Festival Archives - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Meet the women behind the Birthplace of Country Music

Last month was Women’s History Month, and instead of looking backward, we chose to look forward and celebrate some of the amazing women who are leading the way, making a difference, and making history at the Birthplace of Country Music. The Birthplace of Country Music’s staff is majority female. This is not so surprising when you consider that women make up about 60% of the overall museum field, but what is surprising is that all of our leadership positions are held by women!

Even though the world has come a long way toward diversifying hiring practices and more women are now able to get in the door, it can still be hard to find a seat at the table. In many industries today, leadership roles are still held by men. For example, in the festival and event industry, where women comprise 40% of the workforce, 80% of all management-level positions are held by men.

Last month, we interviewed some of the women in upper management roles at the Birthplace of Country Music and have been sharing those interviews on our social media channels throughout the month to celebrate these women. Now we have compiled all of those interviews into one convenient blog! Read on to learn more about Dr. René Rodgers, Head Curator; June Marshall, Museum Manager; Paula Hurt, Managing Director; Kathryn Long, Director of Administration; Baylor Hall, Director of Operations; Shauna Tilson, Director of Development; Leah Ross,  Executive Director of Advancement; and Sarah Alexander, Director of Marketing.


What is your role in BCM, and how did you get there?

René: I am the Head Curator for the museum. I grew up in Bristol and knew the general story of the Bristol Sessions, but hadn’t dug deeper into this history. I went away to college and then on to graduate school in archaeology and a life in England for several years. And because I was a Rotary Ambassadorial scholarship winner my first year in the UK, I shared the story of Bristol’s country music connections to other Rotary clubs and groups while I was there. I moved back to Bristol at the end of 2011, right as the museum content development was ramping up, and in mid-2012 I was invited to be part of the content team, using my background in history, writing, and editing. I became the Associate Curator in 2013, followed by the Curator of Exhibits & Publications, and then finally Head Curator in 2018!

June: I am the Museum Manager. I began my employment on Frontline at the museum as a part time employee. As time went on, I was moved to full time. When our Museum Manager was moved to Operations, I was offered the position as manager before they reached outside BCM to look for someone. I accepted the position and have been here in that capacity ever since. That was about four years ago.

Paula: I am the Managing Director of the Birthplace of Country Music. I grew up in many different places as my father was a 20-year Marine so moving was the norm in our household. I graduated from East Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration – I am a first-generation college graduate. I have worked in cash management at a local bank, purchasing for a Fortune 500 manufacturer as well as cash manager/accounts payable supervisor for a global glass manufacturer. I served as the Vice President of Finance and Administration for the Bristol Chamber of Commerce for many years – which developed my love of the Bristol Community and the tourism industry. During this time, I was able to watch the evolution of the Birthplace of Country Music from the receipt of the designation by Congress, through the merger with Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion and then the opening of the Museum! I also volunteered for BRRR for many years. When the phone call came in 2022, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of this wonderful organization.

Kathryn: I am the Director of Administration. Leading up to my employment with BCM, I worked in a primarily male-dominated world of forestry. I led the Human Resources and Finance Department for my previous employer and was challenged greatly in my role. I was oftentimes looked at as less than during business meetings due to being a woman in a male-dominated field. I assure you, as I grew up in that industry, I knew more than most of the men about equipment and repairs along with the costs associated with both. After years of being in the forestry industry, I looked to be more fulfilled in my work life and decided a change was needed. Keith Liskey and BCM took a chance on me and I am forever grateful for their confidence in my abilities to be a working part of the BCM family. 

Baylor: I am the Director of Operations for BCM. When I joined the BCM team in January 2018, I worked as the Museum Manager. With 

my background in merchandising, retail, and customer service, I was a good fit to manage our Museum Store and work with the many local artisans we feature through our store consignment program. While I didn’t have experience working in a museum setting, it became a part of the job that I loved very much. BCM also hosted so many events – from concerts and shows to weddings and company parties – and I loved being a part of those as the Museum Manager. My love for working those events was one of the factors that led to me moving positions and becoming the Operations and Events Manager. Stepping into that position meant taking more responsibility over all events within the organization, especially in regard to our annual music festival, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. Little did I know when I took that position in January 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic was right around the corner! The next two years, where I was navigating not only a new position but also a new world following the pandemic, was such a learning curve! My position within the organization continued to grow and adapt, and in January 2022, I became the Director of Operations.

Shauna: Since 2021, I’ve served as the Director of Development at BCM, where I lead initiatives in grants, individual giving, business contributions, sponsorships, planned giving, and our signature annual Super Raffle. My journey into professional fundraising unfolded naturally during my college years. It began when a former teacher faced a serious health challenge requiring extensive surgery. In response, a friend and I organized a fundraising event to support their medical expenses. This event’s success inspired us to continue hosting similar events for others in our community facing overwhelming medical costs. Graduating from college marked a pivotal moment when I transitioned my passion for fundraising into a fulfilling career path.

Leah: I started out as a volunteer in 2000 for Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion and was hired as the Executive Director in 2006. In 2022, I assumed the role of E.D. Of Advancement. In that role, I continue to be responsible for the festival. My role includes being a spokesperson, ambassador, advisor and fundraiser for the organization. I work with community groups, donors, government entities, the music industries and others. 

Sarah: I’m the Director of Marketing! I joined the team in 2022, where I lead all marketing efforts for all three of BCM’s branches. Prior to my role at BCM I worked in tourism in Galveston, TX and spent many years working in digital and social media marketing. While I enjoyed working in destination marketing, my heart has always been drawn to music. Growing up as a musician’s daughter, I watched my dad play bluegrass from many stages and listened to more Bill Monroe than I truly appreciated at the time. However, over the years, I began to treasure the very music I used to take for granted. In 2012, I interned at BCM as a college senior and knew one day I’d be back. I’m so glad that dream came true a couple of years ago!

Two images. Left image: June, a white woman with short grey hair wearing a black shirt and blue cardigan, is standing at a desk speaking with two people. Right image: Baylor, a blonde white woman wearing a white t-shirt, lanyard, and black baseball cap, has one arm around Leah, a white woman with short brown hair wearing a white t-shirt and lanyard.
Left image: June greets visitors at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Right Image: Baylor and Leah at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion festival. Both images are courtesy of the Birthplace of Country Music.

Have any women mentored or inspired you?

René: Yes, several! Two come to mind from my childhood: Anna Morgan and Barbara Bunn. Anna was my friend Annika’s mother and my mom’s best friend; she was also my 5th grade teacher. She wrote a novel in her youth, and today she is one of my best friends and someone I count on to have deeply meaningful conversations. Barbara was like a second mom to me, always encouraging curiosity and taking my whole family on adventures. She went back to school later in life, getting her Ph.D. in chemistry and starting Virginia Tech’s mobile chemistry lab. Both of them showed me the strength, creativity, and determination of women. When I lived in England, I worked for Professor Rosemary Cramp for a year. Rosemary was an archaeologist, responsible for excavating one of the most important early medieval sites in England. The time I spent with her was transformative — I learned so much about research, my place in the academic world, and how to get things done! My friend Susanna Baird also inspires me. She is one of the kindest people I know and one of the most talented, writing beautiful poetry and prose. And then there is my godmother Wanda Worsham, who has been the biggest cheerleader, supporter, and role model to me. She inspires me in so many ways on a daily basis — her favorite comic character is Wonder Woman for a reason! Finally, my mother Joyce mentored me through her constant love and support, even of things that scared her like my love of horseback riding and me living in a foreign country on my own for almost 20 years!

June: I don’t recall anyone mentoring me but I have had other women who definitely inspired me from the time I was a little girl. Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth Dole are a few of those women I looked to as having a strong influence in my life as a woman.

Paula: There have been many women who have inspired me over the years and displayed traits that have proven invaluable to me. As I try to choose one or two to list, I find myself thinking of the traits that I admire most in these women such as compassion, strength, drive, collaboration, intelligence, determination, kindness, and many others. I think of the strong core network my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and aunts provided who raised strong families – instilling values, tenacity, respect and love. I think of teachers who taught not only academics but life lessons. I think of coworkers who have provided strength, support, teamwork, encouragement, and fun! Community and church leaders who have inspired a desire to make a difference, be a voice and step into volunteerism and community development.

Kathryn: I have been inspired by many women. Two being my mother and aunt. Both are strong, resilient women who have, by example. taught me that there is no challenge that is too large to concour. I have also been influenced by my fellow female coworkers at BCM. They tirelessly work to educate, drive, and excel in their departments all while juggling families and personal lives. I am humbled by the perseverance of my BCM family. 

Baylor: I feel that many women throughout my life have both mentored and inspired me – starting with my family. My mother was one of six daughters, and my dad had three sisters. Growing up, my Mom and my many aunts constantly supported me and helped show me what it meant to be a strong woman. I have also worked with, and for, many women throughout my career who have mentored me. From my very first job, where my boss took me under her wing and taught me so much more than was required, to female college professors, to women coworkers – I have really been lucky to feel the support of many, many women in my life.

Shauna: Absolutely! I’ve been fortunate to have been surrounded by many inspirational women in my life. Two remarkable individuals immediately come to mind. Firstly, my grandmother, India Gillespie, who is the namesake of my youngest daughter. She embodied intelligence, compassion, humor, and resilience, teaching me invaluable lessons about self-advocacy and standing up for what’s right. Secondly, Judy Franklin remains a cherished figure whom I always considered my guardian angel. Her unwavering kindness, boundless compassion, and generosity left an indelible mark on me, showcasing the profound impact one person can have on another’s life.

Leah: My sister, Sally, has always been an inspiration to me. She has always praised me when she thinks I’ve done good. However, she is quick to point out things that need more thought or could have been done better. She is always telling me she has my back.

Sarah: I’ve been inspired by so many women over the years, but the two that come to mind are my two grandmothers. My Nini, Kathleen. She taught me resiliency, compassion, and how to handle every situation with grace. My Nanny, Phyllis. She taught me to not take things so seriously and life is more fun when you take time to laugh.

Two images. Left image: Rene, a brunette white woman wearing a blue shirt, holds a large wall panel in a partially assembled exhibit gallery. Right image: Paula, a dark haired white woman wearing a black shirt and pink blazer, is speaking from a podium with the Birthplace of Country Music logo on the front.
Left image: Rene holing a wall panel while assembling the Women in Old-Time Music exhibit. Right Image: Paula speaking at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion line-up reveal press conference. Both images are courtesy of the Birthplace of Country Music.

What challenges have you had to overcome as a woman in your role?

