1927 and 1928 Bristol Sessions Archives - The Birthplace of Country Music
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1927: From Babe Ruth to Country Music

Today is National Babe Ruth Day!

Did you know that the summer of 1927 saw a whole host of important historic and cultural milestones, including Babe Ruth’s home run record and, of course, the 1927 Bristol Sessions? Author Bill Bryson’s book One Summer: America, 1927 explores that amazing summer in his usual charming and fact-fueled style, and – along with today’s celebration of Babe Ruth – serves as inspiration for this April 27 blog post, which goes down rabbit holes and tangents to explore other 1927 connections!

But first, what does Bryson’s book cover? Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis on May 20—21 is one of the topics, along with Calvin Coolidge’s presidency and his decision not to run for a second full term in 1928 and the Great Mississippi Flood, which had its beginnings in 1926 and ended up covering 27,000 square miles in water and displacing thousands of people from their homes and land. Bryson also tackles the controversial trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, anarchists accused of armed robbery and murder; the introduction of Ford’s new Model A car; and the release of the first talkie, The Jazz Singer. And then, of course, Bryson shares the story of the New York Yankees’ achievements on the baseball diamond in the summer of 1927 – with 110 wins and 44 losses, a sweeping victory in the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Babe Ruth hitting his 60th home run of the season on September 30, setting a record that wouldn’t be broken for 34 years.

Left: Black-and-white image of Babe Ruth -- a large man -- standing in a baseball stance with the bat on his shoulder. The baseball stadium is in the background.
Top right: The small silver Spirit of St. Louis is suspended from the ceiling of the museum. It's name is written on the airplane's nose.
Bottom right: A red old-fashioned looking car.

Babe Ruth photographed in his batting stance (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress); the Spirit of St. Louis on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.; and a Ford Model A car (Wikimedia Commons).

So what about country music? Well, of course, the summer of 1927 also saw the Bristol Sessions being recorded between July 25 and August 5. With performers like Ernest Stoneman – an experienced and prolific musician in the burgeoning hillbilly music industry – and hugely impactful newcomers like The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, along with a host of other interesting artists and recordings, the 1927 Bristol Sessions became known as “the big bang of country music.” Sadly, the Sessions did not make it into Bryson’s book – maybe they’ll make an appearance in a later edition, fingers crossed! – though the Library of Congress has recognized them as among the 50 most significant sound recordings of all time.

Large metal historic marker with the Tennessee symbol of three stars on a blue background with red border at the top. The words briefly describe the Bristol Sessions. A brick building can be seen in the background.

This historic marker about the 1927 Bristol Sessions is located next to the Birthplace of Country Music’s offices at 416 State Street, the former site of the Taylor-Christian Hat Company building where the 1927 Bristol Sessions were recorded. © Bristol Herald Courier

But are there other country music stories to be found in 1927? Interestingly, we can connect Charles Lindberg to country music through two 1927 recordings by Vernon Dalhart: “Lindbergh (The Eagle of the USA)” and “Lucky Lindy!” Both of these records sold well, and a couple of other hillbilly performers also had big hits in 1927 – Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers with “John Henry (Steel-Drivin’ Man)” and Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers with “White House Blues.”

Three record labels:
Left, red label for Champion Records detailing the title and performer's name.
Center, black Columbia label detailing the title and performer's name.
Right, black Columbia label detailing the title and performer's name.

Record labels for Vernon Dalhart’s “Lindbergh (The Eagle of the U.S.A.),” Gid Tanner’s “John Henry (Steel-Drivin’ Man),” and Charlie Poole’s “White House Blues.”

There were also several country and bluegrass stars born in 1927:

  • Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley (February 25)
  • Carl Smith (March 15), known as “Mister Country” and once married to June Carter
  • Charlie Louvin (July 27), part of the Louvin Brothers and a member of the Grand Ole Opry
  • Nudie-suited performer and TV personality Porter Wagoner (August 12), who introduced Dolly Parton to the world in 1967 via The Porter Wagoner Show
  • Jimmy C. Newman (August 29), country music performer and Cajun singer-songwriter
  • Songwriter Harlan Howard (September 8)
  • Leon Rausch (October 2), known as “the voice” of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
  • Patti Page (November 8), crossover pop and country artist
  • Bob Ferguson (December 30), a musician and producer who was instrumental in establishing Nashville as country music’s center

For a few more musical connections to 1927, first take a look at the pages from a 1927 Sears Roebuck catalog. While these catalogs were produced yearly and so this isn’t unique to 1927, it is a great insight into what kinds of instruments you could buy from Sears Roebuck and what the 1927 prices were! And then there were two milestones in American radio history that are tied to 1927. The U.S. Federal Radio Commission (later known as the FCC) began to regulate radio frequencies on February 23, 1927. And on September 18 of that year, the country saw the debut of CBS, which went on air with 47 radio stations, later becoming a powerhouse in the new technology of television.

Three images of Sears Roebuck 1927 catalog:
Left, the catalog cover shwoing a man and woman poring over the catalog together, with a dog or cat at their feet. A woman in a big hat is in the corner of the cover, and the words The Roaring Twenties are seen at the bottom.
Center: A page filled with different banjos with descriptions and prices.
Right: A page filled with different guitars with descriptions and prices.

This facsimile of the 1927 Sears Roebuck catalog is in the museum’s collections and on display in our permanent exhibits. © Birthplace of Country Music

These are just a few of the stories and historical or cultural moments from 1927 – there are many, many more beyond my primary focus here on music connections. And so to finish this post off, why don’t you go down your own rabbit hole? The Smithsonian, always a great source of information on any and all topics, can get you started with a trove of treasures that all connect to the year 1927, some discussed above, some more obscure, but all interesting. You can check out these objects and images here.

