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“Louisiana Hayride’s” Horace Lee Logan Dies at 86

Founder/host of seminal radio show coined phrase “Elvis has left the building.”

    Logan began in radio when he was 16, after winning a contest to become an announcer on KWKH-AM in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mrs. Logan said.

    He began producing the “Hayride,” a country music show performed before a live KWKH audience in Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium, in 1948. It survived only two years after Logan’s departure in 1958.

    In between, he introduced a number of country music’s top names to America. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams were among people who got their first big break on the “Hayride.”

    “When he gave you an introduction, you thought the president of the United States was coming on,” Merle Kilgore, a friend of Logan’s and manager for Hank Williams Jr., said Sunday from his home in Paris, Tennessee. “He was the greatest. Being on the ‘Hayride’ … that was a big as it got in the country music industry.”

    When Presley debuted in 1954, Logan wrote in his 1998 memoir, “Elvis, Hank and Me,” he wanted to say something reassuring to the nervous young man, but didn’t have time. Instead, he grabbed the microphone.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve never heard of this young man before, but one day you’ll be able to tell your children and grandchildren you heard musical history made tonight,” he told the audience.

    Two years later, trying to quiet a frenzied “Hayride” audience after another Presley performance, Logan announced, “Elvis has left the building.”

As they have now both done on the metaphysical scale.

Coincidentally, Elvis’s Hayride recordings have recently been released on Tomato. Here’s a review from PopMatters:

    With the latest advancements in digital and sound technology, it will become the norm for analog to be transferred into digital. Cassettes will be burned onto compact discs and all of the hiss of vinyl will be removed for a clearer, more pristine sound. Such is the case with “ancient” records and old radio recordings, a prime example being the early work of Elvis Presley. Prior to hitting his pelvic stride on Ed Sullivan, Elvis Aaron Presley made a name for himself on a series of radio shows, including KWKH’s The Louisiana Hayride. From 1954 to 1956, Presley performed early hits that would catapult him to stardom. Now, having been released two decades ago as Elvis: The First Live Recordings and The Hillbilly Cat, the recordings have been retouched and re-mastered into this single collection. And while the obvious tinkering with the sound might be a double-edged sword, the performances themselves are clearly testaments of what was to come.

    After making an all-night drive to Shreveport, Louisiana, host Horace Logan introduced Presley before he kicked off with “Baby, Let’s Play House”. “I’m sick, sober and sorry,” Presley says during the introduction. Unfortunately though, it’s not his first performance but a song taped from 1955. Instantly noticeable is how the quality ebbs and flows from slightly muddled to being quite clear. Part of this is by giving the bass and acoustic guitar more prominence in the mix. Played by bass Paul Nowinski and Jon Paris, the sound stays true to the song. It also shows that Presley was receiving a large amount of teenage girl shrieks. Another brief commercial describing the “better taste of fine tobacco”, “That’s All Right (Mama)” is nailed on the head. After just being signed to Sun Records, the song showcases the rhythm section and Scotty Moore’s guitar parts. Near the song’s conclusion, you can imagine him shaking to the delight of the studio audience.

    Equally interesting is how Logan introduces Presley before some songs. Prior to “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, Logan says, “They’ve been looking for something new in the folk music field for a long time and I think you’ve got it.” Presley sounds a bit more reserved as does the overall mix of the track. The audience reaction isn’t diminished, but it sounds a bit premeditated in certain spots. But Presley rises above it all with a tender yet stellar performance. Perhaps the grittiest sounding track is the slightly muffled “Good Rockin’ Tonight”. While purists won’t complain about leaving it in its original state, the recording is far down in the mix, making some of Presley’s mid-song enthusiasm barely audible.

    Although at just under a half-hour, a good portion of the album is given to advertisements as well as brief passages such as the “Louisiana Hayride Theme”. The song that Presley doesn’t do justice to is “Tweedle Dee”, which seems more of a bland and unimaginative track. Moore again picks up the slack with a credible guitar solo, but it’s too little and a bit too late. The highlight of the album is “I Got A Woman”, a rockabilly-tinged track that seems to pick up in its pacing, with Presley letting loose to the crowd’s approval. A cover of Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” is run through quite quickly, with his supporting musicians trying to start a rave-up. Another performance of “That’s All Right (Mama)” has a false start before giving a guitar instrumental to start the song.

Here’s a review of Logan’s Hayride book:

    Want all the down-and-dirty intrigue of Country Music Babylon without having to hide the book guiltily between the covers of an issue of Third Coast Music? Horace Logan, the producer of the Louisiana Hayride, the long-running country music showcase in Shreveport, packs it all in here — mysterious deaths, crazy drunks, shameless adulterers — but without coming across as the slightest bit creepy, sleazy, or exploitative. This, after all, is the world of celebrity and artistry, the world of country music as it was meant to be — gritty, unpredictable, and full of heartbreak.

    Centered around the Hayride’s unquestioned greats — Hank Williams and Elvis Presley — Logan also manages to give us plenty of personal, inside looks at the lives of George Jones, Johnny Cash, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Slim Whitman, Kitty Wells, et al., and though Logan uses the phrase “I discovered” a lot, he comes across not as a pompous windbag (save that honorific for “Colonel” Tom Parker) but as a man beaming with pride over having had anything to do with helping these incredible talents with getting their breaks. That’s why the Hank and Elvis material, though covered in myriad forms elsewhere, still seems fresh — thankfully, Logan seems blessed with a photographic memory as well as an ear for talent.

    Logan is not afraid to throw stones if there’s a need for it, either — he is not afraid to tear the much bigger Grand Ole Opry several new f-holes over the ways Opry personnel treated him and some of his beloved acts (if you think that the Nashville elite were happy about the coming of Elvis, think again!). In fact, one of the longer chapters in the book is dedicated to the years-long “feud” between the Hayride and the Opry, which did nothing but hamper careers and foster bitter memories. But he also makes it clear that his chief rivals at the Opry did much for country music as well.

    Taken as a whole, though, the tone of Louisiana Hayride overcomes the tragedies of some of its subjects and the unpleasantness of some of its situations to present itself as a cry of celebration for the truly American magic that is real, old-fashioned country music.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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