History of the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium
Located just west of Downtown Shreveport, lies one of Shreveport’s most treasured buildings. Built in the 1920s, it is noted for its intricate brickwork and lavish interior and has been coined the finest example of Art Deco construction in the State of Louisiana. Designed by noted architect, Samuel Weiner, the building was dedicated to the Soldiers of the Great War on Veterans’ Day, then known as Armistice Day, November 11, 1929. In its early years, the auditorium played host to the military by serving as barracks for the troops and housing the early aircraft warning system more commonly known as Radar.
On April 3, 1948, a new program named, The Louisiana Hayride, began a weekly showcase of talented singers, songwriters and performers. Little did anyone realize the impact that would be made from the stage of Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium. The Louisiana Hayride became known as The Cradle of the Stars, because so many international stars began their careers on this program. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, are just a few of the acts that went on to stardom after performing on The Louisiana Hayride. Perhaps the most prominent performer to begin his career on the stage made his performance debut October 16th, 1954. That is when the world was introduced to Elvis Presley!
Elvis was signed to a contract to perform every Saturday night on the Hayride for $18 a show. Colonel Tom Parker “discovered” this phenomenal talent and bought his contract for $10,000 dollars after 18 months, but without a doubt, it is on the stage of Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium that Elvis developed the techniques that launched his career into stardom. The audiences averaged around 2,000 per show and for a while, The Hayride was nationally broadcast on CBS radio and became a staple of Armed Forces Radio programming. Although the weekly programming ended in 1960, the Hayride was regularly scheduled through the 60s.
Many African American musicians played at the Municipal Auditorium as well. Blues musician Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, originally from Shreveport-Bossier, became well-known for his song “Good Night Irene”. Other influential African American musicians who have played at the Municipal Auditorium include James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Bobbie “Blue” Bland and B.B. King.
Music still rings from the stage of the historic Municipal Auditorium. The former home of the Louisiana Hayride, today, is host to a variety of events that interest the entire community, which include, sporting events, touring acts, live local concerts, and family shows. Shreveport Municipal Auditorium was recently named a National Historic Landmark.