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rural music set. For eight years he had been a headliner on "Grand Ole Opry," and his record sales had topped the 24,000,000 mark. But he had virtually retired in 1952 after the death of his wife; and when he started talking about returning to radio, Foster, "Si" Siman and John Mahaffey of RadiOzark Enterprises offered to build a whole show around him. So he moved to Springfield, and more than a dozen other recording stars followed him to the new "Crossroads of Country Music."
The Ozarkers leased the 1,100 seat Jewell Theater for their new production, and ABC Radio snapped up the show three weeks after its first performance in July, 1954. The following January, the radio "Jubilee" gave way to the television version on ABC-TV.
On the first telecast, Foley ad libbed, "If you folks want us to come and visit at your house like this every Saturday night, why don't you drop me a line?" The next week he received 25,258 cards and letters, and it's a poor week even now when the postman doesn't drop 5,000 to 6,000 pieces of mail at Crossroads' TV headquarters.
Foster's friends informed him he was crazy when he spent nearly $100,000 to turn the Jewell into a television studio. But last summer Springfield produced another program on ABC, "The Eddy Arnold Show," and Foster now claims the city is the nation's third largest production center for live television.
Naturally not everyone in Springfield considers hillbilly music the greatest thing to land in Missouri since the mule. Some of the local folks would rather have their town known for its growing industry, fine bass fishing nearby, or almost anything except yodeling rustics. But no attraction that brings in 2,000 visitors each week, and over $1,000,000 in fresh income, is going to be treated like an epidemic of measles by the business community.
"Jubilee" fans pay $1 apiece to see the show, come in from every state of the union (as many as 30 different states have been represented on a single Saturday night), plus Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Bermuda, Nova Scotia, and other far points. Sometimes they stay from Saturday to Saturday to see two shows, and virtually every performance plays to standing room.