Melodious Murals: Public Art as an Expression of a Community’s Musical Identity

Murals are one of the oldest known forms of human artistic expression. What people decided to paint on the walls of their domestic and community spaces can tell us a lot about the time and society in which they lived. For example, in the first known cave painting made in Indonesia 45,500 years ago, humans depicted animals and other humans they interacted with every day. During the Renaissance, murals of great religious scenes were painted on the walls and ceilings of churches, underlining the political, cultural, and financial power of the church during the 16th century. And, within the 20th century, we have seen a dramatic rise in murals being made for arts-sake, to make a political statement, or to highlight local color and culture.

So, let’s take a look at some murals that are special for all of the aforementioned reasons and because they tell a story you’re probably interested in if you’ve found your way to this blog: the story of country music.

This aerial view shows the side of a building painted with a wall-sized mural. Two music notes bookend the central painting that bears these words at the top "Bristol, Tenn-VA / Birthplace of Country Music." The central painting show several people or groups of people in a graphic/realistic style, from left to right: Ralph Peer (in a grey suit and with grey hair), The Carter Family (A.P. Carter wearing a greenosh suit stands beside of Sara in a pink dress and holding an autoharp with Maybelle sat in front of them in a blue dress and playing her guitar), Ernest and Hattie Stoneman (he is wearing a brownish suit and white cowboy hat and holds his guitar, she is standing behind him in a green dress with a bonnet-style hat on and playing the fiddle), and Jimmie Rodgers (dressed as a railway worker with engineer's cap, blue jacket, and red bow tie, he has his guitar and is holding two thumbs up). In the center is a Victor record and a microphone with 1927 on it.

Courtesy of Eddy Gray, Tri Cities Captured Photography

We’ll start with a mural that is a Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia must-see: Bristol’s Country Music Mural. The mural is located at 810 State Street, a public square that is used for the weekly farmers’ market, community events, and to host one of the stages at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. The mural is 30 feet by 100 feet, taking up the entire side of a building, and features the big players and iconic images from the 1927 Bristol Recording Sessions: Ralph Peer, The Carter Family – A. P., Sara, and Maybelle, a Victor record and microphone, Ernest and Hattie Stoneman, and Jimmie Rodgers. First painted in 1986 by local artist, musician, and radio DJ Tim White, the mural was recently refurbished to great effect during the summer of 2020.

A long rectangular mural with a cityscape shown behind the people in front. Different musicians and singers are shown throughout the foreground in a folk-art type style -- some are playing instruments, others are singing.

Source: Knoxville Public Arts

Next stop on our virtual tour of murals with a country music connection is the Knoxville Music History Mural. The mural is located at 116 East Jackson in Knoxville, Tennessee, and it was designed by Knoxville artist Walt Fieldsa in collaboration with local art teacher Tifanni Conner and her students at Laurel High School. The mural was then painted by local artists, including Fieldsa, Randall Starnes, and Ken Britton. The painting depicts several Tennessee musicians, including operatic singer Grace Moore, composer and pianist Richard Trythall, founder of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Bertha Walburn Clark, guitarist Willie Sievers of the Tennessee Ramblers, jazz pianist Donald Brown, rock singer Tina Turner, and bluegrass musician Jimmy Martin.

All portraits are head and shoulders. The left-hand image shows Jim Lauderdale with two different graphic floral backgrounds behind him. He is white man wearing a black jacket and a white collared shirt, and his white shoulder length hair is swept back from his forehead. The Top right image shows Bob Marley (a Black man with dreadlocks wearing a sleeveless black shirt with colored trim), Minnie Pearl (a white woman in a blue country-style dress and wearing a straw floral hat with the price tag hanging off one side), Amy Winehouse (a white woman wearing a black short-sleeve shirt and her black hair is pulled back into a bouffant-style with the length hanging down and sideswept bangs), and James Brown (a Black man wearing a cream-colored suit). The bottom right image shows Patsy Cline (a white woman with brown hair pulled back from her face and wearing a black jacket and polka-dot collared shirt) and Stevie Ray Vaughn (a white man wearing a white cowboy hat with red band, a blue sleeveless tee, and holding a red electric guitar).

Courtesy of Theron Corse, Nashville Public Art blog

We come next to the Nashville Fences of Fame located on several fences surrounding Columbine Park in Berry Hill. The project of painting these fences of the musical greats began in 2016 by artist Scott Guion and was commissioned by The House of Blues. A wide array of musicians from incredibly different genres are painted throughout the area – for instance, one fence alone depicts Jim Lauderdale, Nina Simone, Emmylou Harris, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Greg Allman, Jerry Garcia, Joni Mitchell, and Otis Redding.

An image of a large cream-colored wall with a cariacature-style portrait of Blind Alfred Reed to the right on the wall. His dark hair is in a pompadour style, his ear is unusually big, and he holds his fiddle to his chin. He wears a greyish blue suit; the words "Blind Alfred Reed" are written to the left of the portrait.

Photograph © Denise Smith

In 2014, artist Jeff Pierson painted a wonderful mural depicting the 1927 Bristol Sessions artist Blind Alfred Reed on a brick wall on Mercer Street in Princeton, West Virginia. Pierson was commissioned by Princeton’s Community Improvement Committee to paint a series of important folks from Princeton on various walls around town. While researching Princeton local legends, he came across information about Blind Alfred Reed and was taken aback to learn his interesting story. When he proposed making Reed the subject of one of the murals, the committee didn’t even know who Reed was – but they were soon convinced of his importance and in due course his likeness could be found on one of the city’s walls as public art! Due to the demolition of the building, the mural is being moved to a new site in the town.

Next up is the San Antonio Gateway Mural, locally known as La Musica de San Anto. Located on the west side of San Antonio, the mural was painted in 2008 by local artist David Blancas after it was commissioned by San Anto Cultural Arts to bring awareness to the musical heritage of San Antonio. The mural features members of the country band “The Texas Tornados” and Tejano (a style of music derived from Mexican-Spanish vocal traditions and Czech and German dance music) musicians such as Lydia Mendoza, amongst others. A contemporary of Mother Maybelle Carter, Mendoza also played on the border radio station XERA. (Check out this fascinating article about the similarities between Mother Maybelle and Lydia Mendoza from NPR.)

