Country Music

May 31, 1985

Report Outline
Newfound Popularity
Evolving Musical Form
Returning to Tradition

Newfound Popularity

Nashville Center of Unique American Music

It is possible for a visitor to Nashville not to fall under the spell of the country music scene. But it is not likely. After all, this is a city where the professional baseball team is called the Sounds, the signs in the airport welcome tourists to “Music City, U.S.A.” and the featured attraction is the venerable country music institution, the Grand Ole Opry. The country music business pumps about $1 billion a year into Nashville's economy. At last count, 22 record companies had offices in town. Nashville also has 42 country music recording studios, 60 record producers, 25 independent record promoters, 33 country talent agencies, more than 300 country music publishers, and 19 public relations agencies—not to mention several thousand country musicians and songwriters.

A visitor staying at the Hall of Fame Motor Inn or Shoney's Inn can be jarred out of bed at nine o'clock on a Sunday morning by country tunes blaring from speakers outside the Country Music Outlet, a retail store that sells albums, tapes and souvenirs at “factory-to-you prices.” The two motels stand on the edge of Music Row, a three-block square section across the Cumberland River from downtown. Music Row is home to most of Nashville's record companies, studios, producers, promoters and talent agencies and attracts thousands of songwriters and musicians looking for their big break. Music Row also features a string of tourist-attracting country music record and souvenir stores owned by big stars like Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams Jr., Barbara Mandrell, Alabama and Conway Twitty.

The premier country music radio station in Nashville is WSM, one of only 11 clear-channel, 50,000-watt AM stations in the nation. WSM not only broadcasts the Opry to much of the South on Friday and Saturday nights, but also has a six-piece studio band playing country tunes on the “Waking Crew,” the station's long-running weekday morning program. It's a fair bet that no other local television station in the nation can match WSMV-TV's daily output of live country music. Each weekday the Nashville station airs two country music shows, each with a live studio band. The Nashville Network, the country cable channel that began operations in March 1983, currently sends 18 hours of “country and Western entertainment” each day to some 21.2 million households nationwide.

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