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Louisiana Hayride

Click and see the back of the program shown below right.
It has many rare autographs.

On January 22, 2009, Margaret and Alton Warwick made a short stay in Paris at the famous Le Prince de Galles Hotel where Elvis stayed while in leave in Paris in June 1959. It was a tasty and nostalgic choice for those two Shreveport, Louisiana, residents who fight since years to save the Municipal Auditorium where Elvis started here its run to fame and fortune on October 16, 1954. Even if that place is famous all around the world for being the cradle of stars since KWKH had started to rock the babies in 1948, there was throu' the years many threats making those old walls trembling. It took time for people to understand the historic value of the old "Sun" studio on 706 Union Avenue in Memphis. The famous Dallas' Sportatorium that hosted the Big D Jamboree and Shreveport's Municipal Auditorium that hosted The Louisiana Hayride are not exception. If the legacy still goes on we can Thanks the work of dedicated fans and musical legends like James Burton or Jerry Kennedy, historians and researchers like Robert Gentry, Tracy E.W. Laird or John Broven, musicians and promoters like Merle Kilgore, Reggie Young, Frank Page or Tillman Franks, The FAME Foundation and Margaret & Alton Warwick, web sites like Bob Timmers' Rockabilly Hall of Fame, magazines like "Now Dig This" or "Rock and Roll Revue" and, of course, ACE records and the late great Ray Topping. I will not forget Jerry Naylor and his book, DVD, CD's set "The Rockabilly Legends". If the "Grand Ole Opry" is now an American institution, we had to remember about Hank Williams Sr, Johnny and Jack, Kitty Wells, The Carlisles, Faron Young, Webb Pierce, Johnny Cash being regulars on the Louisiana Hayride years before moving to Nashville. Only few performers stayed there after making big, don't wanting to leave the Red River banks for music row. Among them were Johnny Horton, Claude King and Tillman Franks.

Located in North West Louisiana on the Red River, only 18 miles from the Texas border, Shreveport played an important role in the development of the blues since the 1920's and some local juke joints and speakeasy, like "The Blue Goose", even find them way on songs (Blue Goose Blues – Jesse "Baby face" Thomas – 1929). Shreveport being a port had also good rail connections with Dallas and many bluesmen would hobo from or to Dallas. There were also plenty of barrelhouses offering ragtime, blues, boogie woogie and even Tin Pan Alley songs. Shreveport's most famous resident Leadbelly (real name Huddie Leadbetter) lived and worked for many years in the red light district. Better know for his classics "Goodnight Irene" or "Rock Island Line", he also paid tribute to that town with "Fannin Street" and, as soon as 1923, Virginia Liston was recording "Shreveport Blues" on Okeh. Ramblin' Thomas, in "Jig Head Blues"(Paramount, 1928), paid tribute to Texas Avenue and, in 1936, Little Brother Montgomery recorded "Shreveport Farewell" for Bluebird. Entertainers like Jerry Roll Morton, who cut "The Shreveport Stomp", Roy Brown, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Duke Ellington played in Shreveport. Country music was also part of the picture with, in the 30's, Jimmie Davis and his all-time great "Nobody's Darling but Mine" (1935) and "You Are My Sunshine" (1940 – bought from the Rice Brothers gang), The Blackwood Brothers or The Shelton Brothers. They were followed in the 40's by Curley Williams and The Georgia Peach Pickers, The Sunshine Boys or The Bailes Brothers. In 1941, The Nettle Brothers recorded for Bluebird "Fannin Street Blues". Performers like Roy Acuff, Bob Wills or Ernest Tubb played at the Municipal Auditorium, located on the west side of downtown at Grand Avenue and Milam Street, too.

