April 2020 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Pick 5: Songs to Celebrate 50 Years of April’s Earth Day

For our “Pick 5” blog series, we ask members of the Radio Bristol team to pick five songs within a given theme – from heartsongs to murder ballads and everything in between! Once they pick their “5,” they get the chance to tell us more about why they chose those songs. With a diverse staff of knowledgeable DJs, we’re sure to get some interesting song choices, which might introduce you to some new music, all easily accessible by tuning into Radio Bristol! This month’s “Pick 5” focuses on nature songs in honor of April’s Earth Day, chosen by Stu Vincent.

April marks 50 years of Earth Day (April 22), and as a newcomer to WBCM, I was honoured to be asked to write a blog article in celebration of this anniversary. By way of introduction if you have not listened in to my show Hillbilly Boogie, my playlist is always varied and often contains a little “surprise.” I think that you will find that this is also reflected in my choice of five pieces of music for Earth Day!

When thinking about this post, there were so many songs and pieces of music that I would associate with Earth Day. And so I decided that I might take you through an imaginary day (no, no Pat Metheny in this blog article, though he was nearly included!), sharing with you some of the music that might actually be playing on my headphones or might just run through my mind at different times of the day.

“First Light,” Brian Eno

I am often awake very early in the morning; though sometimes I wish that it were not so, one of the advantages is that I can go out with my camera while most people are still asleep and watch the daybreak. I have seen the sun rise over still-smoking fires at festivals and over hills as I have travelled on overnight coaches while all (but the driver) slept fitfully, but to be out in the open with my camera and my thoughts is the perfect way of starting a day. For me, watching the sun rise is an opportunity to think about what might be done, how to approach a problem, or just to clear the mind in readiness for whatever the new day might bring – and one piece of music typifies this for me: Brian Eno’s “First Light.”


“The Lark Ascending,” Vaughn Williams

One of my fondest memories from when I was a child was wandering off into the fields by myself. Before my family moved to Wales, I lived in a tiny hamlet and my father worked on one of the two farms there. While there were two other boys my age in the hamlet, I would sometimes just wander off – maybe because they had been taken shopping with their mother, maybe we had had a fight…it doesn’t matter. I would walk into the fields and lay on my back and watch the clouds drift by and listen to the birdsong. Such a simple thing to do, but something that youngsters now might not have the opportunity to do; those living in built-up areas (as I do now) might never know that pleasure – no traffic noise, no distractions from phones, just drifting clouds and birds singing, calling and feeding. Recalling those days now, one piece of music immediately comes to mind: Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending.”

“River Stay ‘Way from My Door,”

After my family moved to Wales, one of my greatest pleasures was to play the second-hand records that my father brought back from auctions – probably bought for just (then) a few shillings. Perhaps this is where Hillbilly Boogie came from! I would go through the box and there might be some ragtime by Winifred Atwell, opera – I remember trying to listen to Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas…my ears needed a few more years before I appreciated that!, I remember Indonesian music recorded in Covent Garden, and I remember Paul Robeson.

It was not until years later that I learned more about Robeson (including from an older work colleague who showed me a picture of her sitting on his knee). One song that made a huge impression on me then – and is applicable now for this Earth Day selection – was “River Stay ‘Way from My Door.” I was in school in Wales when the Aberfan disaster occurred, a tragic event not dissimilar to the Buffalo Creek flood (the latter being described in song by Corey Lee McQuade). While, as a very young child, I watched the clouds floating by, all too soon I was made aware of the incredible power of Nature, and how despite it being so dramatic and beautiful, it can also be dangerous, particularly when warnings are not heeded or dangers ignored.


“SW9 9SL,” Four Tet

Now…I hope that you’re still with me, as here is (perhaps) the biggest surprise. While I predominantly listen to acoustic music, I also enjoy listening to EDM – particularly trance and especially when I am concentrating on a task.

I am not fond of cities – while I love to visit for concerts or exhibitions, I would rather be out of cities wherever possible. Perhaps this is a reaction to having worked in London for so many years, I don’t know…but when I do go into London, I will generally walk everywhere as I know my way around fairly well and I always leave time to wander, a great chance to watch everyone in their hurrying and scurrying as I just take my time.

