Angel of Hillbilly Heaven
Article and Photos by Kathleen Walls
|The magnificent Municipal
Auditorium in Shreveport
It was like a dream of Hillbilly Heaven. I was walking in the
footsteps of Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Sr., Johnny Cash and
many of the other Country Music greats. I was getting a
backstage tour of the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, former
home of The Louisiana
Hayride. The person reveling this wonderland of one of
country music's greatest shrines, was none other than Maggie
When Maggie, then Margaret Lewis, first sought her slice of the
country music pie in 1957 at the tender age of fifteen, she could
have no idea that her career was to intertwine with most of the
greats of country music.
The Louisiana Hayride at
that time was an outlaw version of the
Grand Ole Opry. It was
the proving ground where many a young hopeful took his or her best
shot at fame. It catapulted some previously unknown talent to the
top of the heap. One example was a teenage boy from Memphis. On
March 3, 1955, Elvis Presley made his first television appearance on
the television version of The Louisiana Hayride.
Warwick with visitors at the auditorium
Elvis used at the Hayride
||Copy of Elvis' Hayride contract
Another star was born on a
Saturday night in 1948 when Hank Williams sang "Lovesick
Blues" to a Louisiana Hayride audience. Previously, Hank had played
unknown bars and local joints. He went on to become one of the
Hayride's earliest stars.
Williams and his Drifting Cowboys when they played
The Louisiana Hayride Photo
credit Lum York
For Maggie, the Hayride
was where it all began to come together for her. She met the greats
of Country music there and moved on to a successful career as a
singer/songwriter in Nashville. Lewis first signed with Mira Smith,
a local business person who ran a small record label and a studio
called Ram (short for "Royal Audio Music").
|Pictures at the auditorium, Hank
Maggie teaming up with Mira Smith as a songwriting team. They saw
immediate success with their "I Almost Called Your Name," which was
a hit for Margaret Whiting. This was followed with David Houston's
recording of their "Mountain of Love." At this point they decided to
move to Nashville in 1966. There they signed on with Shelby
Singleton's new venture, SSS Productions, and provided massive hits
for Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson ("Soul Shake") Jeannie C. Riley
("Country Girl") and Johnny Adams (the country soul classic,
"Reconsider Me"). They also were responsible for Connie Francis'
hit, "Wedding Cake."
|The matching statures in frornt of
the auditorium of Elvis and most famous band member
||James Burton played with TCB
Band, Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, John Denver many others
In all, Maggie has had more than 100 songs cut by artists including
Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Lynn Anderson, and two
of her songs are included on the 2005 Grammy-winning compilation of
Nashville soul, Night Train to Nashville. Maggie also had a
contract with Capital and UK Starlite records. Some of her best work
is still available in two different albums: "But I Know What I Like"
and "Lonesome Bluebird."
This is a music personage
who crossed all the lines. She knew the country music greats, the
songwriters, even the politicians by way of her close friendship
with Louisiana' Singing Governor, Jimmie Davis who died in 2000 at
the age of 101.
Maggie Warwick co-hosted with "Shot Gun Ken" Sheppard, at a
special tribute to Hank Williams, Sr. featuring Jett Williams. There
were lots of other talent on hand as well including 13-year-old
Matthew Davidson who plays a might mean guitar. The event celebrated
the Shreveport opening of the film
Last Ride remembering the
last 72 hours of the country legend's life. The Louisiana Hayride
show was held that same afternoon at the historic Strand Theatre
premiered the Louisiana showing of the film.
At an age where many people
retire, Maggie and her husband Alton own the Louisiana Hayride and
are working hard to return Louisiana
Hayride to its rightful place as one of the top star studded music
venues. Maggie's voice carried her to heights many only dream about.
Her talents have earned her the 2008 Offbeat Lifetime
Achievement in Music Business, the first time a recipient in
this category is as well known as a performer and a songwriter as a
business person. Maggie still belts out her personal brand of
Rockabilly/Blues/County such as "Shake a Leg" and "Cheaters
Can't Win" and performs
regularly in the Shreveport Bossier City area. She is spearheading
an effort to create a Louisiana Songwriters Hall of Fame in Bossier
City. I have no doubt that when that Hall of Fame opens.
Maggie Warwick will be one of the first to be honored for a musical
career that is hard to top.
|Maggie Lewis Warwick
If you love Shreveport Bossier City try this
Virtual Personal Tour of Shreveport/Boisser City celebrating Mardi Gras