In Mississippi, the "hillbilly" and "race" music started to blend very early and "Sitting on The Top Of The World", a song recorded by The Mississippi Sheiks in 1930 for Okeh, finding way on Buddy Attaway's repertoire, an hillbilly performer, is a proof. Jimmie Rodgers is another example of interaction across musical borders having recorded with The Carter Family and Louis Armstrong. It's a shame than Shreveport never gained the musical status given to Memphis, Nashville, Chicago, Cincinnati or Los Angeles even if John A. Lomax travelled there in several occasions recording local artists in the 40's. A reason could the lack of artist bureau to help performers to promote themselves even, if in 1951, a try with Jim Bulleit was done. Another try was done in 1957 with Tillman Franks but it was a little bit late. Another reason could be the absence of television station until 1953 or the poor community support. The lack of strong local labels and recordings facilities could be other reasons … However, the Bossier Strip was full of clubs like The Skyway Club, The Stork Club, The Presswood's Café, The Lake Cliff Night Club, the Coronado Club, the Fannies Circle Inn. The Municipal Auditorium hosted many musical events all week long. There was work for singers but, once they broke on the charts, they moved away and sometime those Shreveport's years vanished from them bio.

Since its start in September 1925, KWKH that stand for W.K Henderson, its owner and Henderson's Iron Work owner who also used to sell his coffee carrying his slogan "Hello World, Doggone ya" at a dollar a pound, give good exposure to country singers like The Pelican Wildcats, Buddy Jones, Leon Chappel & The Lone Star Cowboys or Harmie Smith. In 1932, Henderson sold KWKH at International Broadcasting System and, in 1935, they sold it to The Shreveport Times. The Hillbilly Amateur Show premiered in 1936 and the Saturday Nite Roundup in 1940. In January 1948, KWKH aired an early morning country program titled The Ark-La-Tex Jubilee hosted by Horace Logan. On April 3, 1948, they landed a new weekly radio stage show titled The Louisiana Hayride, broadcasted on Saturday nite from the Municipal Auditorium. Since 1947, they also aired two daily late afternoon rhythm and blues shows  named "Groovie's Boogie" and "In the Groove" announced by Ray "Groovie Boy" Bartlett that bring on the air waves the raw sound of Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf or T-Bone Walker. Ray Bartlett found fame on wax when in January 1950, Webb Pierce backed by Tillman Franks (bs), Buddy Attaway (gtr) and Shot Jackson (steel gtr) cut "Groovie Boogie Woogie Boy" issued on 4-Star 1447. That song was also covered by Red Sovine for MGM the same year. Ray Bartlett was also the co-owner of JOB record who produced three records by a street musician named of "Stick-Horse" Hammond. His "Highway 51" is a superb rural blues.

When Ray Bartlett left, around November 1950, the broadcast became "Stan's Record Revue" (previously Record Revue) and was hosted by Frank "Gatemouth" Page. Frank was a country DJ on KWKH that used to talk like a black man. The show was sponsorised by Stan Lewis who had opened, in June 1948, a record store in 728 Texas Street in the heart of Shreveport's lively black community and five blocks away from The Municipal Auditorium.  To compete with KWKH, that was located on the same building, KTBS (1000 watts) started to broadcast in August 1951, a three hours show on Saturday named "Red Hot & Blues". Since 1948, that radio station also aired on Saturday nite a 30 minutes segment of the Grand Ole Opry and various country programs like "Cowboy Jamboree", "Rhythm Ranch" or ‘Hillbilly Roundup".

Another great local Rhythm and Blues DJ was "Daddy-O Hot Rod" who spinned on KCIJ. That radio station will also have Tommy Sands, Harmie Smith, T. Tommy Cruter as DJ's and even, for few months, Merle Kilgore as salesman. There were some others but smaller radio stations in Shreveport like KRMD (250 watts) or KENT (1000 watts), that sponsored a local Elvis Presley Fan Club in 1956, but the place to cut records was KWKH. The station, with his 50 000 watts power since 1946 that had switched to FM as soon as November 1948 , was equiped with two 73-B RCA professional recorders, RCA ribbons microphones and an aging Collins broadcast board. Of course, any echo chamber or equalizer were available on those days and everything was done live. Then there was only two radio stations operating capacity of 50 000 watts in Louisiana, the other being WWL in New-Orleans. Around 1953, KWKH's sister station, KTHS in Little Rock, Arkansas, went on the hair with a new 50 000 transmitter and also began to broadcast the entire Louisiana Hayride show every Saturday.

