BCM News Archives - The Birthplace of Country Music
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August 2023 Newsletter

From live music to free, educational programming, check out the Birthplace of Country Music’s August 2023 newsletter to see what’s coming up at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, and WBCM Radio Bristol!

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Hazel Dickens Honored with Tribute Concert featuring Karen Collins July 7

BRISTOL, Tenn.-Va. (July 5, 2023) – Country singer-songwriter Karen Collins pays tribute to groundbreaking artist and Bluegrass Music Hall of Famer Hazel Dickens during a special performance at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Historic Downtown Bristol at 7 p.m. ET, July 7. Tickets are on sale now for $10.

“The program celebrates the life and legacy of the great Hazel Dickens as Collins performs some of Hazel’s best-loved songs,” said museum Head Curator Dr. Rene Rodgers. “Our Curatorial Specialist Toni Doman will also share stories of Hazel’s life within the context of our current special exhibit, I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music.”

Karen Collins grew up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia in a coal mining community and spent her youth listening to country music radio and singing in her church. The echoes of those early country sounds stand out in her singing and songwriting. A prolific performer, Collins is the lead singer of the honky tonk outfit The Backroads Band, performs with a Cajun group called Squeeze Bayou, and sings in the acoustic country quartet The Blue Moon Cowgirls. Collins is an award-winning songwriter and has won multiple Wammies (Washington Area Music Awards) as a bandleader.

Singer, songwriter, musician and social activist Hazel Dickens’ career in music spanned five decades, leaving behind a legacy of songs that drew attention to the struggles of coal miners and the hard-working people of her West Virginia home and the Appalachian region. Her music spoke of truth to power about black lung, equality for women, the labor movement, and poverty, drawing on the sounds of Baptist hymns, Appalachian ballads, and country harmonies by groups such as the Louvin Brothers. Her musical partnership with Alice Gerrard broke new ground for women, influencing many generations to come. A few of Hazel’s best-known compositions are “West Virginia, My Home,” “Hills of Home,” “They’ll Never Keep Us Down,” and “Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There.”

Dickens appeared in the Oscar-winning documentary Harlan County, USA, which centers on the struggle of the county’s miners union against scab workers, wage rights, and health conditions. She also contributed songs to the film’s soundtrack. Dickens also appeared in the films Matewan and Songcatcher. She received an International Bluegrass Music Association Merit Award in 1994 and became a National Heritage Fellow in 2001. Dickens passed away of complications due to pneumonia in 2011 at the age of 85.

Hazel Dickens is one of 50 women featured in the museum’s special exhibit I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music, on display now through Dec. 31. Ticketholders to the concert are invited to take a free, curator-led tour of the exhibit prior to the concert at 6:15 p.m.

For tickets and more information on the Hazel Dickens tribute concert featuring Karen Collins, visit the Events page at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org. For more information about the special exhibit, visit the website at WomenInOldTimeMusic.com.

2023 Bristol Sessions Super Raffle Kick-Off

BRISTOL, Tenn.-Va. (June 14, 2023) – The Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) has announced the launch of its fifth annual Bristol Sessions Super Raffle, the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. The raffle gives participants the chance to win more than $250,000 in cash and prizes. Each ticket gives the purchaser two chances to win.

“In the past we’ve had one ticket holder win twice with the same number,” said BCM Executive Director of Advancement Leah Ross. “It is our goal to keep educational programming at the museum low or no cost for the community, and proceeds from the raffle are essential in helping us achieve that.”

Big prizes include a 2024 Ford Mustang Ecoboost, a Toyota Tacoma SR 4 x 2, a Subaru CrossTrek, a Honda HRV and a vacation to Sandals resort, plus $69K in cash prizes – including one prize for $20K.

The Raffle drawing will take place 12  to 4 p.m. ET, Sept. 10, 2023 outside the Birthplace of Country Music Museum during the 22nd annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival. A winner will be drawn every five minutes during the four-hour event. The drawing will stream live on the Birthplace of Country Music YouTube and Facebook pages and broadcast live on WBCM Radio Bristol which can be accessed on the air at 100.1 FM in the Bristol area, online at ListenRadioBristol.org, and through the station’s free mobile app.

Winners do not have to be present at the drawing to win; winners will be notified via phone, text, or email, and listed on the Bristol Sessions Super Raffle website at BristolSessionsSuperRaffle.org.

Only 5,000 Bristol Sessions Super Raffle tickets will be sold at $100 per ticket. Each ticket has two raffle numbers, giving the ticket holder two chances to win per ticket. There is a “Buy 10, Get One Free” offer that gives the buyer a free ticket with the purchase of 10.  Participants must be 18 years of age or older.

