I’ve been going to the Rhythm & Roots in Bristol Tenn./Va. for more than 10 years and have even performed a few times at the festival. (See some photos from the event here.) It showcases a wide variety of musical styles from americana to bluegrass to rock n' roll.
The museum just opened last year.
Here’s how the official website describes it:
“The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, explores the history of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and their lasting impact on our music heritage. From the Bristol Sessions and beyond, our region continues to influence music around the world.
“The 24,000-square foot museum is located at 520 Birthplace of Country Music Way in Historic Downtown Bristol. Through text and artifacts, multiple theater experiences, film and sound, and interactive, technology-infused displays – along with a variety of educational programs, music programs, and community events – the exciting story of this music and its far-reaching influence comes alive! Rotating exhibitions from guest curators and other institutions, including the Smithsonian, will be featured throughout the year in the Special Exhibits Gallery. The museum will also be home to an extensive digital archive.”
Two years ago I was given a pre-opening tour of the historic brick building by Dr. Jessica Turner, BCMM's director and head curator. Even though parts were still under construction at the time, I was intrigued by the planned displays, artifacts and interactive exhibits.
Bristol’s claim to be the birthplace of country music is due to the breakthrough 1927 recording sessions with the likes of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.
Dr. Turner explained that it was not by luck that Bristol became a musical hub in the early part of the 20th Century. The city happened to be the place where the railroad track gauge changed so that everyone traveling from New York to New Orleans had to get off one train and board another.
People often stayed over, making Bristol a busy place and bringing in a variety of musicians from both north and south. A mixture of blues, jazz and folk music permeated the clubs and streets of the town.
The BCMM is located at 502 Cumberland St. Bristol, VA, the corner of Cumberland and Moore streets. Except for most holidays, it is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. There is an admission charge.