An image of a wall mural in a graphic style showing two African-American musicians. The man (Sleepy John Estes) is singing and playing a guitar) and the woman (Tina Turner) is singing and has a big hairstyle. Words from their songs and about Brownsville radiate from their images to the right.

Image sourced from a review on TripAdvisor

Another great mural can be found at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, Tennessee, which also includes the Tina Turner Museum. In 2014 a mural of Brownsville natives Tina Turner and Sleepy John Estes was painted on the side of the museum by Union University art students. And while Sleepy John Estes is a well-regarded blues artist that influenced musicians like The Beatles, and Tina Turner is more well-known as “The Queen of Rock-n-Roll,” I would argue this is a bona fide country music mural because Tina Turner made her musical debut as a solo artist with a country album in 1974! If you haven’t listened to Tina Turns the Country On!, I highly recommend turning the record on now!

Last but not least on our grand country music mural tour is a painting of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2021 headliner Tanya Tucker. You can find the mural in Spirit Square in the “Country Music Capital of Canada”: Merritt, British Columbia. The wall-sized portrait of the singer was painted by local artist Michelle Loughery and members of the Merritt Youth Mural Project, a program designed to work with local young artists and “youth at risk.” Tucker was even there for the unveiling of the mural in 2006!

This post highlights just a few of the music heritage murals out there, but it’s a great introduction to this highly visible and community-driven public art. Murals are a fascinating look into our history and culture, and you can learn more about the history of murals with this article from The Community Rejuvenation Project in the Bay Area. And, I wanted to give an honorable mention to some local mural trails: The Mountain City Music Mile and The Appalachian Mural Trail.

Pick 5: The 1928 Bristol Sessions

If you are reading this blog post, you are probably familiar with why Bristol is considered by many to be the Birthplace of Country Music. During late July and early August of 1927, Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company recorded several artists and acts at the Taylor-Christian Hat Company building – two of these became known as the “first family of country music” (The Carter Family) and the “father of country music” (Jimmie Rodgers). And Rodgers also became one of the best-selling and most influential country acts of all time.

Eager to repeat the previous year’s success, Peer returned to Bristol in the fall of 1928 to record more regional artists. Though none of the recorded performers from the 1928 Bristol Sessions achieved the fame and influence of the The Carter Family or Jimmie Rodgers, these sessions yielded a fascinating body of work that is overshadowed by the storied 1927 sessions. Both casual and hardcore fans of country music owe it to themselves to check out the 1928 Bristol Sessions – and here are a few choice cuts to get you started:

“Angeline the Baker,” Uncle Eck Dunford

Uncle Eck Dunford of Galax, Virginia, came to Bristol with Ernest Stoneman in 1927. A comedian who recorded several spoken word skits, Dunford’s musical selections were lighthearted as well. A song from the pen of Stephen Foster, “Angeline the Baker” – often called “Angelina Baker” – has become a standard in acoustic music circles, but Dunford’s recording is the sole recording of the song in the pre-war country music discography.

“Unknown Blues,” Tarter and Gay

Stephen Tarter and Harry Gay were the sole African-American act to record at the 1928 Bristol Sessions. A rare glimpse into the scene of bluesmen who were active around Kingsport, Tennessee, before the Second World War, this record leaves me wanting more than the two sides the duo recorded. Featuring clear vocals and two guitars playfully intertwined, it is no surprise this duo was a hit with audiences across the Tri-Cities.

“Goodnight Darling,” Clarence Greene

Cranberry, North Carolina’s resident master musician Clarence Greene made the trek across the mountains to record in Bristol in 1928. A fiddler who is often associated with Clarence “Tom” Ashley, Greene plays the guitar and sings on this side of his sole Bristol Sessions release.

”I’ll Be Happy,” The Stamps Quartet

The Stamps Quartet was established in 1924 as part of the Stamps Music Publishing Company (Dallas, Texas), a company that sold hymnals. It is a bit of an oddity that a non-regional group recorded in Bristol in 1928, but this recording highlights the beautiful gospel quartet singing that is often overlooked as a significant part of early country music.

“I Truly Understand, You Love Another Man,” Shortbuckle Roark and Family

The 1928 Bristol Sessions and Columbia’s 1928 Johnson City Sessions were recorded so close geographically and timewise that it is no surprise some artists appeared on recordings by both labels. George “Shortbuckle” Roark is one such musician, and both sessions yielded absolute classics in the old-time music cannon. I’ve also shared a bonus selection from the Johnson City recordings below – “I Ain’t A Bit Drunk,” George Roark

Instrument Interview: The Bones

“Instrument Interview” posts are a chance to sit down with the instruments of traditional, country, bluegrass, and roots music – from different types of instruments to specific ones related to artists, luthiers, and songwriters – and learn more about them. Ten questions are posed, and the instruments answer! Today we talk with the bones.

What are you?

I am a type of percussive instrument known as a “concussion idiophone,” which refers to me being made of up of similar objects that make a sound when struck together. I’m also called the “rhythm bones,” which gives you a clue to the role I play in music.

Two views of two sets of bones, made of animal bones. One is larger than the other, and they are each connected by a leather cord.
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum has two sets of circa 1927 bones in our collection, donated by Dom Flemons in 2015.

Where do you come from?

I’ve been around for a long time, and you can find versions of bones all the way back to several ancient cultures. Archaeologists have excavated bones (as instruments) from graves and tombs in prehistoric Mesopotamia and Egypt, and also discovered images of musicians playing the bones on Greek pottery. There is also evidence of the bones being played in the Roman Empire and ancient China. More recently – that is, in the 18th and 19th centuries – I came to North America with Irish and English immigrants, who used the bones as a way to keep a steady beat for their jigs and reels.

A pottery sherd with a red-figure dancer, gender unclear holding two bones-like instruments in their hands.

Fragment of a terra cotta red-figure kylix, Greek, 510-500 BC. The image is of a dancer using a bones-like instrument as part of the performance. Public domain

Are you really made from bones?