BCM worked with local businesses to acquire prizes for the raffle including Abingdon Equipment Co., Bristol HondaFood CityFriendship Ford of Bristol, Gregory Isbell Jewelers, Hearth and Patio, Morrell Music, Mountain Sports LTD, Progressive Tractor, Salt of the EarthStateline MotorsportsToyota of BristolThe Travel Shop, and Wallace Subaru of Bristol.

Tickets may be purchased online at BristolSessionsSuperRaffle.org, at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, or from any BCM board member. Tickets for the Raffle go on sale today online at BristolSessionsSuperRaffle.com and at all sales locations. Ticket sales end automatically when 5,000 tickets are sold.

Bristol Sessions Super Raffle tickets will also be on sale at the following locations starting Monday, June 19:

  • Bristol Honda | 2130 Volunteer Pkwy., Bristol
  • Cranberry Lane | 623 State Street, Bristol
  • Salt of the Earth | 321 W. Main Street, Abingdon
  • Stateline Motorsports | 2115 W. State Street, Bristol
  • The Travel Shop | 339 W. Main Street, Abingdon
  • Toyota of Bristol | 3045 W. State Street, Bristol
  • Wallace Subaru of Bristol | 320 Volunteer Pkwy.

In the past, Bristol Sessions Super Raffle tickets have sold out prior to the festival, but if they are still available they will be sold at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion in the Artist Merchandise Tent at 416 State Street, at the museum, and online until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, 2023. Tickets will not be sold by other ticket sellers after 11:59 on September 9, 2023. A festival ticket is not required to attend the raffle drawing; however, raffle ticket purchasers may purchase a Sunday single-day festival pass at a discounted price that day from the museum.

For a complete list of rules, frequently asked questions, a list of all the prizes, and to purchase tickets, please visit BristolSessionsSuperRaffle.org.

Boy Named Banjo Set for 1927 Concert Series June 23

BRISTOL, Tenn.-Va. (June 6, 2023) – The Birthplace of Country Music presents the Nashville-based country fusion outfit Boy Named Banjo in concert at 6 p.m. ET, June 23. The performance is part of the quarterly 1927 Concert Series held in the performance theater at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Historic Downtown Bristol. Catering, an open bar, and a meet-and-greet with the band are included.
Known for killer live shows, Boy Named Banjo delivers a contemporary blend of Americana, bluegrass and folk-rock with both electric and acoustic instrumentation. Their critically-acclaimed major label debut EP “Circles,” released in 2021, set the band on a path that saw them performing at some of country music’s largest festivals including Dierks Bentley’s Seven Peaks, Country Jam, and CMA Fest. The band also supported Kip Moore on his Fire on Wheels Tour.

Boy Named Banjo has released several new songs of late, including “Whiskey Dreams,” “Heart in Motion,” and “Heart Attack,” which have been received well by fans and critics. The band made its debut at the Grand Ole Opry in March of this year.

The 1927 Society Concert Series is an intimate concert experience with some of the most hottest roots music artists performing today. Guests are asked to arrive at 6 p.m. ET to enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres and open bar (ages 21+ with valid ID) before the show, which begins at 7 p.m. The audience will have the opportunity to mingle with the band after the concert, and everything is included in the ticket price.

Tickets to the 1927 Concert Series performance by Boy Named Banjo are $100 and available now to the public for purchase online. For tickets and information about becoming a member of the 1927 Society so you may take advantage of exclusive pre-ticket sales, visit the Events page at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.

$52,000 in Awards Distributed to Support Folk Arts and Culture in Bristol Region

BRISTOL, Va.-Tenn. (May 31, 2023) – The Greater Bristol Folk Arts & Culture Team—a collective of local culture workers—is thrilled to announce the recipients of its grant and fellowship program to support folk arts and culture in the region, thanks to Central Appalachia Living Traditions (CALT), an initiative of Mid Atlantic Arts.

Representatives articulated a shared goal for this grant program: “To promote and support folk arts and culture in the greater Bristol community by providing targeted resources and support to area organizations, artists, and artist collectives with the goal of dramatically impacting the sustainability and awareness of traditional practice, cultural knowledge, and improving economic development and regional vitality.”

The team is distributing over $50,000 in direct rewards to four (4) Cultural Caretaker organizations and eight (8) Tradition Bearer Fellows, along with sharing a variety of professional development, performance, and cultural practice opportunities. Awardees will be featured at the Virginia Folklife Area at the Richmond Folk Festival (October 14 and 15, 2024), organized by the Virginia Folklife Program of Virginia Humanities. 

“We are excited for this opportunity to celebrate and support folk arts and culture in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee,” said Tyler Hughes, the grant program’s project manager. “We want these grant awards to have a ripple effect—helping the organizations to build capacity and the artists to develop their practice and skills, which in turn will directly and positively impact their communities.”

