70 Years Ago: Hank Williams Debuts on ‘Louisiana Hayride’
Seventy years ago today, on Aug. 7, 1948, Hank Williams made his first appearance on the influential radio program Louisiana Hayride.
A weekly Saturday night country music show, Louisiana Hayride was recorded live in front of an audience at Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium and broadcast on the AM powerhouse KWKH. Due to its reputation for booking future stars — many of whom later went on to appear on and join the Grand Ole Opry — the show was dubbed "Cradle of the Stars."
When Williams debuted, Louisiana Hayride had been in existence only a few months; the program's first broadcast was on April 3, 1948. How he came to live in Shreveport and then appear on the show was somewhat unclear — Hank Williams: The Biography outlines several scenarios, all of which have murky timelines — although what's not in dispute is that the future country icon was also still in the early stages of his career.
According to Hank Williams: The Biography, he was the fifth performer in the 30-minute segment that started at 8PM. Merle Kilgore, who went on to co-write Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," recalled that Williams "had the same look in his eye that Elvis [Presley] had. That 'I know something you don't know' look.
"Hank was cocky," Kilgore said. "That first night, the Baileses were on before him and he said, 'How did they do?' I said, 'Real good. I hate that you have to follow 'em.' He said, 'I'll eat 'em alive.'"
Johnnie and Jack appeared after the Baileses, and then it was Williams' turn to perform. He chose "Move It on Over," which ended up reaching No. 4 on the singles chart. After commercials and a few more songs, Williams and wife Audrey then returned to perform the tune "I Want to Live and Love."
Williams would continue performing on Louisiana Hayride as he started playing shows at school auditoriums and honky-tonks in the region and appearing mornings on the radio on KWKH, thanks to a lucrative syrup sponsorship. In June of 1949, Williams debuted on the Grand Ole Opry, which cemented his country stardom.
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