UNITED STATES

Shreveport, LA

The Building Elvis May Not Have Quite Left Yet

Statue of Elvis Presley (left) in front of Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, Louisiana

Two bronze statues stand before the Art Deco exterior of the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium: Elvis Presley, who made his first recording here as part of the Louisiana Hayride, and his legendary (and still-living) guitarist James Burton.
JOANNE SASVARI/Meridian Writers’ Group

A VISIT TO the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium in northwest Louisiana is a chance to rub shoulders with legends of the American music scene—well, sort of.

At the top of a set of stairs, just off stage left, there’s a door that leads down to the dressing rooms. If you place yourself just so, leaning against the doorframe, you get a perfect view of centre stage. And that’s just what generations of hopeful young musicians have done, watching soon-to-be legends rock out as part of the Louisiana Hayride, then stepping into the lights for their own shots at fame and glory.

Hank Williams stood here. So did Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Aretha Franklin and James Brown. And in 1954, so did a young Elvis Presley. Surely some of their DNA lingers here, just as the tunes first heard at the Hayride still resonate through the American music scene.

The Hayride, you see, was a weekly radio, and later television, broadcast of live country music that began in 1948 and quickly became known as “the Cradle of the Stars” because it launched so many great musical careers.

Tour the building and you’ll sense the ghostly presence of those who once performed here, emanating from the shabby dressing rooms and from the signatures scrawled on the walls of a disused projection room.

You’re likely to sense other non-worldly vibrations as well, for this is one of the most haunted buildings in the state. Doors swing open and shut for no reason, ghostly hands caress women’s hair, childish footsteps ring out in empty rooms—it’s little wonder this has become a regular stop for ghost hunters.

Other visitors come here to admire the architecture, for the auditorium is considered the finest work of Art Deco architecture in Louisiana. The brick building, adorned with neoclassical-inspired motifs, was designed by local architects Samuel Wiener and Seymour Van Os, completed in 1929 and dedicated to those who served in the Great War. In 1991, “the Muni,” as locals call it, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and, in 2008, designated a National Historic Landmark.

Of course, for most people, its greatest historic significance is its link with Elvis Presley. He was a virtual unknown when the Hayride signed him to perform every Saturday night for $18 a show. Soon after his debut performance on Oct. 16, 1954, hordes of young women began mobbing the Muni, hoping to catch a glimpse of the singer and inspiring promoter Horace Lee Logan to utter the now-famous line, “Elvis has left the building!”

Presley went on to become the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and died in 1977. The Hayride called it a day in 1969. The Muni closed in the spring of 2013 for a major refurbishment, reopening in 2014. It continues to host concerts and debutante balls, to entertain ghosts and other visitors, and to launch careers. Elvis may have left the building, but his legend—and that of so many others—lingers on in Shreveport’s haunted, and haunting, Municipal Auditorium.

 

ACCESS

For more information on the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium visit www.shreveportmunicipalauditorium.com.

For information on travel in Louisiana go to the official travel authority website for the state of Louisiana at www.louisianatravel.com.