Museum Archives - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Radio Bristol Book Club: Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Cultural historian Karl Hagstrom Miller’s first book, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow, combines cultural, economic, and intellectual history to chart the development of a segregated commercial music industry in the early 20th century. Segregating Sound examines popular music in the United States through the intersections of race, gender, sound, and money. A musical color line, corresponding to the physical color line of southern segregation, emerged as both commercial record companies and academic folklorists scoured the south for new songs and categorized them according to the racial ideologies of the day. This book gives readers a more nuanced understanding of the making of musical genres and the impact on these delineations on the music industry. After its publication in 2010, Segregating Sound received the Woody Guthrie Award for the best annual book on popular music from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music.

Black-and-white book cover with title in the center dividing two close-up shots of a guitar player's hands on the neck of the guitar -- one hand is that of a Black musician, the other that of a white musician.

Dr. Karl Hagstrom Miller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Virginia, focusing on Critical and Comparative Studies. He received a Ph.D. in history from New York University and has received fellowships from the Smithsonian Institute and the American Council of Learned Societies. His writing on various pop music topics has appeared in Wax Poetics, Texas Observer, American Music, American Historical Review, and PopMatters, among other venues. Miller is particularly interested in how transformations in commercial markets and music technology changed the ways people used music to forge their conceptions of race and region, imagine their relationship to the broader world, comprehend the past, and dream about the future.

Color image of a white man shown from the upper chest/shoulders up. He has short light brown/dark blonde hair and a "soul patch" tuft of hair below his lower lip. He is wearing a green shirt.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, October 27 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for November is Voices Worth Listening: Three Women of Appalachia by Thomas Burton; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, November 17. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows! We will also be releasing our 2023 reading list in November!

Tonia Kestner is the Executive Director of the Bristol Public Library.

From the Vault: In Memory

Museums build their collections by purchasing items, receiving donations, and getting objects or images on loan, some of which may later turn into a permanent part of the collection. When something enters our permanent collection, it becomes “accessioned” and is given an accession number, entered into the collections database, and stored safely in the museum’s secure storage or put on display.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum (BCMM) has two separate collections where we accession items:

  • The museum collection, which serves as a place to preserve important items related to the museum’s content, many of which will be used in our permanent or special exhibits at some point
  • The education collection, which includes items that we will take out and use as hands-on examples when we go to schools or for outreach activities 

Both collections are very important to our mission, which states that the museum will “develop programs of exhibitions, education, research, and publications and events that engage our audiences.” 

A large percentage of BCMM’s collections come from donations, and we are always very grateful for these gifts. However, we have a very strict collection policy and limited storage space, and so each potential donation has to be assessed carefully before it is accepted and accessioned into the museum. BCMM’s collections policy states that our permanent collection should consist of, “items that help tell the story of the Bristol Sessions, most notably instruments, photographs and negatives, audiovisual materials, paper items (songbooks, sheet music, letters, and ephemera), legacy playback and recording machines, and items related to radio in the Tri-Cities and upper Southeast. The museum also houses its institutional archives, including items related to the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival.” We also keep items relating to and about Tennessee Ernie Ford and radio equipment. A visitor to our website can find out more about our collections, including a detailed list of the types of items we accept as donations. However, if you are interested in possibly donating an item to a museum you should always contact their collections department to see if the proposed item fits into their collection and that they have space to store it in the correct conditions. 

A screenshot of the museum website listing the different items we prioritize for our collections.

People decide to donate to museum collections for a variety of reasons. For instance, some people may want to donate objects that have been found while decluttering their house. Another reason is that the donor values the item, but no other family member may be interested in it as much as the donor. Wanting the item to go to a good home and be preserved is another reason behind museum donations. Finally, the donor may recognize the item’s historical importance or see how the story it tells connects in an interesting way to the museum’s content. 

When donating artifacts, many people choose to do so in memory of a loved one who has passed. At the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, we receive a lot of country music records and other items donated in memory of a friend or family member. In these cases, the donors want a place where the items will be cared for and cherished as much as their loved one did, and the donation process is often poignant as they share the stories of their loved ones with museum staff. This recognition is an important part of the donation for the donor and is reflected in the credit line they provide for use in the museum’s collections database and on any labels when the item is on display or used for other purposes, such as social media or a blog post like this one! 

Here are just a few of the items in BCMM’s collections that have been donated in memory of loved ones:

Three album covers from left to right: Arthur Smiths's Singing on the Mountain shows a huge crowd of people gathered together in an open space in the mountains with a mountain peak rising in the distance; center, The Carter Family Album is designed to look like a family photograph album with Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters in the center of the album cover; right, the Dolly Parton album has Dolly sitting on a Victorian-style velvet chair or couch, she is wearing a black outfit and her golden blonde hair is piled high on her head as curls.

In Memory of Carolyn Clark

In June 2022, the museum received a donation of three records in memory of Carolyn Clark from her sons. The records were brought to the museum by Mrs. Clark’s husband and included Arthur Smith’s Singing On The Mountain, The Carter Family Album, and Dolly Parton’s As Long As I Love. These records will enhance the museum’s collections, especially in the connections that can be made between two of them and an upcoming special exhibit on women in old-time music, and the donation gives the family the chance to remember their wife and mother in a meaningful way.