René: I think all women face certain gender-based issues to some extent during their professional and personal lives, such as being talked over or dismissed in discussions, assumptions made about their interests or abilities, when asserting yourself is downplayed or criticized as “being emotional,” etc. We are often held to different or higher standards. I feel fortunate to have worked with many wonderful colleagues over the years at BCM where that is thankfully not the norm. I think the biggest challenge in my role as a woman has come from the juggling I do between work and home — while I am not a mother, I have helped with parental caregiving over the last several years (a role that more often falls on women), and this can make work-life balance even harder than it already is when work is the only thing on your plate.

June: I don’t really recall any real challenges as a woman in my current role. I will say that throughout my life, there have definitely been times when I was talked “down to” by men because I am a woman. My father was a very strong influence in my life and he always encouraged me to be independent in my thinking as a woman, especially. I will always be grateful to have had a father who guided me in the direction that gave me encouragement to make the right choices and speak up for myself, no matter what. 

Paula: Having worked in both the manufacturing and non-profit environments as a woman, there have been challenges. I have always searched for avenues to change perceptions, earn respect and make a difference in whatever environment I find myself a part. After all, it is the challenges that make you stronger.

Kathryn: Oftentimes a woman’s voice is stifled due to our soft spoken nature. Feeling heard and respected professionally can be a challenge at times. However, I look forward to a future where gender, race, and lifestyle choices are not judged nor are subject to preconceived notions.

Baylor: Thankfully, I feel the majority of the challenges that have come with my position have been more about understanding and executing the full scope of my work than it has been about the fact that I am a woman in this field. With that being said, I am not immune to the gender-based issues that many women face on a daily basis. Much of the work I do takes place in more male-dominated spaces, and so learning how to work within that environment can definitely be challenging. I have to give a shout out here to my Dad – I grew up working alongside him on our family farm, and never once do I remember him making me feel as if I couldn’t/shouldn’t be doing the work because I was a woman. I remember going to other farms, and people being surprised he brought his daughter, but he always just responded with “she’s the best cattle hand there is.” Make no mistake – I was not the best cattle hand there was! I know that now, but at the time I just felt proud and strong. I think having that type of support from a young age has helped me feel more confident throughout my career and definitely contributes to me not being as intimated when I’m in a situation where it’s recognized I’m a woman. Becoming a mother also presented additional challenges – trying to shift the balance to manage an already full workload and add in the new position as Mom has been extremely challenging, but rewarding! 

Shauna: Regardless of the role or workplace, navigating the challenges as a woman in the workforce is always significant and diverse. I’ve encountered numerous situations where I’ve sat at tables dominated by men, offering answers to questions or solutions to problems only to be talked over or disregarded entirely. However, I’ve learned not to let these obstacles hinder me. I make a point to assert myself—I answer the questions, provide solutions, reiterate if not acknowledged, and ensure my voice is heard even if I’m interrupted.

Leah: I have faced many challenges in my career, but I have always ignored or overcome them.

Sarah: I think women are often underestimated. This is something I use as motivation to exceed expectations, but I also think it highlights the importance of advocating for yourself and other women. 

Two images. The left image is Sarah, a blond white woman wearing a black tank top and yellow crossbody bag, taking a selfi with Charlene, a red haired white woman wearing sunglasses and a pink tie-dye shirt, while they drive a golf cart at a festival. Right image is of Kathryn, a blond white woman wearing a black and white striped shirt, sitting at her desk in her office.
Left image: Sarah (left) and Charlene (right) riding in a golf cart at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. Right Image: Kathryn at work in her office. Both images are courtesy of the Birthplace of Country Music.

What is your favorite part of your job?

René: There are several things that I really love about my job. Firstly, I love the people I work with, and I am so proud of my team and all that they do each day. Secondly, it means a lot to me to be part of an organization that directly serves our community — from education and exhibits to the preservation of history. And on a personal level, I love being in a job where I get to learn all the time!

June: I love welcoming all our visitors! I have the privilege of meeting some of the most interesting people in the world. I also enjoy working with the wonderful artisans from our region.

Paula: My favorite part of working for BCM is that I am really working for the whole Bristol Community. Bringing new people to Bristol to discover the hidden treasure of our town. Imparting the proud heritage of the deep musical history to museum visitors and educating the next generation. Watching the crowds of people who come to Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion and LOVE our festival – and that I get to help organize and curate this event! Listening to Radio Bristol broadcast, educate and entertain a worldwide audience – that’s pretty special. But I have to say that I am blessed to work with a group of amazing people that are all driven by a passion and love for what they do and the organization they represent – that is priceless.

Kathryn: The most favorite part of my job is working with a team that is so passionate and forward thinking. Feeling support from your fellow co-workers is so inspirational. I feel very honored being a part of the Birthplace of Country Music!

Baylor: My favorite part of my job, and one of the most challenging aspects, is how it is constantly shifting. My days are never “status quo” types of days. I feel like I’m constantly getting presented with new puzzles to figure out. BCM has so many things going on all the time and I enjoy the “chaos” of working in an environment like that. It can be difficult to balance all of the moving parts, but it is never boring!

Shauna: Working at the Birthplace of Country Music offers numerous rewarding experiences. One of my favorite moments is strolling down State Street during Bristol Rhythm & Roots, witnessing thousands of people enjoying themselves, and realizing that the year-long effort was truly worthwhile. I also feel immense pride when I see elementary students learning about our region’s rich history at the Museum or witness Radio Bristol producing another successful Farm and Fun Time event. What I cherish most about my role here is knowing that my time and effort aren’t just about earning a paycheck; they’re about contributing to programs and creating experiences that significantly impact our community and region.

Leah: My favorite part of my job is working with people in the community. I have been fortunate to have been able to meet so many people in my years with BCM who have become lifetime friends and mentors to me. My wish is that I always treat people with respect.

Sarah: My favorite part of working at BCM is throwing live events. Bristol Rhythm & Roots is my favorite weekend of the year! Every morning, I drive to work down State Street and dream of the thousands of music fans crowding the streets. I take a lot of pride in knowing we’re responsible for carrying on such a sacred tradition.

If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream project be for BCM?

René: My dream project is actually one that I hope we will be able to accomplish one day — to have a Smithsonian SparkLab! as part of the museum. This would enable us to serve K-12 and families with STEAM-based activities, resources, and fun learning opportunities in really meaningful and engaging ways. Plus, it would just be super cool!

June: I would like to see the Museum become fully accessible to all physical and mental disabilities. For example, those who are blind or visually impaired and those without hearing or with hearing loss. And along with the physical disabilities, it would be so helpful to have chair lift transportation for when the elevator is out of order.

We could always use more storage space, especially for The Museum Store. We currently have a tiny closet that is very limited with its layout for storage of back stock and supplies for the store.

As much as I love our Performance Theater, it would be wonderful to have our own much larger theater also, to host bigger shows without having to utilize outside sources.

Paula: My dream for BCM is to be that organization with unlimited resources! If this staff and volunteers can produce what is produced with the limited resources that are available, what the future for the organization and the Bristol community would be with more robust resources would be amazing. Truly, my dream would be that the organization have an endowment program in place that would secure the future of the organization for perpetuity – to know that the Museum, Festival and Radio would continue and grow for many generations. Leaving the legacy of the past with the ability to build and expand toward the future is truly what makes BCM so special. 

Kathryn: A dream project for BCM would be the ability to provide travel exhibits to our regional school systems. Allowing the exhibits to come to schools rather than have the children travel would be amazing, as bus transportation has become so difficult for school systems.

Baylor: If I had unlimited resources, a dream project for me would be for BCM to travel! I would love to see BCM collaborate on and produce events all over the country. I love the idea of a “Brought to You by the Birthplace of Country Music” type of project that would reach different audiences and demographics and give us different platforms to share our story.

Shauna: I have numerous dreams for our organization, and it’s challenging to pick just one. One dream that’s coming to fruition is our event on June 1st featuring Dwight Yoakam, which I’m incredibly excited about. Another major dream project is the completion of the Museum Expansion, as I believe it will have a profound and positive impact on our community.

Leah: If I had unlimited resources (money), I would build an endowment for BCM so that we could have the staff we need to do all the things we dream about doing. For example, a robust education department, complete renovations of the Joe & Cindy Gregory Building for the expansion of the Museum, and increase the number of staff where needed, just to name a few. In closing, I would say that I have been blessed to be able to be with the organization for many years. It is an honor and a sense of pride for me because I love and believe in the work that we do each and every day every day. 

Sarah: If I had unlimited resources, my dream would be to grow our team!

Round Two: Ashli’s Top 5 Bristol Rhythm Must-Sees

By Ashli Linkous, Marketing Specialist & Photographer

It’s almost time for my second festival as a staff member here at the Birthplace of Country Music, so here’s year two of Ashli’s “Must Sees” at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, coming up this week on September 8-10th, 2023!

Larkin Poe

When I heard that Larkin Poe was on this year’s lineup, I was stoked! I grew up listening to rock music, so I’ve always had a soft spot for anything rock and roll. The sister duo’s unique sound is a melting pot of blues, gritty southern rock, gospel, and even bluegrass and old-time country music. It’s not surprising that the sisters draw from such genres as bluegrass and old-time – you may remember when the sisters were in an acoustic trio called The Lovell Sisters. Personal favorites from Larkin Poe are “Kick the Blues,“Mississippi”, and “Deep Stays Down.” They headline Cumberland Square Park Stage on Saturday, September 9th at 10:00 PM! Don’t miss it! This show will be such a vibe with the atmosphere of the Cumberland Square Park stage lights at night!

Promotional image of the duo Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe. Two women are facing the camera and holding instruments. The women on the left is holding a light pink guitar with glitter and wearing a brown fringe western jacket. The woman on the right is holding an instrument and wearing a black sleeveless shirt with shiny patterned pants. Both women are sitting on a fuzzy yellow blanket in front of a colorful orange and yellow background.
Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe.

Sons of the East

I learned about Australian based indie-folk band Sons of the East when they made their way through Bristol in 2022. They played at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino last October and came to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum for a spur of the moment tour the next day. I’ve been hooked ever since! For fans of Bristol Rhythm alumni such as CAAMP and Rainbow Kitten Surprise, this band is a must see! Trust me, you’ll be bragging about seeing them at Bristol Rhythm in a year or two. We are lucky enough to have them play twice for us: opening the State Street Stage on Friday, September 8th at 5:00 PM and on the Piedmont Stage on Saturday, September 9th at 3:45 PM! Personal favorites are On My Way,” Millionaire,” and “Into the Sun.” 

Three young men are posing and smiling for a promotion image of their band. The man on the far left is smiling and wearing a white button up shirt and jeans. The man in the middle is wearing a brown shirt and jeans and leaning down towards the camera, his hair is in his face. The man on the far right is leaning against a yellow wall behind the other two men, and wearing a blue button up shirt with a white tee shirt with the text “NYC” on the shirt.
Australian indie folk trio formed in 2011 by Nic Johnston, Dan Wallage, and Jack Rollins.

