Let It Rock
Rock & Roll Books Spring 2000
The Louisiana Hayride Years: Making Musical History in Country's Golden Ageby Horace Logan with Bill Sloan
St. Martin's Griffin, 288 pp., $14.95 (paper)
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.