The Birthplace of Country Music is calling on musicians from the region and beyond to enter their version of the Tennessee Ernie Ford hit “16 Tons” in a music contest. The contest starts Tuesday, November 3 and ends Friday, December 4, 2015. The tune “16 Tons,” written by Merle Travis, is undeniably a part of American music history; its themes of economic hardship and hard work still permeate our daily lives. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version made the song famous and it has been covered by countless others including Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Big Bill Broonzy, and even the punk band This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb.
Now other musicians are being given the chance to add to that legacy by recording their own cover of “16 Tons.” This competition is part of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s programming to complement the special exhibit “Tennessee Ernie Ford: A Life on Stage,”, open through February 14, 2016. Artist(s) renditions of “16 Tons” can be a faithful rendering or drastically reimagined: what would it be like as a flamenco tune? A free jazz chart? A bubblegum pop song? Creativity is encouraged!
Submissions will be judged by a panel of Birthplace of Country Music Museum staff and members of the Paramount Chamber Players, as well as representatives from Tennessee Ernie Ford Enterprises. The cover versions will be judged on the quality of the performance as well as their musical creativity and originality. The winner will have the chance to perform their version of “16 Tons” at the exhibit’s closing concert, co-produced by the Paramount Chamber Players, on February 13, 2016 at the Paramount Center for the Arts. First-, second-, and third-place winners will receive a copy of River of No Return: Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Woman He Loved by Jeffrey Buckner Ford and a Birthplace of Country Music Museum mug. First- and second- place winners will also receive either five free passes to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum or a one-year individual museum membership.
To enter, artists must upload a video of their performance to YouTube and, using our online entry form, send us a link to the YouTube video. BCM does not provide accounts; the videos must be uploaded on an existing account, or an account the contestant creates for the contest. If the video is private or restricted, you must send a password or instructions to access the video in the entry form as well. Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. and the Paramount Center for the Arts will provide sound equipment for the February 13, 2016 performance, but the winners must provide their own backing musicians and vocalists, as needed. Winners must also arrange their own transportation to Bristol, TN/VA for the concert.