Horace Logan Has Left The Building

When Louisiana Hayride impresario Horace Logan strode onto the stage you knew you were in the presence of greatness. Decked out like a cowboy, and wearing a black Stetson hat, Logan played the part of hillbilly emcee to the hilt.

Those pistols strapped to his belt? They were real shooting irons, and as an expert marksman – if push came to shove – Logan could’ve settled the beef with country ease.

And pistol fire.

Thankfully it never came to that, and Logan would make his mark on pop culture in a much more genteel manner: he brought Elvis Presley to the masses via his Louisiana Hayride concert series and radio show.

In 1954, Horace Logan signed the singing truck driver to a one year contract wherein the young musician would perform 52 consecutive Saturdays beginning on November 12, 1955. The concerts would be broadcast on KWKH, Shreveport, Louisiana’s primary radio station and promoter of the legendary Louisiana Hayride. Elvis would be paid $18 per show.

If you had your radio tuned to KWKH on October 16th of that year, this is what you would’ve heard: “Just a few weeks ago a young man from Memphis, Tennessee, recorded a song on the Sun label, and in just a matter of a few weeks that record has skyrocketed right up the charts. It’s really doing good all over the country. He’s only 19 years old. He has a new, distinctive style. Elvis Presley. Let’s give him a nice hand…” That was announcer Frank Page.

The crowd went wild for the self-described “Hillbilly Cat”

Tickets cost .60 cents.

The Hayride was the second most famous program in the US trailing only the Grand Ole Opry. Aired live and powered by a 50,000-watt transmitter, the show was relayed nationally by CBS and overseas by Armed Forces Radio. The Shreveport Municipal Auditorium was filled to the rafters for the live concerts. All 3,800 folding chair seats were filled.

Known as The Cradle of Stars, the program brought Kitty Wells, Hank Williams, and Lefty Frizzell to a national listening audience while Elvis was still honing his chops in countryfied juke joints barely big enough to whup a cat in. It’s hard to imagine now but Shreveport was said to be cutting edge in those glorious days.

Elvis would perform his last Hayride appearance on Dec. 15, 1956. He had two Ed Sullivan Shows under his belt and a half dozen top 10 Billboard hits.

He’d simply outgrown the Hayride’s stage. Tickets were two bucks.

The 10,300-seat Hirsch Memorial Coliseum in Shreveport was nearly at capacity for his final performance.

Horace Logan was the emcee.

Imagine Elvis and his crack team of young hot shots: DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black pulling up behind the Coliseum in a police squad car. Young hillbillies, rednecks, and good old country kids would’ve poured in from the hardscrabble farms of north Louisiana in hopes of getting some sweat slung on ’em by The King.

“The gyrating rotary troubadour was seldom if ever heard by an audience, screaming every time he moved,” the Shreveport Times reported the next day. “One of the finest displays of mass hysteria in Shreveport history.”

The headline? MASS HYSTERIA. Frenzied Elvis Fans Rock Youth Center

It was at the Hayride in 1956 that producer Horace Logan tried to quiet the frenzied audience and coined a phrase by announcing: “Please, young people…Elvis has left the building…please take your seats.

“With his voice of authority, all of those kids shut up and believed him. Of course Elvis really had left the building,” reflected old friend Merle Kilgore.

By that time Logan had already logged over 20 years with the station.

In 1958, Horace Logan retired from KWKH and moved from Shreveport to Fort Worth where he became the program director for KCUL the radio station that produced the Cowtown Hoedown. Ever restless, Logan eventually migrated across town to the Big D Jamboree, another booming production devoted to country and rockabilly music.

By 1966, the Jamboree had run its course. Logan would return to Monroe, Louisiana, the place of his birth, and finish out his working career at KREB but the magic was gone. There would be no more spotlight, no strutting across the stage in front of thousands of screaming acolytes.

Horace Logan left the business for good and retired to Seadrift, Texas in 1995. He lived out his years there and passed away in 2002 at the age of 86.

Horace Logan
b. August 3, 1916
d. October 13, 2002

sources
Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
Hirsch Memorial Coliseum, Shreveport, LA by Scotty Moore
Elvis, Hank and Me by Horace Logan
Shreveport Sounds in Black and White by Kip Lornell
I Forgot To Remember To Forget by Norman Johnson

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