The SessionsGoing into the sessions, the big star was undoubtedly Ernest Stoneman — known to generations of fans as "Pop Stoneman," and the founder of country's first dynasty, the Stoneman Family. Working from his base in nearby Galax, Virginia, Stoneman by mid-1927 had recorded more than any other Southern artist — over 100 sides for various companies. A versatile instrumentalist and fine singer, he had a nose for good songs and got them from barb printed and oral sources. TELL MOTHER I WILL MEET HER, the second song done at the sessions, came from a 1903 songbook compiled by Georgia publisher John B Vaughan, ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD, sung by Stoneman, his wife, his brother- and sister-in-law; and other Galax friends, is gospel standard by Elisha Hoffman dating from 1878, while THE RESURRECTION came from a Pentecostal songbook the same era. On the other hand, themes like SKIP TO MA LOU and THE MOUNTAINEER'S COURTSHIP are well grounded in Appalachian folk tradition: the courtship song-a delightful duet between Stoneman and his wife Hatsie — is often called "OLD GREY BEARD," though Stoneman titled it "NO SIR" in his own manuscript version. MIDNIGHT ON THE STORMY DEEP, a heretofore loss item recently discovered in the Victor vaults and issued here in complete forms for the first time, is a duet between Stoneman and his sister-in-law Irma Frost, and a traditional ballad later popularized by the Blue Sky boys. OLD TIME CORN SHUCKIN' features most of the Galax area musicians Stoneman brought with him and marks Victor's entry into the genre of rural comedy.
A few months earlier Columbia records had issued a skit by the Georgia band the Skillet Lickers about a fiddling contest and had seen it become a bestseller. Peer had asked Stoneman to write a similar one, and, fresh from a real corn shucking on a Virginia farm, Stoneman obliged. This record was the very first issued from the session and rushed out less than a month later. Peer was fascinated with what he called "holy roller" music and went out of his way to record it when he could. On the second day of the session (July 26) Peer interrupted his Stoneman recordings to devote the entire day to a session by a Pentecostal group from Gray, Kentucky (near Corbin), led by Preacher-singer Ernest Phipps. I WANT TO GO WHERE JESUS IS, the first of a number of sides Phipps would make for Peer and Victor, captures the fervent holiness church style so rarely heard on commercial recordings of the time. On July 28 Peer recorded Charles and Paul Johnson, a well-known vaudeville team from nearby Happy Valley. By 1926 the Johnsons were living in Johnson City and had already traveled to New York to record for Victor. POT LICKER BLUES is a harmonica piece featuring Charles backing a musician known only as "El" Wassom. Wassom was a Johnson City resident, and probably black, but little else is known of him, save that he backed the Johnsons on one of their longer sides. Unlike many of the Bristol musicians, the Johnsons later dropped locally out of music, and their subsequent career is unknown. Both THE JEALOUS SWEETHEART and A PASSING POLICEMAN features Paul on steel and vocals, and Charles on guitar. On "A Passing Policeman" a third person, possibly El Wassom is playing the thin bars of bone or wood that were a popular form of percussion in old minstrel shows. "A Passing Policeman" is another minstrel piece heard for the first time. Also known as "The Little Lost Child," the ballad was a hit in 1894 on Broadway, when it was written by music composer Edward Marks and pianist Joe Storr. The awkward bridge, with its odd chord changes, probably explains why it wasn't released, but nevertheless shows the problems of traditional musicians in coping with older pop songs.
The same day the Johnsons recorded, a remarkable protest and gospel singer-songwriter from Princeton, West Virginia, came forth. Peer had earlier heard of Blind Alfred Reed's topical ballad THE WRECK OF THE VIRGINIAN and, mindful of the appeal of train wreck songs, asked him to come in; Reed also did his own piece, WALKING IN THE WAY WITH JESUS. Reed would record again, writing such pieces as "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live," revised in the 1970's by Ry Cooder. An equally distinctive gospel singer was preacher Alfred Karnes, from Corbin, Kentucky. Attracted by the newspaper stories, Karnes drove over the mountains to Bristol, bringing with him his rare Gibson harp-guitar, with its three sets of strings. It thrives on I AM BOUND FOR THE PROMISED LAND, where the old words are welded to the driving melody of "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" on Dion De Marbello's 1887 standard WHEN THEY RING THOSE GOLDEN BELLS; and on Fanny Crosby's 1899 gospel hymn TO THE WORK. Karnes' lively gospel songs were some of the best selling records from the session, and in 1928 Peer called him back for more. Karnes had brought with him from Corbin another superb traditional singer, B.P. (Frank) Shelton, a barber in Corbin who had supposedly met Karnes while he was an inmate in a prison where Karnes preached. The stark, modal sound of O MOLLY DEAR has made it one of the outstanding examples of traditional Southern music recorded this century: the lyrics, better known as "East Virginia Blues," have helped define the concept of mountain blues.