My original versions were made from animal bones, usually the rib or shin bones of sheep, cows, and sometimes horses. I’m often slightly curved, reflective of the natural shape of these bones, and I typically measure between 5 and 7 inches in length. While modern bones are still made from animal bones, you can also find ones made from wood and plastic. A variety of woods can be used, such as cherry, mahogany, walnut, and maple, with different woods producing different tones as is seen in other wooden instruments.

How are you played?

Players hold a pair of bones between their fingers with the convex sides facing one another; one is held fairly tightly and the other more loosely. By shaking the wrist, the bones hit one another, creating a loud “clack.” The connection between the two bones is carried by the momentum from the player’s arm and hand movements rather than any effort to force the bones to knock together. In North America, players tend to play with a pair of bones in each hand, while in Ireland the tradition is to play one-handed.

It’s hard to get a sense of what the movement looks like and the resulting sound by describing it, so check out Dom Flemons playing the bones. It’s actually quite amazing – and beautiful – to watch:

What type of music are you typically found in?

You can hear bones being played in a wide variety of genres, such as traditional Irish and Scottish music, blues, bluegrass, zydeco, French-Canadian music, and Cape Breton (in Nova Scotia) traditions.

Because bones were also often used by African American musicians, they became a common facet of 19th-century minstrel shows – where white performers appeared in blackface; later Black entertainers appeared in minstrel shows too – and the bones’ popularity in the United States grew within this context. One of the first bones-playing minstrel performers was Frank Brower, and the first documentation of him playing the bones in front of an audience are from 1841 in Virginia. He played with a much larger pair of bones than is usual today – two 12-inch lengths of horse rib bones!

An image of an exhibit case with William Sidney Mount's "The Bone Player" -- a black musician wearing a hat, jacket, waistcoat, and cravat-like tie, and holding two pairs of bones in his hands.
This image of William Sidney Mount’s “The Bone Player,” 1857, is on display in the museum exhibits. © Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Are there famous musicians associated with the bones?

There are many famous bones players! Freeman Davis, known by his stage name “Brother Bones” and also as “Whistling Sam,” was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1902. He recorded several songs in the 1940s and 1950s, appeared in three movies, and performed at Carnegie Hall and on The Ed Sullivan Show. His most famous recording is “Sweet Georgia Brown,” which became the Harlem Globetrotters’ theme tune in 1952. He took bones playing to an intense high of four bones in each hand and even playing knives like bones!

DeFord Bailey, best known for his wonderful harmonica playing and as a regular on the Grand Ole Opry in its early days, included bones playing in his performances along with yo-yo tricks and guitar picking. He was country music’s first African American star.

John Burrill learned to play the bones in his teens during the Depression. One viewer described Burrill’s style of bones-playing as looking like his arms were upside-down windshield wipers. Over the years, Burrill played with a host of other musicians and acts, including the Brattle Street Players, Steve Baird, Clifton Chenier, Spider John Koerner, Molly Malone, and even the Infliktors, a punk band. When asked what key he played in, his reply was “the skeleton key”!

Peadar Mercier was a percussionist in the Irish band The Chieftains, playing both the bodhran and the bones. He was with them from 1966 to 1976.

Dom Flemons, one of the founding members of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and now a solo artist, is known as the American Songster, whose “repertoire of music covers over 100 years of early American popular music.” Flemons is a talented multi-instrumentalist, playing banjo, guitar, harmonica, jug, quills, fife, and, of course, the bones. He has bones made out of cow rib and shin bones that he plays in the double-handed style.

I’ve heard of someone called “the Rhythm Bones King.” Who was he?

The Rhythm Bones King is a man called Joe Birl. In 1945 Birl applied for a patent for his black molded plastic bones that bore a groove to help keep the bones from slipping out of a player’s hand. Birl produced and sold around 150,000 pairs of these plastic rhythm bones. After the plastic mold broke, he made wooden rhythm bones with his patented grooved design. He passed away in 2012, and Joe Birl Jr. continued to sell bones made in his father’s design.

Left: Joe Birl’s original plastic rhythm bones; Center: A store placard advertising the sale of rhythm bones; Right: A photograph of customers holding Birl’s rhythm bones in a store. All objects from the Dom Flemons Collection at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Were you played at the Bristol Sessions?

I was! Black musician El Watson played me when he accompanied the Johnson Brothers on two recordings – “Two Brothers Are We” and “I Want to See My Mother (Ten Thousand Miles Away).” He also accompanied them on harmonica for their recording of “The Soldier’s Poor Little Boy,” and Charles Johnson played guitar on Watson’s two harmonica recordings, “Pot Licker Blues” and “Narrow Gauge Blues.” These are some of the earliest integrated country music and blues recordings.

Are there other instruments related to you?

There are many other types of percussive instruments that are used in a similar way to the bones. For instance, clappers – consisting of two solid pieces made of wood, metal, ivory, and even plastic that are slapped together – are found in a lot of musical traditions, from China, Japan, Korea, and Thailand to medieval France and modern Western symphony orchestras.

Castanets are made of two concave shells joined with string at one edge. They are usually made of chestnut wood, and they are played two-handed. Castanets are also used in several musical traditions, such as Spanish, Portuguese, Swiss, Moorish, Ottoman, Sephardic, and Italian.

Playing the spoons is especially common in American folk music and often seen in jug bands. Like the bones, the spoons are held in one hand and played against each other as a percussive instrument. To see some amazing spoon playing, check out Abby the Spoon Lady.

Anything else you want to share with us?

Remember singing the nursery rhyme song “This Old Man” when you were a child? Well, that song is thought to refer to bones playing! The first verse goes like this (and so on):

“This old man, he played one,

He played knick-knack on my thumb;

With a knick-knack paddywhack,

Give a dog a bone,

This old man came rolling home.”

A paddywhack is a ligament – known as the nuchal ligament – in the neck of sheep and cattle.

