While its claim to be the birthplace of country music, may be disputed by those who would point out that other places in the south such as Atlanta hosted the origin of the “hillbilly sound,” there is no doubt that the Aug. 1, 1927 Bristol recording sessions were a breakthrough. Country pioneers Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were among those who were featured in those sessions.
To commemorate its niche and educate the public about the early days of country music, Bristol will be host to a new museum expected to open next fall, Birthplace of Country Music Museum (BCMM).
Dr. Jessica Turner, BCMM's director and head curator, recently conducted a tour of the museum still under construction. I was in town attending the annual Rhythm & Roots Reunion and was fortunate enough to be included in the small tour group.
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 museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is housed in a historic brick building that used to be occupied by automobile dealership. Advertisements in that day urged farmers to trade in their mules for a motorized truck.
Exhibits will include early recording equipment and audio and video presentations that will trace the history of various forms of Appalachian traditional music from its earliest roots. Live performances will also be scheduled.
A small brick church – complete with wooden pews – has even been built inside to provide a presentation on Gospel music.
For more information click on http://www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/