Laird, Tracey E.W.

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Laird, Tracey E.W.


Education: Loyola University, B.A.; University of Michigan, M.A, Ph.D.


Office—Agnes Scott College, 141 E. College Ave., Decatur, GA 30030. E-mail—[email protected].


Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA, assistant professor, then associate professor of music and department chair.


Louisiana Hayride: Radio and Roots Music along the Red River, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

(Editor, with Kip Lornell) Shreveport Sounds in Black and White, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 2008.


Music professor Tracey E.W. Laird has focused her first two books on the importance of Louisiana in the history of music. Louisiana Hayride: Radio and Roots Music along the Red River is about the role of the radio program of the title, which was first aired in 1948 on Shreveport station KWKH. Often noted for broadcasting debut performances by Elvis Presley and Hank Williams, Sr., "Louisiana Hayride" contributed a lot more than that, according to Laird, who discusses the significance of music in Shreveport in general. The book is divided into three sections, according to Gavin Douglas in a Notes review. The first part is a history going back to the 1830s, and the author traces the variety of musical forms that made their mark on the evolution of country and early rock music, including music performed by brass bands, on show boats, and even in houses of prostitution. "This musical fluidity across racial and cultural borders emerges from day-to-day realities of life in Shreveport and lays the foundation for the unique qualities of the Hayride," commented Douglas, who added: "While this first section may be the driest and least original part of Laird's book, it is, nonetheless, central to her argument and important for those readers not familiar with the early foundations of blues and country music in the United States."

Next, Laird discusses the evolution of the mass media and its influence on music, especially in the way that reporters used labels such as "race" and "hillbilly" that changed perceptions of music. "Laird does an admirable job of showing that the burgeoning categories used to describe these musics ultimately narrow and problematize the space for many working artists in the pre-war South," asserted Douglas. Finally, in the last part of the book, Laird talks about the emergence of the "Louisiana Hayride" and its focus on country and gospel music. Laird observes that the music broadcast on the show was more diverse than the music performed at the Opry. She then interviews a number of the people involved in the program, including Joe Osborn, James Burton, Jerry Kennedy, and Dominic "D.J." Fontana. Douglas found these interviews to be a particularly "valuable contribution to this history." The critic concluded that the "critical significance of the Louisiana Hayride to U.S. music culture [is] … clearly shown in this book." Don Cusic, writing in Popular Music and Society, appreciated reading a book about country music that does not place an emphasis on Nashville, Tennessee. While reporting that Laird's "prose is a bit stiff at times," he asserted: "Thank goodness we have a book that remedies that Nashville-centric view of country music." "A study of the radio show that looks beyond those well-known events [concerning Elvis and Hank Williams] is overdue," Journal of Southern History writer Jocelyn R. Neal added, "and this book is a welcome addition to the discourse on country music."

Laird is also the editor, with Kip Lornell, of Shreveport Sounds in Black and White, a collection of scholarly essays devoted to the people and institutions that fostered and enhanced the musical culture of Shreveport. The contributions include discussions of prominent figures, such as Hank Williams, as well as lesser-known musicians, disc jockeys, and even sound engineers.

Laird told CA: "I love the process of writing: putting ideas on paper, then wrestling with the prose in an effort to create the most effective communication possible. I love to play with words. I first discovered this love in high school, when I tried to write poetry, inspired by the readings I heard in a local spot in Shreveport called Enoch's. It was in college that I realized that nonfiction writing was where my heart was.

"I have been inspired by a number of scholars whose thorough and deliberate research was fueled both by an obvious love of writing and a love for the people they studied.

"I generate ideas, which is the most daunting part of the process. Then I return to those ideas to give them shape, flesh them out, support them, etc. This part is the most exhausting, but it's something I really get into.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that the last word has never been written about anything.

"Louisiana Hayride is my favorite of my books. It presents an argument about music that reflects my experiences growing up in Louisiana, when I came to see black and white culture in the region as parts of a whole.

"After reading my books, I hope people will want to learn more about music, particularly the local music that gives each region a unique character. I hope people are inspired to build on my work to answer more questions about how and why music matters to people so deeply."



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 2005, R.D. Cohen, review of Louisiana Hayride: Radio and Roots Music along the Red River, p. 302.

Journal of Southern History, August, 2006, Jocelyn R. Neal, review of Louisiana Hayride, p. 704.

Notes, March, 2006, Gavin Douglas, review of Louisiana Hayride, p. 704.

Popular Music and Society, May, 2006, Don Cusic, review of Louisiana Hayride, p. 269.


Agnes Scott College Web site, (March 27, 2008), faculty profile.