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'Hayride' Concert A Tribute To TV's Old 'Midwestern Hayride'

Provided by Cameron Cochran
Promotional poster for Cameron Cochran's Hayride show.

Cameron Cochran isn't old enough to have watched the WLWT-TV's legendary "Midwestern Hayride" Saturday night TV show, but he's heard plenty about it from "Hayride" steel guitar player Chuck Rich.

And that inspired his "Hayride," a live country music-and-comedy sketch show Sept. 17 at the Woodward Theater in Over-the Rhine.

"My dear friend and mentor Chuck Rich played on 'Midwestern Hayride,' so the show feels very much a part of my life," says Cochran, 38." I have had access to many bootleg, promotional and test recordings and full episodes. And I have seen photos, playbills, and promotional material."

Credit Provided by Cameron Cochran
Cameron Cochran

"Midwestern Hayride," Cincinnati's signature country music TV show, premiered April 19, 1948 on WLWT-TV, two months after the city's first TV station started commercial broadcasting. It aired until 1972.

"Hayride," broadcast on the four-city Crosley network (Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis), starred Bonnie Lou, Dean Richards and the Lucky Pennies, the Boyer Sisters, the Briarhoppers, Kenny Price and the Hometowners, Hugh Cherry,  the Geer Sisters, Charlie Gore and the Rangers, Helen and Billy Scott, Bobby Bobo, Wally Procter, Ernie Lee and the Midwesterners dancers. Bob Shreve, Willie Thall and Paul Dixon provided the comic relief through the years.

Starting in 1951, "Hayride" aired 13 weeks in the summer as a "replacement series" on NBC or ABC throughout the 1950s.

WLWT-TV sought a larger audience in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a weekly syndicated "Midwestern Hayride" show with guest stars Tex Ritter, Waylon Jennings, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Willie Nelson and others.

Price and Rob Reider were part of the cast for the final season in 1972 – nine years before the debut of MTV, which paved the way for Country Music Television and the Great American Country cable channels.

Woodward Theater's "Hayride" show will feature Cochran, a steel guitar player, and his band The Midwestern Swing (a nod to the "Hayride" TV show), and Cincinnati sketch comedians Logan Lautzenheiser and Karl Spaeth, with the help of comedy producer Caroline Creaghead.

Credit Provided by Cameron Cochran
The Midwestern Swing band with Cameron Cochran.

Cochran has "heard so many stories about the 'Hayride' and the incredible musicians that worked on the show" from Rich, who joined the "Hayride" in the 1960s. "I began to learn that it was because of this show that so many famous players came to the area like Chet Atkins, Jerry Byrd and Hank Williams," Cochran says.

"As a country musician, I began to feel it was important to revive this format of mixing comedy with country music.   The Hayride is also a perfect window into our city's music history," he says.

The show will be recorded for a podcast. His goal is to produce a "Hayride" podcast series.

The "Hayride" culminates a busy two weeks during "King Records Month" in September for Cochran:

Saturday, Sept. 2: Cochran and Rich talk about "Midwestern Hayride" and Cincinnati's influential country musicians at Shake It Records, 4156 Hamilton Ave., Northside, at 2 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Thursday, Sept. 14: Cochran plays music from the Hawaiian Islands on a 1945 Rickenbacker Bakelite steel guitar, and discusses the Hawaiian influence on country music, at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County Public Library, 401 Kenton Lands Road, Erlanger. He'll also talk about his collaboration with the Kenton County library to restore the 1945 steel guitar "played by Hank Williams when the country music legend was trying to learn the instrument," he says. The 7 p.m. program is free and open to the public.

Saturday, Sept. 16:  Cochran, guitarist Harold Kennedy and bassist Chris Douglas perform the hits of Jerry Byrd, a steel guitarist from Lima, Ohio, who came to Cincinnati in the 1940s. He played on Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" recording at the Herzog Studio. The 2 p.m. program is open to the public.

Sunday, Sept. 17: Cochran and friends perform their "Hayride" show at 7:30 p.m. at Woodward Theater, 1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. Tickets ($10) are available at Woodward Theater or through his Hayridelive website.

Cochran will talk about the "Hayride" concert and his King Records Month activities with me on "Around Cincinnati" at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, on WVXU-FM and WMUB-FM. 

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.