Throughout the weekend, Peer continued to audition groups that came out of the nearby mountains. On Monday August 1, he recorded two fiddle bands. One was the Hillsville, Virginia duo of banjoes-singer J. P. Nessor and fiddler Norman Edmonds who played BLACK-EYED SUSIE. Edmonds would go on to become a widely known and recorded old-time fiddler in the 1950s and 1960s. From Coeburn, Virginia came the Bull Mountain Moonshiners, headed by fiddler Charles McReynolds, the grandfather of bluegrass greats Jim & Jesse. The Moonshiners' Johnny Goodwin, their sole issued record, is a delightful and intricate reading of "The Girl He Left Behind." After supper, from 6:30 to 9:30, Peer recorded yet a third Virginian group, an act he initially identified as "Mr. and Mrs. Carter from Maces Springs." We now know that Peer had set up recordings with A.P. Carter back in June, but he was still somewhat surprised to see them. "They wander in," he recalled. "He's dressed in overalls and the women are country woman from way back there. They look like hillbillies. But as soon as I heard Sara's voice, that was it. I knew it was going to be wonderful." There were AP and Sara, a middle-aged couple married then some 12 years and both fond of old songs, and Sara's cousin, Maybelle, barely 18, who had shyly asked AP, before they had left home, whether or not she should bring her guitar. They began with a song Sara and Maybelle had both known since childhood, BURY ME UNDER THE WEEPING WILLOW, a nineteenth-century song widely known in the mountains. They then moved to LITTLE LOG CABIN BY THE SEA and POOR ORPHAN CHILD, two songs AP had learned from an old gospel song book used at the local church where AP had sung in the choir. Sara and AP sang them as duets. All three voices returned for THE STORMS ARE ON THE OCEAN, a lyric derived from an old Scottish ballad.
The next morning the session continued, but recently found Victor files show that, for some reason, AP was not present for the last two recordings. Sara, accompanied only by her autoharp and Maybelle's guitar, did two solos, WANDERING BOY (a song she had known all her life), and SINGLE GIRL (a song she had learned from a boy in Russell County about 1905, and which she felt, "ripped off" the session). The Carters didn't know it, but they had started a long career, one in which AP would serve as front man and manager, leaving the two women to carry most of the musical burden. August 2 and 3 saw more local talent. From Alcoa, Tennessee, came John "Lennie" Wells' Alcoa Quartet, then the favorite singing group to perform at conventions or funerals in west Tennessee; I'M REDEEMED, sung unaccompanied from a contemporary seven-shape rose book, was their favorite. The group had also recorded earlier, and later appeared with a young Roy Acuff on Knoxville radio. Another veteran was a harmonica player named Henry Whitner, whose FOX CHASE had been recorded in 1924 for Okeh and had established the piece as a standard. Peer felt an electrical recording of the novelty would give it a new sales appeal, and he was right. From Meadows of Dan, Virginia, came the Shelor Family — actually the Shelor-Blackard family — with its unusual instrumentation of piano, banjo and two fiddles. The singer on BILLY GRIMES, THE ROVER, an old English music ball song that was sung in America before 1850, is Joe Blackard, who had been visited by famed Appalachian folk song collector Cecil Sharp in 1918, SANDY RIVER BELLE, a popular fiddle tune, appears herein an unissued alternate take in which Joe Blackard sings a wordless second verse to the fiddle-an archaic Irish technique called "diddling." Wednesday night was given over to the band of Mr. and Mrs. James Baker, cousins of the Carters, from nearby Falls Branch , who did a driving version of THE NEWMARKET WRECK, about an accident near Morristown, TN in 1904.
While the Bakers were recording, the band that was to record the following morning (Thursday, August 4) had been arguing among themselves. This was a band called the Tennessee Ramblers (because they worked out of Bristol, on the state line), which had been in business since 1923, and which was led by Claude and Jack Grant, with Jack Pierce on the fiddle. Since March 1927 the trio had been teaming up with a young Mississippi singer with a skill at yodeling and a flair for promotion; his name was Jimmie Rodgers. The group had been working at a mountain resort in Asheville, and had stumbled onto Peers session by accident when they came home to visit Pierce's mother, who ran a boarding house just across State Street from the studio. After their auditions for Peer-they had had to promise to find older, more down-home songs than the ones they had been doing-the band and Rodgers broke up over how the record label credits were to read. As a result, the Ramblers quickly recruited a banjo player and recorded by themselves. Their classic THE LONGEST TRAIN I EVER SAW, a version of the well known "In the Pines," was one result — it was to be the start of a long recording career for the band members. At 2:00 that afternoon Rodgers appeared for his session, accompanied only by his little Martin guitar and a lot of high hopes. Peer was disappointed to find that most of the songs Rodgers had been singing were fairly new pop songs and asked him for older ones, ones that sounded old but could be copyrighted. Rodgers came up with his version of an old World War 1 song, THE SOLDIER'S SWEETHEART, sung to the tune of "Where the River Shannon Flows," and after four takes Peer approved it. To display his yodeling, Rodgers did SLEEP, BABY, SLEEP an old vaudeville song from the 1860s which had already been recorded several times by other singers. "I thought his yodel alone might spell success," Peer recalled in a classic understatement. The next day, August 5, the sessions concluded with a pair of rider by the West Virginia Coon Hunters, a fiddle band from Bluefield, West Virginia, headed by fiddler W.B. Boyles: GREASY STRING is one of these.