Of course, cities are important and busy places and, consequently, the people living and working in cities often maintain a very different rhythm to my own. I will confess that after a concert, I will usually hail a taxi to take me back to the train station for my homeward journey. I will sit in the back of a cab, watching the frenzied life of London, watching the impatience of the drivers and pedestrians, the late-night shops, and the Underground stations with their constant flow of people ascending and descending. And at such times, Four Tet’s “SW9 9SL” will come to mind. (SW9 9SL is the post codeZip Code for the Brixton Academy, a famous music venue.)

“Hills of Home,” Trisha Gene Brady

And now, time for home…

As mentioned before, I am not fond of cities and, while I live in a large town, I am fortunate enough to have a small but peaceful garden and to have neighbours who care and are respectful.

If I were to imagine my ideal place on Earth, it would be in the mountains. It would be where the pace of life was slower. It would be where the wisdom of people who have lived on the land for generations is respected and carried forward to the next generation. It would be where the music that I love the most is sung, played, and heard such as the beautiful “Hills of Home” by Trisha Gene Brady.

Wherever you live, I hope you will have your own “Hills of Home”… Be safe, be well. And be kind to the Earth!

Earth Day 2020: Sustainability, Museums, and Their Communities

Today is Earth Day – and not just any Earth Day, but the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – a date that is traditionally marked by environmental action and conversations about sustainability.

In this time during a devastating pandemic, where each day seems to last a year in itself, thinking about sustainability can be difficult. However, we in the museum community still need to look towards the future and plan to meet that challenge. First, as museum professionals our job is to preserve and interpret cultural objects or intangible heritage – from vintage sheet music to the tune and lyrics themselves. This is why we exist, receive donations, and are funded by tax dollars, corporate monies, and private contributions. The mission of a museum is to hold the public’s trust utilizing ethical, educational, and sustainable methods, and to measure plans for the future so as to never lose that public trust and support.

Second, in a world besieged with climate change, water shortages, trash pile ups, and other environmental impacts, museums need to look to the future to further assist their communities – and to preserve their own holdings – by demonstrating proactive sustainable measures. As a representative of their town, city, or other local area, museums must do their part and continue their role as public educator.

So what things can we do to help while working in a museum? First, a few simple things, amongst others: recycle, use less water, watch our paper use (e-newsletters are our friend!), reuse what we can (wash the plastic forks after an event), make good choices in our supplies, and monitor our electricity usage as far as possible – for instance, using LED lights in exhibit cases not only conserves energy but it helps to preserve artifacts. And sustainability can also be addressed in larger ways. For example, some museums are being redesigned to be more environmentally friendly, or in some cases completely carbon-neutral such as the new science museum being built in Lund, Sweden.

Looking up towards the glass ceiling of the building, the photo shows several colorful birds (blue, green, pink, orange, and red) in flight made of plastic bottles.

This display called Birds of a Feather is by Patti Lawrence. Made out of reused plastic bottles, it highlights environmental issues. Photo courtesy of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts and the City of Kingsport Higher Ed. Center

And as central educational centers for the public, what we do to lessen our environmental impact is viewed by our public. Those of us whose mission intersects with the natural and scientific world can, of course, produce programming and exhibits that teach environmental care and principles. But even if our mission is not focused that way – for example, a music museum like us – leading by example is another pathway to sharing sustainability goals and actions with our community. We can even use what we know to assist those in our community take similar steps. For instance, through BCM’s festival branch, our Green Team works to make green changes and encourage recycling at our annual music festival.

And so, museums today are working on a better future environmentally and taking what steps we can to help. But besides this, what other goals can museums express for sustainability? We hold collections of culture, science, and art – tangible and intangible – and educate the public on their value, for those here now and for generations afterwards. But to continue to exist and be relevant, we need to be responsive to changes in our world. In what ways can we do this? To answer this, museums are going to need to fully open their doors, all too often appearing, at least to some, as intrusive monoliths in a city’s landscape compared to the daily activities performed around them. For instance, the Georgian-styled archives, the Greek Revival art museum, etc. A redesign is needed by many institutions, not just of their façade, but of how the community views the museum itself.

