LOUISIANA HAYRIDE
Written by

Many people who grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s might recall the name Louisiana Hayride. Radio station KWKH began broadcasting this popular Saturday night progam in 1948 at Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium

 

(pictured at left). In August of that first year, Hank Williams was introduced and became the first star to begin his career on the Hayride show.

Following Williams were many performers who went on to successful singing careers. Kitty Wells, Slim Whitman, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, George Jones, Faron Young, and many more got their first start on stage at the auditorium.

Founders of the program desired to provide an avenue for up and coming country musicians as a step toward invitations from recording companies and appearances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. And although country music was its primary focus, artists provided a variety of music mixes including hillbilly, Western swing, blues, gospel, jazz and pop music.

The live radio shows were broadcast from the auditorium where over 3,000 fans filled available seats to capacity. By 1954, the broadcast was channeled throughout the U.S., and even overseas on Armed Forces Radio and to the United Kingdom Scottish Forces Radio Network.

Built in the 1920’s the auditorium also included the City Morgue housed in the basement below the stage. I wonder how many of the performers above were aware of this considering that their inaugural performance might “die” on stage!

On October 16, 1954, a young and upcoming guitar-playing singer from Tupelo, Mississippi made his national stage debut; and at a salary of $18 per show, Elvis Presley’s performances were contracted at a bargain price back then. He introduced his newly released That’s Alright Mamma and the rest is history. Elvis continued regular appearances on the Louisiana Hayride for the next two years; and it was in 1956 that producer Horace Logan attempted to quiet wild, screaming Presley fans following a performance to announce that “Elvis has left the building.”

The Saturday night program became known as the “Cradle of the Stars” for the many young musicians who went on to great national and international success. Louisiana’s late and talented governor, Jimmy Davis also performed his famous You Are My Sunshine there and Gene Autry made a grand entrance on his horse to begin a performance.

Cajun performers have also been part of the Louisiana Hayride program. Jimmy C. Newman, from Mamou, LA, first appeared on the Hayride in 1954 and went on to a 43-year career on the Grand Ole Opry. Fiddler Doug Kershaw and brother Rusty appeared on the Hayride in 1955 and ‘56. Other featured Cajun musicians included Tibby Edwards (1952-58) and Allison Theriot (1955-57) from Kaplan, LA.

With the increased popularity of rock and roll beginning in the late 50’s, the Hayride made it’s final broadcast in August, 1960. Today the Auditorium is available for tours featuring a musuem with over 1,000 rare photographs, clothing, instruments, and other memorabilia from the past. Tours are presently available Wednesday through Saturday and information may be obtained from the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .