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HILLBILLY PHENOMENON
by Robert Scherman
Cowboy music is paying off in a big way. In the past year its chief exponent, the hillbilly singer, has been the biggest money maker in show business.
Breaking attendance records has become a habit and it is a common event for "SRO" signs to be hung wherever he makes an appearance. His net take for an evening's work may be upward of $1,000. Computed twice weekly, within a year's time, his earnings are higher than those of the bank president.
Besides, he has other sources of revenue, such as phono­graph records, from which during the first six months of last year one gentleman of the nasal voice took $50,000 in royalties.
A determining factor, however, in the amount of his final income is the manner in which the expenses are han­dled. Whereas one of his main competitors, the jazz-band leader, must usually carry between 16 to 22 musicians, a personal manager, publicity man, and perhaps a secretary, the hillbilly singer travels light and needs a retinue of only four or five musicians.
His wardrobe is slight. For about $100 he can be groomed from head to toe and the simpler his costume the better. Also he needs no high-powered publicity campaigns such as other artists, because his selling appeal is so natural that it is a rare occasion when he does not play to a large at­tendance. Quite often he will book his own engagements.
When the hillbilly singer makes his appearance before the public he can do no wrong. They who have paid their admission have proclaimed him as their idol. They whoop, stomp, jump, and generally raise the roof. Of course the singer has the support of the boys in the band and the in­struments upon which they play, usually an ill-tuned fiddle, a couple of raspy guitars, perhaps a bass fiddle, and a deli-
"Reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor, March 13, Copyright 1948."
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III