Louisiana Hayride was a radio and later television country music show broadcast from the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana, that during its heyday from 1948 to 1960 helped to launch the careers of some of the greatest names in American country and western music. Elvis Presley performed on the radio version of the program in 1954 and made his first television appearance on the television version of Louisiana Hayride on March 3, 1955.
The creators of the show took the name from the 1941 book with that title by Harnett Thomas Kane, an examination of the "Louisiana Hayride" scandals of 1939-1940 that sent to prison such notables as Louisiana State University President James Monroe Smith and former Louisiana building superintendent George A. Caldwell. First broadcast on April 3, 1948 from the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Shreveport, Horace "Hoss" Logan was the original producer and emcee. The musical cast for the inaugural broadcast included: the Bailes Brothers, Johnnie and Jack, the Tennessee Mountain Boys with Kitty Wells, the Four Deacons, Curley Kinsey and the Tennessee Ridge Runners, Harmie Smith, the Ozark Mountaineers, the Mercy Brothers, and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
The show was soon made into a Broadway attraction called Louisiana Hayride. Within a year of its debut, the program was so popular that a regional 25-station network was set up to broadcast portions of the show, and was even heard overseas on Armed Forces Radio. The flagship station of the program was KWKH/1130 in Shreveport. The popularity of Louisiana Hayride spawned various incarnations in other parts of the United States, most notably in Cincinnati on WLW/700 and, later, television dubbed its version Midwestern Hayride.
Horace Logan continued to produce Louisiana Hayride until 1957. In 1999, Logan published a book about the Hayride that received acclaim from reviewers such as Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. Beginning with the successful first show on April 3, 1948, Louisiana Hayride ranked second only to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry in terms of importance until ABC began telecasting Ozark Jubilee in 1955.
While the Opry, the Jubilee and the Hayride all showcased established stars, the Hayride was where talented, but virtual unknowns, were also given exposure to a large audience. Over the years, country music greats such as Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Jimmie Davis, Will Strahan, Slim Whitman, Floyd Cramer, Sonny James, Hank Snow, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, Claude King, Jimmy Martin, George Jones, John and The Three Wise Men, Johnny Cash, Frankie Miller, Tex Ritter, Nat Stuckey, and Lefty Frizzell, among many others performed on Louisiana Hayride.
By mid-1954, a special 30-minute portion of Louisiana Hayride was being broadcast every Saturday on the AFN Pacific channel of the United Kingdom Scottish Forces Radio Network. On October 16 of that year, a teenager from Memphis, Tennessee named Elvis Presley appeared on the radio program. Presley's performance of his newly released song from Sun Records called "That's All Right Mama" brought a tepid response, according to former Hayride emcee Frank Page (1925-2013), but soon after Presley was nonetheless signed to a one-year contract for future appearances. The immediate and enormous demand for more of Presley's new kind of rockabilly music actually resulted in a sharp decline in the popularity of the Louisiana Hayride that until that point had been strictly a country music venue. On March 3, 1955, Presley made his first television appearance on the television version of The Louisiana Hayride, carried by KSLA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Shreveport.
Within a few years, rock and roll had come to dominate the music scene, and on August 27, 1960, Louisiana Hayride ended its primary run. However, KWKH continued to use the Louisiana Hayride name for packaged music tours throughout the 1960s on a bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, finally ending operations entirely in 1969. In August 1974, Shreveport businessman David Kent mounted a country music show originally called Hayride U.S.A., which was retitled Louisiana Hayride in 1975 after KWKH agreed to let Kent use the name. This new Louisiana Hayride was syndicated on radio and ran until 1987, discovering such talent as Branson fiddle sensation Shoji Tabuchi and popular country singer Linda Davis.
Some strictly local performances have been done in the Shreveport area under the name including a 2003 Louisiana Hayride cast reunion called One More 'Ride that featured 60 acts from the original show including Kitty Wells, the Browns, Betty Amos, Homer Bailes, Billy Walker, Mitchell Torok, and Hank Thompson. Barney Cannon (1955–2009), a KWKH deejay, became a specialist on the history of country music, KWKH, and the Hayride. In August 2009, the Louisiana Hayride (1948–1960) was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
In 2009, after several years of litigation over the Louisiana Hayride name and trademark, a federal court ruled that Margaret Lewis Warwick owned the rights to the name. As of May 31, 2012, KWKH had changed to a sports format and ceased producing the classic country music format reminiscent of the Hayride era.