That afternoon 30 members of a Bluff City church group gathered to record, as the Tennessee Mountaineers, the 1886 hymn STANDING ON THE PROMISES. Among the group was Roy Hobbs, the brother-in-law of AP Carter, in whose home the Carters had stayed when they recorded three days earlier. After the session, Peer packed up the heavy wax masters for shipment back to New York and moved on to Charlotte. About two months later, on October 7, Bristol papers carried ads for the first real batch of the records to be issued. "New Southern Series" trumpeted the ad, and people rushed to their stores to hear the new records. Though they were curious about hearing their friends and neighbors, and validating their mountain music, they were ushering in a new era in American music. Country music — what Peer called hillbilly music — was about to go in high gear. By Charles Wolfe, from liner notes of The Bristol Sessions (Country Music Foundation, 1987)
In the Summer of 1927by Dave Winship
In the summer of 1927, the Bristol newspapers were still heralding the flight of Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic. New technological developments were having impacts on this part of the southern region. Musicians from the region had been recording mountain music since 1923, but they had to travel to New York and New Jersey studios to do it. The Fiddlin' Powers Family from Scott County had already recorded several records. Henry Whitter, from Fries, VA, along with fiddler G.B. Grayson, had produced notable recordings, such as "The Wreck of the Old Southern 97." Ernest Stoneman of Galax, VA had become very popular with the enterprising record producer Ralph Peer as a musician who could bring the music of the southern mountain region to the studios of the north.
Peer recognized the possibilities of this mountain music sound. Record playing machines were becoming popular, both with electricity in the urban regions and with hand-cranks in the non-electrified areas of the country, and the technology of recording this music had developed so that portable recording studios were possible. Peer decided to pack the recording equipment into a car and travel to the southern Appalachian region and find new talent. He knew of the region and decided that Bristol, a thriving town on the Tennessee-Virginia border, was to be the first stop on the recording tour.
The mountains clearly held musical talent, and Peer simply had to find a way of drawing it off the front porches. He arranged to set up the studio on the second floor of the Taylor-Christian Hat Company warehouse at 410 State Street. He then placed advertisements in local newspapers that announced the Victor Recording Company was coming to town. These notices were also inserted in the advertisements for the local dealer of the Victrola company, the Clark-Jones-Sheeley Co. at 621 State Street. Accompanying these notices were news articles stating that "In no other section of the south have the pre-war melodies and old mountaineer songs been better preserved than in the mountains of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia...and it is primarily for this reason that the Victrola Company chose Bristol as its operating base..." The news articles also mention that in the previous year, Ernest Stoneman had received $3,600 in royalties from the records which he had made. In 1927, like today, money talked, and musicians who had struggled to make a living on the hillside farms and the coal mines decided that they were quite capable of making music like Stoneman, and they came to record in Bristol.
The recording sessions began with Ernest Stoneman and some of his friends on July 25, 1927. Stoneman recorded with various combinations of these friends, including Eck Dunford, Mooney Brewer, under the name of the Dixie Mountaineers which included, among others, his wife Hattie. They recorded gospel and traditional songs, such as "Are You Washed in the Blood" and "Skip to Ma Lou." They also recorded more comical ones like "Mountain Courtship" and "Corn Shuckin'," which required the fluid lubrication of a good jug of whisky which was passed around. Succeeding days of recording included Henry Whitter, gospel preacher and singer Albert Karnes, Ernest Phillips and His Holiness Quartet, B.F. Shelton, El Watson, Blind Alfred Reed from West Virginia, the vaudeville duo the Johnson Brothers, J.P. Nextor and Norman Edmonds, a group of Coeburn musicians which included Charles McReynolds, the grandfather of contemporary bluegrass musicians Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Dad Blackard and the Shelors, the Alcoa Quartet, Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Baker, Red Snodgrass, the West Virginia Coonhunters, and a church choir from the Bluff City area.
The word of the recording sessions spread westward from Bristol a short distance to Maces Spring, Virginia, where A.P. Carter periodically ran a country store and sometimes sold fruit trees. He also sang music with his wife Sara and his sister-in-law Maybelle. Responding to the lure of recording, Carter and his family made the 30 mile journey to Bristol, fording the Holston River and fixing several flat tires on his old Essex automobile before arriving in Bristol. The Carter Family recorded on August 1 & 2 for Peer, including "Bury me Beneath the Willow," "The Storm is on the Ocean," and "Single Girl, Married Girl."