We in museums have to ask many, many, questions. Who is our audience? What are their expectations? Where do we fit in our community? And how can we help? How can we sustainably preserve the history, art, and cultural heritage for future generations? How can we make our mission resonate with different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups? How do we not become obsolete in a quickly changing world?

A picture of the Louvre's front facade with the glass pyramid Louvre extension in front of it.

The Louvre Museum and Pyramid, a temple next to a modern interpretation of a temple.
Photo by Yeo Khee on Unsplash

Even during this time of Covid-19 taking over our “normal” lives, museums are proving how necessary they are. Yes, most – if not all – are closed, but still they are active in their communities. Some are offering their large parking lots for testing or food pickup. Many museum professionals are assisting with supply gathering or sewing of masks. Museums are using social media and their own websites to offer activities for children (and adults) now at home full time, or to demonstrate science experiments, or to show virtual exhibits. And the public is responding and consuming all this extra content with gusto. And while doing so, museums are still deemed important and needed, even when closed. Hopefully, due to these creative and innovative ways museum professionals are still interacting with their audiences, people will return when we open back up.

And our communities will continue to support us as we evolve with our community. Sustainability is based on change, resilience, and an understanding that normal can shift to something new in the face of different attitudes, resources, situations, and perspectives. This can be seen right now as we are all dealing with the uncertainties of this pandemic – in the midst of this, museums are proving that they can work with other organizations and community partners to help and be relevant, even with their doors closed to the public. The future is more uncertain than ever right now, but we museum professionals are on the front lines and will continue to assist our communities in many diverse ways.

And so, on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we will continue to search for other methods we can help lessen our negative impact on the environment and plan for future changes our museum can do such as updating an HVAC system or using natural light to illuminate and heat the museum. But as well, we will reach out to our community, and the community of museums, schools, libraries, and other institutions, to set programs and exchange ideas on how we can have a better impact on our audiences and – well, the whole earth – to sustain our importance and social need. 

For more information, here are some great resources: Principles for Sustainable Museums; Sustainability and Museums; and Museums, Environmental Sustainability, and Our Future.

Catching Up with Virginia’s Real Folk

On March 6, the museum opened a special exhibit called Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions Through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. Two weeks later the museum closed its doors in accordance with the state mandate in response to the COVID-19 situation. Sadly that has meant we haven’t been able to share this wonderful exhibit with very many on-the-spot visitors, but happily we are able to share some of it with our virtual visitors! The curatorial team is hard at work on pulling together a virtual tour of Real Folk (so watch this space!), but in the meantime, we wanted to give you the chance to learn a little bit about the exhibit and the apprenticeship program right now.

Since 2002, the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program has drawn from a wide range of communities and traditional folkways to pair more than 150 experienced master artists with dedicated apprentices for one-on-one, nine-month learning experiences, in order to help ensure that particular art forms are passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition. The master artists are selected from applicants in all forms of traditional, expressive culture in Virginia – from decoy carving to fiddle making, from boat building to quilt making, from country ham curing to old-time banjo playing, from African American gospel singing to Mexican folk dancing. These crafts and traditions come from the Appalachian hills to the Chesapeake shore to new immigrant traditions brought to the state  – and everywhere in between! The Folklife Apprenticeship Program helps to ensure that Virginia’s treasured folkways continue to receive new life and vibrancy, engage new learners, and reinvigorate master practitioners.

Out of these apprenticeship pairings, deep friendships and relationships have grown as the master artists pass on their knowledge, skills, and passion for the various crafts and traditions, along with the history and cultural importance that attaches to each. For instance, Sharon Tindall, who worked with gifted quilter Nancy Chilton in 2014, specializes in early African American quilt patters and in working with fabrics that aren’t typically used in quilting, such as Malian mud cloth. She is also a quilt historian and has conducted substantial research in support of the theory that African American quilts contained coded messages that were integral to the success of the Underground Railroad.

