February 2024 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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From the Vault: Posters

By Julia Underkoffler, Collection Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Come see our special exhibit, Cardboard History of Blue Ridge Music open until July 21, 2024!

Poster advertising has been used as a marketing tool since the late 1800s. Companies and businesses would advertise anything from places to shop, war propaganda and music events. Since these posters were often made of paper and glued to an outside surface, like a telephone pole or outside of a business storefront, many early posters ads did not survive and are often highly sought after by many collectors. 

Letterpress is one of the most recognizable forms of concert posters in Country music styles. Letterpress printing is a technique, which has been used for centuries, of printing multiple copies of the same design by inking a raised surface and stamping it on a piece of paper. Similar to a stamp, the letters and designs are replaceable. The design is held together with a frame and is placed opposite of how the poster will be hung. To learn and make your own letterpress poster sign up for a Letterpress workshop with BCM and King University on March 16, 2024. 

Learn more about letterpress locally at the Burke Print Shop at the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts in Marion, Virginia.

Photo by Julia Underkoffler. On loan from the Tom Murphy Collection, a part of Cardboard History of the Blue Ridge.

The company that would later become Hatch Show Print was founded in 1875 and became infamous in the country music industry for their work with the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry starting in the mid-1920s.  You can join us for a Speaker Session on April 9, 2024 with guest Celene Aubry from Hatch Show Print to learn more! 

Today, however, many posters are produced digitally. There is still a deep nostalgia for letterpress posters. 

Fifth Annual Fiddlers Convention

Donated to BCMM in 2017, this poster advertises the fifth annual Fiddlers Convention and North Carolina State Championship held at Cool Springs School in Statesville, North Carolina on November 19, 1966. Dwight Barker, a radio and TV personality, was the M.C. for the convention. There were cash prizes for the top three best bands, best banjo players, and most promising talent, as well as trophies to the state champions. 

Photo by Ashli Linkous. Donated in honor of all the musicians that participated.

Roy Acuff for Governor Poster

Donated at the request of the late William Wampler in 2016. The poster was produced for Acuff’s Tennessee Governor campaign in 1948, when he accepted the Republican nomination. Although he did not win the Governorship these posters survived and reproduction prints are still being sold by Hatch Show Print. The copy in our collection was signed by Acuff on August 26, 1972. 

Photo by Ashli Linkous. Roy Acuff poster donated at the request of the late William Wampler.

Mountain Stage/BCMA

A signed poster from a partnered show between Mountain Stage, a live radio program in West Virginia, and the former Birthplace of Country Music Alliance (BCMA) organization. In 2013 BCMA and Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion merged to create the Birthplace of Country Music Inc. organization. This event was on August 21, 2011 and included Jim Lauderdale, John Lilly, Red Molly, The David Mayfield Parade, Vince Gill, and hosted by Larry Groce. 

Photo by Ashli Linkous. From the Birthplace of Country Music’s Institutional Archives

Orthophonic Joy

Orthophonic Joy is a collection of reimagined recordings of the original 1927 Bristol Sessions songs. This album was produced by Carl Jackson, a Grammy award winner and used as a benefit for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. The album includes Emmylou Harris singing “Bury Me Beneath the Willow”, Dolly Parton singing “When They Ring Those Golden Bells”, Sheryl Crow singing “The Wandering Boy,” and Brad Paisley and Carl Jackson singing “In the Pines.” This CD can be purchased in the museum store

Learn more about the making of Orthophonic Joy here.

Photo by Ashli Linkous. From the Birthplace of Country Music’s Institutional Archives.

Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival Posters

Starting in 2001 the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion festival (BRRR) was created to celebrate the rich musical heritage that was popularized by the 1927 Bristol sessions. Occurring on the second weekend in September every year, BRRR has seen countless legendary musicians on the lineup, like The Del McCoury Band, Little Jimmie Dickens, Jim Lauderdale, who made his first appearance in 2004, and Marty Stuart just to name a few. Each year the organization gets a different artist to create and design the festival poster. Over the last 20 plus years we’ve had artists including Willard Gayheart, Charles Vess, and Leigh Ann Agee and many more. Only so many of these posters are printed every year and once they are gone, they are gone! Below are some of my personal favorites. 