Many sessions were cut at KWKH after hours by audio engineer Bob Sullivan when KWKH went off the air and leasing deals were often set by Tillman Franks, Webb Pierce or Stan Lewis with national or regional labels like Specialty, Gotham, Abbott, Ebb, Chess, Imperial. Those labels being not located in Louisiana it took sometime years to learnt about the stories behind those first recordings by Claude King, Jim Reeves, Faron Young, Mitchell Torok or Wayne Walker. In Shreveport had grown some seeds of rockabilly music build on Buddy Attaway, Jimmy Lee Fautheree, Carl Adams, Tommy Tomlinson, Reggie Young and James Burton picking. It's curious to note than an of the earliest use of the words "rockabillies" can be find in the Shreveport Times on the June 22, 1956. That paper about Slim Whitman, written by Pericles Alexander, had also a quote about "Blue Suede Shoes". Bob Sullivan got his little musical reward when Johnny Horton cut two piano instrumental boogie woogie "Bob Sullivan's Stomp" and "Stompin' at The KWKH" included in BFX boxset "Johnny Horton – The Early Years" (BCD 165258). Bob Sullivan, himself a musician, worked for KWKH from 1949 to 1959 and recorded legendary sides like "Indian Love Call" (S. Whitman), "Carribean" (M. Torok), "Susie Q" (D. Hawkins), "Love Fever" (G. Wyatt) or "Go Ahead On" (T. Cassel).

Now I come with a song originally titled "Hayride Boogie" recorded by Webb Pierce for the first in 1950, then again in 1956 still by Webb under the more nationally hep title of "Teenage Boogie" and, in 2003, by Jimmy Lee Fautheree under his original title. It's funny to know than Jimmy Lee Fautheree played lead guitar on Webb's "Teenage Boogie" and they shared together the Louisiana Hayride stage as soon as 1951. Then Webb had just started to record for "Decca", Jimmy was on "Capitol" and future looked bright for both of them. Both rubbed shoulders with Hank Williams, Faron Young, Red Sovine, Slim Whitman or Elvis Presley. Webb will became fast one of the most popular "Honky Tonk" singer and, Jimmy with Country Johnny Mathis, will bring to "Chess" them first country hit in 1954 with "If You Don't, Somebody Else Will". After a couple of years, Webb will be clothed with rhinestones Nudie's gears, driving a silver dollar customized car and swimming in a guitar shaped pool … Jimmy will, after recording for "Decca", "D" or "Republic", move to New Mexico taking a job as asbestos worker. Both were strangely forgotten by Country Music establishment for years but not by the Boppin' Hillbilly and Honky Tonk music lovers worldwide. There's for sure a lot of competition on Music Row but not many can claim to have cut a Teenage classic song who survived until now. "Teenage Boogie" is still a hardwood floor packer worldwide and will stay like a Rockabilly classic who can match with Carl Perkins "Blue Suede Shoes" or The Burnette Brothers "Rock Billy Boogie".

Thanks to Sam Phillips contacts with Jim Denny, Elvis played the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday October 2, 1954. Elvis sang "Blue Moon of Kentucky" as guest on the Hank Snow segment sponsored by Kellogg's' cereals. Elvis sang his song to promote his record but also cause the Opry rules stated that singers could only perform what they had officially recorded. It was a main difference with the Big D Jamboree or the Louisiana Hayride policies that allowed performers to go with covers of current hits including rhythm and blues songs. After the show Elvis moved to the Ernest Tubb's record Shop and headed back to Memphis and he was not offered a return engagement.