Word of the recording sessions also reached the Asheville, North Carolina area, where the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers were playing on radio stations and in clubs. Rodgers, along with Bristolians Claude and Jack Grant and Jack Pierce, decided to come to record in Bristol. They were able to stay in a hotel on State Street across from the converted warehouse studio, because it was run by one of the band member's relatives. But on the night before the schedule recording session August 4, the band members disagreed about how the group would be called and finally they decided that Rodgers would record solo and the other band members, with some help from Claude Slagle, would record as the Tenneva Ramblers. Rodgers' recordings for the sessions included a song from World War I and a lullaby, which included a haunting yodel that Peer recognized as unique.
From these recording sessions came the discovery of the first country music "stars" and these "Bristol Sessions" mark the beginning of what became country music. Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family both had successful careers as well as influenced future generations of musicians. This influence has been felt from State Street in Bristol around the globe and many points in between. Tennessee Ernie Ford, who grew up in Bristol and started his career at WOPI radio, carried his roots with him to California. The radio shows of the 1940's and 1950's, such as Farm and Fun Time and Barrel of Fun, launched many careers of regional musicians such as the Stanley Brothers, Mac Wiseman and others, which led to the development of bluegrass and contemporary country music.
And the influence continues. Each Saturday night, The Carter Fold, located at the old AP Carter Store in Hiltons, Virginia, hosts family-style, old-time music. Many other local venues have regular old-time, bluegrass and country music events. At East Tennessee State University, the unique bluegrass and country music program has nurtured contemporary talent such as Kenny Chesney, and band members for Allison Krauss' Union Station and Blue Highway. Innumerable informal pickin' sessions year-round, as well as summer-time fiddlers conventions and contests, provide support training and opportunities for the music which grew from the mountains and spread around the globe like mountain laurel.
Pre-War melodies and Mountaineer SongsThat summer in 1927 commercial country music was barely four years old. It was a bawling infant, though, and the record sales of people like Fiddlin' John Carson, Uncle Dave Macon, Vernon Dalhart, Riley Puckett, and Charlie Poole had shown the big New York record companies that there was something to this "Southern" music. Finding new performers who could do this kind of music was another thing; they didn't hang around the big studios in New York or Chicago, and as early as 1924 companies like Okeh and Columbia had sent recording expeditions into the wilds of Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana in search of new talents. Pioneering this new technique of on-location recording was a 35 year old man named Ralph Peer. A native of Kansas City, Peer had grown up with the record industry, and in 1923 had traveled to Atlanta for Okeh to record the famous efforts of Fiddlin' John Carson that set off the old-time music boom. Late in 1925, Peer had quit Okeh, and offered his services to the Victor Talking Machine Company, whose success with Vernon Dalhart's million selling "Wreck of the Old 97" had whetted their appetite for this sort of music. "I had what they wanted." Peer recalled later. "They couldn't get into the hillbilly business and I knew how to do it." By January 1927 the company was outfitting Peer with the latest electrical recording equipment, produced by Western Electric, and asking him to take Victor into the field. The ground rules were simple: Peer would go into a Southern town or city, locate local talent, and record them on the spot for $50 a selection plus royalties of about 2 1/2 cents per side. He would look for gospel music, blues, and hillbilly music, and would network through local contacts like Victor dealers, music store owners, and radio station operators. An early trip in February and March 1927 yielded mostly blues and gospel, so in June he set out by himself to line up another round of sessions. Savannah and Charlotte soon fell into line, but the third choice was not so easy. Peer finally settled on Bristol, a bustling small city whose main street formed the state line between Virginia and Tennessee. Flanked on the South by Johnson City and on the West by Kingsport, Bristol was part of an early urban area known as Tri-Cities, which in the 1920's boasted a collective population of over 32,000 — making it the largest urban area in the Appalachians eclipsing even Asheville It was a natural base for Peer. He told a local newspaper when he arrived there with his recording crew: "In no section of the South have the pre-war melodies and old mountaineer songs been better preserved than in the mountains of all Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, experts declare, and it was primarily for this reason that the Victor Company chose Bristol as its operating base."
There were other reasons for choosing Bristol. Scouts from three other record companies had had, or had scheduled, auditions in the town that year, and local newspapers and civic clubs were proud and supportive of old-time music. The local Victor dealer, Cecil McLister was a keen-eyed talent scout himself. As early as June, he had put Peer in touch with a nearby group called the Carson Family. Other Bristol musicians had already made their mark in radio and records and from vaudeville, and 140 area bands, the Johnson Brothers and the Stoneman Family, had been to New York to record for Peer. They were invited to hunt up more talents from their friends and relatives. In almost every way Bristol was a natural place to start Victor's greatest talent search.
