In anticipation of May 4 Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots Reunion lineup announcement, the Birthplace of Country Music is highlighting old-time music in May with two feature performances and their special exhibition Hometown Stars: Southwest Virginia’s Recording Legacy, 1923–1943. These events spotlight a landmark calendar year for the Birthplace of Country Music, the parent organization of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, and Radio Bristol, as they celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions.
“May will not disappoint the fans of Appalachian music with our double shot of feature programming that will be highlighting the old-time music and country music that was born here in Bristol,” says Leah Ross, Executive Director of the Birthplace of Country Music. “In addition to our award-winning permanent exhibit, patrons are also able to experience the musical heritage of artists and performers from Southwest Virginia in our special exhibition.”
Arguably the most influential recordings in early country music history, the 1927 Bristol Sessions included the first recordings of the legendary Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, among others, and ushered in a new era for the commercial music industry. In May, the Birthplace of Country Music is ushering in the following performances that preserve and honor the legendary musical history of Bristol.
On May 5, Tennessee native Ed Snodderly will perform exclusive new music for both a studio audience and listeners via ListenRadioBristol.org as part of Radio Bristol’s Premieres concert series, which focuses on new recordings and projects from nationally recognized artists debuted in the Performance Theater at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Ed Snodderly is proof that Southern music, with all its old peculiarities, is alive and kicking. Several of his songs have been recorded by musicians such as Sam Bush, Missy Raines, Jerry Douglas, and John Cowan.
On May 11, Farm and Fun Time, a revival of WCYB’s radio show from the 1940s and 1950s, will air live at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum before a studio audience with guest performances by The Piedmont Melody Makers with Alice Gerrard and The Down Hill Strugglers. Hosted by Kris Truelsen, the program also features fun musical segues by house band Bill and the Belles, and more. The Down Hill Strugglers recently released an album on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and are featured on the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis produced by T-Bone Burnett.
Through June 4, the museum will feature Hometown Stars: Southwest Virginia’s Recording Legacy, 1923–1943, an exhibit from the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum at Ferrum College. This exhibit shares the stories of Southwest Virginia musicians, including the Powers Family, Dock Boggs, Carl Martin, The Roanoke Jug Band, Jack Reedy & His Walker Mountain Stringband, and several Bristol Sessions artists through text, photographs, and artifacts.
More information on these events and the Birthplace of Country Music can be found below.
February 7 – June 4 – Hometown Stars special exhibit
About Birthplace of Country Music, Inc.
The Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. was established to honor the famed 1927 Bristol Sessions that were immortalized when Ralph Peer – a record executive from Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey – traveled to Bristol, the twin cities that straddle the Tennessee and Virginia border. Setting up a portable recording studio in the Taylor-Christian Hat Company building, Peer recorded 76 songs by 19 different acts, including The Carter Family, known as “The First Family of Country Music,” Jimmie Rodgers, known as “The Father of Country Music,” and Ernest “Pop” Stoneman. These recordings are revered as the keystone sessions of country music. In 1998 Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia was recognized as the official birthplace of country music by the U.S. Congress; the 1927 Bristol Sessions were also recognized by the Library of Congress as one of the 50 most significant sound recording events of all time.
In 2001 the award-winning music festival, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, began taking place in Historic Downtown Bristol. The annual three-day music festival showcases the very best in roots music – including Americana, folk-rock, bluegrass, old-time, and Piedmont blues. Approximately 50,000 music enthusiasts gather for the event to see more than 130 acts perform on 20 stages each September.
In 2014 the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, opened its doors in Bristol’s downtown. The Museum tells the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings, explores how evolving sound technology shaped their success, and highlights how this rich musical heritage lives on in today’s music. Through multiple theater experiences, interactive displays, and text and artifacts, along with a variety of educational programs, music performances, and community events, the exciting story of these recording sessions and their far-reaching influence comes alive.
In 2015 BCM began broadcasting Radio Bristol live from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Radio Bristol features a low power FM broadcast in the Bristol area, three audio channels streaming different but related genres of music, and one channel streaming video. Stream stations can be accessed online or by using the free Radio Bristol app on mobile devices.