Arcy Drive

If you loved Briston Maroney’s Sunday set (or missed out and heard about it later) at last year’s festival, then you have to add Arcy Drive to your list! This four piece band has dubbed their music “attic rock,” and have racked up accolades such as Luck Reunion’s Southwest Air “Artist on the Rise” winner. They recently embarked on their first sold out headlining tour, so it’s going to be awesome to have this band make a stop in Bristol before they absolutely blow up, because they definitely will! Personal favorites are Roll My Stone,” “Smoke & Fire,” and their newest release “Wicked Styley.” They play Cumberland Square park Stage on Saturday, September 9th at 4:00 PM.

 A black and white image of 4 young men in the back of a vehicle. The men are all smiling and have their arms around one another. The men are wearing t-shirts and hoodies.
Promotional image of the band Arcy Drive.


If you are in search of a feelgood band that will get you on your feet, then look no further! Perhaps the band I am most excited to see at this year’s festival, HAPPY LANDING is a folk rock band that hails from Oxford, Mississippi. If you like bands such as The 502s, The Head And The Heart, or Oliver Hazard, or The Backseat Lovers, you should make plans to be at Cumberland Square Park on Saturday, September 9th at 2:00 PM. Personal favorites are “Love Your Guts, “October,” and “Carry On, Carry On.”

Five people are wearing blue, or white, or orange jumpsuits and are jumping in mid air on a beach.
Promotional image of HAPPY LANDING.

Holy Roller

Back in July I got a taste of Richmond, Virginia based band Holy Roller at our Road to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion show and I’ve been listening nonstop ever since. Their energetic live show blew me away. Their fans in the Richmond music scene showed up in droves and sang every word to their songs. The strength of their local fan base felt very similar to the momentum 49 Winchester was gaining right here in Southwest Virginia back in 2021. I feel that Holy Roller will likely find a similar path to success in the coming months/years. With a sound combining southern rock, Americana, folk, and country, personal favorites are “Flat Track Fire,” “Honey Where’d You Sleep,” and “Muscle Up.” They play for us twice: Friday, September 8th at 6:00 PM on the Lauderdale Stage and Saturday, September 9th at 3:00 PM on 6th Street. I would make plans to see both.

A fun group image of the band Holler Roller. The group consists of six men and one woman, they are all sitting on a porch with their arms around each other. The man on the far left is holding a white dog in his lap. Everyone is wearing colorful clothing and smiling and laughing.
Promotional image of Holler Roller.

You can buy tickets to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion right now at a special rate! Our prices rise at the festival gates, so buy early and save!! We also offer discounted weekend tickets for groups of 10+ at $100 each! Visit BristolRhythm.com for more information.

Ashli Linkous is a Marketing Specialist & Photographer at the Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. and an avid music lover!

Send In The Hounds: Tyler Childers Returns to the Tri-Cities

By Ashli Linkous, Marketing Specialist & Photographer

It wasn’t all that long ago when Tyler Childers recorded a Radio Bristol Session (2018) and played on the 6th Street and the indoors Shanghai Stages at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion (2017). Since then, that Radio Bristol Session video has racked in over 15 million views on YouTube and Childers has continued to rise higher and higher up in the ranks. 

Musician Tyler Childers singing into a microphone with a full band, a bass player to his right, a pedal steel guitar and electric guitar players to his right. Bright stage lights are shining down upon the band as they play and sign passionately.
Tyler Childers performing a powerful song in front of the crowd at Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City, Tennessee on May 10th, 2023.

With a stage decked out in taxidermy, prairie grass, and a black-and-white checkered floor, plus a surprise appearance from the Bluff City man who taught him how to play guitar, Tyler Childers made a BIG return to the Tri Cities last month. It was amazing to walk into Freedom Hall Civic Center and see the merch line wrapped around in a seemingly never-ending queue of fans eager to get their hands on some Childers swag. By the time I made it down to the arena floor the crowd was bustling with energy, ready to see the musician who hadn’t played in the area for quite some time. Tickets were hard to come by, with resell tickets going for several hundred bucks a pop. 

97 year old Clyde Lloyd looks onward toward Tyler Childers as they play onstage. Both are playing guitars in front of a stage backlit by a blue backdrop with a large silhouette of a tree behind them.
97 year old veteran Clyde Lloyd taking the stage along side Tyler Childers


First coming out solo, Childers opened with “Nose on the Grindstone,” which was followed by heavily spun tracks “Lady May” and “Follow You to Virgie,” with a roar from the crowd following suit. It was then that he brought out 97 year-old Clyde Lloyd, a long-time military service friend of his grandfather whom he would visit in Bluff City, Tennessee during the summers of his youth. It was in the nearby Bluff City where Childers learned his first three chords on acoustic guitar and how to play “Old Country Church.” After a long period of time where the two had lost touch, he was able to reconnect with Lloyd while traveling through the area on tour. Together, they played a duet of the song that brought much of the crowd to tears. To say this was a highlight of the night is an understatement.

But Childers continued to stun when he brought out his backing band, the Food Stamps. Going immediately into his own version of “Old Country Church,” they followed up with the title track of his new record, “Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven.” He then went into “Country Squire” and personal favorite “I Swear (To God)” from his record Purgatory. The crowd screamed along to familiar favorites like “All Your’n,” “Whitehouse Road,” and “Way of the Triune God.” By the end of the night Childers had played 23 songs and left the crowd with a show they’ll never forget. Many even stayed after the show, hoping and waiting to be given a setlist or other small memento from the stage.

It was safe to say that Childers’ recent show was a much different setting from the side stage he played for at the 17th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion as an up-and-comer in 2017, going from playing to several hundred to nearly 8,500 this go round. It’s crazy to think about how much he’s grown since that day and the crowd who unknowingly witnessed a legend in the making.

Tyler Childers is on stage and faces a crowd of fans watching him as he performs. He is wearing a black and blue plaid shirt playing a guitar looking down and singing. It is a bright and sunny day.
Childers performs at the 2017 Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival on state street Bristol.

I feel like it’s a testament to the work we do here at the Birthplace of Country Music, bringing in names who may not yet be on your radar. The same story has played out for so many huge acts that were up-and-coming when they played these streets, including Sturgill Simpson, CAAMP, and Billy Strings, to name just a few. This organization and this festival is proud to uplift and support live music and up-and-coming artists, and we hope that we can continue bringing in names that will soon rule the charts for decades to come. To learn more about the festival, visit BristolRhythm.com

Ashli Linkous is a Marketing Specialist & Photographer at the Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. and an avid music lover! 

Why High School Students Should Totally Come to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

This edition of the BCM Blog is contributed by Coleman Austin, our marketing intern and senior from Virginia High School. He’s been attending the festival with his friends since he was a middle school student, so we asked him for his perspective on the experience. Here’s what he had to say...

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion has been a part of my life since I moved to Bristol in 2012. I go to the festival every year I can and love it! Bristol Rhythm is such a fun experience for everyone. The festival always has something to do, for kids and adults. I highly encourage all my friends to go with me, and they always enjoy it regardless of if they like folk/country music or not. Going to the festival is an amazing opportunity for everyone to experience different walks of life, different people, and to learn about historic Bristol’s downtown and how country music came about.

Photo collage of 49 Winchester on stage at the festival, a backstage photo of Michael Trotter of The War & Treaty and audiences enjoying festivalThe Live performances are the main attraction at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, there is something for everyone. This year’s artist lineup consists of some big names such as Margo PriceNickel Creek, 49 Winchester, Bruce Hornsby, and so many more that you can find here. There are well over 70 performers at Bristol Rhythm this year. The most popular genres of music at the festival consist of Americana, folk, blues-rock, folk rock, country, and bluegrass. I never knew I was a folk music fan until Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion! The festival features tons of up and coming artists, for example I got to see Rainbow Kitten Surprise at Bristol Rhythm in 2019 before they shot up as stars in the music scene. Rhythm and Roots has hosted The War and Treaty, Charley Crockett, Lucy Dacus, and so many more before they got their music fame. Luckily I have been at the festival in past years and been able to see these bands and artists perform first hand and been able to call myself a fan of theirs before they blew up.

Little girl reaching up to a tall street performerSome of my favorite things about the festival are not necessarily going to all the live performances with my friends but everything else Bristol Rhythm has to offer also. Bristol Rhythm has so much more to offer than the live performances. Some of my favorite things to do at the festival other than the live performances consists of walking the streets and seeing downtown Bristol decorated for the festival, hanging out with friends at Cumberland Square Park, stopping by all the food trucks and trying new food, making new friends, and shopping on the streets of downtown just to name a few things. Although I am not of age anymore to participate in Children’s Day I still have very fond memories of the event. Children’s Day is held on Sunday in Anderson Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.. There you can expect to see food trucks, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. For more information on Children’s Day you can click here.

My friends and I have created very fond memories at Rhythm and Roots. The festival truly is like no other. You will never run out of things to do, people to meet, food to eat, or music to listen to too. It is a great experience, and I believe everyone, especially in the local area should try going at least once. There is something for any bodies of any age at Bristol’s very own Rhythm and Roots. For more information on the festival click here.

Group of young people smiling
Friday, September 9, 2022.
Photo Credit : Earl Neikirk/Neikirk Image

All I want for Christmas is a great music experience and the t-shirt: Bristol Rhythm Christmas Party Playlist included

In August 2013, St. Paul & The Broken Bones made an epic debut in Historic Downtown Bristol. The band was booked to headline Believe in Bristol‘s Border Bash free summer concert series with opener Blair Crimmins & The Hookers, and so begins the story of how the simple purchase of a band t-shirt may have helped direct the upward trajectory of the band’s career and continues to enrich my life with warm memories and great comfort after almost a decade of faithful wear.

Hailing from the iconic and eclectic music scene of Birmingham, Alabama, St. Paul & The Broken Bones had only been together for about a year when they arrived in Bristol, otherwise known as the birthplace of country music.  Though still in its infancy, the band was already creating a buzz in roots music circles with its throwback R&B sound, complete with jazzy horns and a killer lead vocalist that invoked the spirits of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and Wilson Pickett in every soul-gutting note. It was so early in the band’s development, they were paid only a few hundred dollars for the Border Bash booking, plus dinner. I can’t say for sure, but I believe the band likely accepted the gig because lead singer Paul Janeway’s girlfriend at the time, Caroline Williams, had family in Bristol who could put them up for the night.

