Happy Birthday to Hayride Star Hank Williams
Hiram King Williams, known to most of the world as Hank, was born on September 17th, 1923. It's hard to describe exactly what Hank meant/means to the world of music and Shreveport. He's widely regarded as one of, if not the most, significant and influential American singers and songwriters. He had 35 singles that reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Country Best Seller chart. 11 of those were number ones.
He's a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He also was awarded a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for "his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life." And those are just some of the highlights.
Locally, he completely changed the game for the Louisiana Hayride. When he signed on in 1947, not only did a lot of folks tune into KWKH just to hear Hank, but many artists for years to come joined the Hayride just to follow in Hank's footsteps. Guys like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis. People forget back in the 40s and 50s, the Hayride covered most of the South, specifically the Southeast. In fact, before moving to the Grand Ol Opry in 1949, Hank was so popular he had his own radio show and tour separate from the Hayride.
On top of all that, Hank lived in Bossier City (as much as a man that was on the road as much as him could live) from 1948 to his death in 1953. After getting kicked off the Opry, he returned to perform and tour with the Hayride.
As cool as Lead Belly, Elvis and James Burton are....I still find it amazing that we don't have a statue in Shreveport or Bossier for Hank. Without him, the Hayride and a lot of the great musical memories and experiences this town has had may have never happened.