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"Walking the Floor Over You"; Cowboy Copas with "My Filipino Baby"; Hank Williams with "Lovesick Blues"; and Little Jimmy Dickens with "Old Cold Tater." The most recent sensation is handsome Carl Smith of Maynardville, who sets rustic bobby soxers wild with "Let's Live a Little," and "Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way."
These country glamor boys are as big—sometimes bigger —in record sales and juke box popularity as Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra. These men make up to $300,000 a year. They live in mansions with swimming pools attached in Nashville's fashionable suburbs, drive immense automobiles bearing their initials in gold, and wear expensive Western getups—loud suits costing $300 each, $50 hats and $75 boots.
What baffles conservative Nashvillians are the crowds that swarm into town each week to see the program, which lasts four and a half hours. All of it is broadcast over WSM's powerful, clear-channel station, and 30 minutes of it has been broadcast for a dozen years over the NBC network, sponsored by Prince Albert Tobacco. Red Foley is the master of ceremonies. In addition to the music of bands and quartets, there are two immensely popular comedians, Rod Brasfield of Hohenwald, Tenn., and Cousin Minnie Pearl, a product of Centerville, Tenn.
Only the network portion of the show is rehearsed and that only once, for timing. About 125 stars and their "side men" take part in this whole jamboree, which is marked by great informality. Performers, some in outlandish costumes, stroll about the stage, join in with their instruments with units of the show other than their own, and occasionally toss one another playfully into a tub of iced drinks that is kept on the stage at all times.
Back when the Opry was new, people used to pack around a big plate glass window, like most studios had, to watch. The management began admitting as many as could get into the room, about 75, to sit around the musicians and cheer them on. Their applause and shouts added to the program's folksy flavor, and constituted one of the first of all audience-participated shows. Later, the station built an auditorium-studio that seated 500. Then about ten years ago, they moved into Ryman Auditorium, which is about as colorful as the Opry is.