Country, Western & Gospel Music

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when I go home. I've sat up and liked it when the last one was as late as four thirty."
Other fans were almost belligerent in their enthusiasm. A sturdy matron of fifty snapped: "Why do I like gospel shows? Because I was brought up in a good Christian home, that's why!" A pretty prim girl of twenty informed me, "This is the very best way I can think of to spend a Saturday night." Most fans said they liked "the good, wholesome entertainment"—plus "the spiritual blessing" they derived from gospel sings. One eighty-year-old lady of Glennville, Georgia, drives to every major sing within 150 miles of her home town.
To understand the zeal of the singers who inspire such enthusiasm, you have to delve into their pasts. Most of them have been shaped by two major experiences: a rugged, rural childhood in which hymns and spirituals were prac­tically the only kind of music permitted in the home, and the memorable emotion of being converted by a revivalist who offered salvation.
Fowler is typical. He was the youngest of 16 children of a Georgia sharecropper so poor, he says, that "many a snow laid on my bed like a quilt." At seven he went into the fields to work, and the Saturday-night hymn sings around the family pump organ became his chief escape from a hard, drab life. Seven years later, he was converted at Harper's Sunshine Mission in Rome, Georgia. "I went down the sawdust trail and down on my knees and was saved!" he recalls. "I lost all my old shyness and got up feeling bold as a mountain lion. Salvation felt so good, I wanted everybody else to feel like I did!"
A good baritone, Fowler joined a troupe of gospel sing­ers, traveling from church to church to sing for what a collection would bring. Later he fronted a hillbilly band, riding the crest of country music's popularity wave, he was soon making $75,000 a year as an orchestra leader, composer (of such hillbilly hits as I'm Sending You Red Roses and That's How Much I Love You, Baby) and star on Nash­ville's famous radio program, Grand Ole Opry. Then in 1948, he gave it all up to return to his first love, gospel sing­ing, but on a new basis.
Since people for years had been staying all day at coun-