It was my first time seeing either band live, and I was really stoked. I remember the show was well-attended and both bands killed. At one point in St. Paul’s set, Janeway’s mic briefly went out. Already a seasoned and flamboyant performer, Paul didn’t miss a beat…he ditched the dead mic and leapt from the stage to join my daughter Callie in an impromptu dance session. She was only four years old at the time and loved to dance at Border Bash. However, once she realized all eyes were on her and her flashy new dance partner, my baby girl had a moment and bolted!

Once the mic issue was resolved, the band played into the night –  making a big splash and lifelong fans in Bristol. After the show, I couldn’t get over to the merch tent fast enough to buy a St. Paul t-shirt and a CD from Caroline, who was manning the table. At some point Paul and a couple members of the band came over and chatted with us, and they were all super-gracious and kind. Paul and I laughed over Callie’s reaction to him joining her on the dance floor, and for several months after that encounter, she begged to listen to the band’s CD on repeat in the car.

Fan for life! Photo 1: 4-year-old Callie wearing her favorite frilly frock to see St. Paul & the Broken Bones at Bristol Rhythm 2013, hoping for a dance do-over. Photo 2: Callie and her friend Branch Sword couldn’t wait to say hi to Paul when the band returned to the festival in 2019.

Both bands that performed at Border Bash that evening returned the following month to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion (see the full 2013 festival lineup here) to much acclaim, with St. Paul & The Broken Bones participating in a Live and Breathing recording session from the sewing floor at LC King Manufacturing while they were here. To date, those videos have received over a million views on YouTube – and the video below was featured in a background scene of the HBO series “Big Little Lies(Season One, Episode 6: Burning Love).

Following the February 2014 release of their album “Half the City,” St. Paul & The Broken Bones was invited to perform at Hangout Music Festival and Bonnaroo, and also returned to the Bristol Rhythm lineup that September. In December of that year Paul married his sweetheart, Caroline, and the band’s stock was certainly going up. They were getting higher-profile gigs in bigger venues and earned coveted opening slots for acts like Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The latter performance was held at a bucket list venue for Janeway, as it took place at Nashville’s “Mother Church,” The Ryman. In this interview with Alabama.com, Janeway mentions that the band received three standing ovations that night.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the year my dear friend and co-worker Tracey Childress refers to as her “Year of Music.” She and her husband Eric took in several of their own bucket list shows in 2015, which included seeing Paul McCartney and a big Grateful Dead reunion tour. Me and my hubby Tim tagged along with them to see a cathartic 3-hour Fleetwood Mac show in Knoxville in March, during which I unexpectedly cried through almost the entire concert. The whole band was back together in its original form, and being in the same room with Stevie Nicks and seeing them play with such exuberance literally sent me on an emotional journey I hadn’t been prepared to take.

We learned The Rolling Stones were bringing their Zip Code Tour to Atlanta’s Bobby Dodd Stadium and that the opening act was none other than St. Paul & The Broken Bones! There was no way we were missing it, even if we had to sit in the nosebleed section.  Tickets in hand, we booked our hotel rooms and hit the road. I made sure to pack the t-shirt I had bought at the Border Bash show two years prior and proudly wore it to the concert.

Collage of 2 photos. The first is a photo of Eric, Tracey, Charlene and Tim (Charlene wearing St. Paul t-shirt) at Rolling Stones concert. Second photo is of Charlene, her daughter, and Paul Janeway of St. Paul & the Broken Bones.
Photo 1: Eric, Tracey, me, and my hubby Tim waiting for St. Paul & the Broken Bones to open for The Rolling Stones in Atlanta, June 9, 2015. I am wearing the t-shirt I purchased at St. Paul’s first Bristol show. Photo 2: That’s me with my daughter Callie and Paul Janeway at Border Bash in August 2013 when I bought the t-shirt.

For the record, I live for full-circle moments like these. Even though it was impossible that anyone from the band would see me in the crowd, I still came to represent in the St. Paul & The Broken Bones t-shirt I’d purchased two years prior. Also, once a band or artist has played Bristol Rhythm, it’s a bond that will never be broken. They are instantly part of our musical family and our story.

I ended up running into a couple of Atlanta friends I knew at the show who weren’t familiar with the band, and several people seated next to us were equally unaware of the greatness they were about to witness. My t-shirt opened up conversations about Bristol Rhythm and gave me the opportunity to brag about the band.

When St. Paul finally took the stage, it was exciting to see how the band had honed its stage show to perfection; their fiery energy primed the crowd perfectly for The Stones set and the whole night was magical. I’m still so proud of them and so incredibly happy for their success. Both The Stones and Fleetwood Mac shows are particularly sentimental to me now that we have lost Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts and the divine Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Most of all, I cherish those memories with Eric and Tracey whom I’ve been seeing shows with for the better part of 30 years.

Back to the shirt…there is an existing school of thought that it is uncool to wear your favorite band’s t-shirt to their concerts. I call B.S. on that, but I did run across this article panning the practice and another op-ed accusing band tee snobs of being self-loathing know-it-alls – so there’s that. I posed the question, “Is it cool or uncool to wear your favorite band’s t-shirt to their concerts?” on Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion’s Facebook page, asking fans and musicians to weigh in on the matter. The response was a unanimous “it’s cool” from both sides.

Collage of 3 photos: 1) Two young girls posing with the band The Happy Fits. The girls are wearing their band sweatshirts. 2) Charlene posing in her New Respects sweatshirt while posing with the band Curse of Lono. 3) Charlene selfie, she is wearing a Momma Mollasses t-shirt
Photo 1: My daughter Callie (right) and her friend Gionna Russo posing with The Happy Fits (L to R) Calvin Langman, Luke Davis, and Ross Montieth at Bristol Rhythm 2019. The girls are wearing the band’s sweatshirts in 90 degree heat! Photo 2: Me posing in my New Respects sweatshirt with WJHL news anchor Amy Lynn and the band Curse of Lono at Bristol Rhythm 2019. Photo 3: A selfie in my favorite Momma Molasses tee – yay, v-neck!

I have an entire chest of drawers overflowing with band and festival t-shirts, and they are a constant in my weekly wardrobe. I’ll never regret a single purchase, and I’d like to think that $15 or $20 investment in my favorite artists may be putting gas in their vans to get them to the next gig where a whole new audience will fall in love with their music. I’d like to think that my investment in St. Paul & The Broken Bones in those early years contributed to that in some small way.

Buying band merch is especially meaningful to local musicians. When you slap their stickers on your bumpers or sport a cool tee out in public, not only are you advertising their art, you are supporting a small business in your community, plus helping local artists tour, record new music, replace broken guitar strings, etc. Also, when you show up to their shows wearing those t-shirts, you’re showing them how much you love them. The energy exchange there is priceless, and it gives them incentive to keep creating.

Photo collage of 2 photos. In the first photo three children standing in front of a stage smiling. Two of them are wearing Avett Brothers t-shirts. In the second photo a young girl is wearing an Amythyst Kiah t-shirt.
Kids showing band love! Photo 1: My daughter Callie with her friends Branch and Ginny Sword, who were sporting Avett Brothers couture, at Kingsport’s Funfest in 2018. It was Callie’s first Avett’s show and we had yet to hit the merch table. Photo 2: Callie goofing with her Dad, but proudly wearing her Amythyst Kiah tank top on a summer beach trip.

This Christmas season, instead of buying stuff, consider giving your music-loving friends tickets to a concert and a cool band t-shirt to wear to the show. Every time they wear that shirt they’ll think of you and the great gift of a cool music experience that you gave them – plus, added bonus: it’s the perfect opportunity to promote hard-working musicians. Like St. Paul & The Broken Bones, they could be really huge one day, and your friends could have a great band story like mine to tell. It’s literally an unbroken circle of good vibes all around.

Shameless plug, but Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is a great festival for discovering new talent. Acts like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Amythyst Kiah, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, 49 Winchester, Moon Taxi, and Sierra Ferrell are just a few examples of talent we’ve hosted early on in their careers. Additionally, Bristol is a great example of how a thriving music scene breathes new life into a community, adds jobs, and supports its local economy through tourism, so make that investment and watch your local music scene thrive!

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion weekend passes make great stocking stuffers, and our festival tees are a great, quality purchase – just sayin’! We are nonprofit and a small business, so everything you give goes back into the festival and our community. Visit our website at BristolRhythm.com for more information, we’ll be rolling out the 2023 lineup early in the New Year! In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the following Bristol Rhythm Christmas Party Playlist on Spotify – filled with amazing artists that have performed at the festival – to keep you in the holiday spirit all season long!


Rx for the Soul: A Bristol Rhythm Thanksgiving Playlist

Though BCM is in perpetual motion, we are grateful for a bit of calm in the months after a busy Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. The 2022 event was a very good festival year by all accounts – we celebrated the 95th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, attendance was up, and the lineup was just stellar. We’re so appreciative to everyone who made the trip to State Street to be with us; we hope you had as great a time as we did and that your experience was both meaningful and memorable!

A collage of three photos depicting evening aerial scenes of the State Street Stage at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2022, packed with people.
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2022 and crowds on State Street. (L to R) Photo credit Johnson City Aerial Photography, Earl Neikirk, and Johnson City Aerial Photography.

As we have moved through fall – my favorite season of all – with its glorious red, gold, and amber colors of the changing trees, the crisp morning air, and vibrant, floating leaves that blanket everything below, it’s time to prepare for another busy holiday season and all its traditions. It’s also great time to reflect on all the things that went right in our collective lives this year and give thanks.

A collage of photos including a woman making a heart symbol with her hands, a photo of five women from different ethic backgrounds smiling at the camera, and a third photo of three children, two boys and a girl, enjoying the festival.
Images of music fans at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2022. (Clockwise L to R) Photos by Earl Neikirk, Cora Wagoner, and Earl Neikirk.

There are a few things I love most about music, including

1) How it brings people from all walks of life together in a way nothing else can

2) How favorite songs can lift our spirits and validate our emotions

3) How – faster than a heartbeat – a familiar song can nostalgically take you back to a time and place in your life of great significance.

The holidays can often be a source of anxiety for many of us for any number of reasons, and though I’m not a doctor, I’d like to prescribe something for you that may help soothe your soul and take the temperature down when things get a little overwhelming: Good music. You can take as much as you want and though symptoms may vary, the right combination of lyrics and melodies can change hearts and heal old wounds.

As a small gesture of gratitude to our festival goers and the amazing musicians we’ve hosted on our stages over the years, and in an effort to transmit cosmic gratitude and positive energy through the transformative power of music this Thanksgiving season, we’ve curated the Spotify playlist below of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion artists – packed with sentimentality and feel-good tunes that are guaranteed to set the mood for an amazing holiday season.  Thank you, friends, and may your blessings be bountiful.


