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Louisiana Hayride 65th Anniversary Celebrates Music and Radio History

Stage of the Cradle of the Stars - Shreveport's Municipal Auditorium ready for a night on a Louisiana Hayride
Howard J Hart

Music and radio vanguards gathered along with fans of all ages at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium to celebrate and write another chapter in the rich heritage of entertainment in northwest Louisiana.

“What better place to start a year long celebration of Louisiana’s music heritage than in Shreveport at the venue that is famous for the legendary Louisiana Hayride,” said Lt. Governor Jay Darden in welcoming remarks to a crowd of about 1,700.

Dirtfoot, a well-liked and respected Shreveport local band, led off the night’s entertainment. With its slightly different orchestration – that is, lead banjo, guitar, bass (that includes a stand-up double bass fiddle) saxophone and percussion section (that includes a drummer behind a traditional drum kit and a percussionist belting out rhythms on bells, marimba, and various other instruments of interest), the band had audience members quite literally dancing in the aisles of the venerable Municipal.

As the Dirtfoot set concluded, Louisiana Hayride Foundation chairman Maggie Warwick, Lt. Governor Darden and radio personality Shotgun Ken Shepherd presented appreciation awards to the people who were members of the original Louisiana Hayride cast and crew.

Frank Page was posthumously honored, with family members accepting the award. Hayride stage announcer Norm Bale and chief broadcast-recording engineer Bob Sullivan accepted awards for their involvement in the original run of the show.

The involvement of several other notable personalities in Shreveport music history and radio history was acknowledged. That list included: Stan “The Record Man” Lewis; radio personality Larry Ryan; and former Bossier City Mayor George Dement. Also recognized were late blues and folk guitarist and vocalist Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter and late Tillman Franks, bassist, who, from Shreveport, managed careers for Johnny Horton, David Houston, Webb Pierce and others.

Louisiana Hayride Heritage Band at the 65th Anniversary of the Louisiana Hayride
Howard J Hart

When the presentation was done, it was time to roll out on The ‘Ride. The Louisiana Hayride Heritage Band took the stage and rocked the Cradle of the Stars with its signature sound for foundation country songs such as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and “That’s Alright, Mama.”

The set included a performance by last season’s “The X Factor” contestant and Shreveport native Willie Jones, who sang a heartfelt rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Easy.”

Louisiana Hayride 65th Anniversary performance by Shreveporter and X Factor contestant Willi Jones
Howard J Hart

To borrow a phrase from singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter, it was kind of like a “Saturday night at the Twist and Shout.” But this night was a bit better than that. It was riding along the trail of music and radio history of northwest Louisiana on the uniquely difficult to duplicate Louisiana Hayride.

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