Close up of Sharon Tindall's hand holding a bright red pin cushion, filled with yellow head pins, over a red and white cloth.
Sharon Tindall holds a pin cushion above some brightly colored cloth. © Virginia Folklife Program; photographer: Pat Jarrett

Several apprenticeships have focused on music, from music making to instrument building to the related art of dance. The variety of traditions on display within this realm is astounding, including African American gospel, Chickahominy dance, bluegrass fiddling, mandolin making, Sephardic ballad singing, steel drum making, and so much more. Because music is so central to the cultural heritage of southwest Virginia, numerous musicians, singers, and makers from this area have taken part in the program. Musician and luthier Gerald Anderson spent more than 30 years apprenticing in the shop of legendary instrument builder Wayne Henderson in Rugby, Virginia. Fellow musician Spencer Strickland recognized his mastery and skills, and asked if Gerald would take him on as an apprentice. Their time working together in 2005 turned into a deep friendship, musical partnership, and one of the longest running and most successful apprenticeships in the program’s history. Though barely out of his teens at the time, Spencer took to building instruments immediately, and the two soon opened their own shop in Gerald’s home in Troutdale. They also played and toured together as a duo and with the Virginia Luthiers. Gerald passed away unexpectedly in 2019, and Spencer has continued to build instruments and carry on Gerald’s memory.

Black-and-white image with a close up of two hands carving the body of a mandolin.
Working on a mandolin in Gerald Anderson’s workshop. © Virginia Folklife Program; photographer: Morgan Miller

Many of Virginia’s cultural traditions have been brought here by immigrant communities, and the state is all the richer from this. These immigrants have shared their heritage not only within their own communities, but also more widely through educational programs, touring and performances, the creation of larger cultural organizations, and partnerships with other groups. For instance, Nam Phuon Nguyen began playing the đàn bâu at 17, later touring throughout the United States with her family as the Nguyen Đinh Nghĩa Family and performing at prestigious concert halls and festivals. The đàn bâu – translated to mean “gourd lute” – is a monochord (one-stringed) instrument, which plays a central role in Vietnamese music. Guitarist Anh Dien Ky Nguyen met Nam Phuong while playing at a music club, and he asked her to teach him the đàn bâu, partnering with her in the apprenticeship program in 2011.

Nam Phuon Nguyen in a green dress stands beside a seated Anh Dien Ky Nguyen in a brown vest. He is playing the instrument while she instructs. The shelves behind them are full of knick knacks, bottles, and sculpture.
Nam Phuon Nguyen and Anh Dien Ky Nguyen work together on mastering the art of the đàn bâu. © Virginia Folklife Program; photographer: Pat Jarrett

These few images are just a taste of this fascinating and beautiful exhibit, and we hope that you will be able to visit it later in the year. In the meantime, you can engage with the exhibit in another way by listening in to Radio Bristol’s Toni Doman as she talks with Virginia Folklife photographer Pat Jarrett about his work with the apprenticeship program — check out Episode 60 on March 12, 2020 in the Mountain Song & Story archives here. And you can support the artists who are so important to Virginia’s cultural heritage by going to Virginia Folklife’s website and exploring TRAIN (Teachers of Remote Arts Instruction Network). Created in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on the livelihoods of artists, TRAIN connects interested students of all skill levels with a diverse range  of master musicians, craftspeople, and tradition bearers offering online instructional opportunities. Start your lessons today!

Finally, keep an eye on our website for a virtual tour of Real Folk coming soon!

Be a Part of the Birthplace of Country Music at Home!

We are living in extraordinary times right now, making many feel unsettled and anxious as we face a host of uncertainties. For me, music often acts as a balm to troubled thoughts and worries, and so while the museum is closed and we are all working to protect each other, we wanted to share a variety of ways that you can experience the Birthplace of Country Music at home by connecting with us through music, stories, activities, and history!

