Elvis Presley : Louisiana Hayride : October 16, 1954
KWKH radio announcer Frank Page introduced Elvis on his first radio broadcast from the Louisiana Hayride inside Shreveport, Louisiana's Municiple Auditorium on this day, October 16, 1954.
Elvis' first trip to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport was memorable.
He left Memphis on a Friday night, October 15, 1954, after a gig at the Eagles Nest, driving all night with Sam Phillips, Scotty Moore and Bill Black. They missed the turnoff in Greenville, Mississippi, because of Bill Black's clowning; later, Scotty Moore almost ran over a team of mules.
Arriving in Shreveport the next morning, they checked into the Captain Shreve Hotel downtown.
Elvis on his first radio broadcast from the Louisiana Hayride
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Elvis Presley and The Louisiana Hayride : October 16, 1954
The Blue Moon Boys, Elvis, Scotty, and Bill were on the road. They washed their faces (everybody waited while Elvis combed his hair), and then begun their round of Shreveport's music scene.
They met with T. Tommie Cutrer, a local DJ, who played Elvis' music on his radio show. T. Tommie had recently been in a car accident and was still convalescing an amputated leg.
Undaunted, he regaled the boys with stories and promised to get out the word on their concert that evening. Next they paid a visit to Pappy Covington, the Hayride's grand-fatherly booking agent, who made the boys feel like up-and-coming stars. Then it was over to Stan's Records on Texas Street. Stan Lewis, the owner, was the major independent record distributor in the area. They made sure there was a bin for Elvis Presley.
From there it was a short walk to Shreveport's Municipal Auditorium, the home of the Hayride. Shreveport was much like Memphis. A spirit of racial toleration prevailed alongside Jim Crowe laws segregating the races. Shreveport was a relatively open city allowing a crossover of black and white music.
Municipal Auditorium was a modern facility with good acoustics, at 3,800 seating capacity much bigger than the Grand Ole Opry's Ryman Auditorium where they had performed just two weeks before. The Auditorium had a large wrap around balcony; the main floor had folding chairs that were taken up to accommodate dances and basketball games. Backstage were large dressing rooms and a spacious area for performers to mingle. Admission to the Hayride was sixty cents for adults and thirty cents for children.
The Hayride has a storied history. Its first broadcast was April 3, 1948. It was broadcast live on Saturday nights from Shreveport on KWKH, a 50,000 watt clear station reaching 28 states.
It was also on the CBS radio network to 198 affiliates across the country. Renowned for musical innovation, many country stars made their debut on the program including Hank Williams, Faron Young, Slim Whitman, Kitty Wells, Webb Pierce. Jim Reeves, the Carlisles, David Houston, and Elvis Presley. So many artists got their start on the Hayride that it was referred to as 'The Cradle of the Stars'. The great Hank Williams was a regular on the Hayride during 1948-49, and then again in 1952 until his death.
The Hayride was a raucous, enthusiastic crowd, typically the balconies packed to the rafters. There were a number of colleges and universities in the Shreveport area as well as Barksdale Air Force Base. The Hayride drew from this young audience as well as the avid East Texas music scene. Microphones placed in the crowd picked up the Auditorium's excitement for the radio broadcasts. The Hayride impresario, Horace Logan, lent a dramatic touch to proceedings by flamboyantly sporting about the stage in a ten gallon hat with six shooters. The emcee, Ray Bartlett, spiced his act with somersaults and back flips.
On the evening of Elvis' debut, October 16, 1954, Horace Logan strutted across the stage to the microphone to open the Hayride. Offstage Elvis looked on nervously. This was the largest house, by far, that he had played. Horace Logan: 'Is there anyone from Mississippi? Anyone from Arkansas? Let's hear it from the folks from Oklahoma. Now who's from Louisiana. Now how many of y'all from the great state of Texas?' The Hayride band struck up its theme, 'Raise a Ruckus Tonight', as the crowd joined-in. 'Come along, everybody come along, while the moon is shining bright, We're going to have a wonderful time, at the Louisiana Hayride tonight!'
Emcee Frank Page introduced Elvis who was standing against a painted backdrop of a willow tree and barn. The call letters of the station, KWKH, and a Louisiana Hayride banner stretched across the scene. Overhanging was a Lucky Strike cigarette banner with the logo LSMFT, Lucky S trike Means Fine Tobacco. Elvis was in a pink jacket with black shirt and colorful tie, white pants, and two-tone shoes. Scotty Moore and Bill Black were in western shirts. Frank Page: 'Just a few weeks ago a young man from Memphis, Tennessee, recorded a song on the Sun label and, in just a matter of weeks, that record has sky-rocketed right up the charts. It's really doing well all over the country. He is only nineteen years old. He has a new, distinctive style. Elvis Presley. Let's give him a nice hand. Elvis, how are you this evening
'Just fine. How're you, sir?'
'Are you all geared up with your band--'
'I'm all geared up.'
'to let us hear your songs?'
'Uh, well, I'd just like to say how happy we are to be down here. It's a real honor for us to get a chance to appear on the Louisiana Hayride. We're gonna do a song for ya--you got anything else to say?'
'No, I'm ready!'
'We're gonna do a song for ya we got out on Sun Records. It goes something like this.' Elvis sang That's Alright Mama. Whether it was Elvis' stage fright or the originality of his act before a new audience, his performance was flat much like his Grand Ole Opry debut a few weeks previous.
Elvis huddled with Sam P hillips during intermission. Sam exhorted Elvis to be himself, do his own kind of show; all he could do was fail and that would happen anyway if he didn't loosen-up.
The second show was different. It was a young crowd hungry for excitement. A huge cheer went up from the first bars of That's Alright Mama. It wasn't country music, it was rock n' roll and the audience loved it. On their feet, clapping and dancing, the crowd rode the thunderous beat. They didn't want Elvis to stop. Gyrating like a dervish, Elvis burned That's Alright Mama and Blue Moon of Kentucky. The Hayride had birthed its greatest star.
On 6 November 1954, Elvis signed a contract to appear on the Louisiana Hayride every Saturday night for a year. Gladys and Vernon Presley came to Shreveport to witness the contract because Elvis was underage. He was nineteen years old. Elvis was paid eighteen dollars per performance and Scotty Moore and Bill Black twelve dollars each. The Hayride became the foundation of Elvis' early rise to stardom.
He would tour nearly half million miles during the next year, often before audiences that had heard him first on Hayride broadcasts. During 1955, if it was a Saturday night, Elvis was back in Shreveport for the Hayride.
An interesting note: Elvis did the only commercial of his life for any product on November 6, 1954, for Southern Made Doughnuts. He sang their jingle. 'You can get 'em piping hot after four PM, you can get 'em piping hot. Southern Made Doughnuts hit the spot, you can get 'em piping hot after four PM'.
Nothing is known of Elvis' impact on Southern Made Doughnut sales.
Scotty, Elvis, Bill on the Louisiana Hayride October 16, 1954.
Elvis Presley on The Louisiana Hayride
July 5, 1954 : The recording notees for 'I Love You Because' and That's All Right'.
July 6, 1954 : Except from the book, A Boy From Tupelo
Elvis Presley : Backstage at the Overton Park Shell : Friday, July 30, 1954
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