Country, Western & Gospel Music

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frock-coated Germans, who carefully copied these wild notes on paper.
Usually at the European performances, "Onkel Willi"— as the Germans addressed him—would begin the show by describing what was probably transpiring at the real Grand Ole Opry, which had gone on the air out of Nashville every Saturday night since 1925. More than 5,000,000 hillbilly enthusiasts have visited the program, and more than 10,000,000 listen regularly to the program on the radio.
In a way, it is not surprising that Europeans should like American country music. This country's folk songs had their origins in the folk songs that early settlers brought over from Europe. The songs were changed to fit condi­tions and experiences in a new world that was rawer and cruder than Europe and filled with giants.
When the Scotch and English settlers came over the mountains into Tennessee, they brought their fiddles. That instrument has remained as important to the people of the ridges and valleys as bagpipes are to the Highland Scots. For generations they have made the hollows resound to "Billy in the Low Ground" and "Ole Dan Tucker" and to such ballads as "You'll Never Miss Your Mother 'Till She's Gone."
When I was a boy down in Tennessee, the audiences for these rustic troubadours were only country men and wom­en. They gathered about store porches on Saturday nights. Sometimes they drove in buggies to lamp-lit rural school-houses. They paid for this entertainment by tossing dimes and quarters into sweat-stained felt hats.
What brought this homely music out of the backroads and into great popularity nationally—and now interna­tionally—was radio in general and in particular station WSM, owned by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. Through country music, Nashville is now a phonograph-recording center comparable to New York and Hollywood. WSM has become the "big time" to country musicians, as the old Palace once was to vaudeville. The "Wall Street Journal" has estimated that country music in Nashville amounts to a $25,000,000-a-year industry.
The whole picture adds up to an utterly astonishing phenomenon, and it all got started like this: