The Louisiana Hayride show on Tuesday night, April 11 was a musical trip through time.
If you happened to catch the show at the Stettler Community Hall, you would have seen country legends like Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams all performing on the same stage, or at least you might have thought you saw them.
Throughout the evening, the five performers in the Louisiana Hayride band inhabited various characters, singing songs originally performed by country music stars from Hank Williams to Shania Twain.
The Louisiana Hayride show is different from most other concerts.
“It’s more of a theatre style production,” said vocalist and guitarist Gil Risling, who trained as a classical and opera singer before turning to country music.
The Louisiana Hayride show was born out of the imagination of Gil’s wife Lori eight years ago.
“I just had an inner love of music,” Lori said.
She had originally wanted to write a show featuring classic country artists, and it was in researching these artists that she discovered the original Louisiana Hayride show, a live radio show that ran from 1948 to 1960 and featured artists such as Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.
“As I’m doing the research on these performers, I’m seeing over and over again that they all appeared on the Louisiana Hayride show,” she explained. “So I thought ‘wow, wouldn’t this be a great theme.’”
Over the years, the Rislings have built up a cast of fellow musicians to play the various artists represented in the show.
Troy Wakelin, a singer/songwriter from Battleford, Saskatchewan, is a recent addition to the show.
Wakelin performed tunes by Garth Brooks on Tuesday night, but as he explained, this was something new to him when he joined the Louisiana Hayride show.
“I like Garth Brooks but I had never thought of doing any of his stuff,” Wakelin said.
With eight years of touring experience behind them, and several stops in Stettler over that time period, the band credits their success to their self-sufficiency.
“We do everything,” Gil said. “If we didn’t do it all ourselves, we wouldn’t be here.”
Gil explained that the band manages all of their own affairs, from booking venues to loading gear to bringing their own sound engineer.
“You’ve got to do it all, otherwise you get in trouble,” Gil commented.
The show is currently touring through Alberta on its way to B.C. before heading back to Saskatchewan, where the Rislings are based.
Gil wasn’t sure when the show would be coming to Stettler again, but he did mention that Lori is working on a new show about the pop music of the 1950s and 1960s that will feature music from artists like the Frank Sinatra and the Beatles.