Buddy Smothers' wife LaMuriel really started it all.
Buddy was working at a finance company. He invested in his wife's energy and talent by helping her become the owner of her first restaurant, the Pixie Drive Inn in Seymour, Tennessee. She hired their cook, Hettie Guffey, to help out. Soon, LaMuriel and Hettie were cooking up a storm. (Hettie's son Big John is still with Buddy's today as the executive chef with the Bearden Banquet Hall).
People would drive for hours for their country buffet, and business doubled in a year. LaMuriel and Buddy decided it was time to find their specialty, and barbecue from back home in Alabama was what they were craving. They just couldn't find the barbecue that suited their taste. So they created their own. Buddy quit the finance business and joined LaMuriel in her new-found barbecue ambitions.
With the help of their customers, they perfected the taste that would define Buddy's. Everything was a Buddy's original, including LaMuriel's lemon ice box pie.
The first store with the Buddy's name opened in 1972 at 5806 Kingston Pike in West Knoxville.
When Dinah Shore stopped by and sampled Buddy's delicious hushpuppies, she just had to have the recipe for her cookbook. The house was packed on Friday nights to hear bluegrass bands like Ricky Skaggs and the Knoxville Grass. Local politicians knew a good thing and asked Buddy to bring his barbecue to rallies, and Buddy delivered it in his VW van. That's when the catering business got going.
Word spread from the 1982 World's Fair where people began to know Buddy's as a Tennessee barbecue tradition, and Buddy Smothers as a restaurant business professional in his own right. Buddy was recognized as Restaurateur of the Year and was elected President of the Tennessee Restaurant Association.
The kids started working at an early age, with daughter Suzanne and her friend Virginia as well as son Mark working at the drive-in. Virginia is now a daughter-in-law working in the corporate office, daughter Suzanne Lindsey heads up marketing and her husband Reed Lindsey is vice president of operations. Buddy's son Mark is President, and son Mike heads up distribution. When there are events like the annual Homecoming festival at the Museum of Appalachia, the family crew, rolls up their sleeves to serve barbecue just like they've always done.
Over time, the awards piled up, years passed, and millions of people keep coming home for the taste tradition and friendly service of Buddy's. There are now 11 company-owned Buddy's restaurants, three franchise stores, a full-service catering department, the Bearden Banquet Hall, and two Buddy's cafés at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.