The Birthplace of Country Museum in Bristol, VA is a quintessential example of how a history museum can be fun, educational and create experiences for all ages. They bring to life the true beginnings of what we now call country music through recordings, instruments and technological exhibits. I dare say that most people outside of Appalachia (Appa-LATCH-uh) know very little of the roots of traditional music. Genres have become blurred today between folk, hillbilly, western, bluegrass and country. The history behind it all and how it began is in living color here and visitors can become part of it. Interactive museums are definitely the future and a positive one for sure. The Bluemoonistic Team spent hours and enjoyed every minute.
From the time one steps inside the museum you become part of the music and the people who first traveled to Bristol in 1927 to record their music at what is today known as the "Bristol Sessions". On July 21, 1927, Ralph S. Peer, along with his wife, Anita, and two sound engineers set up a portable recording studio for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the Taylor-Christian Hat Warehouse at 410 State Street in Bristol, VA. They advertised in local newspaper for local talent to be recorded on the spot for $50 per recording plus royalties. Musicians from all over the region and beyond responded and between July 25 and August 5, they recorded 76 songs by 19 performers or performing acts that became known as the Bristol Sessions.
You may not recognize all the names but the museum gives a wonderful history of these mountain musicians who stepped from their front porches to sing in front of a microphone. Some of the most famous were the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. We were excited to find a couple of familiar names, Henry Whittier from Fries VA and G.B. Grayson born here in our own Ashe County. They were the first to record the famous ballad of "Tom Dooley". The Library of Congress has ranked the Bristol Sessions as one of the 50 most significant sound recordings of all time. The Exhibits are a fascinating lesson of how Appalachian traditional music influenced the American music scene at the time and still do. Their music styles and songs are still in evidence through the generations of music to today!
Other famous names like Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Johnny Cash have their history here too. The "Unbroken Circle" room was our favorite. Talk about drawing you into the experience!
We loved making our own recording, mixing songs and listening to Radio Bristol which is recorded live from the museum. It was such an enjoyable afternoon that we recommend all music lovers experience this museum! Go find out for yourself how --
"Mountain music came to the city and they called it Country"!