Accompanied by his wife, Anita, and two engineers named Echbars and Lynch Peer returned to Bristol July 21 with a carload of portable recording equipment. They leased a former furniture store at 408 State Street ( the street there was the state line) and began to prepare the second and third floors for recording; they hung blankets on the wall, built a tower for the pulley that would drive the recording turntable and a platform for singers to stand on. Contrary to many popular histories, Peer was not reduced to simply fishing for talent; his first week was pretty much already booked up with established local stars such as the Stonemans, the Johnson Brothers, and the singer Blind Alfred Road. But he needed people to fill in his second week. A small ad appeared in the Sunday paper announcing that the Victor Company would have a recording machine in Bristol for ten days, but this hadn't generated much response. On the third day of the session, July 27, Peer invited a writer for the local paper to watch Ernest Stoneman and Eck Dunford record "Skip to Ma Lou." The result was a major front-page story in that evening's NEWS BULLETIN. "The synchronizing is perfect," wrote the reporter. "Ernest Stoneman playing the guitar, the young matron (Mrs. Stoneman) the violin, and a young mountaineer the banjo and mouth harp. Bodies swaying, feet beating a perfect rhythm, it is calculated to go over big when offered to the public."
But to many people, the most interesting part of the story was the last paragraph. Where it was revealed that Stoneman got $100 a day for his services, and that his sideman got $25 a day — and that Stoneman, a carpenter form nearby Galax, had received $3600 in royalties the previous year. "This worked like dynamite recalled Peer. "The very next day I was deluged with long-distance calls from surrounding mountain region. Groups of singers who had not visited Bristol during their entire lifetime arrived by bus, horse and buggy, trains or on foot." In a matter of hours, Peer had gone from famine to feast, and soon he found himself having to add night sessions to accommodate the new talent. During his stay in Bristol, Peer would eventually record 76 performances by 19 different groups. They would include old pop and vaudeville songs, traditional mountain ballads and songs, fiddle and banjo tunes; gospel songs alone counted for almost half the output.
By Charles Wolfe,
from liner notes of The Bristol Sessions (Country Music Foundation, 1987)
1927 Bristol SessionsThe recording sessions that Ralph Peer held on State Street in Bristol in 1927 have been recognized as "Big Bang of Country Music."
They helped to launch the careers of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, who are recognized as the first commercially successful modern country music artists. Rodgers is considered the "Father of Country Music" and was the first artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Carter Family has been recognized as country music's "First Family" due to the influence of their works on succeeding generations of country music artists.
You can learn more about the 1927 sessions by reading the following articles:
In the Summer of 1927 by Dave Winship
Provides a brief overview of the Bristol Sessions and their impact on country music
Pre-War melodies and Mountain Songs by Charles Wolfe
The first of a two part essay which accompanied the liner notes to the release of The Bristol Sessions. Wolfe discusses the region's heritage, why Peer chose Bristol, and the events surrounding his trip to Bristol.The Sessions by Charles Wolfe
The second of a two part essay which accompanied the liner notes to the release of The Bristol Sessions. Wolfe discusses the events of the actual sessions, including the musicians who appeared and the songs they recorded.
New technological forces reinvent the music industry by John Maeder
Provides an overview of the history of recording technology and its impact on country music.
Although the events of 1927 helped to launch the recording careers of country music's pioneers and provided the first commercially successful country recordings, Bristol did not become the center of the country music industry. To read an article that helps explain why, click here.
As part of its mission, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance has sought to bring attention to the events of the summer of 1927 and gain recognition for Bristol as "the Birthplace of Country Music."
In 1984, the Tennessee General Assembly recognized Bristol as the "Birthplace of Country Music." In 1995, the Commonwealth of Virginia followed, as the Virginia General Assembly recognized Bristol as both the State Senate and the House of Delegates passed identical resolutions honoring Bristol.
You may view copies of the resolutions passed by clicking on links below:
Tennessee State Senate
Virginia State Senate
Virginia House of Delegates
In 1998, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, along with local congressional officials help to secure passage in the United States Congress of House Concurrent Resolution 214 which recognized Bristol as the "Birthplace of Country Music."
View a copy of House Concurrent Resolution 214
See the debate from the Congressional Record surrounding the passage of this resolution.
List of 1927 Bristol sessions recordings & artistsVictor Talking Machine Company’s Bristol Sessions
July 25 – August 5, 1927, 410 State Street, Bristol, Tennessee
KEY: h-harmony vocals vn-violin acc.-accompanied p-piano gs/g-guitar v-vocals bj-banjo d-drum c-cello tb-trombone cl-clarinet
Ernest V. Stoneman — M. Mooney Brewer-Vocal duets, acc. by own h/g.
39700-2 The Dying Girl’s Farewell 7-25-1927 21129
39701-3 Tell Mother I Will Meet Her 7-25-1927 21129
Ernest V. Stoneman-Miss Frost-Eck Dunford -Vocal trio, acc. by Ernest V. Stoneman-h/g.