*Want some of your own bones? Then stop by The Museum Store where you can buy wooden bones (and spoons) made by local artisan Walt Messick of Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.

Pick 5: Songs of Blind Alfred Reed

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 the songs of Blind Alfred Reed, a 1927 Bristol Sessions artist, who was born on June 15, 1880.

When one thinks of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, it easy to let the contributions of luminaries such as The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers overshadow the contributions of lesser known figures. Blind Alfred Reed’s music is forgotten by many, but his simple yet eloquent songs are among the most socially conscious of the catalog of early country music. Born in Floyd County, Virginia, Reed relocated to West Virginia where he made his humble living as a street musician, playing for tips and selling broadsides. Perhaps his time on the streets during this time helped Reed to tune into the plight of his fellow humans, as his songs pose questions that were often swept under the rug during their day. Compared to the rough and rowdy ways of Jimmie Rodgers and the overly romanticized heart-and-home songs of The Carter Family, Reed’s music takes to task issues like poverty or dangerous working situations under an often-humorous guise. To pay homage to Reed’s songwriting, I’ve picked five songs that touch on these topics:

“How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?”

“How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” is one of Reed’s most widely known tunes, made popular by Ry Cooder’s later rendering. The title of this one explains itself.

“Explosion in the Fairmont Mine”

Songs of disaster within the dangerous work environments where death too often lay in wait are an important part of the ballad tradition. To tell the story of a mining disaster in Reed’s home state of West Virginia, Reed rehashed the traditional song widely known as “Dream of the Miner’s Child.”

“Money Cravin’ Folks”

Exploring the old adage “money is the root of all evil,” Reed makes listeners think about their priorities.

“Fate of Chris Lively and Wife”

As Appalachia was modernizing in the late 1800s and early 1900s, old ways of life crossed paths with the new, sometimes leading to new dangers. “Fate of Chris Lively and Wife” tells the tale of a wagon ride that ends tragically when the wagon and its passengers meet their doom with an oncoming train.

“Always Lift Him Up and Never Knock Him Down”

In difficult times, it’s easy to overlook the needs of others while focusing on our own issues, but here Reed urges listeners to help others along the difficult road of life.

Mother’s Day Spotlight: What You Might Not Know about Mother Maybelle

Today – May 10, 2020 – is both Mother’s Day here in the United States, and the anniversary of Mother Maybelle Carter’s birthday (May 10, 1909).

For so many of us, when we think of our mothers, it’s hard to look beyond the maternal. In other words, it’s hard for us to think of them as anything other than our mothers. But everyone’s mother has a life outside that – interests, stories, dreams, regrets, adventures, achievements, and so much more.

And that idea made us think about Maybelle. We all know about the significance and legacy of Maybelle Carter in the history of country, and American, music. That is a huge part of her story – but what about the other parts of her story? Some of you may know all about her, some may only know about her music, and some may not know much at all. And so let’s explore just a few of the lesser known aspects of this great woman!

Mother Maybelle

First, we’ll start with a musical aspect: Why was she called Mother Maybelle?

Of course, Maybelle was a mother herself to Helen, Anita, and June, and after the original Carter Family stopped performing together in 1943, Maybelle and her daughters took to the road as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. Maybelle was only in her early 30s at the start of this period – imagine performing on the radio and on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, traveling the country for performances, living out of hotels and eating at diners, all with three young girls in tow!

The Mother Maybelle name might have been part of their band persona, but she kept this moniker for the rest of her career. And everything she did underlined this role – as matriarch and mentor to so many. For instance, she took on some younger musicians as part of her act, musicians like Chet Atkins who played guitar as sideman with Maybelle and her daughters for a time – Maybelle seeing Atkins potential and talent before it was more widely recognized. She also looked after a host of other musicians in the midst of their personal struggles, including Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. And, of course, she influenced many with her extraordinary guitar playing and all-around musical prowess, including Earl Scruggs, and later, acts like the New Lost City Ramblers and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band who invited her to perform with them because of the legacy she carried with her from the early days of country music. When she appeared on stage with these bands or at the folk festivals of the 1960s, the 20-something audiences looked up at this maternal figure and saw greatness.

As Tift Merritt noted on NPR’s All Things Considered: Maybelle Carter “defined a genre with her musicianship and her grace. More than as the great mother of her craft, her contributions as a caretaker, female and exemplar human deserve our deepest admiration.”

Life in the Fast Lane

Maybelle may be revered as a musical legend, and she may have been a steadying force to her family and her surrogate family of young, and often troubled, musicians, but she had a bit of a wild side herself. When on tour, Maybelle often drove – and she put her foot down hard on the pedal. Apparently, her husband Eck was also known as a speed demon so one imagines that when either of them was behind the wheel, there might have been a lot of backseat driving going on from the girls. And Maybelle wasn’t only a lover of fast cars; she also rode an Indian-model motorcycle!

Sepia-style image showing Eck at the front of the motorcycle with Maybelle seated behind him. Both wear helmets. They seem to be in a field or yard in front of a white house.
Maybelle and Eck on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Found on www.worthpoint.com

Maybelle also looked to Lady Luck as she indulged her love of bingo and cards, and when on tour in places like Las Vegas and Tahoe, she played the slots. She enjoyed horse races and also went down to the dog tracks frequently, looking to pick a winner. Her bets on all of these gambles were low-stakes but that didn’t take away the pleasure she got from playing.

The Everyday Life

With any famous person, it’s sometimes hard to imagine them out of the spotlight and living an “everyday life” – taking part in the day-to-day domestic tasks, having hobbies and interests, not performing but just living. But, of course, they do, and Maybelle was no different. She was quite a mean cook – from tomato gravy to chicken gizzard soup to other homestyle favorites, many of which are recorded in June Carter Cash’s Mother Maybelle’s Cookbook, along with a host of family stories. She also enjoyed hunting and fishing – grandson John Carter Cash has a photograph of her and Eck standing in front of a truck bed covered in fish they’d caught. And she let loose and had a good time bowling and playing pool with family and friends. And while music on the stage may have been Maybelle’s livelihood, making music at home was often just as important.

