Bristol Museum Showcases Country Music with Exhibits, Festival

by Barbara
Barefoo Country Music Festival

Nashville may be the face of country music, but Bristol, Tennessee, holds its roots. This city, nestled on the Tennessee-Virginia state line, witnessed the “Big Bang” of country music, a pivotal moment commemorated at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

As highlighted in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “Country Music,” the genre’s origins run deep, intertwined with the lives of American pioneers. The Bristol Sessions, held from July 25 to August 5, 1927, marked a turning point. Ralph Peer, a producer from the Victor Talking Machine Company, ventured into Bristol, setting up a makeshift studio in a hat company building. Over 10 days, Peer recorded 76 songs by 19 acts, including legends like Ernest Stoneman, the Carter Family, and Jimmie Rodgers.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, located just blocks from the original recording site, vividly brings these sessions to life. Housed in a former automobile dealership on the Virginia side, the museum blends technology with tactile experiences, featuring exhibits on Bristol Sessions personalities, interactive record mixing, and a live radio studio.

Narrated by John Carter Cash, the museum’s “Bound to Bristol” video encapsulates the profound impact of this musical legacy, asserting, “This sound, our sound, influences people around the world.”

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum also hosts the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, a music festival since 2001. This year’s event, scheduled for September 13-15, 2024, promises over 100 bands across 13 stages, including Ashley McBryde, Sam Bush, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, and many more, drawing crowds of music enthusiasts to Bristol annually.

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