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There are no caste lines between stars and extras. Cam­araderie is strong. All hands chip in to help a performer over a rough time; they have been paying hospital bills for one singer for almost a year, and supported his wife and family. Any Opryite who hits the big money tries to spread his good luck. Red Foley keeps the men in new hats and the women in fancy perfume. Roy Acuff bobs up periodi­cally with gift boxes containing fresh-killed pheasants and all the gravies, jellies, and sauces to go with them. The shoeshine boy, Clifford, had to borrow a truck to haul away his loot last Christmas and often gets $5 tips. And it is a point of honor with the actors never to turn down a benefit performance for a worthy cause.
Hillbilly entertainers never try to hog the spotlight. One night, when a duet by a couple of likeable newcomers wasn't going too well, I saw the top stars, singers and mu­sicians, gather around the mike to help them out. Their backing turned the duet into the hit of the evening. But they are equally quick to carry out their own brand of rough justice. Several big-timers who developed swelled heads have been ruined and driven back to oblivion by small fry who ganged up to wreck their performances. Fatheads and snobs haven't a chance.
Opryites are extremely sensitive. They can stand being called hillbillies on the stage, but in real life they consider the term derisive. Some of them have only a childlike sense of responsibility, don't understand the difference be­tween business and personal affairs, and can't stand being scolded. Any big turner who has to chide a backwoods per­former for dereliction of duty must always wind up by buy­ing him soda-pop and assuring him, sometimes tearfully, that the criticism was not intended personally and they can still be fast friends. Even then the actor is apt to go into the dumps.
The show retains authentic backwoods flavor because it has neither phonies nor fakers. Although the big stars are now too busy with theatricals to farm their own land, every one of them owns a dirt farm and personally oversees it. Dozens of the smaller fry are working farmers for whom the Opry is only a side line. Oscar Allbright, Stealy Walton, and Alonzo Apple of the 'Possum Hunters, a comedy-musical
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III