Radio Bristol

While our DJs aren’t able to come into the studio for live broadcasts, we are still sharing new segments of most of our Radio Bristol programs via the dial at 100.1FM, our smartphone app, and the website. Radio Bristol is the perfect place to get your music and history fix. We’ve got daily shows like Early Morning Americana and On the Sunny Side; shows focused on regional music such as Old Kentucky Bound, Appalachian Travels, and Born in the Mountain; shows that delve into different musical genres such as Grass Cuttin’ Time, Folk Yeah!, Transmissions Under the Wire, and Hillbilly Wonderland; shows that share deep dives into music history and Appalachian tales like Mountain Song and Story, Ozark Highlands Radio, and Sound Sessions from Smithsonian Folkways; Radio Bristol’s old-fashioned radio variety show Farm and Fun Time via the Farm and Fun Time Noon Show and Farm and Fun Time Weekly; and more. For a full list of Radio Bristol offerings, including archived shows, check out this link and start listening – you are sure to find your musical nirvana!

The official graphic for Bailey George's Honky Tonk Hit Parade shows an image of Bailey wearing cowboy-style shirt and hat.

Bailey George’s Honky Tonk Hit Parade is another genre-specific Radio Bristol show. © Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Listen While I Tell

The BCM blog – Listen While I Tell: From Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music & Beyond – is a great place to explore BCM’s work and content further. Sharing several posts each month, the blog brings you behind-the-scenes views into the work that we do each day at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, and Radio Bristol; content-driven stories related to early country music history; features on instruments and musicians; and explorations of the continuing music traditions in this region. For instance, you can check out our “Instrument Interviews” where different and sometimes famous instruments are asked 10 interview-style questions. Or perhaps you want to learn more about some of the artists who performed in Bristol in 1927. You can find out about our DJs’ favorite songs, albums, and musicians through “Pick 5” or “Off the Record,” or hear stories from our annual music festival. We also dig deep into our collections with our “From the Vault” posts, share insights into exhibit content and educational programming, and sometimes just look at some quirkier things. Check out the blog today – and feel free to let us know if there’s a topic you’d like to see us cover in the future!

The blog's landing page on the website has the title above, a featured post below, and then several links to recent posts underneath that.

The landing page for the Listen While I Tell blog. © Birthplace of Country Music
The BCM banjo coloring sheet includes information about the banjo's origins along with the picture for coloring in.

A BCM coloring sheet: the banjo. © Birthplace of Country Music

Museum Content

Obviously, the best way to engage with the museum’s content is to come through our doors and spend time in the permanent exhibits. However, when that’s not possible, we wanted to be sure that people had the chance to learn more about the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the history we celebrate – and so we have created a series of content-focused videos that share short introductions into aspects of that history, enough to whet your appetite for visiting us in the future! You can check these out on the BCM YouTube channel or as they are released onto our social media pages. We are also in the process of creating some virtual content related to our current special exhibit – Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions Through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program – which opened only two weeks before the museum closed due to COVID-19. We hope to have that ready that soon!

Educational and Fun Activities

Along with the content-focused videos, we’ve also started sharing educational and fun resources on our website. We have downloadable coloring sheets and activities, along with videos of a mini banjo-making craft and 78 record trivia. Check out this link to access these. And keep checking back as we hope to share more puzzles, coloring sheets, and other fun items in the future.

Radio Bristol Book Club

Each fourth Thursday of the month, four readers from the museum and the Bristol Public Library come together for a live on-air conversation about a book that ties into the museum’s content, regional and wider music heritage, and Appalachian culture and stories. Since the Radio Bristol Book Club started in 2019, we’ve read children’s and adult books, fiction and non-fiction, and all of the discussions have dug deep into the themes and questions raised in the books, the author’s style and voice, how it connects to our community or our own histories, and more. Each episode also includes related music, and we sometimes also get the chance to talk to the author! You can access several of our previous book club shows here, and we invite you to start reading with us and listen in to future shows, including Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam Jr. (April 23), Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument by Allen St. John (May 28), Halfway to the Sky by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (June 24), and Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock (July 23), to name just a few of the next book picks.

