Elvis Presley (copy)

Elvis Presley performs for a packed house at the 'Louisiana Hayride' Dec. 15, 1956.

Filmmaker Ken Burns turns his attention to “Country Music” this week with the premiere of his new 16-hour PBS documentary series. With that in mind, we remember the “Louisiana Hayride,” the radio and television show that helped launch the careers of some of the greatest names in country music.

Debuting in April 1948, the live music show was broadcast from the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium by radio station KWKH. The Saturday night program was heard by listeners in 28 states and later was syndicated on the CBS radio network.

While Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry showcased more established country artists, “Hayride” was known for giving exposure to up-and-coming musicians. Hank Williams was a regular on the show in its initial season and during the last year of his life. His son Hank Williams Jr. was born in Shreveport while Williams and his wife lived there.

Elvis Presley debuted on “Hayride” on Oct. 16, 1954. After his performance, host Horace Logan told him, “They’ve been looking for something new in the folk music field for a long time and I think you’ve got it.” In 1955, Presley made his first-ever TV appearance, singing on the television version of the show. After Elvis’ final appearance there in 1956, emcee Logan coined a phrase by telling the frenzied audience “Elvis has left the building!”

Other stars who performed on “Louisiana Hayride” during its 12-year run included Johnny Cash, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Kitty Wells, Slim Whitman and Floyd Cramer.