How the Louisiana Hayride Helped Create “The Killer”
Recently, I've written a lot of posts talking about the Louisiana Hayride and its stars. Because, probably, the Hayride is most famous for being a jumping off point for some of the biggest stars in the world. Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and a ton of others got their illustrious careers kicked into high gear by becoming performers on the Louisiana Hayride.
But, the one aspect that never really gets discussed but is equally important is the influence of the Hayride. It was a show and tour that garnered attention from all over the state and south as a whole. In fact, without the Hayride, there's a good chance we wouldn't have 'The Killer' Jerry Lee Lewis.
Lewis, from Ferriday in Central Louisiana, was heavily influenced by the Louisiana Hayride. If you read any biography of Lewis, there is always a connection made between him and KWKH's flagship program.
He was enamored with Hank Williams and the Hayride gave him his weekly fix. In fact, according to most biographers, the two things that moved Lewis most musically during his formative period was Hank and the Holy Spirit (Jerry is deeply religious and according to legend, just saw a piano and knew how to play it with no lessons or formal training).
Then like most kids, curiosity drove Lewis to learn everything he could about music and eventually he was sneaking into black night clubs to watch the likes of Muddy Waters and others perform. From there, he formed his iconic style; transforming from a 14 year old boy in rural Louisiana to "The Killer" Jerry Lee Lewis...the man no act could follow.
But, while Jerry Lee never actually performed on the Hayride (at least to my knowledge), he does have several important Shreveport connections besides just listening to the Hayride on the radio. While performing and touring with Littlejohn in the early 50s, Lewis came to Shreveport to record two songs at a local recording studio. He then used that 45 record to land a gig in Nashville that, through a weird turn of events, led to his first Number 1 single "Crazy Arms".
His second Shreveport connection is, later in his career, he worked heavily with Shreveport native Jerry Kennedy. Kennedy, by this time, was a big time record producer in Nashville and helped define the Killer's late career sound. I'm sure that if I really dug into it, we could probably find some other connections to Shreveport that helped define what Jerry Lee was doing.
My point to all this is that Shreveport, whether we chose to remember or not, was ground zero talent. Some were born here, some got their start here, others were influenced by what happened here. Would we have "The Killer" if he didn't fall in love with Hank Williams thanks in large part to the Louisiana Hayride? Who knows. We didn't have to chance it. Jerry heard it. Responded to it. And went on to do what he was born to do, be Jerry Lee Lewis. That's the legacy Shreveport leaves behind.
If things would have went a little differently over the years, Shreveport could have been just a big as Nashville. But, its not too late...its never too late. There is still talent all over the place; from the Seratones to Buddy Flett. The flames still flicker...maybe all it needs is some fanning to get the fire raging once again.