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by Maurice Zolotow
I was probably one of the few persons in the vicinity of Broadway and 48th Street on Monday, September 13, who was looking forward to "Hayride," the first offering of the new season. "Hayride" had been promised to us as a soiree of first-rate hillbilly entertainment. Now, I happen to suffer from a thoroughly irrational fondness for this category of noisemaking. A hoedown violin, a slapped bull fiddle, a twangy banjo, the mournful monotone of a mountain Mel-chior—these always stir me to the depths of my soul. Up till now I have managed to conceal this terrible weakness, since in the fashionable circles in which I move, hillbilly music is considered almost as "degage" as wearing cloth coats or smoking those old-fashioned unfiltered cigarettes. I became addicted to cornball music twelve years ago when I journeyed to Nashville, Tennessee, to investigate the life and times of Roy Acuff, one of the leading virtuosos of the genre.
I shall never forget a Saturday night at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Here in a huge building that seats close to five thousand, men, women and children (gathered from every county in Tennessee and from five adjoining states) solidly jammed every corner of the place. For four hours they laughed and applauded and whistled and screamed. Yes, four solid hours of hillbilly music, and broadcast over radio station WSM. The customers—many of whom had waited since early morning for good seats— had each paid 75 cents admission. Many of them carried box-lunches which they consumed during the performance.
Since 1925 mountain music has become one of the most popular and profitable phases of show business. Troupes of singers and musicians play one-night stands of fantastic grosses all over the land, in the Northeast and Middle West as well as the South. On Saturday night in a dozen cities throughout the country, devotees pay anywhere from 50
"Reprinted by permission from Maurice Zolotow, Vol. 38, No. 11, November, Copyright 1954." (Theatre Arts)