Hunting and fishing licence with Maybelle's name, address, descriptive details, and signature. It was issued in 1975.

Maybelle’s Tennesee hunting and fishing license, issued in 1975 only a few years before she passed away, was on display in the museum’s very first special exhibit, The Carter Family: Lives and Legacies. Carter/Cash Family Collection, Ms2009-090, Special Collections, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Caregiver

Maybelle’s kindness, generosity, and care for others – so much a part of her musical story – also came into play with her “second” job. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, though Maybelle was still performing at the Grand Ole Opry on the weekends and with other gigs, her daughters began to go their separate ways with families and their own careers (plus the music world was changing), and so Maybelle needed to supplement her income. Therefore, for a while, she worked at a local hospital as a certified practical nurse at night, helping to sit with and care for the elderly.

And so…Happy Mother (Maybelle)’s Day

These are just a few of the things that both define Maybelle Carter as the matriarch of a genre and also take us beyond her life in music to see her as an everyday person too. In Maybelle’s story, we can find inspiration, good memories and stories, and a continuing influence down through the ages. Once again, Tift Merritt sums it up well, defining Mother Maybelle not only in relation to her musical legacy but also in terms that define so many of our own mothers: “A woman of craft rather than of spectacle, Maybelle Carter was more than a great guitar player: She was a perfect bandmate. Deep in the House of Music, down the halls of life-long practice, Maybelle Carter, the unspoken Great Mother of rhythm guitar, blends in with her harmony singing, steps out when asked and breezily holds down the rhythm and the lead on her instrument as if it were no big deal.”

* If you want to know more about Maybelle as a guitarist, check out Greg Reish’s Instrument Interview with her 1928 Gibson L-5 guitar.

Radio Bristol Book Club: Lord of the Mountain

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library are coming together each month to celebrate and explore one book inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage. We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 11:00am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

The book cover shows a young boy with a bag on his back walking through the woods; a young girl waves to him in the distance.
The cover of Ronald Kidd’s Lord of the Mountain.

This month’s Radio Bristol Book Club pick is Ronald Kidd’s Lord of the Mountain, a middle-grade historical novel. The story follows 13-year-old Nate Owens as he struggles with the restrictions in his family and runs away to pursue his love of music. Set in the area around Bristol, Tennessee, in the 1920s, part of Nate’s journey includes meeting The Carter Family when they are in town to record with Ralph Peer and then later finding respite in their home after a near-tragedy with his little brother. Weaving together historic details from the 1920s and the “big bang of country music,” the trials and tribulations of adolescence, and Nate’s quest to understand his family, all while discovering the power of music, Kidd does a wonderful job of creating an adventure story that also explores the depths of family pain and redemption.

Black-and-white photograph of the author, close-up on his face.
Author Ronald Kidd. Photograph by Helen Burns

Ronald Kidd has worked as a writer for many years, producing entertaining juvenile and young adult fiction, theatrical plays, and most recently, historical novels. Lord of the Mountain is his most recent historical fiction book, published in 2018, but others include Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial, On Beale Street – about music, race, and Elvis Presley and set in Memphis in 1954, and Night on Fire – about the Freedom Riders in Alabama in the 1960s. Kidd also edits books and produces audio and video programming.

Make plans to join us for our on-air discussion on Thursday, March 26 at 11:00am! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library and at The Museum Store so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of listening in. The librarians or museum staff will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this deep and engaging novel.

Our Radio Bristol Book Club pick for April is Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam Jr.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost: Celebrating A. P. Carter on His Birthday

Today is the anniversary of A.P. Carter’s birth – he was born on December 15, 1891 in Maces Spring, Virginia. A.P. was the driving force behind The Carter Family, and his place in music history is strong and true. Numerous books and articles chronicle the Carters’ musical journey and their legacy and impact – my personal favorites are Mark Zwonitzer and Charles Hirshberg’s Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone and David Lasky and Frank Young’s graphic novel The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song. Their story has also been told through television, radio and film – from Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary series to The Winding Stream by Beth Harrington.

A blog post does not seem sufficient to explore the full life of A.P. Carter, but we wanted to celebrate this special day and so I’ve instead pulled together five interesting details from A. P.’s story.

Lightning Strike

A.P. was full of quirks – from his daydreaming to his wandering ways to the tremor he carried with him his whole life. A.P.’s mother Molly Bays Carter attributed her firstborn son’s shaking to a thunderstorm she encountered one day when she was pregnant with him. She was standing under an apple tree when lightning struck, the energy traveling down to the ground and all around her – as Zwonitzer and Hirshberg report, Molly always said that this lightning strike “shot such a bolt of fright into her swollen belly that the baby inside would be afflicted with that very nervous energy for each and all of his days.” The tremor that affected A.P.’s body also came through in his voice, which carried a bit of a quaver when talking and singing. And the nervous energy seemed to push A.P. to always be on the move, hitting the road for days on end, and keeping his mind busy and turned inward.

Black-and-white photograph of A. P. Carter sitting in a chair outside, looking straight at the camera. Two women can be seen in the background behind him though they are not the subjects of the picture.
A rare moment when A.P. was sitting still. Courtesy of Dale Jett

All in a Day’s Work

While A.P.’s dream was to make money from music – a dream that he, with Sara and Maybelle, fulfilled – that wasn’t the only work he did. As with so many people during the early part of the 20th century, working hard, and doing a multitude of jobs, was a necessity to take care of family. When A.P. met Sara for the very first time, he was a traveling fruit tree salesman. (Incidentally, he was so struck by Sara – and her singing voice – on this first meeting that he bought from her rather than the other way around; he went home with an order for a set of dishes.) He also farmed his land and worked sawmills at various times, and then after his music career came to an end, he set up a grocery store in Maces Spring, though from all accounts he didn’t keep regular hours and his business wasn’t as brisk as he would probably like. However, his store served as a gathering place, and one imagines a place where music was made, perhaps leading him on to his dream of a permanent home for music-making, fulfilled in his daughter Janette’s establishment of the Carter Family Fold after A.P.’s passing.

