73 Years Ago: ‘Louisiana Hayride’ Radio Show Debuts [Listen]
On April 3, 1948 -- 73 years ago today -- the influential radio program Louisiana Hayride premiered. The weekly Saturday night country music show was recorded live in front of an audience.
Louisiana Hayride broadcast from Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium and aired on the 50,000-watt AM radio powerhouse KWKH — meaning it could be heard in faraway places such as Chicago, Ill., and Los Angeles, Calif. The show was founded (and named) by Horace Lee Logan, who had been a DJ on the station since 1932.
"I wanted something that would promote country music — and then localize it," Logan once said of the show's title.
According to History.com, Louisiana Hayride differentiated itself from the Grand Ole Opry — which had a similar format and approach — in the way it accepted electric guitar, and because of its booking practices. In fact, due to its reputation for taking a chance on future stars — many of whom later went on to appear on and join the Opry — Louisiana Hayride was dubbed "Cradle of the Stars."
For example, Hank Williams made his debut on Louisiana Hayride on Aug. 7, 1948, when the show had been in existence for only a few months. Elvis Presley was also a popular guest, after debuting on the show in 1954. Other notable acts who played the show include Red Sovine, Kitty Wells, Johnny Cash, Slim Whitman, Johnny Horton, Webb Pierce and George Jones.
Unsurprisingly, Louisiana Hayride was wildly popular. For starters, KWKH was part of the Universal network, which gave the show much-needed exposure early on via 25 radio stations. Over the years, the show was picked up by more and more stations — including, in 1952, the 50,000-watt station KTHS in Little Rock, Ark. — and a 30-minute live broadcast was eventually syndicated nationally every third Saturday by CBS radio.
According to the website 64 Parishes, there were other reasons Louisiana Hayride flourished: "The relatively late arrival of television to the Shreveport market helped maintain a live audience that averaged around 3,300 people. Barksdale Air Force Base provided a steady clientele for the 'Bossier strip,' an area of clubs and nightspots that supported the local musicians who also played the Saturday broadcast. The region also saw a flowering of independent record labels that wanted to place their artists on the show."
Louisiana Hayride ran until 1960, although its influence lives on. In 2017, Bear Family Records released a 20-CD boxed set, At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight, that features nearly 600 performances.
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