Elvis Presley: This Radio Show Helped Launched the King’s Career

by Halle Ames

With a voice like Elvis Presley’s, it’s hard to believe he needed the help of anyone or anything to get his music career started, but which radio show put him on the map?

However, with the help of a small southern radio station, Elvis Presley didn’t just become a star. He became The King.

According to a 2016 article from Graceland’s website, Elvis fans can thank the Louisiana Hayride. Not sure what that is? We will break it down for you.

The Louisiana Hayride

The Louisiana Hayride was a small regional radio show that aided in Elvis Presley’s music career. The radio show later became a TV series. It was also known as “The Cradle of the Stars.”

Yeah, I guess you could say that.

The Louisiana Hayride or Cradle of the Stars, or Elvis Presley starter, or whatever you want to call it, got its start in April of 1948. It began as a radio program that was broadcasted from the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana. It reached locations throughout the South, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. However, with the help of CBS Radio, fans heard some parts nationally.

“Admission for the three-hour show was – get this – 60 cents for adults and 30 cents for children.”

That is cheaper than a candy bar or pack of gum.

Although the station was small, it had a way of sniffing out talent. It was the platform many notable artists needed to launch successful careers, like Elvis Presley. Some of the artists that started on The Louisiana Hayride included Hank Williams, Jim Reeves, Slim Whitman, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, and George Jones.

Elvis Presley’s Rise to Fame

Elvis found himself on the airwaves of Hayride after a failed try at the Grand Ole Opry. According to the website, after his October 2, 1954, performance, Presley did not receive “the warm reception he’d hoped for.”

So what does his producer, Sam Phillips, do? He books his client with the Opry’s biggest competitor, the Louisiana Hayride. The radio show featured Elvis Presley two weeks later.

In November of 1954, Elvis was back but accompanied by his parents. Since Elvis was only 19-years-old at the time, the show required his guardians also to sign a contract to work for them.

The young artist was paid accordingly for his talent, however.

“Elvis’ pay was $18 per show, and his bandmates, Bill Black and Scotty Moore, would each receive $12 per show. Through the rest of 1954 and 1955, Elvis appeared weekly in Shreveport at the Louisiana Hayride. In October 1955, Elvis’ contract was renewed for $200 per show, as Elvis’ fame had grown in the year since his initial appearance.”

According to the Inflation Calculator, Elvis Presley was paid roughly $176 per appearance in today’s money. By the end, he made nearly $1,963.

The King was rapidly growing in fame, and with touring and filming, the weekly obligation in the town of Shreveport was not working with Presley’s schedule. His new manager, Col. Tom Parker, bought him out of his contract with Hayride contract $10,000.