Cultural Caretaker grants of $5,000 each—focused on small-scale, limited capacity, and largely volunteer-run community organizations—have been awarded to the Appalachian African American Cultural Center (Pennington Gap, Va.), the Carter Family Fold (Scott Co., Va.), Exchange Place (Kingsport, Tenn.), and Mount Pleasant Preservation Society (Smyth Co., Va.).

Tradition Bearer Fellowship awards of $4,000 each have been allocated to broom maker John Ingles Alexander (Grayson Co., Va.), luthier Jackson Cunningham (Grayson Co., Va.), clothing maker Stephen Curd (Washington Co., Va.), musician Pierceton Hobbs (Dickenson Co., Va.), dulcimer player Roxanne McDaniel (Washington Co., Tenn.), photographer Anna Mullins (Dickenson Co., Va.), broom maker Erin Simons (Wythe Co., Va.), and luthier K. T. VanDyke (Bristol, Va.).

For more information visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org/museum/special-projects/ or email BristolAnchorCommunity@gmail.com.

May 2023 Newsletter

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CLICK HERE to read our May 2023 Newsletter online.

Birthplace of Country Music Museum Among USA Today’s 10Best

Bristol, Va.-Tenn. (Feb. 27, 2023) – The Birthplace of Country Music Museum (BCMM) in Historic Downtown Bristol, Va.-Tenn., is now listed among the top 10 music museums in the country, according to USA Today. BCMM is the only institution in the world dedicated to telling the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, the legendary recordings that created the “big bang of country music.”

“This museum showcases the roles Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia played in the development of country music,” USA Today wrote. “The Smithsonian affiliate traces this musical history back to the 1927 Bristol Sessions recording – an event that helped shape the sound of commercial country music.”

BCMM ranked #6 in USA Today’s annual 10Best Music Museums readers poll just behind Detroit’s Motown Museum and Nashville’s Johnny Cash Museum, which came in at #1. Four of the top 10 museums are in Tennessee.

This is not the first time BCMM has been recognized by USA Today, the museum ranked among the top 5 in the 10Best Best Pop Culture Museums for the past two years, reaching #1 in 2021. BCMM has achieved dozens of awards over the years, including national and international recognition, which included the Best of the Best from the American Bus Association, the coveted Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History, and the Highly Commended Award from the British Guild of Travel Writers.

Here are the final results for USA Today’s 10Best Music Museums in 2023:
1. Johnny Cash Museum – Nashville, TN
2. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, OH
3. GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live – Los Angeles, CA
4. The Museum at Bethel Woods – Bethel, NY
5. Motown Museum – Detroit, MI
6. Birthplace of Country Music Museum – Bristol, VA-TN
7. GRAMMY Museum Mississippi – Cleveland, MS
8. Patsy Cline Museum – Nashville, TN
9. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – Nashville, TN
10. B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center – Indianola, MS

For more information about the museum and the Birthplace of Country Music, visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.

New Opportunities for Traditional Arts in Bristol & Beyond

Bristol, Va.-Tenn. (Feb. 24, 2023) – A collective of local culture workers spearheaded by the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is thrilled to announce new opportunities for folk and traditional artists and new support for cultural traditions in the greater Bristol region (Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee) thanks to Central Appalachia Living Traditions (CALT), an initiative of Mid Atlantic Arts.

Central Appalachia Living Traditions promotes the understanding and recognition of folk arts and culture in the Appalachian counties of Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia through a three-part program that invests in folk arts communities while seeding new folk and traditional arts experiences and honoring under-recognized practitioners of traditions across the region. 

In 2021, Bristol was identified as the CALT anchor community for Virginia, and in 2022 Mid Atlantic Arts worked with the Birthplace of Country Music Museum to invite 13 independent artists and representatives from cultural organizations to collaboratively design a $75,000 investment to support folk arts and culture in the region. 

The members of the Greater Bristol Folk Arts & Culture Team include Arts Alliance Mountain Empire, Birthplace of Country Music, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Center for Cultural Vibrancy, Create Appalachia, Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, Virginia Folklife Program of Virginia Humanities, Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts, William King Museum of Art, and musicians Geonovah Davis and Tyler Hughes.

Representatives articulated a shared goal: “to promote and support folk arts and culture in the greater Bristol community by providing targeted resources and support to area organizations, artists, and artist collectives with the goal of dramatically impacting the sustainability and awareness of traditional practice, cultural knowledge, and improving economic development and regional vitality.” The team designed a one-year grant program in support of this goal, which will redistribute the majority of the $75,000 directly to artists and under-resourced community organizations.

Regional artists working in traditional or folk arts and culture are now invited to apply for a Tradition Bearers Fellowship. This fellowship consists of a $4,000 award and a variety of opt-in professional development opportunities. Fellows will have access to support services such as website development and professional headshots, and will be connected to local resources.  Applications are being accepted on the Birthplace of Country Music website through April 14. 