*NOTE: Early bird weekend passes to Bristol Rhythm 2023 go on sale Black Friday for $100. Discount is good through Cyber Monday. Purchase online at BristolRhythm.com

Sunday at Bristol Rhythm 2022 with Rosanne Cash

As communications manager for the Birthplace of Country Music, the biggest part of my job is to  promote BCM, get media to cover our events and create content connected to our mission. I spend my days writing press releases, pitching story ideas to media outlets, and writing content for things like this blog, our newsletters and website, and social media. Twice a year, in August and September, I get the opportunity to publish my own stories in Voice Magazine for Women to highlight acts that will be performing at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion  – that’s kinda-sorta how I wound up spending Sunday at Bristol Rhythm 2022 with Rosanne Cash.

This year marked the 95th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. In order to help BCM capitalize on this important milestone in our region’s music history, we contracted two amazing publicists to help us bring more media attention to the 95th and the festival: Cindy Dupree, a seasoned pro who served as the PR director and public information officer for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development for more than 12 years, and Danielle Dror, a firecracker publicist from Asheville with her own PR firm, Victory Lap Media. As a team, we attracted dozens of international, national, regional and local outlets to Bristol and the festival, several of which had never previously attended the event. I must note that Cindy and Danielle’s experience and expertise in the field was essential in getting some incredible coverage, and I am blessed to have these fine ladies as friends and colleagues. With their help, we were able to facilitate dozens of interviews and generate an impressive number of great stories in the media.

A photo of Johnny Cash outside Folsom Prison with graphic "1968: A Folsom Redemption"Having Rosanne Cash headlining Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion on the 95th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions was also a huge deal, given her familial connection to Bristol through her dad and stepmom, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Hers is a living history that opens a new perspective into the past. To say we were stoked about her visit is an understatement. Serendipitously, a special exhibit honoring Johnny Cash, “1968: A Folsom Redemption,” was on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum during Bristol Rhythm, and we were confident that it was something Rosanne would want to see.

I reached out to Rosanne’s longtime manager, Danny Kahn, to invite her on a tour of the museum and special exhibit while she was in Bristol and asked if she’d be interested in holding a small press event. I also asked for an interview to talk about her history with the Carter Family and Southwest Virginia that would be published in the September issue of Voice Magazine. Fortunately for us, Rosanne recognized the importance of her visit to Bristol and agreed to most of our requests, including the interview for Voice that you can read here.

Though I have been privileged to meet many amazing acts, it’s pretty unusual for me to have much contact with big name, headlining artists at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Other BCM team members usually work through artists’ tour managers to meet their needs. Unless I’m arranging interviews for them or just happen to be at their stage at the right time, I’m generally just a spectator like everyone else. In this instance, because my team and I were organizing the press event and I already had somewhat of a rapport with Danny, it just made sense for me to be the point person for Rosanne.

Rosanne was performing on Sunday, closing out Bristol Rhythm on its third and final day. Though her schedule was too busy to take in the entire museum, she did have a brief window of time to tour the special exhibit and speak to the media. Our team worked out a logistics plan for the press event at the museum, and we alerted attending journalists that there would be an opportunity for interviews. Here’s what the itinerary looked like:

Photo of a crumpled note containing details of Rosanne Cash's itinerary during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
Found on my phone: A crumpled itinerary for Rosanne’s visit to the festival. Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

10 a.m.: Rosanne and her team’s flight lands in Knoxville
12:30 p.m.: Rosanne arrives in Bristol
3:25 p.m.: Meet Rosanne in lobby at hotel
3:30 p.m.: Special exhibit tour
3:50 p.m.: Press event at museum
4:00 p.m.: Return Rosanne to hotel
4:45 p.m.: Pick up Rosanne from hotel lobby, take her to stage
5:15 p.m.: Rosanne’s performance
6:35 p.m.: Take Rosanne back to hotel

When you factor in how long it takes to get from point A to point B, you can see the itinerary is packed pretty tight. Not only did we want Rosanne and her team to have a good experience in Bristol, it was also important for the press event to be of value to our journalists. Many of them were there specifically to get an interview with her. Everything needed to be perfectly organized to stay on time.

BCM arranged for two drivers to pick up Rosanne, her team, and her band from the airport in rented SUVs. BCM booked a suite next door to the museum at The Bristol Hotel for Rosanne so she would be close by. Our drivers communicated to us that her flight had arrived on time, so we all breathed a sigh of relief. To remain on schedule, every detail had to be mapped out perfectly.

Photo of Charlene Baker standing in Rosanne Cash's suite at The Bristol Hotel, holding a gift bag.
Delivering a welcome gift to Rosanne’s suite at The Bristol Hotel.Photo credit: Danielle Dror.

We put together a gift bag full of Bristol goodies from The Museum Store to have waiting in Rosanne’s hotel room before she arrived. Afterward we did a walkthrough of the press event with BCM staff to make sure our logistics were on point. When it was time, I met Leah Ross, BCM’s executive director of advancement, in the lobby of the hotel to greet Rosanne and her manager. We were only waiting a few minutes when Rosanne and Danny Kahn stepped off the elevator.

Rosanne Cash is a lovely lady with smiling eyes – and tiny! Maybe 5′ 2″ or 5′ 3″. My impression of  her is that she is friendly, composed, and a bit reserved. She had that “look” I’ve seen on faces of other touring artists just arriving at the festival for the first time – it’s kind of like they’re trying to get their sea legs back after being on the road for a while. When I recognize “the look,” I am quick to reassure them of what’s coming next, answer questions, and generally try to make them feel at home.  I gave the spiel to Danny Kahn – running through the logistics of how we’d be getting them to and from the museum, what would happen once we got there, and how we’d get them back to the hotel and to the stage. I sensed some relief before I guided them out the back of the hotel to my golf cart. I’ll add that Danny was great to work with. He has managed Rosanne for about 25 years and is very friendly, organized and hands-on. Every artist should be so lucky as to have a Danny Kahn on their team.

Photo of Rosanne Cash, her manager Danny Kahn, Leah Ross, and Charlene Baker
(Clockwise L to R) One of my infamous festival selfies with Rosanne, Danny Kahn, and Leah Ross. Please ignore the Port-O-Potty. Photo credit Charlene Tipton Baker.

Dr. Rene Rodgers, head curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, was waiting for us at the back door. I made the introductions and, to save time, Rene immediately started talking about the special exhibit as we walked through the museum’s loading dock and into the back entrance of the special exhibit. I didn’t linger at this point, instead choosing to meet Cindy and Danielle who were waiting to let the media inside. At this time they were all gathered in the atrium of the museum. Our plan was to allow Rosanne a few minutes to browse the exhibit with Rene and then quietly open the door for the media about halfway through so they could set up any cameras and microphones.

Rosanne Cash pointing out a photo to her husband, John Levanthal
Rosanne and her husband, John Leventhal, admiring one of the photos in the special exhibit “1968: A Folsom Redemption.” Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

Rosanne was genuinely engaged in the exhibit, and it was truly special to see her stop and admire certain photographs of her dad and ask questions. At some point Rosanne’s husband, John Leventhal, joined us in the gallery. Rosanne lingered at several photos, sometimes pointing things out to John and Danny, and commented on the ones she liked the most. Her smile spoke volumes as she moved from photograph to photograph and I believe she was sincerely moved by the experience.

Rosanne Cash lingering at a photo of her late father, Johnny Cash
Rosanne lingering a bit at this photo of her late father, Johnny Cash. The photo was taken at his concert at Folsom Prison in 1951. Photo credit: Ashli Linkous

After a few minutes, we quietly allowed the media to enter the room. When she had worked her way through the exhibit to the front of the gallery, we had a chair set up at the end of the room so she could sit and take questions, and she answered every single one. My friend Joe Dashiell, a veteran reporter at WDBJ-7 TV in Roanoke, had driven down for the event that day and captured this wonderful story.

More than a dozen journalists line up in the special exhibit
International, national, and regional media in attendance at the presser for Rosanne Cash. Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

Tom Wilmer, host of NPR’s “Journeys of Discovery” podcast, and Justin Goldman, Deputy Editor of Hemispheres, United Airlines’ onboard magazine, had previously requested one-on-one interviews with Rosanne following the press event. After we cleared the room, they stayed behind to speak with her. Neither of their interviews have posted yet, but if you follow us on social media they will be shared there once they’re online.

NPR's Tom Wilmer, wearing headphones, conducting an interview with Rosanne Cash
NPR’s Tom Wilmer interviewing Rosanne Cash. Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

Side note: This was Tom Wilmer’s second visit to Bristol. He had visited the museum once when we first opened and I did an interview with him then. Cindy Dupree worked diligently to get him back to Bristol for the festival this year, and he collected a ton of interviews over the course of the three-day event. Click here to listen to his first story, “Bristol, VA-TN – resonating with America’s musical soul for a Century.” Click here to listen to his second story with Jack King, fourth generation owner of L. C. King Manufacturing Co., founded in Downtown Bristol in 1913 and the unofficial outfitter of musicians passing through town. You’ll hear a brief promo for NPR by Rosanne, recorded by Tom during his interview, at the end of the podcast.

Rosanne Cash posing next to one of her favorite images of her late father, Johnny Cash.
Rosanne pointing out one of her favorite photos of her dad. Photo credit: Ashli Linkous

Once her interviews were over, I rushed Rosanne back to her hotel on via trusty golf cart so she could freshen up before her set. I waited in the lobby until it was time to take her to the State Street Stage. Before long, she reemerged from the elevator, having changed into a simple black suit and contrasting red blouse – very reminiscent of her legendary father.

The golf cart ride gave me the opportunity to tell her a little more about the festival, since she wouldn’t have time to take it all in. I remember telling her that she would be standing in both states on the State Street Stage and she found that amusing, as most artists do. Many don’t realize until they arrive in Bristol what that looks like, and it’s so cool when they make that discovery.

Molly Tuttle talking to Rosanne Cash backstage at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
Molly Tuttle and Rosanne Cash meet for the first time at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Great moment! Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

Once backstage, I noticed Molly Tuttle standing in the wings. She had just finished her own set, and I could tell she really wanted to talk to Rosanne. Though Molly has performed at Bristol Rhythm several times, I’d never had the opportunity to meet her…but I am a big fan! Ironically, she was wearing a Molly Tuttle t-shirt and I couldn’t help but comment on it. I pulled her over to Rosanne and asked if they’d ever met. Immediately Rosanne says, “No, but I LOVE you!” Molly’s face lit up. I walked away so they could chat privately; it made me happy to have initiated the exchange. It’s moments like these I cherish most at the festival – people connecting. They will always remember when they met for the first time in Bristol. Priceless!

