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During a personal appearance tour, youthful, conceited and extremely popular recording star Billy Weber crashes his car near Santa Fe, New Mexico. While he and his tour manager, Janey Edwards, wait for repairs, they attend the local college's music festival, which is being directed by a nervous music instructor, Grant Sanborn. Billy becomes intrigued by a folk song arrangement that Grant is directing and, making himself the center of attention, sings along in his modish style. Oblivious to the disruption he has caused, Billy decides to record the song, so orders Janey to get the rights to it, then drives off alone to his next engagement. The next day, Janey poses as a student in Grant's music appreciation class and learns that Grant is completing a dissertation on American folk music in order to earn a Ph.D. and is not yet a professor. When Janey asks for a copy of the song, Grant explains that folk music is handed down orally, rather than written. However, pleased with her interest, he gives her a private recording of himself singing it, while shyly confiding that his colleagues know nothing about his interest in singing. Janey is noted by Grant's stuffy fiancée, Ellen Blake, a full professor at the college, who keeps Grant repressed with her ideas about academic dignity and about how Grant's career and their relationship should proceed. Back in New York, the smooth-talking, double-dealing Jason Ambrose, who is Cambria Records' talent and repertoire chief, as well as Janey's boss, is desperately looking for new material to appease his boss, Frederick Sterling. When Sterling hears Grant's recording, he assumes Jason has signed on new talent and Jason glibly concurs, calling the singer "The Wandering Stranger." After being dispatched to New Mexico to get Grant's signature on a recording contract, Janey promises Grant that Cambria will produce an album of folk songs for him. Seeing a way to finance his dissertation research, Grant agrees, but decides to hold off telling Ellen until he gets a royalty check. During his spring vacation, Grant records some folk songs in New York, but Jason insists that he record one popular song. To convince him, Jason and Janey take Grant to a nightclub, where Janey suggests that today's popular music is tomorrow's folk music. Before returning home, Grant records a song called "Geraldine," although he considers it "sentimental nonsense." After being with him, Janey realizes that she loves him, but is sure that the feeling is one-sided. Jason does not produce Grant's folk song album as promised, but pushes "Geraldine" as a single. It becomes a hit, beating Billy's songs for the number one spot on the charts. To appease him, Jason lets Billy record a folk song. Meanwhile, at Grant's college, "Geraldine" is popular with everyone except Ellen, who considers it vulgar, so Grant keeps his secret from her. However, in New York, Sterling wants more recordings by the "The Wandering Stranger," so Janey returns, armed with a "special release" album of Grant's folk songs, of which she is unaware that Jason has made only one copy. Grant agrees to another session, which is to be secretly recorded at a Santa Fe theater. When Grant plays his album, however, he hears Billy bleating a folk song, as the studio mixed up his and Billy's recordings. Believing that Janey deceived him, Grant is angry, but feels compelled to keep his bargain. Meanwhile, Ellen has been perplexed about Janey's visits, but concludes that somehow Grant is connected to "The Wandering Stranger." When Grant admits that he provides the performer's material, she is horrified. Ellen confronts Janey and threatens to publicize the session, so Janey has Jason talk to her. Unaware that Grant and Ellen are engaged, and thinking a love story will soften her, Jason tells Ellen about the romance building between Janey and Grant, which strengthens Ellen's resolve. Later, when Grant shows up at the theater and finds it filled with fans, he accuses Janey of a publicity stunt, but Jason confesses to him that he, not Janey, deceived him. After admitting her actions, Ellen tries to shame Grant into backing out. Instead, recognizing that Janey's attitude is better than Ellen's, Grant confesses his secret identity to the crowd and apologizes for his formerly negative attitude toward popular music, saying that he had lost track of the human element. The college dean, who is also Ellen's mother, praises his broad thinking and the crowd cheers him on. While he sings, Grant smiles at Janey in the wings, and Jason tells her to blow him a kiss, as he is now part of the family.