Mention the calorie-rich, irresistible Southern Maid Donuts around Shreveport, Louisiana, and you’ll hear tales about talking Mynah birds, Elvis Presley, and rave reviews of a donut texture that has, according to third generation Dallas-based proprietor Sunny Dear, “a bite to it.”
Southern Maid has been frying dough and dripping glaze since 1937. Founders J.B. and Rosalee Hargrove first opened their wholesale bakery in the Fair Park neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, with “no cash register, no front door, none of that.” The donut company evolved and expanded under the dedication of second, third, and fourth generation family members. In 1970, the Hargroves opened a flour plant and office site in Garland, Texas. Southern Maid Donut franchises have spread across East and West Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, California, Arizona, and internationally, including Japan and New Zealand, to name a few. While the original, mixed glazed donut is still a favorite, Southern Maid Donuts grew and added three hundred varieties and flavors.
The early genesis of Southern Maid Donuts geographically spans Dallas, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana, just as the friendship between J.B. Hargrove and Bruce Jones spanned multiple decades. After successful sales on delivery truck routes with the Hargrove’s Southern Maid Donuts on Ross Avenue in Old East Dallas, Bruce Jones opened the first Shreveport-based Southern Maid Donuts shop in 1941. The store was located downtown on Texas Street, and it initially shared space with Herby-K’s, a locally popular liquor store and hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
Bruce Jones advertised his Southern Maid Donuts shop on the Louisiana Hayride (1948-1960). Broadcasted on Shreveport’s own KWKH dial, a 50,000 watt radio station reaching 28 states and later, 198 affiliates on the CBS network and the Armed Services radio, the live country and western show featured music acts from up and coming artists. The Louisiana Hayride debuted musicians including Hank Williams, George Jones, Kitty Wells, Webb Pierce, and Faron Young. Southern Maid’s on-air promotional spots were a key component of the bakery’s legacy. Advertisements for Southern Maid Donuts aired frequently on KWKH and later, after the Hayride’s cancellation in 1960, donuts were promoted on KEEL radio.
It was Bruce Jones who fed Elvis a Southern Maid Donut during one of Presley’s many visits to Shreveport to perform on the Hayride. Wearing two-toned shoes and a pink jacket, nineteen-year-old Elvis first performed on the Hayride the evening of October 16th, 1954. A few weeks later, on November 6th, 1954, he gave the only commercial endorsement of his career for Southern Maid Donuts. According to Mike Jones, “Grandaddy bought the sponsorship on the Hayride, and during the show, either Frank [Page] or one of the performers would plug us in some way or another, and somebody wrote the little thing for Elvis to sing.” Minnie Pearl, Johnny Horton, and Johnny Cash also performed the Southern Maid Donuts jingle first popularized by Elvis: “You can get them Piping Hot after 4 P.M., you can get them Piping Hot, Southern Maid Donuts hits the spot, you can get them Piping Hot after 4 P.M.” While the Cash recording lives on, Mike Jones doesn’t believe Elvis’ endorsement of Southern Maid Donuts survives.
This piping hot oral history project explores product, process, and place. It examines the donut shop’s historic relationship to the Louisiana Hayride and the business’s role in developing baking practices and distribution networks within and across the ArkLaTex region. Listen as narrators describe how Southern Maid Donuts has impacted generations of family owners, music industry and entertainers, and donut lovers.
Research, interviews, and writing by Dr. Jaime Cantrell.
Photographs by Cooper Neill and Shannon Palmer