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NASHVILLE, BROADWAY OF COUNTRY MUSIC
by H. B. Teeter
Nearly 25 years ago in Bristol, Tennessee, a dying railroad man named Jimmie Rodgers recorded two songs for a Victor scout searching the hills for talent. And the songs tubercular Rodgers sang that day were among the forerunners of the lonesome blues hits of the late '20s and the early '30s.
Jimmie Rodgers, "The Singing Brakeman," was a pioneer in the type of music that built a 25-million-dollar-a-year industry in Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Broadway of country music.
Events occurring today in Nashville comprise a sociological phenomenon. "What is it we have here, why is it here and will it ever stop growing?" the newly-rich song publishers, record firms and performers keep asking.
Every Saturday, from dark to midnight, the guitars sigh and the fiddles wail in barn-like old Ryman Auditorium. Half an hour of this country jam session, the Grand Ole Opry, has been broadcast over NBC for 27 years.
Backstage, meanwhile, mill scores of colorful characters: genuine folk musicians, cowboy musicians, hillbillies, river roustabouts, corny comedians, the last of the minstrel men. Many of them live in sumptuous homes and on bluegrass estates, almost within the shadow of Nashville's Parthenon.
Men like "Cousin" Louie Buck, veteran WSM announcer, who have watched country music grow, say this about the phenomenon: "Nashville has become the Broadway of country music because it gathered native tunes from all sections of a big country—from East, West, North and South. It is more than hillbilly. It is valley-billy, river-billy, desert-billy and blues-billy as well."
WSM, originator of country music in the Grand Ole Opry style, is a rich and powerful station, but views its role
"Reprinted from Coronet, Vol. 32, No. 4, August, Copyright 1952, by Esquire, Inc."