39702-2 The Mountaineer’s Courtship 7-25-1927 20880
39703-3 Midnight on the Stormy Deep 7-25-1927
Stoneman’s Dixie Mountaineers-Vocal Group acc. by 2v/n/g/organ
39704-3 Sweeping Through the Gates 7-25-1927 20844
39705-2 I Know My Name is There 7-25-1927 21186
39706-2 Are You Washed in the Blood? 7-25-1927 20844
39707-2 No More Goodbyes 7-25-1927 21186
39708-2 The Resurrection 7-25-1927 21071
39709-2 I Am Resolved 7-25-1927 21071
Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Quartet -Vocal Group acc. by vn/2g.
39710-2 I Want to Go Where Jesus Is 7-26-1927 20834
B-5273 39711-3 Do Lord Remember Me 7-26-1927 20927
39712-2 Old Ship of Zion 7-26-1927 20927
39713-3 Jesus is Getting Us Ready for That Great Day 7-26-1927
39714-2 Happy in Prison 7-26-1927 21192
39715-2 Don’t You Grieve After Me 7-26-1927 20834
Uncle Eck Dunford -Vocal acc. by Ernest V. Stoneman — g. and Mrs. EVS-vn/v, T. Edwards-h/ukulele
39716-2 The Whippoorwill’s Song 7-27-1927 20880
39717-3 What Will I Do, For My Money’s All Gone 7-27-1927 21578
39718-3 Skip to Ma Lou Ma Darling 7-27-1927 20938
39719-2 Barney McCoy –v Mrs. EVS 7-27-1927 20938
Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers — EVStoneman, Eck Dunford – gs, Mrs. EVS- vn, T. Edwards-h/ukulele
39720-2 Old Time Corn Shucking’ Part 1 7-27-1927 20835 39721-4 Old Time Corn Shucking’ Part 2 7-27-1927 20835
Charles and Paul Johnson- Vocal duets, acc. by the Tennessee Wildcats, their own gs mandolin and bones
39722-3 Two Brothers are We (From East TN) –TW 7-28-1927 21243
39723-2 The Jealous Sweetheart –PJ only 2g 7-28-1927 21243
Blind Alfred Reed –Vocal acc. by own g or vn
39725-2 The Wreck of the Virginian 7-28-1927 20836
39726-2 I Mean to Live for Jesus 7-28-1927 20939
39728-2 You Must Unload 7-28-1927 20939
39728-2 Walking in the Way With Jesus 7-28-1927 20836
Charles and Paul Johnson –Vocal duets acc. by own gs.
39729-2 The Soldier’s Poor Little Boy 7-28-1927 20891
39730-2 Just A Message from Carolina 7-28-1927 20891
39731-2 I Want to See My Mother 7-28-1927 20940
El Watson –Harmonica Solos, acc. by Charles Johnson – g
39732-2 Pot Liquor Blues 7-28-1927 20951
39733-2 Narrow Gauge Blues 7-28-1927 20951
B.F. Shelton –Vocal acc. by own bj.
39734-2 Cold Penitentiary Blues 7-29-1927 V-40107
39735-2 O Molly Dear 7-29-1927 V-40107
39736-2 Pretty Polly 7-29-1927 35838
39737-2 Darling Cora 7-29-1927 35838
Alfred G. Karnes –Vocal acc. by own g.
39738-2 Called to the Foreign Field 7-29-1927 V-40327
39739-2 I Am Bound for the Promised Land 7-29-1927 20840
39740-2 Where We’ll Never Grow Old 7-29-1927 20840
39741-2 When I See the Blood 7-29-1927
39742-2 When They Ring the Golden Bells for You and Me 7-29-1927 20933
39743-2 To the Work 7-29-1927 20933
J.P. Nestor –Vocal acc. by own bj, vn.
39744-2 Train on the Island 8-1-1927 21070
39745-1 Georgia 8-1-1927
39746-1 John My Lover 8-1-1927
39747-1 Black Eyed Susie 8-1-1927 21070
Bull Mountain Moonshiners acc. by vn/bj/2g.
39748-2 Sweet Marie 8-1-1927
39749-2 Johnny Goodwin 8-1-1927
The Carter Family (A.P., Sara and Maybelle) –vocal trio, acc. by own g and autoharp
39750-2 Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow 8-1-1927 21074 B-6053
39751-2 Little Log Cabin By the Sea 8-1-1927 21074 B-6271 39752-2 The Poor Orphan Child 8-1-1927 20877
39753-2 The Storms are on the Ocean 8-1-1927 20937 B-6176
39754-2 Single Girl, Married Girl 8-2-1927 20937
39755-2 The Wandering Boy 8-2-1927 20877
Alcoa Quartet – Vocal Quartet unacc.
