I am a native musician from Shreveport, Louisiana.
When I lived there, I was referred to as a ‘local’ musician. I prefer the word ‘native’ as it conveys a sense of pride as well as origin. I frown upon the word ‘local’ as much as some do Shreveport. Tyrese Gibson calls Shreveport a “Jungle.” Gallup calls it a “miserable” city. Some of my friends say it’s a place void of reason, logic, and things to do. As I write these words, I smile because I think otherwise. In many cases, I can see why they feel that way and I can’t say arguing with them about it is going to change their perspective. I love Shreveport — all its oddities — and have the fondest memories of it.
I grew up there, doing my best to make my time fun and interesting. I played music for two decades and was deeply fortunate to create with hundreds of native musicians in the rock, reggae, folk, metal, hip hop, rap, country, sound art, and electronic music circles. We all played original music in a place where the majority of people around us either didn’t care, didn’t notice, or detested the fact that we preferred performing songs we had written rather than parroting top-40 hits. Having fun, freely creating, and reveling in art was more important than gaining the approval of the powers that could shut you down, if you got too rowdy or risque. Shreveport artists expressed themselves with diverse, valuable, unique, and inspiring, creative art formed in a place strangely void of appreciation, guidance, and support.
In 1954, Shreveport was considered a place that was on the cutting edge of music when Elvis Presley’s popularity took off like Superman from the Louisiana Hayride’s stage and changed what people knew as music forever. Before then, even The King understood disappointment and lack of support. In Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, he wrote that Elvis was turned down by the Opry and that the Opry manager, Jim Denny, said that Elvis was “not bad” but didn’t fit their format. Before Elvis took the stage at the Hayride, it was predominantly a country music platform that, at that time, was seeing a lull as the result of rockabilly’s popularity. Hayride announcer Frank Page said that Elvis “brought a tepid response” among organizers and core fans, but Elvis’ rise to international fame benefited both him and the Hayride. They took a chance on him and they all won.
I joyously celebrate the return of the Louisiana Hayride into public existence, and I applaud the efforts of bringing top-notched entertainment to the Ark-La-Tex area. This has the potential to provide new opportunities to Shreveport musicians, and I strongly believe that The Louisiana Hayride legacy is one of the most important pieces of cultural capital that Shreveport and its native music community possess.
The Hayride is and always will be more than just a niche-genre brand. It not only captivated and entertained the world, but also fertilized the ground in which the diverse, original musical landscape of Shreveport grew despite popular and proper appreciation, guidance and support. The Louisiana Hayride legacy should not be exclusively utilized as way to make already successful artists/businesses more successful, or to simply promote a few select genres. That would sadden me. Its name has great potential to promote and export native country, punk, folk, soul, reggae, blues, industrial, rock, metal, hip hop, rap, electronic, classical, and sound art in the Ark-La-Tex area. If a broader, home-grown, more international, and multi-dimensional approach is taken to the reviving of the Hayride name, it would not only guarantee success for the owners of the Hayride, SMG & their cohorts, but also the Shreveport-Bossier-Ark-La-Tex community and the native musicians who comprise an impressive music scene that only needs to be aimed and shot into the international music community.
Diversity and uniqueness are in Shreveport’s favor. Artistic-ethnocentrism and old-world vision are the enemy. This world is made up of music fans that like, listen, and ravenously consume every type of music ever made. I believe my home town possesses the talent and genre diversity to satisfy those musical cravings. I can’t tell Maggie Warwick, The Municipal Auditorium, SMG, the City of Shreveport, or anyone else what to do with their property or where to place their bets; however, I do encourage them to once again be open to fresh and radical ideas, tap into a valuable native wellspring of talent (in all genres), take a chance on them the same way the Hayride did for Elvis, and show the world what Shreveport really has to offer.