A photo of publicist Danielle Dror taking a selfie with Jim Lauderdale and Charlene Baker backstage at Bristol Rhythm
A fun backstage moment with Danielle Dror and Jim Lauderdale. Two of my favorite humans! Photo credit: Jon Houser

At that point I needed to break away to help Danielle with a task, my memory is a little fuzzy on what we were doing, but we left on a golf cart to do…something? On our way back we spotted Jim Lauderdale walking a block over on Shelby Street. He was on his way to see Rosanne. Of course we stopped and offered him a ride.

A little backstory: My relationship with Jim Lauderdale is now very informal. He is an old friend of the festival and has been so gracious and kind to us over the years. He has also gone above and beyond to promote Bristol on our behalf.  Not only is he an immensely talented artist, he is a wonderful human and I genuinely love him. He is also super-accessible at the festival. He walks around from stage to stage as a fan…just amazing. Jim and Rosanne have been friends for decades – Jim actually introduced her to John Leventhal when she was still married to Rodney Crowell. She talks about the encounter in this interview with The Bitter Southerner, in case you’re interested. There are so many connections to Jim Lauderdale, I often joke that he’s the Kevin Bacon of country music!

When we made it back to the State Street Stage, Jim in tow, quite a crowd had formed. Rosanne’s was the final set of the festival, so throngs of people were making their way to see her perform. BCM had arranged for Bristol’s Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy‘s (MECCA) Highlands Youth Ensemble students to perform a tribute to Johnny Cash just prior to Rosanne’s set. They delivered a terrific performance to classics like “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line” – just precious!

Photo of the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy's Highlands Youth Ensemble, boys and girls, dressed in black and wearing cowboy hats.
MECCA’s Highlands Youth Ensemble waiting to go on stage. Photo by Charlene Tipton Baker.

When it was time for Rosanne to take the stage, all of State Street erupted in thunderous applause. She began her set with “A Feather’s Not a Bird” and “The Sunken Lands” from her album The River & The Thread, then “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For” from She Remembers Everything. A little later in her set, she stopped to speak.

Rosanne Cash speaking into a microphone.
Rosanne Cash addressing her audience from the State Street Stage at the 21st annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, 2022, on the 95th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. Photo credit: Billie Wheeler.

“I owe the Carter Family a tremendous debt because all of those Carter women…the first things I learned on guitar were those Carter Family songs,” Rosanne said from the stage. Then she broke into the Carter Family classic “Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow” from the 1927 Bristol Sessions.

Bristol Rhythm moments like these are simply iconic. Though I believe the majority of people who come to the festival know our history, it is likely that there are some who do not and just come to enjoy great music. Whenever an artist pays reverence to the 1927 Bristol Sessions from our stages, it’s a teaching moment. For Bristolians, in particular, it reinforces the work we are doing at BCM and reenergizes that sense of community pride for our music heritage. This declaration by Rosanne Cash – coupled with that song – festival GOLD. Check out Rosanne’s entire Bristol Rhythm 2022 set list here.

Rosanne Cash on stage with Highlands Youth Ensemble
Rosanne Cash with MECCA’s Highlands Youth Ensemble at Bristol Rhythm 2022. Photo courtesy: Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy

Rosanne had asked the Highlands Youth Choir kids to come back and join her on stage for one final number, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a song that always brings tears to my eyes especially when it’s performed at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Luckily, someone in the audience captured the performance on video and posted it to YouTube, so you can see it here. Seeing the kids grooving with Rosanne during the performance was unforgettable and heartwarming.

Windblown Rosanne Cash, smiling and wearing sunglass, as she passes the famous Bristol sign.
A quick selfie of Rosanne as we passed the Bristol Sign as we whizzed past on a golf cart. I purposefully cut myself out of the photo. Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

After her set Rosanne spoke to a few fans and signed autographs, then I took her and John back to the hotel. Rosanne asked for a glass of wine to be sent up to her room and I jokingly said, “I’ll hook you up.” Amused, she shot me the side-eye and a sly smile before going up to her room. I immediately approached the hotel desk manager and asked them to send up a whole bottle!

About 15 minutes later Danny Kahn called my cell. He was still with the band at the State Street Stage loading up gear, but needed guidance getting his SUV over to the hotel. The barricades make it difficult to get around easily, but there is a route for emergency vehicles.  I met up with him and he followed me in my golf cart to the back entrance.

Figuring my job for the day was done, I headed to Lumac Rooftop Bar above the Bristol Hotel for a much-needed cocktail with Cindy and Danielle. Just as I emerged from the elevator and into the bar, the bottom let out on a giant rain storm that had been threatening to burst all day. The hotel boasts 360 views of the entire city, but visibility at that moment was zero! It was coming down hard as bar patrons fled from the rooftop patio, soaked to the bone. Thank little baby Jesus the festival had ended at that point, but I instantly worried about everyone who was left out there trying to tear down their tents in the storm. The bartender handed me a martini and no sooner than I took the first sip, my phone rang.

“Rosanne is wondering around the lobby of the hotel and doesn’t know where to go. Will you help?” asked Danny Kahn. He was still outside the hotel, no doubt getting soaked. Without hesitation, I quickly got back on the elevator and headed downstairs. When the elevator doors opened, Rosanne was standing on the other side at our usual pick-up spot, looking beautiful and relaxed in an oversized, white sweatshirt and black leggings. It was then that I realized I was still holding my drink.

“I’m having a drink too,” I said, a little embarrassed, then set it down on a little table outside the hotel conference room. She gave me that gorgeous mega-watt smile and I guided her to the back exit. When we opened the door, we saw that Rosanne’s tour manager had backed  the SUV into the little covered porch to try and stay dry as he loaded up suitcases. Rosanne got into the SUV and I ran over to the driver’s side to give Danny directions to the interstate. A minute or two later, they were driving away, headed back to Knoxville to spend the night so they could catch an early morning flight.

A close-up photo of a martini with two olives.
Reflecting on a fabulous festival with my favorite libation, a dirty Bombay Sapphire martini with extra olives.

In solitude, I lingered under the porch in the back of the hotel to watch the rain for a little while and finished my martini, reflecting on that historic day in Bristol’s history and silently mourning the passing of another great festival. Each year I marvel at how truly precious all those little moments are that make up Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion weekend – and how they always seem to come and go so quickly.






Rosanne Cash: Americana’s Renaissance Woman

Voice Magazine for Women, a free, monthly publication distributed regionally in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to 650 locations, partners with the Birthplace of Country Music to promote our annual music festival, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. In August and September of each year, Voice generously allows us free rein to produce cover stories for the magazine highlighting upcoming acts performing at the event. With their permission, we have duplicated the cover article for this month – we hope you enjoy it! To read this month’s issue in its entirety, click here.

Voice Magazine for Women
Rosanne Cash: Americana’s Renaissance Woman
A Q&A on Family Ties to Southwest Virginia, Her First Trip to Bristol, and Fun Stuff You Didn’t Know and Would Likely Never Ask
By Guest Contributor Charlene Tipton Baker
Photo Credits: Michael Lavine

Rosanne Cash is one of the most revered artists in Americana music. At 67, she has an amazing career as a multi-GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter and performer. A born writer, Cash was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015 and is a bestselling author and poet. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Oxford-American, among others, and she is frequently invited to teach classes in English and Songwriting at various colleges. Additionally, Cash is an advocate for creators’ rights and children’s causes, including education and gun violence prevention.

This September, Rosanne Cash headlines Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion on the 95th Anniversary of the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings. Rosanne’s familial connection to our region’s music heritage makes her visit extra special; she is the eldest daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian. She also enjoyed a close, loving relationship with Johnny’s second wife, June Carter Cash. June is the daughter of Mother Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family, the “First Family of Country Music.” The 1927 Bristol Sessions included the very first recordings of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music,” and catapulted country music into the mainstream.

Ralph Peer recorded the 1927 Bristol Sessions in the Taylor-Christian Hat & Glove Company building on the Tennessee side of State Street. The building was long gone by the summer of 1971 when Johnny and June traveled to Bristol, alongside Maybelle Carter, Sara Carter Bayes, and other members of the Carter clan, to dedicate a monument to the 1927 Bristol Sessions at the site where they took place. Ralph Peer II (son of Ralph Peer) and members of Jimmie Rodgers’ family were also present. Thousands of people from the community gathered for the occasion. On that day, Johnny expressed to them how he would love to see a museum dedicated to the music history that had been made in Bristol.

Decades later in 2001, the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival was established to honor the legacy of those seminal recordings. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, opened its doors to the public in August 2014. One year later, WBCM Radio Bristol went live on the air, broadcasting from the museum.

I relayed the story above to Rosanne’s manager, Danny Kahn, along with a request for this interview and extended an invitation for the artist to tour the museum while she is in town for the festival. He quickly replied, “Rosanne realizes how significant her visit to Bristol is. She has never been. She wants to do as much as possible regarding your requests.” From everything I had read, I was not at all surprised by her generosity.

So much has been written about Rosanne Cash and by her, so in this interview I chose to focus on her ties to our region’s music heritage, while adding a few trivial zingers à la Bop and Tiger Beat to satisfy my inner, pre-teen geek. Rosanne: if you are reading this, my apologies for that – but thank you for kindly playing along! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to make this connection for my hometown, and excited for you to experience Bristol and the festival. I hope you love them both as much as I do.

Below are my questions answered by the artist via e-mail:

This will be your first time performing at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion and your first time visiting the museum. Knowing that your dad’s dream of having a museum dedicated to the legacy of the 1927 Bristol Sessions is now a reality, what are your thoughts?

He was right. I’m grateful that he spoke those words that day, and that a ripple of enthusiasm went out and planted the seed to create the museum, although, honestly, it seems like it was destined! Such a historic moment and location in the cultural makeup of our country deserves to be forever immortalized. I’m thrilled to be going to perform in Bristol and see the museum for the very first time. I’ve actually sent people there, but never been myself!

When tourists come to visit the museum in Bristol, we make it a point to encourage them to visit the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, VA. We consider it hallowed ground, and it is poignant that your dad’s final performance was there. In the beautiful eulogy you wrote for June Carter Cash after her death in 2003, you mention that Johnny hosted a “grandkids weekend” for June on her birthday one year someplace in Virginia on the Holston River. Do you have any more memories of visiting there growing up?

In 2001, we visited the Maybelle and Ezra Carter house in Maces Springs, where June grew up, and which she and my dad owned in their later years. We went canoeing on the Holston River and had a celebration for June’s birthday on the property. All the children and grandchildren had to give her something that was not a physical gift— a song, a story, a wish of some kind. I remember I sang “The Winding Stream.” We visited A. P.’s grave and sang together on the porch. It was a wonderful weekend. When I was young, I remember going with Dad and June to visit some of her kin in the Valley and eating the best biscuits I’ve ever had.

