A previously unreleased live recording by Hank Williams is just one of the highlights in a startling treasure trove of country music, comprising 20 discs with a total running time of more than 25 hours. At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight, available from Germany’s Bear Family Records on October 20th, consists of 559 tracks comprised of live performances, “as-live” transcriptions and in-studio recordings from more than 150 artists including Williams, who is featured on the previously unreleased “Jambalaya (on the Bayou)” and an ultra-rare previously unknown recording of “I’m a Long Gone Daddy.” The set also contains performances by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, June Carter, along with many others.
Accompanied by a 224-page hardcover book, the set is a fascinating chronicle of country newcomers and legends, especially in Williams’ case because the performances included capture him as both and include some of his best-loved songs. Having appeared on the show for the first time just four months after it debuted, the alliance of Williams and the Hayride proved mutually beneficial, although his appearances there would dwindle in number as his fame increased. Eight days after “final” Hayride appearance, Williams made his historic Opry debut in August 1949. In the introduction to the previously unreleased version “Jambalaya (on the Bayou),” heard in the clip below, emcee Horace Logan notes that the singer’s last Hayride appearance was about two years earlier (in reality it was three) and that he has agreed to do one song, but if the audience approves, he’ll sing another, adding that if that goes well he’ll return the next week to do all the songs they want to hear. That was in October 1952. Just over two months later, Williams was dead after years of alcohol and drug abuse at just 29 years old.
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Although the Grand Ole Opry is better-known, the Louisiana Hayride radio show, broadcast Saturday nights on
Information on the 20-CD set, including the complete track listing is available at the Bear Family Records website.