39756-2 Remember Me O Mighty One 8-2-1927 20879
39757-2 I’m Redeemed 8-2-1927 20879
Henry Whitter – Harmonica solos
39758-3 Henry Whitter’s Fox Chase 8-2-1927 20878
39759-2 Rain Crow Bill 8-2-1927 20879
The Shelor Family – Vocal group, acc. by 2vn/p/bj.
39761-3 Big Bend Gal 8-3-1927 20865
39761-2 Billy Grimes the Rover 8-3-1927 20865
The Shelor Family (as Dad Blackard’s Moonshiners) Vocal group, acc. by 2vn/p/bj.
39762-3 Suzanna Gal 8-3-1927 21130
39763-2 Sandy River Belle 8-3-1927 21130
Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Baker – Vocal duets, acc. by own g and autoharp, with J.E. Greear — vn, J.H. Holbrook — bj.
39765-2 The New Market Wreck 8-3-1927 20863
39766-2 On the Banks of the Sunny Tennessee 8-3-1927 20863
Jimmie Rodgers – Vocal, acc. by own g.
39767-4 The Soldier’s Sweetheart 8-4-1927 20864
39768-3 Sleep, Baby, Sleep 8-4-1927 20864
Red Snodgrass and His Alabamians c/tb/2cl/p/bj/d.
39769-3 Weary Blues 8-4-1927
Tenneva Ramblers – Jack Pierce – vn, Claude Grant –g/v, Jack Grant-mandolin, with Claude Slagle-bj.
39770-2 The Longest Train I Ever Saw 8-4-1927 20861
39771-2 Sweet Heaven, When I Die 8-4-1927 20861
39772-2 Miss Liza, Poor Gal 8-4-1927 21141
West Virginia Coon Hunters – W.S. Meadows v, acc. by vn/2bj/g.
39773-2 Greasy String 8-5-1927 20862
39774-2 Your Blue Eyes Run Me Crazy 8-5-1927 20862
Tennessee Mountaineers – 20 mixed voices, unacc. (?)
39775-3 Standing on the Promises 8-5-1927 20860
39776-2 At the River (Beautiful River) 8-5-1927 20860
The 1928 Bristol SessionsRalph Peer knew when he had a good thing going. Following his successful field recordings in Bristol in 1927, when he used his successful drawing card of Ernest Stoneman to draw the Carter Family, Jimmy Rodgers, Alfred Karnes and others into the recording studio, he returned in October, 1928 to conduct another recording session. For nine days, from Oct. 27 through Nov. 3, Peer set up in a building about a block west from the original recording site, on the second floor of a bank building at the corner of the alley which now runs beside the Paramount Center For The Arts.
This time, Peer scheduled several acts from the previous year, including Stoneman, Karnes, A.L. Phipps, and members of the West Virginia Coon Hunters (Meadows and Pendleton). Though the sales figures of the artists who were recorded are unavailable, the lives of many of the artists have been documented, while others are lost to recorded history. Perhaps some who know of these musicians and read this can recall and add to the history of these 1928 sessions.
Ernest Stoneman, who along with Uncle Eck Dunford was recorded in the 1927 sessions, recorded 14 songs and Dunford recorded 2. Alfred Karnes, whose 1927 sessions songs were some of the most successful, returned to record 7 songs. Phipps brought a larger accompanying group, dubbed "The Congregation," and recorded 8 songs. Meadows and Pendleton recorded on song, but it was unissued. Jack Pierce, who along with Claude and Jack Grant had recorded as the Tenneva Ramblers in 1927, combined with Weldon Reedy, Malcolm Worley and Carol Cruise to record as the Smyth County Ramblers and recorded two songs.
Among the new artists to record were Stephen Tarter and Harry Gay. Tarter was from near Knoxville and Gay was from Gate City. They had met and played in the Johnson City area before this first recording, which was followed by other recordings in other locations. Recording two songs, their music exemplified the African American string band tradition. James Howard, from Harlan, Kentucky, and Charles Peak, from Norton, Virginia, were chronicled in the Victor files as "The Blind Musicians. They recorded two songs. Clarence Greene, from Ashe County, North Carolina, who played and recorded with regional string band musicians in the following years, recorded two songs.
Also recording was the Stamps Quartet, recording 6 songs, the Carolina Twins, recording 6 songs, the Smith Brothers (William and Roosevelt) recording 3 songs, the Palmer Sisters recording 4 songs, 'Shortbuckle' Roark and Family recorded 4 songs and soloing under his given name, George Roark, recorded two more songs.
1928 Bristol Sessions Recordings & ArtistsVictor Talking Machine Company’s 1928 Bristol Sessions
October 27 – November 4, 1928, State Street, Bristol, Tennessee
The complete list of recordings made at the 1928 Bristol sessions, compiled from Victor’s files and based on research conducted by Charles Wolfe:
October 27, 1928 47229 Smyth County Ramblers My Name Is Ticklish Reuben V- 40144
47230 Smyth County Ramblers ’Way Down In Alabama V-40144
October 28, 1928 47231 Alfred G. Karnes The Sinner Sinks In Sad Despair uniss.