The Greater Bristol Folk Arts and Culture Team is also inviting 3–5 area nonprofits to apply for a Cultural Caretaker Grant. This one-time, $5,000 grant opportunity is designed for small-scale, limited capacity, and largely volunteer-run organizations that have difficulty accessing typical sources of public and private funding. 

Both funding opportunities are limited to individuals or organizations located in one of twenty-two Appalachian counties or cities (as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission) surrounding Bristol in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. 

For more information visit: https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/museum/special-projects/greater-bristol-folk-arts-and-culture/ 

Eligible Counties: 

  • Southwest Virginia Cities & Counties: Bland, Bristol, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Galax, Grayson, Lee, Norton, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, Wythe
  • Northeast Tennessee Counties: Sullivan, Washington, Carter, Johnson, Hawkins, Unicoi

Greater Bristol Folk Arts & Culture Team: 

  • Erika Barker, Arts Alliance Mountain Empire 
  • Carrie Beck, Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail
  • Katy Clune, Virginia Folklife Program of Virginia Humanities
  • Sylvia Crum, Appalachian Sustainable Development 
  • geonovah davis, independent musician 
  • Toni Doman, Birthplace of Country Music 
  • Katie Hoffman, Create Appalachia 
  • Tyler Hughes, independent musician and educator 
  • Pat Jarrett, Virginia Folklife Program/Virginia Humanities
  • Jon Lohman, Center for Cultural Vibrancy 
  • René Rodgers, Birthplace of Country Music 
  • Catherine Schrenker, Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts 
  • Betsy White, William King Museum of Art 

The team works with Emily Hilliard, Mid Atlantic Arts Program Director, Folk and Traditional Arts, as an advisor. For more information visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org/museum/special-projects/ or email BristolAnchorCommunity@gmail.com.


Ron Short Named Tennessee Songwriters Week Finalist at The Down Home in Johnson City

Bristol, Va.-Tenn. (Feb. 23, 2023) – The Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development are proud to announce singer-songwriter Ron Short has earned his place in the spotlight at Nashville’s famed Bluebird Cafe as the winner in the Tennessee Songwriters Week showcase round at The Down Home in Johnson City, Tenn. Wednesday night. Short was one of four songwriters out of 20 to advance from the qualifying round held at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum earlier this month where he performed his sentimental ballad entitled “France.” He competed against 17 other songwriters at The Down Home, each had advanced from qualifying rounds held in venues across Northeast Tennessee.

The event was emceed by Ed Snodderly, co-owner of The Down Home since 1976. He is an accomplished songwriter, musician, and supporter of live music. Judges included radio personality and host of “Women on Air” Susan Lachman, university instructor and musician Brandon Story, and songwriter-musician Seth Thomas. Judges considered lyric originality, performance and connection with the audience.

A veteran singer, songwriter, musician, and playwright, Ron Short is a mainstay act at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion with his band The Possum Playboys. The multi-instrumentalist has carried on his family’s singing tradition that dates back to the 1800s. He joined Roadside Theater in 1979, has had 12 major recordings of his music, and has served as the producer of four collections of Appalachian music for PBS.

“Thanks to Ed and thanks to Tennessee Songwriters Week, you’re never too old to follow your dreams,” said Short.

Six other showcase events are scheduled this week, including at Lafayette’s Music Room in Memphis, Songbirds Foundation in Chattanooga, Ole Red in Gatlinburg, The Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, The Franklin Theatre in Franklin, and The Palace Theatre in Gallatin.

Short will join six other finalists from showcase rounds across the state to perform at The Bluebird Cafe during a private event in March with music industry professionals. Each will receive a branded commemorative Taylor guitar, two-night stay in Nashville, $100 gift card for travel and one-year membership to Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

With a wide variety of genres present in Northeast Tennessee including country, rock, jazz, metal and more, music and songwriting run deep into the roots of the region. As Bristol, Tenn. holds the title of “birthplace of country music,” the region has a long history within the genre and was the setting for the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions, which included the first recordings of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.

Helmed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Tennessee Songwriters Week was established in 2019 to support music venues, celebrate songwriters with live performances in all genres of music, drive visitation and inspire travelers to experience the state’s music stories, history, attractions and venues. Since its inception, more than 3,500 songwriters have shared their original music across Tennessee stages during the annual celebration.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development partners with The Bluebird Cafe, NSAI, Taylor Guitars, music venues and local convention and visitors’ bureaus, chambers and partners across the state, all committed to making sure songwriters have the opportunity to share their original work onstage with other writers.

Follow the journey of these songwriters and join the fun by following @tnvacation on social media and #tnsongwriters week.

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For more information about Tennessee Songwriters Week, visit tnvacation.com. For more informationabout BCM visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.