2001 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Poster

The first year highlights the train station which helped many artists get to Bristol in 1927 to record with Ralph Peer and make Bristol what it is today!

Photo by Julia Underkoffler. From the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Institutional Archives

2005 Bristol Rhythm and Roots Poster

I love all of the artists that were included in this poster. It is a great way of showing the impact Bristol has had to music.

Photo by Julia Underkoffler. From the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Institutional Archives

2006 Bristol Rhythm and Roots Poster

This poster was designed by Charles Vess. I absolutely love how the colors complement each other and the tree roots making a treble clef.  

Photo by Julia Underkoffler. From the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Institutional Archives.

2021 Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Poster

This will always be one of my favorite BRRR posters because it was my first BRRR. 

10th and 20th Anniversary Posters

These are two special posters we came out with for the 20th anniversary. This is a great way to display all of the first 20 years of festival posters.

Photos by Julia Underkoffler. From the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Institutional Archives.

Several years of Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion posters are still available for purchase at the museum store. 

What makes an instrument iconic? The Story of Duane Allman’s 1961

Bob Beatty, Ph.D., is an author, historian, and principle of the Lyndhurst Group.

I’m a lifelong fan of the Allman Brothers Band and Duane Allman. In addition to my publications—Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East (2022) and Long Live the ABB: Conversations from the Crossroads of Southern Music, History, and Culture — I’m also a museum professional. 

One thing I’ve long found fascinating is why certain artifacts instill such reverence. Nowhere is this more true than in music history circles. 

In recognition of National Guitar Day on this February 11th, this is the story of Duane Allman’s 1961 Gibson Les Paul.

Some Background

Guitarist Duane Allman founded the Allman Brothers Band (ABB) in March 1969. Based in Macon, Georgia, the ABB are the first group to emerge from the South in the rock era. From Macon, the band toured relentlessly, spending 300 days a year on the road and building a devoted audience. 

The ABB had a unique lineup that included two drummers—Jaimoe and Butch Trucks—and two lead guitar players—Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. Bassist Berry Oakley and Duane’s brother Gregg Allman (organ/vocals) rounded out the group. 

The band recorded their third album live on the biggest stage in rock. At Fillmore East a one-take album with no overdubs. The record hit gold (500,000 sales) within 3 months. Days after learning the news, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon. His bandmates responded by finishing Eat a Peach, which they were working on when Duane died. 

Duane played four main guitars in his Allman Brothers Band tenure. This is the story of one of them. 

The Guitar 

This 1961 Gibson Les Paul (SG)1 is one of the more significant in Allman Brothers history because it is the only guitar that I know of that both Duane and his guitar partner Dickey Betts played on a regular basis. Dickey throughout 1970, Duane in 1971.2

1961 Gibson Les Paul/SG on display at Songbirds Museum in Chattanooga, TN. Courtesy of of Bob Beatty/Long Live the ABB.

Lipham’s Music January/February 1970

Betts bought the guitar in 1970 from the place every road musician in Florida shopped: Lipham’s Music in Gainesville. Just one year earlier, Buster Lipham had advanced the band more than $10,000 in equipment, which they were paying back in weekly installments of several hundred dollars each.3

Duane’s SG was part of a separate transaction altogether, Chuck Emery of the Royal Guardsmen explained. “On a trip to [Lipham’s] in early ’70 a beautiful SG caught my eye. I came to a deal; and the sales guy put the guitar [aside] until my return the next week. The following Monday the sales guy said, ‘Uh, Duane and them came in…played the SG, and uh, well, they bought it.’”4

Dickey Betts and the SG Spring 1970

The SG became Dickey’s main stage guitar throughout 1970. It originally had a sideways Vibrola tremolo which he later swapped out for a stop bar tailpiece (see photos below):

The Allman Brothers Band at Florida Presbyterian (now Eckerd College) St. Petersburg, Florida, April 18, 1970. Photo from Logos, Florida Presbyterian College, 1970, courtesy of the Eckerd College Archives, St. Petersburg, Florida.
Dickey Betts onstage at the Atlanta Pop Festival July 3, 1970. Notice the difference between this photo and the one above. Courtesy of Dennis Eavenson.


The guitar is identifiable by its three “snakebites”—screw holes where the original tailpiece was. 

