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'COUNTRY' SWEEPS THE COUNTRY
Hillbilly music makers have parlayed a blend of blues, spirituals and folk tunes into a $50-million-a-year business.
by
Goddard Lieberson
In addition to cola drinks, baseball and jazz, this country has one more unique and completely indigenous entertain­ment phenomenon. It is a fellow, part matador, part cow­boy, part folk troubadour, who wears suits of dazzling pink (or green or red) gabardine trimmed with sequins or rhine-stones; he is shod in elaborately tooled leather boots with high heels and sterling silver toes. He is rarely seen in public without a gorgeously bedizened guitar. Hunched over the resplendent guitar, knees bent slightly, silver-toed boot tapping out an insistent obbligato, the fellow sings— sometimes with the unbuttoned vigor of an oldtime gospel singer or a backwoods "blues" shouter, sometimes as smoothly as a night-club balladeer. Sometimes his vowels are incomprehensibly attenuated, his roulades piercingly nasal, sometimes he strays off pitch, but always his singing is intense and pervaded with compelling emotion.
This fellow was once called a "hillbilly" and ranged only through the southeastern regions of the United States. Today, he may be seen and/or heard literally anywhere in the world. Today, he is hailed respectfully in entertainment circles as a "Country and Western" artist. His genre of music has been described as "the heartbeat of America."
What "country," what "artistry," the skeptics might ask. Both, he may be surprised to learn, are of considerable scope. According to Gov. Frank Clement of country music's cradle state, Tennessee, "Country music is a $50,000,000-a-year business and it's still growing." The country artist and his colleagues are the mainstays of this business. Nashville, Tenn., where they congregate chiefly, is the third largest
"Reprinted by permission from New York Times Magazine, Sec­tion 6, July 28, Copyright 1957, and by permission from Goddard Lieberson."
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III