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SPRINGFIELD, MO.óRADIO CITY OF COUNTRY MUSIC
by Phil Dessauer
When the citizens of Springfield, Missouri, wish to be≠stow high honor upon a visiting dignitary, they do not hand him the traditional key to the city. Instead, they present him a hillbilly medal.
This badge of Springfield's esteem has been given such red-carpet guests as former President Harry S. Truman; Generals Omar Bradley and Matthew Ridgway; and busi≠nessman J. C. Penny; entertainers Nelson King of Station WCKY, Cincinnati, named the nation's outstanding country-music disk jockey; Johnny Olsen, star of his own daily radio show (MBS); and Ralph Storey, M. C. of "The $64,000 Chal≠lenge" (CBS).
The hillbilly medal, and the fact that a record-spinner was considered worthy of receiving it, points up the emi≠nence of country music at Springfield, a mountain area metropolis of 100,000, known as the Queen City of the Ozarks. Furthermore, the Chamber of Commerce, which once advertised Springfield as having more dairy cattle within 75 miles than any other city, now prefer to boast: "The Home of Ozark Jubilee," a weekly musical whing-ding broadcast over 105 stations of the ABC-TV network.
The show is the hub of a new industry that parlayed plunking guitars and corn-bread crooners last year to the tune of a $2,500,000 gross and lured more than 100,000 vis≠itors to the city. Springfield is nipping at the heels of Nashville, Tennessee, home of the "Grand Ole Opry" and the long-established capital of country music.
More cowboy-booted guitar players breeze around in Cadillacs in Springfield than in any other place its size. This Radio City of the hill country has spawned or known firsthand such stars of the pick-and-sing fraternity as Red Foley, Webb Pierce, Eddy Arnold, Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Porter Wagoner, Jimmy Wakely, and Rusty Draper. Top hands on "Ozark Jubilee" command as much as $1,500 per
"Reprinted from Coronet, Vol. 41, No. 6, April, Copyright 1957, by Esquire, Inc."