There wasn’t a Cas Walker store within easy driving close enough to lure in any Letcher County shopper s from our side of Pine Mountain, but we watched the show religiously, six mornings a week.
We only had three stations to choose from in those days and Cas came on the air before either of the other two signed on. Interspersed between glowing remarks about the superior quality of his bologna, pork chops, toilet paper, corn meal and such, Cas had a cast of musicians who performed country and gospel music. Occasionally a Grand Old Opry star might drop in to promote his or her latest release but Cas also prided himself on featuring local talent.
So he came up with the idea of having talent contest that ran over the course of several weeks. At the end of week one, you voted for your favorite act by mailing a post card with your vote to the station. Then you had another bunch the next week and this went on for six weeks, at the end of which
The contest paused a week for all the viewers to finish voting. Then the six weekly winners competed in week seven, taking morning about. The final winner would receive a recording deal in Nashville to cut a 45rpm record and also get 500 copies of it ready to play.
My cousin, the late Steve Craft, was easily the best singer/musician I have ever known who didn’t make the big time, set out to win this contest. Steve, my Uncle Stevie’s and Aunt Nan’s youngest son was 10 years older than me and he was my hero. I spent nearly every weekend from time I was in fourth-grade until way up in high school at their home.
Steve would have a singing gig lined upon both Friday and Saturday nights and he usually had at least two live radio shows lined up on Saturdays at one or another of the little 500 watt AM stations scattered throughout the mountains. I always tagged along.
Anyway, Steve won his weekly contest without a lot of effort but he was by no means the top vote getter among the finalists. But that was before we found out that you could vote as many times as you wanted and you didn’t even have to sign your name on the post card.
Post cards were two cents each and by the time the finalists’ week had rolled around, you couldn’t buy a post card within50 miles of Blair Branch. Members of our family went from post office to post office buying them up and we stayed awake until way in the night voting for Steve well before the show even aired. My mom, alone, filled out a shoe box full. If there was one thing we knew about in Letcher County at that time, it was how to stuff a ballot box.
The day the show aired, people were standing in line at the Jeremiah Post Office to mail in their post cards because they couldn’t be postmarked before the day of the show. Needless to say, Steve won by a landslide and went on to record his first record. He went on to cut half dozen others but he never quite made it to The Opry.