Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story

From Country to "Rock and Roll"

(LPB Reenactment)

KWKH Louisiana Hayride (Courtesy of Joey Kent, photo by Langston McEachern)Louisiana Hayride

After WWII came a massive outburst of consumer interest in radio and dramatic new radio programs like The Louisiana Hayride which aired over KWKH. Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Slim Whitman, George Jones, Johnny Horton, and Jim Reeves all got their break on The Louisiana Hayride. Broadcast live from the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, The Louisiana Hayride fostered so many successful country music careers that it came to be known as the "cradle of the stars."
Jimmie Davis and his band (Courtesy of Joey Kent)

Jimmie Davis

In 1944, Jimmie Davis was elected governor of Louisiana, partly because of his early days of fame — singing on KWKH at the invitation of Will Henderson — and later performing songs like You are my Sunshine on The Louisiana Hayride.

DJ Alan Freed

The year 1951 marked a revolutionary trend in radio. Cleveland DJ Alan Freed had begun to play a style of black music he called "rock and roll" — a street term for sexual relations. The heavy beat music carried with it a frenzied popularity not experienced before in musical history. By the late 50s, Freed was one of the top two DJs in the country.

Elvis Presley's last Louisiana Hayride Performance (A Jack Burham photo / for LPB use only)Elvis Presley

After being turned down by the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Elvis Presley approached The Louisiana Hayride where he was given the chance to perform at the age of nineteen. Since KWKH was carried by Armed Forces Radio and broadcast all over the world, the young musician would eventually gain an international audience. The last time Elvis appeared for KWKH, was in 1956 where Horace Logan, the producer of The Louisiana Hayride, said "Elvis has left the building." That's where the words were spoken the first time.George Carlin in the Air Force (Courtesy of Barksdale Air Force Base)


George Carlin

In 1956, while stationed at Barksdale, A.F.B., George Carlin took an off-base disc jockey position with KJOE in Shreveport. One year later, local record distributor Stan Lewis received a shipment of records and discovered he had accidentally been shipped an exclusive — Elvis Presley's All Shook Up. Lewis brought the record to KJOE and Carlin played it on the air. The story was picked up by the national news service and KJOE and Carlin received nationwide attention.

Leon Kelner Orchestra in the Blue Room (Courtesy of Ray Cresson)Leon Kelner Orchestra

In New Orleans, WWL, which had avoided rock and roll and it's stir of controversy, became famous for big band dance music throughout the 50s and early 60s. The Leon Kelner Orchestra performed and broadcast live from the Roosevelt Hotel's Blue Room. The band played popular tunes of the day and could be heard over clear channel WWL across the nation and often around the world. Comment cards were received from as far away as Finland.


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Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story

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