This year is the 95th Anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, which many consider to be the most influential country music recordings in history. The themes in those old songs are universally timeless. Given your family ties, it makes sense that the music of the Carter Family would impact your own music, and in the past, you have cited them as an influence. Can you point to a particular Carter song – or songs – that most resonate with you?

Helen Carter spent a lot of time with me, teaching me the Carter Family canon, when I was 18 and 19 years old. It was an invaluable education. I loved “Black Jack David,” “Hello Stranger,” “I Never Will Marry,” “Sinking in the Lonesome Sea,” “Banks of the Ohio,” “Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow”— all classic and essential songs— but most of all, I loved “The Winding Stream.” I recorded that, and I also recorded “Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow” on my album “The List.” I still perform that song in concert and will be singing it with added poignancy in Bristol!

I once ran across an old video of a Carl Perkins concert from the 1980s.The Stray Cats were his backing band, and there you were – along with Eric Clapton, Dave Edmunds and George Harrison and Ringo Starr. You were the only woman on that stage, and you absolutely rocked “What Kinda Girl.” You have collaborated with so many amazing artists over the course of your career. What is it like to meet your heroes and to be respected as a peer among them?

As a pre-teen and teen Beatles obsessive, absolutely in love with and deeply affected by the Beatles, I couldn’t, in my wildest dreams, imagine being on a show with George Harrison, or becoming friends with Elton John, and singing for him at his birthday party, or so many other instances where I met the heroes of my youth, or a contemporary artist who inspires me. At some point, as a musician, after 40 plus years, you seem to run across everyone who is out there doing the same thing as you, like a person in a multi-national corporation who meets her colleagues in other branches of the company. 😉

You have been a big advocate for change on many issues, including artists’ rights to get paid fairly for the use of their music by tech companies like Spotify and Apple Music. You serve on the board of Content Creators Coalition, an artist-run nonprofit advocacy group for musicians. You have testified before the House Judiciary Committee in defense of artists rights on behalf of the Americana Association, as your dad had done in 1997 in support of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. With so many artists, artists unions, and political leaders pushing to enact reform, do you see change coming any time soon? Does more need to happen?

The Content Creators Coalition dissolved and morphed into the Artist Rights Alliance, on whose board I serve. Change comes, change is slow. I realize I’m working in a garden I may never see bloom, but we do have some small successes piled up lately, and intellectual property rights’ issues seem to have bipartisan support in Congress, which is hopeful.

The pandemic and the political climate in the U.S. for the past several years has forced many of us to re-evaluate our lives and careers. Artists were forced to get creative to keep their audiences engaged and are only just starting to recover from months of not touring. What effect has the pandemic had on you personally and as an artist?

I wrote—both songs and essays— and I enjoyed being at home. I realize I’m very privileged to be able to say that. I thought a lot about what I want to do in the next phase of my life—less touring, more strategic, important events, more writing, more staying put. I got Covid on the road, and it’s become an occupational hazard for touring musicians. It’s not just that, however— it’s that the lifestyle is not sustainable for me. I love the audience so much, and the community and connection, but the other 22 hours of the day are hard!

I follow you on Twitter and you are brilliant at it. You have an amazing sense of humor; your barbs are witty and razor sharp. It takes skill to effectively diss in a concise and timely manner and you nail it. When are you going to take the plunge to Tik Tok? You don’t have an account, but you are definitely in that space – people from all walks of life are dancing and singing to “Seven Year Ache” and “Tennessee Flat Top Box.” It’s a beautiful thing. Search your hashtag and give me your thoughts. I’ll wait…

Oh wow. My daughters send me Tik Toks all the time, and I enjoy them, but… it will be a learning curve for me, and also… how much time does one give to social media before it starts taking back from you…??

Because I rarely get the opportunity to fully embarrass myself in front of my heroes, I’m gonna go ahead and ask the hard-hitting questions nobody but me really cares about:

You’re alone in the house and it is on fire. You can only grab one thing before fleeing. What do you take?
Irreplaceable photos of my kids that aren’t digitized and family scrapbooks. It would be hard to leave behind my guitars and diamond earrings, but….

If you could have one superpower (that you don’t currently possess), what would it be?
Heal the trauma of every child in the world. (Then… play guitar like my husband.)

What is your recurring dream?
Giant waves are coming toward me.

What book are you reading right now?
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What music is in your current rotation?
Wilco, the Avett Brothers, and Annie Lennox

What do you always keep in your purse?
A guitar pick, lipstick, and Pepcid.

What is your least favorite household chore? Favorite?
Emptying the dishwasher is my least favorite. I love sweeping and cleaning out drawers.

What is your favorite movie?
Hmmm… probably “All About Eve.”

Are you a cat person or a dog person?
I have a cat I love, but I like dogs better, generally.

Do you believe in ghosts? Aliens?
The jury is still out. Ghosts…not traditional-type ghosts, but energy that survives, and the resonance of people and places that survive death or destruction. I believe that because energy doesn’t die. Aliens…? It’s a statistical impossibility that we are alone in the universe, but I have no idea what form that takes.

Marvel or D.C. Comics?
Ooh. I don’t know. Not my area.

Toilet paper rolled out or under?
No opinion on that.

What is your spirit animal?
The ocean.

Favorite toy as a kid.
Chatty Cathy doll

You really are a Renaissance woman. You continue to accomplish so much and seem to have a deep well of creative reserves. What’s next for Rosanne Cash?

I’m the lyricist on a new musical called “Norma Rae,” based on the bio of the real woman who became Norma Rae in the film starring Sally Field. We are staging a workshop with full cast in September, and I’m excited. I love working collaboratively like this.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration! I really appreciate this opportunity!
See you in Bristol!

I highly recommend reading Rosanne Cash’s memoir, “Composed,” and “Bodies of Water,” a collection of short fiction stories. Catch her performance on the State Street Stage on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 5:15 p.m. EDT during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. The Stage is located right beside the monument to the 1927 Bristol Sessions on the “Tennessee side” of State Street. Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is scheduled for September 9-11, 2022, on State Street in Historic Downtown Bristol. Visit BristolRhythm.com for lineup and ticket information.


The New Girl at BCM Weighs In: Ashli’s Top 5 Bristol Rhythm Must-Sees

Being a music aficionado isn’t a requirement to work at the Birthplace of Country Music, but most of us are really big fans. It isn’t uncommon for new hires to get quizzed on their favorite artists and what they enjoy listening to outside the office, so for this edition of the BCM Blog we made the quiz an assignment for the “new girl” in our Marketing Department. Below is Marketing Coordinator Ashli Linkous’ Top 5 must-sees at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion in 2022:

Howdy! I guess I better introduce myself. I’m Ashli Linkous (odd spelling, I know). I first came to the Birthplace of Country Music as a King University student volunteer in 2021, where I helped monitor social media engagements during festival weekend. In January of this year, I started a Marketing internship, diving deep into the inner workings of all things BCM and Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Now, newly minted as Marketing Coordinator here at BCM (woohoo!), I am SO excited to be back for a second festival, this time managing the festival socials, creating content, photographing artists, and running around like a crazy person! With the festival just days away, I thought I would share the bands I’m most excited to see at this year’s festival.

49 Winchester

Photo of the band 49 WinchesterStraight from the Russell County line! Our local boys!

Hailing from the nearby mountain town of Castlewood, Virginia, 49 Winchester is a year-after-year festival favorite. They’ve been playing here in Bristol for quite some time, and they are achieving mega success with their recent album “Fortune Favors The Bold,” their fourth studio album overall and debut with label New West Records.

Coming straight off of their debut at The Grand Ole Opry, 49 Winchester will make a momentous homecoming at #BristolRhythm2022. They finished up a summer stint with country rock group Whiskey Myers a couple weeks ago, and the momentum they are gaining is only going to continue to pick up. Current members consist of Isaac Gibson (lead singer/guitar), Chase Chafin (bass), Bus Shelton (guitar), Noah Patrick (pedal steel), Tim Hall (piano, organ, keys) and former Folk Soul Revival drummer Justin Louthian. Past festival goers may remember them playing some of the smaller stages through the years, but in 2022 they are coming to you from the State Street Stage right before Saturday’s headliner Del McCoury Band. They are currently the most scheduled band on our festival app, so you better see them now– they’re on track to major stardom.

Personal favorites are “Annabel,” “Hays, Kansas” and “Damn Darlin.”

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway

A photo of Molly Tuttle and her band Golden HighwayOh I’d rather be a crooked tree.

This April marked the highly anticipated release of west coast bluegrass queen Molly Tuttle’s “Crooked Tree” album, co-produced by Jerry Douglas (also on this year’s festival lineup) and featured some big name collaborations with heavy hitters like Billy Strings on “Dooley’s Farm” and Old Crow Medicine Show appearing on “Big Backyard.” Bluegrass fans will remember Tuttle dominating the IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards in both 2017 and 2018, winning ‘Guitar Player of the Year’ back-to-back as well as ‘Collaborative Recording of the Year’ in 2018. She is he first woman to win the IBMA in that category.

Her live band currently consists of Dominick Leslie (mandolin), Kyle Tuttle (banjo), Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), and Shelby Means (bass). She was last with us in Bristol back in 2018, so make sure to see her while she’s in town. Molly and her band are set to play State Street Stage on Sunday just before Rosanne Cash!

Personal favorites include the cowgirl ballad “Side Saddle,” as well as “Dooley’s Farm,” an updated story about good ole moonshiner Dooley, and “Castilleja,” an outlaw drama turned song.

Fantastic Negrito

A photo of Fantastic Negrito holding a guitarCall it a comeback.

After an early deal with Interscope and a nearly fatal car accident in the 90’s, Fantastic Negrito came back from a music hiatus in 2014 with a self-titled EP. In 2016, he released “The Last Days of Oakland” under Blackball Universe, a multimedia collective he co-founded with Malcom Spellman. Now holding three GRAMMY awards (Best Contemporary Blues Album 2017, 2019, 2021), Fantastic Negrito is looking to 4-peat with his new album “White Jesus Black Problems,” which he calls “an exhilarating ode to the power of family and the enduring resilience of our shared humanity.”

Fantastic Negrito makes his Bristol Rhythm debut this year and is sure to be a hit with blues, R&B, soul, and folk lovers alike. You can catch his set on Friday, September 9th from 10:00-11:30 PM at the Cumberland Square Park stage.

Personal favorites are “An Honest Man” and “Oh Betty.”

Sierra Ferrell

A photo of Sierra Ferrell set against a backdrop of foliage. She is wearing a cowboy hat and vintage western-wear.A little bit gypsy, a little bit country. A sprinkle of folk, a dollop of Americana.