Detail of “snakebites” on Duane Allman’s SG, on display at Songbirds Museum. Courtesy of Bob Beatty/Long Live the ABB

From Dickey to Duane Spring 1971

The guitar ended up in Duane’s hands in 1971. Because he preferred to play slide in open-E tuning, Duane regularly had to retune his guitar. It not only slowed down pacing, it also bored Dickey Betts.5

“When Duane wanted to play slide he would have to retune his one [damn] guitar every time. I got tired of it and said, ‘Here, take this guitar and tune it, and leave it tuned!’” 

Though it’s unclear whether Duane played the guitar on At Fillmore East, he definitely played in on “One Way Out” from Eat a Peach—recorded the closing night of Fillmore East, June 27, 1971 (photo below)

Duane Allman from the Fillmore East stage, June 27, 1971. Image credit, Don Paulson

When Duane died in a motorcycle accident October 29, 1971, the original intention was to bury the guitar with him. This didn’t happen. Gregg played it through 1972 before giving it to Gerry Groom, a protégée of Duane’s. Groom later sold it to Graham Nash. 

Duane’s other Allman Brothers Band Guitars 

The SG is one of four Les Pauls Duane played in his Allman Brothers Band career. Three of them, a 1957 goldtop he used through September 1970, a 1959 cherry burst, and a 195(?)6 tobacco burst. A private collector owns the goldtop and it’s often on display at the Big House Museum in Macon. Duane’s daughter Galadrielle owns the other two, which she’s loaned out for exhibition from time to time, most recently the Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution.

In 2011, Gibson reissued the guitar, dubbed “From One Brother to Another.” Duane’s daughter gave Artist’s Proof #4 to Derek Trucks, who played in the Allman Brothers Band from 1999-2014. It’s been Derek’s main stage guitar for more than a decade now. 

Duane’s SG Today

The SG stayed out of the public eye for many years. The first I remember it appearing was a 2013 exhibit called Guitars! Roundups to Rockers at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis. In 2019, Nash made the guitar available for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Play It Loud exhibition. He sold the guitar to a private collector who has it on loan to the Songbirds Museum in Chattanooga. Yours truly wrote the label copy. 

Derek Trucks and his SG. Note the snakebite holes. Image credit Amy Harris.


Though it’s a misnomer to call Duane Allman’s cherry 1961 Gibson Les Paul an SG (that name, short for “Solid Guitar,” arrived in 1963), pretty much everyone calls it an SG. I follow that convention here. 2 Dickey Betts also played the SG in some of the too-rare video footage of the Duane-era Allman Brothers Band, including at Bill Graham’s famed Fillmore East in September 1970. 3 Bob Beatty, Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2022), 120. 4 I love Emery’s conclusion, “I was [exploitive] at Duane and them for quite a while, even after I learned about the Allmans.” Ground Guitar, “Duane Allman’s 1961 Gibson SG / Les Paul,” accessed October 31, 2023. 5 Open E is tuned to the E chord on a guitar–EBEG#Be. Standard tuning is EAGBDe. 6 See Ground Guitar, “Duane Allman’s 1961 Gibson SG / Les Paul.”

Bob Beatty is a historian who writes Long Live the ABB: Conversation from the Crossroads of Southern Music, History, and Culture . His latest book, Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East (University Press of Florida 2022), is a musical biography of the Allman Brothers Band. 

Author Bob Beatty. Image credit Tyler Beatty.

Ten Years and Ten Things: The Birthplace of Country Music Museum

By Dr. René Rodgers

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum opened its doors to the public on August 1, 2014 with a weekend of music, history and culture, food, friends and family, and so many amazing visitors. Through the past several years, as we’ve seen changes and growth; hundreds of exhibits, outreach activities, and educational and public programs; and a pandemic, we are proud and excited to be celebrating our 10th anniversary! We’ll be sharing stories, images, and videos to mark this milestone throughout the year, but today we wanted to share ten things you might not know about the Birthplace of Country Music Museum:

1. Archaeology in a Country Music Museum?

The museum is in a historic building from the 1920s, formerly a Chrysler distributorship owned by Frank Goodpasture Sr. The building was later used for entertainments like sporting matches, musical concerts, and dances, and it also once housed a cab company, barbershop, shoe store, and newsstand. All of these different uses meant that when the building was being renovated to become the museum, the construction crew found lots of archaeological curiosities from the building’s previous lives – from an intact Edison lightbulb (now hanging in the porch area of our permanent exhibits) to pieces of china to an empty bottle of Dr. H. S. Thacher’s Cough and Croup Syrup!

