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They usually leave Nashville in their cars on Sundays, and drive hard from one engagement to another, heading back to Nashville in time for Saturday. Often they don't sleep in a bed for nights on end, but take turns driving.
They keep their car radios tuned to hillbilly broadcasts at all times, and when they hear some local rustic singer who sounds promising, they tip off Jack Stapp, the Opry's program director.
The touring stars have simple living tastes. One observer who has traveled with them reports that some stars, making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, will eat the same meal three times a day—fried potatoes, fried eggs and fried pork chops. For, in spite of their fancy clothes, big cars and abundant money, the Opry stars remain simple people who "were raised hard and live hard," as one of them has said. Some of them do not know a note of music, but their great appeal as entertainers is in the rawness of their emotions and their sincerity in conveying them.
Hank Williams was discussing that shortly before his death in January. Williams was a lank erratic countryman who learned to play a guitar from an old Negro named Teetot in his home village of Georgiana, Ala.
"You ask what makes our kind of music successful," Williams was saying. "I'll tell you. It can be explained in just one word: sincerity. When a hillbilly sings a crazy song, he feels crazy. When he sings, 'I Laid My Mother Away,' he sees her a-laying right there in the coffin.
"He sings more sincere than most entertainers because the hillbilly was raised rougher than most entertainers. You got to know a lot about hard work. You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly. The people who have been raised something like the way the hillbilly has knows what he is singing about and appreciates it.
"For what he is singing is the hopes and prayers and dreams and experiences of what some call the 'common people. I call them the 'best people/ because they are the ones that the world is made up most of. They're really the ones who make things tick, wherever they are in this country or in any country.