If you love Elvis Presley today, you can give thanks, in part, to the Louisiana Hayride.
The Hayride, a regional radio (and later television) show, helped launch Elvis' early career. In fact, "The Cradle of the Stars," as it was known, was the springboard to fame for many country artists such as Hank Williams, Jim Reeves, Slim Whitman, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells and George Jones, to name a few.
The Louisiana Hayride began as a radio program on April 3, 1948, and was broadcast from the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana. Admission for the three-hour show was - get this - 60 cents for adults and 30 cents for children. The show aired in the South, and parts of it aired nationally on CBS Radio and overseas on Armed Forces Radio. Many of the Hayride regulars toured around the region in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas.
Elvis performed on "The Grand Ole Opry" on October 2, 1954, and it was... not exactly the warm reception he'd hoped for. So a week after that performance, his producer, Sam Phillips, booked Elvis on the Opry's main competition, the Hayride. Elvis' first appearance on the Hayride was October 16, 1954.
Elvis returned to the Hayride on November 6 with his parents, who had to also sign Elvis' contract with the show, since Elvis was just 19. Elvis' pay was $18 per show, and his bandmates, Bill Black and Scotty Moore, would each receive $12 per show. Through the rest of 1954 and 1955, Elvis appeared weekly in Shreveport at the Louisiana Hayride. In October 1955, Elvis' contract was renewed for $200 per show, as Elvis' fame had grown in the year since his initial appearance.
But that contract wouldn't last long. In 1956, Elvis released his debut album, appeared on national television and was touring the country. In late 1956, he began filming his first movie. The weekly trips to Shreveport to perform on the Hayride just didn't fit in with Elvis' busy schedule, so his new manager, Col. Tom Parker, bought Elvis out of his Hayride contract for $10,000 with a promise that Elvis would perform on the Hayride's special charity show on December 15, 1956. Elvis' last regular appearance on the Hayride was March 31, 1956.
While the Louisiana Hayride didn't make Elvis a household name, it did help him reach many new audiences - and of course, that only helped further his career.
Graceland is Elvis' home, but it's also the place to go if you want to learn about the King of Rock 'n' Roll's career. Plan your visit to Graceland today.