BIRTHPLACE OF COUNTRY MUSIC ALLIANCE
A musician performs on State Street as part of Border Bash.
Photo courtesy Bristol Herald Courier.
Bristol has long been known as a hub for traditional mountain music. In the summer of 1927, Ralph Peer, a record producer from Victor Talking Machine Company, traveled to Bristol and set up a portable recording studio downtown. During his twelve days in Bristol, Mr. Peer recorded seventy-six songs by nineteen different acts capturing a wide cross section of traditional Appalachian music, including old-time dance tunes, ballads, gospel songs, blues, and others. These sessions also produced the first recordings of the Carter Family, from nearby Maces Spring, Virginia -- "the First Family of Country Music" -- and Jimmie Rodgers -- "the Father of Country Music." Music historians consider these recordings to be the beginnings of the commercial country music industry and in 1998 the United States Congress declared Bristol the "Birthplace of Country Music."
While Peer's 1927 recordings stand as a milestone in the development of country music, the musical heritage of Bristol continued after those recordings. In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, radio programs in Bristol, most notably WCYB's Farm and Fun Time, became popular and assisted in the development of a new genre of music -- bluegrass. Today, the rich musical heritage of Bristol remains vibrant with dozens of musical venues in Bristol or nearby offering traditional Appalachian music on a regular, year round basis. Throughout the summer live music fills the streets at Border Bash and in front of the country music mural. On the third weekend of September every year, hundreds of musicians converge on State Street for the annual Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival. Visitors can also enjoy the sights and sounds of Bristol's heritage through our downtown audio walking tour.
The Birthplace of Country Music Alliance works in partnership with other organizations to promote and preserve our community's living musical heritage. The organization is currently in development of a 24,000 square foot facility that will include temporary and permanent exhibits that trace the history, cultural influences, and development of country music through a sequence of audio-visual experiences which will allow visitors the opportunity to listen to the melodies and encounter the rich musical tradition first hand. The facility will also include space for educational initiatives through educational programming for all ages, live musical performances, lecture and film series, and other outreach activities.
For more information about Bristol's living musical heritage, to find other regional events, or to listen to streaming audio, visit www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org, or call 276-645-0111.