Frontal view of the A.P. Carter Grocery Store, now The Carter Family Museum. It is a small white building with two peaked eaves at each end.

A.P. Carter’s grocery store, now a museum devoted to The Carter Family. © Southern Foodways Alliance

A Way with Words

A.P.’s penchant for wandering in his search for new (old) songs is well known – a habit referred to as “songcatching.” Along the way, A.P. went back into the hills of Appalachia and into the factories in the urban areas, always on the hunt for a song he hadn’t heard before. He didn’t always go on this search on his own, and his songcatching travels with African American musician Lesley Riddle are also a familiar element of the Carter history. A.P. met Lesley, also known as “Esley,” in Kingsport, Tennessee – initially as a source of good songs to learn. Soon they were traveling together, which must have been challenging as they passed down the roads and into the towns of a segregated South. Often A.P. had to find a separate place for Lesley to stay and eat, either with friends, family, or others who didn’t discriminate based on the color of his skin. Lesley had a head for remembering the tunes and lyrics of the songs they heard, acting like a “human recorder” in some ways, and they spent a lot time going over the songs they brought home and working them up with Sara and Maybelle. Lesley noted that there were times when he’d have to get up and walk away just to have a break from that intense focus. But all that songcatching led the Carters to a wonderfully huge and varied repertoire, including songs A.P. wrote himself, a discography that is one of the most influential in country music history.

A.P.’s Guitar

The museum was fortunate to have a piece of A.P.’s musical career on display a few years ago at our first special exhibit, The Carter Family: Lives and Legacies. On loan from his grandson Dale Jett, A.P.’s 1936 Martin 000-28 style guitar had a story to tell. A.P. bought this guitar in a pawn shop in San Antonio or Del Rio, Texas for $65–$75 dollars. In the 1930s, Martins were being made out of the best materials with the best craftspeople – all handmade rather than by machines, and this guitar’s top was made from spruce found in the Appalachians and considered the best tone wood. While A.P. isn’t really known for his guitar playing and he certainly didn’t play an instrument too often for The Carter Family performances or recordings, he did play this Martin on border radio from time to time, and it can be seen in a promotional Christmas card from this period that featured the musical family. The guitar is still played today by Jett.

Left: A.P. Carter's guitar on display in a case at the museum -- behind the guitar is a pink-shaded panel with a quote from Dale Jett about the guitar. Right: Dale Jett, Wayne Henderson playing the A.P. Carter guitar, and a member of staff at the museum, on stage in the Performance Theater.
A.P. Carter’s guitar on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum; Dale Jett and Wayne Henderson play and discuss A.P.’s guitar at a museum program. Left: © Birthplace of Country Music; Right: Courtesy of Tom Netherland

1941

So much of life is down to the vagaries of chance, and A.P.’s story is no different. The Carters’ place in country music – indeed, in American music as a whole and beyond – is significant. But their story still has a “what if” element, and that comes from the Life Magazine photo shoot that happened in the fall of 1941. Focusing on the original Carter Family and their children, the photo shoot took place in Virginia with the intention of a story about the Carters and their music appearing in the magazine later that year. However, the photo spread never appeared as it was pushed off the pages by the bigger news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The photographer Eric Schaal did keep one of the images – a portrait of himself with A.P. – framed in his home, later saying that A.P. “was the most exotic subject he’d ever photographed.” And so the question remains: What would have happened to the Carters, and to A.P., if that spread and their story had been published to the wide and varied audience found in the readership of Life?

Screenshot of Dust-to-Digital's tweet on A.P.'s birthday in 2018, noting the Life photoshoot and with a black-and-white photograph of A.P. from that shoot. He sits holding his guitar in a room with flowered wallpaper.
Portrait of A.P. Carter taken for Life Magazine photo shoot in 1941. From Dust-to-Digital’s Twitter feed

Radio Bristol Book Club: Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library are coming together each month to celebrate and explore one book inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage. We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 11:00am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

This month’s book focuses on an important figure in the history of the 1927 Bristol Sessions: Ralph Peer. Barry Mazor’s Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music came out in 2015, the first biography of this innovative and far-seeing A&R executive and music publisher. Anyone who knows the history of the 1927 Bristol Sessions or has visited the Birthplace of Country Music Museum knows about Peer’s impact and influence on early commercial “hillbilly” music. But Peer’s career spanned so much more than that – from Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” to Latin American music to the evolution of the music industry towards R&B, country, and rock ‘n’ roll. Mazor’s book digs deep into Peer’s life and career, presenting a portrait of a complicated and astute man whose work within the realms of regional roots music changed the very landscape of popular music across America and beyond.

A view of the five sawtooth panels in the museum, each focusing on a different element of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. From left to right, we see "Stars of the Sessions," "Producing the Music" (Ralph Peer), "The Western Electric Microphone," "I Was There," and the brief history of the Sessions in Bristol.
This area of the museum’s exhibits focus on major elements of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, including Ralph Peer’s role in those recordings and his impact on the recording industry. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Neil Staples

Barry Mazor is a longtime music, media, and business journalist. He has been writing about country and roots music for the Wall Street Journal  since 2003 and is the host of the “Roots Now” music and artist interview show on Acme Radio Live out of Nashville, which streams weekly. He is the author of Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America’s Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century and Connie Smith: Just for What I Am, and the former senior editor and columnist for No Depression magazine. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including American Songwriter, the Nashville Scene, the Village Voice, and the Washington Post. Both Meeting Jimmie Rodgers and Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music won Belmont University’s annual “Best Book on Country Music” award.

This month we will be meeting on the third Thursday of the month – one week earlier than normal due to Thanksgiving – so make plans to join us on Thursday, November 21 at 11:00am, and then keep listening around 11:30am to hear a live chat with the author! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is for sale at The Museum Store or available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians or our frontline staff will be happy to help you find the book. 

