken and boarded up.

Time has not been kind to the gym.

It has fallen into disrepair.

But, one incredible September night in 1955, well over a thousand people packed into this building.

“The kids were yelling and screaming,” Klinke said.

So many people came to see Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins that night that the floor caved in here at the Bono High School Gym and Betty knew her Dad, a school board member, would not be happy.

“I was just happy and miserable all at the same time. Happy about the music and miserable thinking about seeing my Dad at the breakfast table the next morning,” Klinke said.

But her Sunday School teacher, Miss Nellie, would be the first to express dismay.

“She walked up to my Dad and said, “‘Hollis, I’m telling you rock and roll is the ruination of our kids.”

“My Dad said, “It’s terrible Miss Nellie and they both stared at me and I didn’t say a word.”

Less than two months from Elvis’ appearance in Bono, he would sign with Colonel Tom Parker and there would be no more small town concerts.

Elvis was destined for bigger things... but he left his mark: a “love you” autograph to Betty, $2,500 in the bank for the Class of ‘57, and memories that last a lifetime.

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