It's pretty hard to know how happened Elvis engagement in Shreveport but some facts had to be remembered. The Louisiana Hayride was the second largest Country music radio showcase and Sam Phillips, a sharp businessman, sure had an eye on that show. That live Country show was broadcasted by KWKH who had a 50.000 watts power was the first to bring, in 1948, the frequency modulation to the Ark-La-Tex population. That show, which was a three hour live country music program in front of three thousand eight hundred customers, was the stepping stone for many country and rock-a-billy performers. Sam Phillips hat send a promotional copy to KWKH and that August he packed his car and hit the road to preach to every promoter, disc jockey and radio station in the South. Sam may had decided to wait to book The Hayride until after the Grand Ole Opry performance. He thought Elvis would be a sensation at the Opry and didn't want to make any commitment too soon.

Local DJ at KCIJ, T. Tommy Cutrer had been playing "Blue Moon of Kentucky" around town for some time but just can't play on his program "That's All Right". Fats Washington who played R&B on KENT had spined the record on air when Sam Phillips went to Shreveport. Stan Lewis had the record it in his shop located just around the corner of the Auditorium. Lewis' mail order records and radio shows became an important way for the young white cat to experiment with new styles and new sounds. Tillman Franks who heard "Blue Moon of Kentucky" had talk about Elvis with Billy Walker and Pappy Covington. He also played that Sun record by "the white boy with the funny name" to Horace Logan after picking a copy at Stan's. When Tillman needed to have a replacement for Jimmy and Johnny on October 16, 1954, he called at Sun office to make an offer to Elvis. His call was made from Pappy Covington's office in the building and Sam called back, when Elvis showed, at the very same number. The booking was set with the approval of Horace Logan. On that date, Jimmy and Johnny (managed by Tillman and being Louisiana Hayride regulars) had a better paid engagement scheduled at the Eddy County Barn Dance in Carlsbad (New Mexico).

Sam Phillips, Elvis, Scotty and Bill checked into Shreveport's Captain Shreve Hotel in Friday night. On Saturday October 16th, Frank Page introduced Elvis on the Lucky Strike Guest Time, after Floyd Tillman as guest star, and the young man from Memphis with the new and distinctive style goes straight on "That's All Right" with his sidemen wearing matching country shirts with decorative bibs. On that recording, Bill Black bass is not well miked but Scotty's guitar licks went real great. After the performance, Frank Page came back and talks clearly about that "Rhythm and Blues song". Something you won't ever hear on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Next song was a bright version of "Blue Moon of Kentucky". Both performances were recorded on audiotape and remain the best-preserved recording of Elvis on the Hayride. Horace decided to let the band play again in the second segment and Elvis did the same two songs with success. Other performers for that date were Buddy Attaway, Betty Amos, Hoot & Curly, Tibby Edwards, Jack Ford, Ginny Wright, Merle Kilgore, Martha Lawson, Jimmy C. Newman and Dobber Johnson.

Elvis may have played a date in a club in New-Orleans on October 22 and was on The Louisiana Hayride on Saturday October 23 but there no firm evidence and I am pretty dubious about those two dates. There's some memories about Elvis coming with the Blue Moon Boy for a Hayride performance and borrowing money for them meal prior the show. It could be on that date.

That's just a short part of the Louisiana Hayride history but I think it worth for yu all. I could write for hours about that show and my friends from Shreveport. For all those of you who should like to know more about the show that opened the door for succes to Webb Pierce, Hank Williams, Slim Whitman, Jim Reeves, Jim Edward and Maxine Brown, Elvis or Johnny Horton, you can buy Tillman Frank's book "I Was There When It Happened" at
http://www.tillmanfranks.com/

Come on along, everybody come along. Come where the moon shine bright. We're gonna have a wonderful time at The Louisiana Hayride tonight!

Camille Daddy
anglares.dominique@wanadoo.fr


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Page Created December, 2010