What Comprises the Birthplace of Country Music
The Birthplace of Country Music is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to perpetuate, promote, and celebrate Bristol’s rich musical heritage; to educate and engage audiences worldwide regarding the history, impact and legacy of the 1927 Bristol Sessions from which we derive our name; and to create recognition, opportunities, and economic benefit for our local and regional communities. BCM accomplishes this mission through its three primary branches (Museum, Festival, and Radio), special projects and events, and a multitude of community and educational outreach programs. A brief description of the three primary entities follows:
Birthplace of Country Music Museum
The 1927 Bristol Sessions featured Ernest Stoneman, performing in a variety of configurations made up of family and friends. Stoneman had been recording hillbilly songs since 1924 with great success and acted as Peer’s talent scout, recommending Bristol to him as a good base for finding the music he wanted to record. These sessions also included the first recordings of both Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. Jimmy Rodgers, exalted as the “Father of Country Music,” was the first person inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Carter Family, featuring A. P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter, the esteemed “First Family of Country Music,” is also honored in the Hall of Fame. All three of these acts have had immeasurable influence on the country musicians who followed them—and beyond.
The 1927 Bristol Sessions not only initiated and sustained the careers of these superstar performers, they brought country music into the mainstream by sparking the broad commercialization of country music. Many of the songs and stylings of those sessions still resonate and influence the music of today. For these reasons, in 1998 the United States Congress officially designated Bristol TN-VA as the “Birthplace of Country Music.”
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
The annual music Festival began in 2001 and has been a part of BCM since December, 2012. A 2015 Economic Impact Study showed that visitors to the Festival from outside the region had a $16.1 million impact on the region. The Festival generally hosts over 130 bands on 20 stages in downtown Bristol during the third weekend in September. Attendance has grown to approximately 45,000. Among its many accolades the Festival has been named as one of Rolling Stone’s “Top 20 Tours and Festivals”, and has won a Grand Pinnacle Award from the International Festival and Events Association.
The station went live broadcasting from the Museum on August 27, 2015. Radio Bristol features a low power FM channel, three channels streaming different but related genres of music, and one channel streaming video. Streaming stations can be accessed online or using the Radio Bristol App on mobile devices. Radio Bristol is garnering attention from radio, cultural, and business organizations for its unique and innovative approach to history, music, and media. The station has listeners throughout the United States and in more than 140 countries.
Independently, each of these branches strives for excellence in bringing the arts to wide audiences. Together, the entities interact synergistically through collaboration, mutual support, and the ability to bring innovative thinking to important arts programming. The result is fulfillment of the BCM Mission and progress toward its Vision.
The Birthplace of Country Music seeks to perpetuate, promote, and celebrate Bristol’s rich musical heritage; to educate and engage audiences worldwide regarding the history, impact and legacy of the 1927 Bristol Sessions; and to create recognition, opportunities, and economic benefit for our local and regional communities.
The Museum, Festival and Radio entities that comprise the Birthplace of Country Music organization are all successful, respected, popular, and acclaimed, and are having a significantly positive impact on Bristol and its surrounding region—both economically and in creating recognition of Bristol’s place in the history of music.