Sierra Ferrell got her start busking on street corners around the country. By 2018, she signed with Rounder Records for a three album deal and had a live performance of “In Dreams” go viral on GemsOnVHS . Her first singles came with the release of “Jeremiah” and “Why’d Ya Do It” in 2020, and her first album “Long Time Coming” hit the shelves in August 2021 just before her appearance at the 20th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.

Since last year, she has gained a boatload of new fans (rightfully so) and she just recently had her song “In Dreams” go viral on TikTok. We are thrilled that she’s returning to Bristol for a second year in a row; she’ll be at the Country Mural Stage on Saturday and if there’s only one person you should plan to see at this year’s festival it should 100% be Sierra Ferrell.

Sierra is one of my all-time favorite artists, with my favorite songs from her being the emotional track “Made Like That” as well as “Why’d Ya Do It” and “Bells of Every Chapel.” She’s also got the best covers of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bell Rock” that I’ve heard from a modern artist. She may not pull them out at the festival, but maybe if we chant loud enough she’ll give us some Christmas in September!

John R Miller

A photo of John R. MillerOn the come up.

Earning the stamp of approval from chart-topper and Bristol Rhythm/Radio Bristol Sessions alumni Tyler Childers, John R. Miller is an artist that should be on your radar.

Miller grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia and has lesser known releases going all the way back to 2014. Another Rounder Records artist, his debut solo album, “Depreciated,” came out in July 2021. His lyrics alone could be published as a poetry book, but his voice and instrumentals make it that much more impactful.

He was last in Bristol back in November 2021 for Radio Bristol’s Farm and Fun Time live variety
show in the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Now he’s set to take the stage again on
Saturday, September 10th, at the 2022 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.

Personal favorites are “Shenandoah Shakedown” and “Lookin’ Over My Shoulder.”

For complete Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2022 lineup, schedule and tickets, visit BristolRhythm.com.


The Future is Female: Women Rule Bristol Rhythm 2022

Voice Magazine for Women, a free, monthly publication distributed regionally in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to 650 locations, partners with the Birthplace of Country Music to promote our annual music festival, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. In August and September of each year, Voice generously allows us free rein to produce cover stories for the magazine highlighting upcoming acts performing at the event. With their permission, we have duplicated the cover article for this month – we hope you enjoy it! To read this month’s issue in its entirety, click here.

Voice Magazine for Women, August 2022
The Future is Female: Women Rule Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2022
By Guest Contributor Charlene Tipton Baker

Who says female artists don’t sell tickets? Tell that to Tanya Tucker or Rosanne Cash, two iconic Country Music Queens that have been selling out venues for decades. Both ladies just happen to be headlining a strong, female-inclusive lineup at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion this year. Nearly half the acts featured at September’s festival are either led by women or have a strong female presence in their bands. We don’t have room to list them all here, but we do want to shine the spotlight on a few powerful, must-see acts across a diverse spectrum of genres; artists who are more than great musicians – they’re real, relatable women working through complex, real-life issues to become their higher selves.

Photo of Michael and Tanya Trotter of The War & TreatyThe War & Treaty
The War & Treaty’s Michael and Tanya Trotter are couple goals. Michael is a U.S. Army vet who overcame homelessness; Tanya is a born entertainer working in theater and music. Serendipitously, the two met at the Love Festival, and this is where their story began. Soon they would marry and later have a son while touring. It makes sense that their music is all about love and positivity, and the duo has won the hearts of audiences internationally with their intense, high-energy shows and all-around good vibes. In 2020 they performed alongside Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, and Gary Clark Jr. at the GRAMMYs for a tribute to Ken Ehrlich. They’ve also toured with the likes of Al Green, Brandi Carlile, and Jason Isbell. Tanya recently turned her signature pin-up style into a retro-cool side business, check out her online boutique at SheLovesVintage.com.

A photo of Sierra Ferrell set against a backdrop of foliage. She is wearing a cowboy hat and vintage western-wear.Sierra Ferrell
Sierra Ferrell is a country-folk gypsy from West Virginia who grew up with a single mom and two siblings. They were poor and moved around the state a lot. Sierra spent her childhood playing outdoors and using her vivid imagination. Her introduction to music was whatever was on the radio and singing in the school choir. Since then, Sierra’s lived out of a van, hopped trains, and hitch-hiked her way across the country playing music, picking up a myriad of styles and influences along the way. A few years after moving to Nashville she was signed to Rounder Records, and now she’s enchanting audiences on a grand scale with her authenticity, angelic twang, and a genre-bending sound that she describes as “past life.”

A photo of Katie looking up at the sky.Katie Pruitt
Katie Pruitt’s conservative Catholic upbringing in the Atlanta suburbs led her to live a closeted existence until she left town to complete her collegiate studies in Nashville. For years she had hidden her true self from her family and friends back home and turned to music as a means of self-expression. She’s very open about her struggles coming out to her family and with mental health, and writes about it in her music. Today she’s living her true, authentic self as a queer woman. More indie-folk than Americana, Pruitt’s velvety vocals open the floodgates to confessional songs about love, longing, and societal expectations. Her music resonates universally with life-affirming beauty and resolve.

Photo of Molly and her band.Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
At 29, Molly Tuttle is hands-down one of the finest flat-picking guitarists of our time. In 2017 she was the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year and was part of the all-female super group First Ladies of Bluegrass with Alison Brown, Missy Raines, Sierra Hull, and Becky Buller. Tuttle has been vocal about her experiences with sexism in bluegrass music and her struggles with anxiety and alopecia. On her latest album Crooked Tree, Tuttle is re-writing the narrative. “Some of the old ballads are really misogynist. There’s a lot of violence towards women. So I flipped the perspective to a woman’s.”

A photo of Jade Bird sitting in a box. There is a single light bulb hanging from the center above her head.Jade Bird
At 24, Jade Bird is wise beyond her years. Raised in the U.K. by her mother and grandmother, who were both separated from their spouses, Bird credits her own feminist worldview to their strength and resilience. In an interview with Holler magazine about her latest album Different Kinds of Light, Bird stated: “There’s a strong sense of fury that comes with being a young woman with rights taken away.” With influences ranging from Alanis Morissette and PJ Harvey to Oasis and the Bee Gees, Bird harnesses her raw vocal power into strong, relatable narratives that represent a woman who is still figuring out the world around her.

A photo of Nicki Bluhm wearing a wide-brimmed hat.Nicki Bluhm
San Francisco native Nicki Bluhm gained widespread attention when her YouTube rendition of the Hall & Oates classic “I Can’t Go For That” went viral. At the time she was in the band Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, a group formed with her husband Tim Bluhm. The Gramblers recorded two albums together and toured internationally, but Bluhm’s marriage was crumbling under the weight of her husband’s substance abuse and infidelity. Nicki left the band and moved to Nashville with something to prove to herself and her ex – that she could make it as a solo artist on her own terms. Success has indeed been the best revenge, following collaborations and appearances with artists such as Phil Lesh, Margo Price, Dawes, The Band of Heathens, Josh Ritter, Lukas Nelson, and the Wood Brothers. Oliver Wood, Karl Denson, and A. J. Croce are just a few of the major artists she collaborated with on Avondale Drive, an album best described as “nostalgic country soul.”

A photo of Miko Marks sitting on a bench in front of a piano.Miko Marks
Miko Marks walked away from the music industry after recording two albums and struggling to feel accepted as a Black artist in country music. The Flint, Michigan native’s elders were part of the Great Migration of Black Americans who escaped from the Jim Crow South. “People don’t realize that Black people, we were watching ‘Hee Haw’ too,” said Marks in an interview with NPR last year. A decade later, in the midst of the pandemic, a former bandmate sent her the song “Goodnight America,” a bluesy ballad about injustice and the breakdown of the American dream. It was then that Marks revived her musical career. Marks has now reclaimed her place in the industry and is listed among CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022.

A photo of S.G. Goodman standing in front of fall trees with the sunset peaking out just over her shoulder.S. G. Goodman
S. G. Goodman is a queer artist from Hickman, Kentucky, who writes cinematic, indie-rock grooves with subversive, rural narratives that push back on Southern stereotypes. Goodman’s haunting, warbling vibrato echoes old-time voices of generations past, with punk sensibilities. Her latest, ground-breaking release, aptly titled Teeth Marks, rips Southern stereotypes, emotional trauma, the opioid crisis, and small-town life into bite-sized shreds. “I always feel, when describing the South to people, that the South is the soul of the country. And when the soul of the country is sick, the body is sick.” The artist admits to writing an open suicide note on her first album called “Space & Time” when she was at her lowest, feeling isolated and unsupported by her community. She says it was her musical circle of friends that saved her life.

A photo of Emily Scott Robinson seated on a bench in the woods by a creekEmily Scott Robinson
Greensboro, North Carolina native Emily Scott Robinson once worked as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Telluride, Colorado. It was there that her dream of becoming a musician was fostered by kindred spirits at Planet Bluegrass’ The Song School. When asked what listeners would learn about her from her latest album American Siren, Robinson says, “I think they would learn that I absolutely LOVE unpacking the roles that religious, cultural, and moral beliefs play in our life choices. I like to take my characters into their shadowy places and explore their inner lives.” Inspired by other strong Americana songwriters like Patty Griffin, Nanci Griffith, John Prine, and Brandi Carlile, the beauty in Robinson’s music is in the art of skillful and personal storytelling, delivered with pristine vocals that echo her influences. Robinson’s album has appeared on a number of “Best Of” lists in publications like NPR, Rolling Stone, Wide Open Country, and The Bluegrass Situation.

A photograph taken in a cemetery. Three of the band's members are scattered about, posing behind the headstones.Oh He Dead
The story behind the Washington, D.C. quintet’s unusual name, Oh He Dead, came from a song written by the band’s vocalist C. J. Johnson. Based on an incident from Johnson’s life, the song’s narrator comes home to find her man cheating and guns him down. When asked by a band member what happened to the guy in real life, Johnson dryly retorted, “Oh, he dead.” No one was actually killed, but the phrase became a running joke and, eventually, the band’s name. The group had been together for four years when the pandemic placed a sudden halt on touring, so they started hosting weekly “Jammy Jams” where fans would tune in to listen to the group’s jazzy, rock and soul online. The two-year hiatus allowed the band to work on two albums of new material. In 2021 they submitted to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series, and it helped revive the band’s spirit. Johnson cites Fleetwood Mac and Sade as influences, and her autobiographical songs touch on real life – like the birth of her son, her rocky relationship with her father, and a high school crush.

Check out these acts and a host of other amazing talent during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, celebrating the 95th Anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions September 9–11, 2022, in Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia. Check out the full lineup and purchase passes at BristolRhythm.com.