The four readers for the July 2019 book club are pictured around the Radio  Bristol studio mic; three readers are holding the book up.

July 2019’s book club read Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? about the Carter Family. © Birthplace of Country Music

On-Line Performances

As a music organization, we are able to share some wonderful performances via our YouTube channel. Over the past few years, we’ve uploaded a whole host of videos of artists and bands who have performed at the museum, on Radio Bristol, and at our festival and other venues. You can access these performances here. We are also sharing Quarantine Sessions – while Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion is still months away, festival artists are getting together to contribute music for these special performances. You can view the videos on our YouTube channel, and subscribe and share from there! And our downtown partner Believe in Bristol is also sharing Facebook Live performances from a variety of local and regional favorites via their Border Bash Social Distancing Series. These are just another way music is bringing us all together during this time of uncertainty. Don’t forget to support these hardworking and talented artists by buying their CDs and merchandise online.

A close-up of Davina playing the keyboards, dressed all in black and with a hat. The band's trombonist is seen in the background.

Davina and the Vagabonds on the museum’s Performance Theater stage during Farm and Fun Time. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

Social Media

Be sure to connect with us on social media for daily content from all three branches of the organization – the museum, festival, and radio station are all active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All of our platforms are great places to learn about “this day in country music,” the legacy of Bristol Sessions and related musicians, early links to many of our other online resources, and more.

A close-up of one of the Smithsonian garden displays where the plants have been chosen and arranged to look like an under-sea coral reef, including metal fish sculptures.

One of the many Smithsonian gardens along the National Mall in Washington, DC. Image by René Rodgers

Smithsonian Resources

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate, and as such, we want to honor that connection by sharing just a few of the free digital resources that are available through the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Learning Lab has a whole host of distance learning opportunities. Our personal favorite is their Smithsonian Learning Activities Choice Board, which provides several fun and educational activities related to science, social studies, culture, and the arts. There is a new issue released each week – check out Issue 3 to find one of our contributions, a songwriting mad lib, in the culture section! Another great resource is the National Museum of American History’s O Say Can You See blog, filled with great reads about American history and the amazing items and stories found in the Smithsonian collections. The Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, has created several “collections” via the Learning Lab that explore history, art, life, and culture through the African American lens. And while you’re stuck at home, it’s a great chance to grow your very own flowers and vegetables – Smithsonian Gardens has some classroom resources that can help.

Thank You!

Not being open to visitors is a strange experience for us – we miss welcoming the public through our doors to explore the museum’s exhibits, participate in our public programs, enjoy live performances, and more. While we are closed, we are committed to sharing great online content with you, a little respite from the day-to-day uncertainties. We hope that it brings a smile to your face and that you learn something new – if so, please share with your friends and networks and give us a “like.” That will give US a smile! And in the meantime, thank you for being an important part of the Birthplace of Country Music community.

A special thanks to the many museums out there creating amazing digital content while their doors are closed, especially the Field Museum whose “Experience the Field at Home” inspired this blog post.

The Farm and Fun Are Never Far from Radio Bristol!

Since its inception in April 2016, Farm and Fun Time has become the flagship show of the Radio Bristol programming lineup. Featuring the finest in contemporary roots music artists and segments that highlight Appalachian food and farming, Farm and Fun Time sells out weeks in advance of the performance date. This level of success and popularity hasn’t gone without recognition, and on April 4, Farm and Fun Time debuted as an hour-long television show on Blue Ridge PBS. Unfortunately, with the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the need for social distancing, our before-a-live-audience installment of April’s Farm and Fun Time has been postponed until November 2020, when Nora Brown and Merle Monroe will be joining us for a wonderful evening of music.

We hope that we can get back to bringing our monthly audience the finest in live roots music programming as soon as we can, but until then, did you know that you can get your Farm and Fun Time fix more regularly? If you hadn’t already heard, The Farm and Fun Time Noon Show, a weekly extension of our monthly Farm and Fun Time show, brings you high energy, heartfelt bluegrass music direct from downtown Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia every Friday!

