Bear Family Records Releasing 20-CD Set of Performances From the Louisiana Hayride
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.
Louisiana Hayride was known as “The Cradle of Stars,” and At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight’s lengthy track-list provides plenty of reasons for that. The CDs’ 167 acts reveal a who’s who of country music royalty (George Jones, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, June Carter, Roy Acuff, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Ernest Tubb, Roger Miller, and Jim Reeves) along with regional heroes such as Cajun stars Doug and Rusty Kershaw, and California country stalwarts Rose Maddox and Wynn Stewart. The set serves as a reminder too that Hayride was about more than just country music. Presley obviously brought rock ’n’ roll to the show, but there was also rockabilly from Warren Smith, Werly Fairburn, and Bob Luman, bluegrass from the Louvin Brothers and Dobber Johnson, and yodeling from Slim Whitman.