Several of the archaeological finds from the museum’s renovation: a glass inkwell, patent medicine bottle, and china handle. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Ashli Linkous

2. Local Voices

Creating a museum is a big job, and creating the content and exhibits is turned over to a company who does that work for a living. At the early planning stages, that was the intent, but it soon became apparent that we had numerous local scholars, experts, and musicians on our doorstep who had the expertise to do this work. And so a local content team was pulled together – led by ethnomusicologist Dr. Jessica Turner, the team included scholars and musicians from East Tennessee State University (Roy Andrade, Dr. Lee Bidgood, Amythyst Kiah, and Dr. Ted Olson) and King University (Ryan Bernard); former Birthplace of Country Music Alliance director Bill Hartley; and researcher/writer/editor Dr. René Rodgers (me!) and Sarah Tollie. Over the course of two years, this team met regularly – along with the museum’s architects Peyton Boyd and Michael Haslam, the exhibit design team at studioMUSarx, and Hillmann & Carr, the media producers – to discuss the textual panels, images and objects, and audio-visual elements that would fill the permanent exhibit space with engaging content. This decision to stick with local community members to tell the important history of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and our regional music heritage has resulted in a museum where these stories are explored with passion, deep knowledge, and personal connection, making the museum experience that much richer to our visitors.

3. Wax People

Lots of museums have dioramas with taxidermy animals or scenes/exhibits with wax museum figures. And early in the content development process, we considered two such scenes – one of The Carter Family recording in the makeshift studio on State Street and one of a producer or DJ and a band in a radio station. These wax figures can be wonderfully realistic but sometimes also just a little bit creepy – akin to dolls and all of the associated weirdness we feel with them! In the end, the cost of the wax people was out of our budget, but most importantly, after discussion and ambitious speculation, we decided to figure out how to turn what was meant to be a simple radio station exhibit into an ACTUAL live, working radio station – and Radio Bristol was born!

Radio Producer Kris Truelsen, NOT a wax person. © Birthplace of Country Music

4. Twinkle in the Eye

As we began thinking about this 10th anniversary, we started digging into our institutional archives to stir up some memories – and we found a treasure trove of stuff! One of the coolest was a stash of blueprints from past iterations of the museum design before we got to the museum we know and love today. Some things stayed pretty similar across designs, but there were also some surprises. For instance, one plan showed a second exterior marquee-style sign above the Moore Street side door bearing the words “Playing Tonight: Bill Hartley,” which would have been a great addition! Another plan illustrated a different configuration for the first-floor theater, one where there were 11 rows of seats in front of the stage in a typical theater configuration. This layout would have given the room around the same number of seats that we have today, but our current configuration is much more intimate and engaging for audiences. Finally, the biggest surprise was a plan for a third floor to be built onto the original two-story building – this space would have included offices and other administrative areas, but it was ultimately nixed as this type of construction is not allowed on buildings where historic tax credits are used to help fund the work.

The blueprint with the marquee-style sign. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Ashli Linkous

5. Hip Hip Hooray!

Early in the museum’s life, we were excited to be recognized by peers and scholars in the museum and history fields. For instance, in 2015 the museum won the Past Presidents’ Award of Excellence from the Tennessee Association of Museums; that same year, the poster design for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s grand opening won in the American Alliance of Museum’s Publications Design Competition. In 2016 we were honored with an American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award.

The poster from the museum’s grand opening in August 2014 is reminiscent of Hatch Show Print designs. © Birthplace of Country Music; designed and letterpress printed by Hound Dog Press

6. Ghostly Moments?

Any historic building can be spooky at night when the lights are low and you might be the only one in a particular space – there are mysterious creaks and pops, dark corners, old photographs and objects, and often overactive imaginations at play. The display case dedicated to the story of Bristol’s own hometown musical hero, Tennessee Ernie Ford, frequently helped to put chills down our spines when an 8-track tape would regularly fall over with no real explanation as to why. Its mount had been built specifically for its dimensions, the mount’s attachment wasn’t loose on the back of the case, the case was sturdy and not easily moveable… Was the ghost of Ernie Ford communicating with us? Was it the ghost of a music geek who was sharing their contempt for the oft-maligned 8-track format? We’ll never know!

