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CORN OF PLENTY
by Newsweek Magazine
"The corn is as high as an elephant's eye—and so are the profits." A hard-bitten Tin Pan Alley character shook his head in amazement, for he was talking about hillbilly songs —the current wonder of the music world.
Always a steady factor in record and sheet sales, hillbilly music is now such a vogue that it is "just about pushing popular tunes, jazz, swing, bebop, and everything else right out of the picture," noted Down Beat magazine. While the rest of the music business remained in its chronic flut-tery state, the hillbilly output remained fairly constant. But the demand for it has multiplied fivefold since the war. This week the industry was still moving in concentric circles and nothing was dependable—except hillbilly music.
OUT OF THE HILLS: Ten years ago, if a hillbilly record sold 10,000 copies, it was a hit; today a 50,000 sale is mediocre. Once a specialty product marketed in the Deep South, it now has a nationwide sales field. The South is still lapping it up (some radio stations play hillbilly music eighteen hours a day), but Pennsylvania and New York are right behind. City slickers are square-dancing from Ciro's in Hollywood to the Pierre in New York, and the cowpoke "Riders in the Sky" is the most popular song in the nation.
With the war, hillbilly music quickly came out of the hills. Most of the large training camps were in the South, and GFs who might never have been exposed to this relatively unfamiliar music heard it constantly. They liked it— and brought the songs home with them. Postwar shifts in population helped spread it; and disk jockeys followed through and aired "country" music to a widening audience. It all tied in with the current trend toward simpler songs— and nothing is simpler than country music.
RICH SOIL: From the plains, prairies, and hills the songs are now coming—ballads (love stories), narratives, sacred songs, and dance tunes. Titles range from "My Daddy Is
''Reprinted by permission from Newsweek, Vol. 33, No. 24, June 13, 1949."