47232 Alfred G. Karnes Do Not Wait Til I’m Laid ’Neath The Clay V-40327
47233 Alfred G. Karnes Days Of My Childhood Plays V-40076
47234 Alfred G. Karnes We Shall All Be Reunited V-40076
47235 Alfred G. Karnes That’s Why The Boys Leave The Farm uniss.
47236 Alfred G. Karnes Clouds Of Glory uniss.
October 29, 1928 47237 Ernest Phipps & His Congreg. If The Light Has Gone Out In Your Soul V-40010
47238 Ernest Phipps & His Congreg. Went Up In The Clouds Of Heaven V-40106
47239 Ernest Phipps & His Congreg. The Firing Line uniss.
47240 Ernest Phipps & His Congreg. I Know That Jesus Set Me Free V-40106
47241 Ernest Phipps & His Congreg. Shine On Me B-5540
47242 Alfred G. Karnes The City Of Gold uniss.
October 30, 1928 47243 Ernest Phipps & His Congreg. Bright Tomorrow V-40010 B-5273
47244 Ernest Phipps & His Congreg. Cloud And Fire uniss.
47245 Ernest Phipps & His Congreg. A Little Talk With Jesus B-5275
47246 Howard & Peak The Blind I Cannot Be Your Sweetheart V-40189
47247 Howard & Peak Three Black Sheep V-40189
47248 Stoneman Family Beautiful Isle O’er The Sea uniss.
47249 Stoneman Family Willie, We Have Missed You uniss.
47250 Clarence Greene Goodnight, Darling V-40141
47251 Clarence Greene Little Bunch Of Roses V-40141
47252 Stoneman Family The Fate Of Shelly And Smith uniss.
47253 Stoneman Family Broken-Hearted Lover V-40030
47254 Uncle Eck Dunford Angeline The Baker V-40060
47255 Uncle Eck Dunford Old Shoes And Leggin’s V-40060
October 31, 1928 47256 Stoneman Family Minnie Brown uniss.
47257 Stoneman Family We Parted By The Riverside V-40030 47258 Stoneman Family Down To Jordan And Be Saved V-40078
47259 Stoneman Family There’s A Light Lit Up In Galilee V-40078
47260 Stoneman Family Going Up The Mountain After Liquor — Part 1 V-40116
47261 Stoneman Family Going Up The Mountain After Liquor — Part 2 V-40116
47262 Stoneman Family Spanish Merchant’s Daughter V-40206
47263 Stoneman Family Twilight Is Stealing uniss.
November 1, 1928 47264 Stoneman Family Too Late V-40206
47265 Stoneman Family I Should Like To Marry uniss.
47266 Smith Brothers (William and Roosevelt) There’s No One To Care For Me uniss.
November 2, 1928 47267 Stamps Quartet I’ll Be Happy V-40029
47268 Stamps Quartet Like The Rainbow V-40122
47269 Stamps Quartet Because I Love Him V-40090
47270 Stamps Quartet Come To The Savior V-40062
47271 Stamps Quartet Do Your Best, Then Wear A Smile V-40122
47272 Stamps Quartet We Shall Reach Home V-40062
47273 Smith Brothers My Mother Is Waiting For Me In Heaven AboveV-40201
47274 Smith Brothers She Has Climbed The Golden Stairs V-40201
47275 Palmer Sisters We Shall Sing On That Shore V-40037
47276 Palmer Sisters Singing The Story Of Grace C-1566
47277 Palmer Sisters Help Me To Find The Way C-1566
47278 Palmer Sisters He Will Be With Me V-40037
47279 Stephen Tartar — Harry Gay Bonnie Blues V-38017
47280 Stephen Tartar — Harry Gay Unknown Blues V-38017
47281 Carolina Twins Where Is My Mama? V-40044
47282 Carolina Twins When You Go A-Courtin’ V-40044
47283 Carolina Twins I Sat Upon The River Bank V-40098
November 3, 1928 47284 Fred Pendleton — Clyde Meadows The Last Farewell uniss.
47285 Carolina Twins New Orleans Is The Town I Like Best V-40123
47286 Carolina Twins She Tells Me That I Am Sweet V-40123
47287 Carolina Twins Mr. Brown, Here I Come V-40098
November 4, 1928 47288 Shortbuckle Roark & Family Broken-Hearted uniss.
47289 Shortbuckle Roark & Family I Truly Understand, You Love Another Man V-40023
47290 Shortbuckle Roark & Family Terrible Day uniss.
47291 Shortbuckle Roark & Family My Mother’s Hands V-40023
47292 George Roark I Ain’t A Bit Drunk uniss.
47293 George Roark Hook And Line uniss.