The Tennessee Ernie Ford case with the haunted 8-track in question! © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Ashli Linkous

7. Family Connections

Georgia Warren cuts the ribbon at the museum’s Grand Opening; Roni Stoneman can be seen behind her. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Angela Freese

One of the biggest pleasures of working at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum has been the connections we have made with family members of the 1927 Bristol Sessions artists. Over the years, these relationships have helped us to tell the stories of these musicians in more detail and with more interest; they’ve shared objects and photographs with us that have enhanced our exhibits; and we’ve enjoyed spending time with them and seeing their own joy of their relatives being recognized and celebrated in the museum. At the museum’s grand opening, Georgia Warren, the last surviving member of the artists who recorded at the 1927 Bristol Sessions, and Roni Stoneman, daughter of Ernest Stoneman, participated in the ribbon cutting. Two branches of Alfred Karnes’ family connected through the museum’s Green Board, and then later held reunions at the museum. Charles McReynolds’ grandson, Jesse McReynolds, played his fiddle on Radio Bristol’s original Farm and Fun Time show. Blind Alfred Reed’s grandson brought his fiddle to the 90th anniversary of the Sessions where it was admired by Ralph Peer II, Ralph Peer’s son. The family of Jimmie Rodgers loaned us his Blue Yodel guitar in 2023, recently extending that loan through 2027 and the Bristol Sessions’ 100th anniversary! We hope these connections and relationships continue to grow, and that family members always hold the museum and the story we tell in their hearts.

8. Design Details

When designing the museum’s exhibits, the studioMUSarx team and their partners did an amazing job creating engaging displays and panels. But what’s even cooler are some of the hidden design details that can be found throughout the museum. For instance, different tonewoods were used in the downstairs theater – for those who don’t know, tonewoods are different types of wood that are used for acoustic string instruments due to their tonal qualities. Similarly, the floor of The Museum Store is made of curly maple, a wood often used when crafting guitars. Another great design detail can be seen on the reader rail in front of the radio station booth where the material used to cover speakers has been used behind the cut-outs on the rail. There are many more of these wonderful details to be found in the museum – but you’ll have to wait for a blog on another day to learn about them all!

The speaker material on the reader rail in front of the radio station is a nice design touch. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Ashli Linkous

9. Ramped Up!

Being a historic building, there were several elements of the original construction that we had to keep in place. One of the coolest is truly behind the scenes so not experienced by our visitors, but always appreciated by staff. In the loading bay of the museum, you can see the very top of the original ramp that led from the Goodpasture building’s first floor to its second. This was the ramp that the distributorship’s workers would have used to drive cars up to the second-floor showroom. The museum’s architect and contractors were allowed to take out the majority of this ramp during the renovation, but the top of it was kept in order to preserve the physical connection to the building’s history.

The acoustic tiles in the performance theater are both functional and striking. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Haley Hensley

10. Acoustic Engineering

As a music museum, each room is filled with music, which requires sophisticated acoustic engineering solutions – for instance, overhead acoustic panels that direct sound downward to minimize its bleed into other areas of the space (I think of these as “sound umbrellas”!). But because it is a museum, those solutions also needed to be integrated in innovative ways into the exhibits and different spaces. In the downstairs theater, some of the speakers are hidden behind patterned acoustic tiles, while the upstairs theater has acoustic fabric on the walls to help deliver the film’s sound. Sound drivers were originally attached to the backs of the acrylic panels of the foyer sculpture, turning this piece of art into a giant speaker. Similarly, sound drivers/speakers have been placed under the pews in the chapel theater space so that when you sit in there to watch the film, you can actually “feel” the music! Steve Haas, the museum’s acoustical engineer, even created a creative acoustic activity for our educational programs – a sound driver and amplifier that we often use to show how sound travels through different materials creating different levels and quality of sound.






Dr. René Rodgers is the Head Curator of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. She has been with the organization, first as a freelance writer/editor and later on the curatorial team, since 2012.