The book is on display in front of a postcard rack with a Stonemans postcard and beside of a CD display, including CDs of the Bristol Sessions and The Carter Family.
Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music, on display in The Museum Store, along with a variety of related items. © Birthplace of Country Music

And plan ahead: Our final Radio Bristol Book Club pick of the year is Serena by Ron Rash (December 19 – also one week earlier than normal due to Christmas). We will be releasing our 2020 book club picks soon!

Ken Burns’ Country Music: It’s FINALLY Here!

We don’t know about you, but we are EXCITED! After several years of prep by the filmmakers – including extensive interviews, research time in archives and libraries, conversations and debates, music performances galore, long road trips and late nights, and editing and production – PBS’s Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns is finally here!

The first 2-hour episode – “The Rub (Beginnings – 1933)” – airs on PBS on Sunday, September 15 at 8pm ET, and its blurb notes: “‘Hillbilly music’ reaches new listeners through phonographs and radio, launching the careers of country music’s first big stars – the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.” For those of you who know us already, you know that the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers recorded for the very first time here in Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia at the now famous 1927 Bristol Sessions. And you know that our town celebrates this history and its impact and legacy in so many ways, including the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, and Radio Bristol. (By the way, if you didn’t know this, it’s a cool history so come visit us!)

Left: A view down Bristol's State Street. Center: Several musicians on the Ryman stage in front of a packed audience. Right: Johnny Cash sitting on a cash with several instruments around him.
PBS promotional images from Country Music. Left: Episode 1 (Downtown Bristol, c.1927. Courtesy of Bristol Historical Association ). Center: Episode 5 ( The Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, c, 1960. Courtesy of Les Leverett photograph, Grand Ole Opry Archives). Right: Episode 5 (Johnny Cash at his home in California, 1960.  Courtesy of Sony Music Archives).
 

For us, seeing this musical heritage recognized and celebrated by a filmmaker like Ken Burns is pretty amazing. The documentary features Bristol’s story and the many people who were part of that story, exploring their integral role in the development of early commercial county music. Over eight episodes and sixteen and a half hours of viewing, the film traces the path of country music – “a uniquely American art form” – from its influences and origins in ballads, blues, and sacred music through its evolution into different sounds and manifestations and then on to its global popularity today. Viewers will get the chance to see footage and photographs, and hear stories and histories, never before revealed, along with interviews with over 80 artists. This is TV worth watching.

BCM was fortunate to get to spend some time with the Country Music filmmakers and their wider team during the research process and then again in March 2019 as the Country Music kick-off road show hit the highways and byways. Back in 2014, not long after the museum opened, we shared some of our own research into the photographs and media used in the museum with Florentine Films, later giving them access to some of our collection for digital scanning and research purposes. We also had a fun day facilitating filming with a local phonograph collector, spending time with him beforehand to find the perfect machine and then getting to watch the filming in action a couple of months later!

Left: Bob Bledsoe sitting on a couch with four members of the BCM team, each holding a wax cylinder. Several phonographs can be seen in the background. Right: A phonograph with a red morning glory horn is central in the picture with film crew around it working lights and image.
Left: Bob Bledsoe with his phonographs and the BCM team on the day we scoped out which phonograph would get to be in a Ken Burns’ documentary. Right: The film crew at work on getting the right digital footage of the phonograph. © Birthplace of Country Music

And then, on Sunday, March 24, 2019, Burns – along with his Emmy Award-winning creative team including producers Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey – arrived in Bristol on a large tour bus to kick off the promotion for Country Music. They were also joined by Old Crow Medicine Show’s frontman Ketch Secor, whose love of the history of country music made him a frequent collaborator with the team. This event at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum was the start of their 30-city promotional road show tour. You can hear more about that event in our blog post here.

Top left: Ken Burns and Ketch Secor talking into mics during the Q&A at the museum; Top right: Secor, Burns, Dayton Duncan, and Julie Dunfey pointing to the PBS logo on their road show bus; Bottom left: Burns being interviewed by media in the museum's exhibits; Bottom right: Burns in the museum's exhibits with the head curator.
During his time at the museum, Burns and his team took a private tour of the exhibits, led by Head Curator Rene Rodgers, which was followed by a reception in the museum’s Special Exhibits Gallery. Local and national journalists got the chance to speak directly with the filmmakers, who later provided a real treat for the event attendees: a short screening with a clip from the film and an in-depth Q&A session. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Earl Neikirk

What’s great about a Ken Burns project is that not only is all of the research and in-depth stories and interviews presented via the film itself, but there will also be a host of ways to explore the subject even more deeply – from a book to the soundtrack (as a 2-disc CD and a 5-disc DC box set) to vinyl LPs to DVDs and Blu-Rays of the full show. The DVD and Blu-Ray extras include a preview program, a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made, and material gleaned from hours of interviews. All of these items will be on sale and available at The Museum Store!

A shot of The Museum Store entrance with promotional displays related to Ken Burns' Country Music.
The Country Music display at The Museum Store. © Birthplace of Country Music

Everything to do with Country Music has been a thrill for us – from being able to help the Florentine Films team in a small way to getting to be the first leg on the promotional road show to seeing Bristol’s important musical history honored and celebrated in the resulting documentary. It has also been wonderful to see Burns talking about Bristol as a place that people should come visit as part of their pilgrimage to truly explore the history of country music – we hope to see you here soon! But most of all, we are so grateful to see the overwhelming passion, engaged interest, and profound understanding that Burns and his team have shown when they talk about country music. This is music and history that we love, and we are proud to see it represented in such a deeply respectful way.

* The first four episodes of Country Music will begin airing on Sunday, September 15 and run through Wednesday, September 18, and then episodes 5–8 will air the following week on Sunday, September 22 through Wednesday, September 25 at 8:00–10:00 p.m. ET.

Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan at the Bristol sign in March 2019. Courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development; photographer: Ed Rode