Debuting in early 2017, The Farm and Fun Time Noon Show hearkens back to the early days of country radio, when radio was king and bands performed while selling everything from miracle cures to farm equipment and more to audiences crowded around radios in the early morning and at lunch time. Both Farm and Fun Time and The Farm and Fun Time Noon Show take their names from a program that debuted on Bristol’s WCYB on December 26, 1946. WCYB’s Farm and Fun Time would broadcast the early sounds of bluegrass music into the homes of millions across a five-state region. Bands including The Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, The Sauceman Brothers, and countless others used this platform to begin their rise to now-legendary status. While Bristol is known as “the birthplace of country music,” it is perhaps just as appropriate to call it “the cradle of bluegrass music.” The future is made by those who stand on the shoulders of giants, and it is a great honor for everyone involved with Farm and Fun Time today to continue the legacy of this legendary program.

A black-and-white image of six male musicians, all wearing white shirts, ties, and hats, and holding their instruments.

Beginning in early 1951 to 1952, The Sauceman Brothers – seen here as part of the Green Valley Boys – performed on WCYB’s Farm and Fun Time. Left to right, standing: Curley Seckler, Carl Sauceman, J. P. Sauceman, and Larry Richardson; sitting: Joe Stuart and Arville Freeman. Image courtesy of Nathan Sykes

The Farm and Fun Time Noon Show was initially hosted by The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys. Though they were beginning to tour more extensively around the time they began working with Radio Bristol, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys were primarily based in the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee area playing at Old Smokey Distillery. Since that time, they have signed with Rounder Records, and their release Toil, Tears, and Trouble was nominated for a Grammy in 2020. With a more rigorous touring schedule, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys left fond Farm and Fun Time memories behind, and The Kody Norris Show took over the spot of host band for The Farm and Fun Time Noon Show. Based in nearby Mountain City, Tennessee, The Kody Norris Show combines the high energy stylings of classic bluegrass music and a level of showmanship that is uncommon in today’s musical landscape. Even with their own busy touring schedule, The Kody Norris Show still manages to pull into Bristol by noon on most Fridays to entertain their radio neighbors far and wide for 30 minutes at noon. Often working on radio as a trio, the band provides a full spectrum of country music sounds, ranging from bluegrass classics to old-time ballads to sacred songs for our sick and shut-in friends, that are sure to please even the most discerning roots music fans.

The Po Ramblin' Boys, all wearing suits and hats, gather and play around the mic on stage in the museum's Performance Theater.

Grammy-nominated, Rounder Records recording artists The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys were the first host band of The Farm and Fun Time Noon Show. They are seen here playing on the museum’s Performance Theater stage. © Birthplace of Country Music

With the current situation surrounding COVID-19, many venues are cancelling events several months in advance and people are staying at home as much as possible. The Kody Norris Show can’t make it into the Radio Bristol studio right now, but they’re making the best of their time at home! For the past two weeks, The Kody Norris Show has performed via Facebook Live for countless fans across the globe directly from their kitchen in Mountain City. We are thankful that during these trying times we have such a hardworking group as part of our team, musicians who are willing to go above and beyond to keep bringing our Radio Bristol community entertainment they won’t find anywhere else.

Three members of The Kody Norris Show around a mic in their kitchen, ready to record from home.

The Kody Norris Show ready to entertain listeners directly from the kitchen. The show must go on! Image courtesy of The Kody Norris Show

And so if you’re itching for some live music while social distancing, stay tuned! You never know what we have up our sleeve! During these uncertain times, all of the Radio Bristol team is pulling together to keep bringing you the best roots music programming, producing shows at home and spreading awareness for the artists who are feeling the harshest effects of the closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Follow our lead and do your part to sustain roots music artists during these dark days by listening in, going to their websites and social media pages to show your support, and purchasing merchandise where you can. We love our Radio Bristol community, and we can’t wait to see you all in person again soon!

You can catch The Farm and Fun Time Noon Show on Fridays via 100.1FM, the Radio Bristol app, or through the website.