Plans Announced to Re-launch ‘Louisiana Hayride’ Radio Program
A country music staple is set to return after 55 years off the airwaves.
One of country music's most iconic radio programs, the "Louisiana Hayride" debuted in April of 1948, broadcasting from the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport, La. A Broadway show and television broadcasts followed, but in August of 1960, the "Louisiana Hayride" ended its run. However, organizers have been working for years to bring the show back to life.
Maggie Warwick, who heads up the Louisiana Hayride Foundation, has been leading the charge. Also known as Margret Lewis, she is a songwriter and former "Louisiana Hayride" performer, and she and her husband Alan helped save and renovate the Municipal Auditorium.
"The city had made plans to tear the Municipal Auditorium down. So we intervened in that. My husband did governmental relations for the company he worked for, and he knew a lot of the politicians in Baton Rouge, [La.]," Warwick tells Saving Country Music. "So he made some phone calls, and they got on board, and it was actually the State of Louisiana and our representatives from Shreveport and Bossier region that were able to raise the money to save the building. And we helped in that process all the way through.”
However, the couple had no idea how much legal work it would take to actually bring the show back to the renovated stage.
"There was no one that had any legal right to [the name "Louisiana Hayride"]. It had gone into public domain from the years that had gone by since KWKH [the radio station that aired the program] had closed it," Warwick says. "So we began the process to get all the legalities out of the way, which took way longer than we thought, and much conflict, false claims, people coming out of the bushes. So we had to clear all of the crooks out of the way, and that took us a lot of years. Then we had to deal with political issues here in Shreveport.”
The "Louisiana Hayride" differed from the Grand Ole Opry because it allowed less-established artists, including Elvis Presley, to take the stage before they had made a name for themselves.
“It was unrestricted. So many of the great stars that were not accepted on other shows when they first started out were totally embraced by the "Louisiana Hayride" ... The "Louisiana Hayride" discovered and opened the door to more great stars than any other show of its kind in history," Warwick says. "All the styles of music, from the roots music, it all evolved at the "Louisiana Hayride" ... If we had not had the show, I don’t know what would have happened with the styles of music because it influenced them so much."
In mid-April, numerous Louisiana politicians came together to declare 2015 as a year dedicated to rebuilding and reviving the "Louisiana Hayride." Right now, Warwick and other organizers are working to get everything ready for a TV production, which they hope to begin airing in September, to celebrate Hank Williams' birthday month. They hope to have a big kick-off show, followed by a weekly program.
“At last we have come to a place in time where it has all come together," Warwick says. "We want it to be a wide open door where artists of all ages can come and perform.”