VIA PRESS RELEASE | Featuring more than 25 hours of music, this unprecedented collection comes packed in an LP-sized package complete with a 224-page hardcover book with rare performances from stars like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Kitty Wells, George Jones, and Webb Pierce, as well as a previously unknown Hank Williams recording. For more than two decades, the Louisiana Hayride radio show was a Saturday night staple for music lovers. Broadcast by Shreveport, Louisiana’s KWKH-AM from 1948-1960, Hayride stood as the chief rival to the now better-known Grand Ole Opry. While the Opry favored established Nashville stars, Hayride offered headliners and newcomers alike an opportunity to perform. It was this policy that led Hayride to say “yes” to a young singer from Tupelo, Mississippi after the Opry said “no.”
That singer, Elvis Presley, debuted on the show in October 1954 and later made his first TV appearance on the television version in March 1955. Presley’s 15 songs here (which include “That’s All Right,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Don’t Be Cruel”) are just a fraction of the more than 500 tunes stocking At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight. Bear Family Records’ 20-CD box set holds a treasury of long-buried live Hayride performances—many of which have never been heard since the day they were broadcast—with perhaps the rarest of these rarities being the previously unknown recording of “I’m a Long Gone Daddy” by Hank Williams. The compilation has been constructed in chronological sequence. Throughout the 20 discs songs are interspersed with the Louisiana Hayride theme tune (“…we’re gonna have a wonderful time…”), and with show announcements, intros, ads, comedy routines, and even mistakes, giving listeners a real sense of what it was like to hear the show on the radio, or to have plunked down your 60¢ (or 30¢ for children) for a ticket to watch it live in Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium.
One of these stage announcements, in fact, is the old-time emcee Horace Logan making the now-famous proclamation that “Elvis has left the building.” Eighteen of the set’s CDs cover the classic weekly Louisiana Hayride broadcasts that took place from April 3, 1948 until August 27, 1960. The other two CDs collect material from some post-1960 shows, along with commercial recordings made in the KWKH radio studios, promotional discs, and transcribed shows from KWKH’s early days. Among the studio-recorded commercial tracks are hits by Slim Whitman, the Browns, Mitchell Torok, Jim Reeves, Mac Wiseman, and Carolyn Bradshaw. Additionally, there are 11 “as live” studio-recorded transcriptions that feature selections from Kitty Wells, Johnnie and Jack, Hank Williams, and Curley Williams.