Sonny Tate (1946-2003)

Sonny Tate (1936-2003) was born in Opalika, Alabama and displayed musical talent at an early age.  He could mimic Hank Williams and would stand on his father’s bar and entertain the patrons who were delighted with the youngster’s uncanny ability.  Sonny would later go on to have something of a professional career as a country singer but never making it really big.

He performed on the Lousiana Hayride and was even invited to perform at the Opry once when he had a Top-20 song, but they never invited him to join the Opry as a member.

After Sonny’s wife passed away, he was left to raise  his son Tully alone.  This he did despite still trying to carry on with his career as a singer.  Tully would travel with him and stand backstage as Sonny performed and was adopted by all the musicians and other performers something like a mascot. Sonny outlived Tully who predeceased him in 1993.

Sonny is remembered as someone who could sing and sell a song but not hold his liquor. He is also remembered as a loving grandfather to Tully’s son, Mike, who lived with Sonny until 2003 when Sonny passed away and Mike moved to Nashville.

Mike inherited Sonny’ guitar and had some dreams of following in Sonny’s footsteps as a country singer.

“Sonny’s Boy”

Sonny Tate was a country singer who had moderate success. He was a staple of the Louisiana Hayride, but appeared every now and then on the Grand Ol’ Opry stage. His son, Tully, was often with Sonny when he performed.

Sonny’s Boy
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

You probably don’t remember a hillbilly singer
Name of Sonny Tate
You know he never had a big record
But came close in ’68

Sang ’til he died still at the Hayride
In his sequined suit and the same ol’ toupee
Singin’ hits of other singers who get younger and younger
Drinking up payday

Sonny’s boy
Stands in the wings
While Sonny sings
Softly sings along
Sonny’s boy
In a ball cap and shorts
Rocking back and forth
Sang all of Sonny’s songs

Now Sonny may not seem someone to esteem
His life was disappointment and lies
But he was the boy’s dad, the only one he had
Ten feet tall in that boy’s eyes

Kept Sonny goin’ just knowin’
There was someone who looked up to him
When I’m back in town and the old crowd’s around
Talk always drifts back to them

Sonny’s boy stands in the wings …

You probably don’t remember a hillbilly singer
Name of Sonny Tate

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Electric Mule/Warner Music (BMI)

The Louisiana Hayride

Louisiana Hayride was a radio and later television country music show broadcast from the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana, that during its heyday from 1948 to 1960 helped to launch the careers of some of the greatest names in American country and western music. Elvis Presley performed on the radio version of the program in 1954 and made his first television appearance on the television version of Louisiana Hayride on March 3, 1955.

While the Opry, the Jubilee and the Hayride all showcased established stars, the Hayride was where talented, but virtual unknowns, were also given exposure to a large audience. Over the years, country music greats such as Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Jimmie Davis, Will Strahan, Slim Whitman, Floyd Cramer, Sonny James, Hank Snow, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, Claude King, Jimmy Martin, George Jones, John and The Three Wise Men, Johnny Cash, Frankie Miller, Tex Ritter, Cowboy Jack Hunt & Little Joe Hunt of the Rhythm Ranch Hands, Nat Stuckey, and Lefty Frizzell, among many others, performed on Louisiana Hayride.

By mid-1954, a special 30-minute portion of Louisiana Hayride was being broadcast every Saturday on the AFN Pacific channel of the United Kingdom Scottish Forces Radio Network. On October 16 of that year, Elvis Presley appeared on the radio program. Presley’s performance of his newly released song from Sun Records called “That’s All Right Mama” brought a tepid response, according to former Hayride emcee Frank Page (1925-2013), but soon after Presley was nonetheless signed to a one-year contract for future appearances. The immediate and enormous demand for more of Presley’s new kind of rockabilly music actually resulted in a sharp decline in the popularity of the Louisiana Hayride that until that point had been strictly a country music venue. On March 3, 1955, Presley made his first television appearance on the television version of The Louisiana Hayride, carried by KSLA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Shreveport.

Within a few years, rock and roll had come to dominate the music scene, and on August 27, 1960, Louisiana Hayride ended its primary run