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COUNTRY MUSICIANS FIDDLE UP ROARING BUSINESS
by Life Magazine
"Their Backwoods Song and Homespun Hokum Spread Over U. S."
Up until a few years ago one half of the popular music fans of America had no idea what the other half was up to. One half listened to slick songs from Hollywood and Broadway. The other—mostly from rural districts—was devoted to a brand of music loosely known as hillbilly, which sprang from the southern Appalachians and sometimes echoed cowboy singers of the West.
Today hillbilly music, dolled up with the new name of "country music," draws all classes of listeners. This year some 50 million country music records will be sold, which is 40% of the total sales of all single popular music records. Two thriving centers for rustic music makers are Springfield, Mo. with its "Ozark Jubilee," and Shreveport, La. with station KWKH. But the rugged pioneers—the self-styled hicks, hayseeds and fiddling fools who put country music on a paying basis 31 years ago—are still operating out of their home base, Nashville, Tenn. Through their efforts, Nashville has become the country's third biggest record-making center, just behind New York and Hollywood.
The primary source of Nashville's music is some 150 performers who are employed by the "Grand Ole Opry," started by station WSM and now the oldest continuous commercial radio show in America. It goes on every Saturday night of the year and lasts 4% hours. Because the "Grand Ole Opry" is an ideal showcase for their talents and helps build up a nationwide following, performers are glad to appear on it for a nominal salary. Between times they resort to more lucrative business. Teaming up in 10 units, they scatter across the nation, think nothing of driving 500
"Reprinted by permission from Life, Vol. 41, No. 21, November 19, Copyright 1956, Time Inc."