 

To the left is a 2021 plaque, and to the right is a silver-plated record with a plaque beneath it.

 

 

 

In Memory of W. A. Wilson

In October 2021, we received multiple items related to W. A. Wilson, the founder and first president of WOPI-AM, a well-known Bristol radio station and the first radio station between Knoxville and Raleigh. From his family, we received a framed record, medal, and program from Wilson’s induction into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame providing a wonderful piece of Bristol’s radio history for our museum. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The case on display at the museum has several 1927 Bristol Sessions artists' items, including Ernest Phipp's metal dog tags lying on a small black pedastel in front of a photograph of him in military uniform.

 

 

 

In Memory of Ernest Phipps

In 2017, we received multiple items that belonged to Ernest Phipps. Phipps recorded six songs on July 26, 1927 at the Bristol Sessions. His granddaughter donated Phipps’s military dog tags, his marriage license with Minnie Douglas, five family photos, a typed list of his recordings, and a copy of Charles Richard Phipps’s birth certificate at the 90th anniversary celebration of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. This year, for the 95th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, we put Phipps’s dog tags and a photo on display. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight paperback songbooks lie on a wooden table. The books have differently colored covers and a variety of titles.

 

 

In Memory of Ruth Hamm

Also in 2017, Dorothy Horne donated 54 shape note songbooks from the mid-1900s singing schools, in memory of her mother, Ruth Hamm. These songbooks are a great resource to see how people learned to sing – and find the correct pitch for – the many popular sacred songs of the era. Hamm went to a lot of singing schools and bought most of the shape note songbooks when they were released. 

 

 

 

 

A black-and-white photograph of the Grand Ole Opry stage, adorned with sponsor Purina's name, a checkerboard motif, and several performers gathered around Uncle Dave Macon.

 

 

In Memory of Bill Inscho

In 2018, Lawrence Inscho donated 11 photos taken at the Grand Ole Opry by his father, Bill Inscho, in 1945 and a photo of his father Bill. These photographs are a wonderful personal record of several famous stars performing on the stage at the Opry, including Pee Wee King, Uncle Dave Macon, and Zeke Clements.  

 

 

 

 

 

We love getting to preserve the wonderful pieces that families have enjoyed for years and hearing the stories of why they  want them to be preserved. If you have any artifacts that may be of interest to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s collectio,n please reach out to collections@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org.

* Image at top of page: The dream of visible collections storage as seen at the Brooklyn Museum. Photograph by Mark B. Schlemmer

Julia Underkoffler is the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Collections Specialist.

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.

 

Radio Bristol Book Club: The Thread That Runs So True

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

This month we are reading The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart. This book tells the story of Stuart’s life told in six sections or parts. Among these parts are several stories that define Stuart’s career as a Kentucky Mountain school teacher. Conversational in tone, you soon forget the book is autobiographical because the characters come alive in the richness of their speech and personalities. The book’s title and chapter headings were taken from a folk song children would sing at Lonesome Valley School. At 17, after only three years of high school, Stuart began his teaching career in a one-room rural school. Stuart does not allow himself to come between the reader and the community he describes because he functions as a guide to the experiences of his community. Stuart’s disguise of the people and places within the book give the stories artistic freedom. This book will make you grateful for the teachers you had growing up who influenced your life.

Cover image of The Thread That Runs So True has an illustration of a young white man wearing light-colored shirt and pants leaning against a tree with a one-room white clapboard schoolhouse in the background.

Jesse Stuart was born in a log cabin in Greenup County, Kentucky, in 1906. He was the first in his family to finish high school, graduating from Greenup High school in 1926, and he worked his way through Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1929. While at Lincoln Memorial, he studied under Harry Harrison Kroll, a well-known novelist and one of Stuart’s greatest influences. Stuart returned to Eastern Kentucky and, after two years of public school teaching and administrative service, he decided to enroll in graduate school at Vanderbilt University. He pursued, but did not complete, a Master of Arts degree in English.

Stuart married Naomi Deane Norris in 1939, and they settled on his ancestral land in W Hollow. They had one daughter named Jessica Jane who became an accomplished novelist and poet. Stuart was a remarkable and original writer becoming an accomplished poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist by the time he was in his 40s. He received the 1934 Jeannette Sewal Davis poetry prize for his first major book of poetry, Man with the Bull-Tounged Plow (1934), which included 703 sonnets, many mimicking the style of great Scottish poet Robert Burns.  The book was described by the Irish poet George William Russell as the greatest work of poetry to come out of America since Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass. He was the recipient of many awards, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship (1937), the Academy of Arts and Sciences award, the Berea College Centennial award for literature, the Academy of American Poets award, and several honorary degrees. He died in 1984 in Ironton, Ohio, and is buried in the Plum Grove cemetery near W Hollow.

A colorized photograph of Jesse Stuart. He is a white man with dark hair, and he wears a light-colored suit and tie. It looks like he is leaning on the side of a boat in this photograph. He is smiling widely at the camera.

Author Jesse Stuart

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, August 25 at 12:00pm for the discussion of The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for September is The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash by John Alexander, a book chosen to go along with our upcoming special exhibit 1968: A Folsom Redemption about Johnny Cash’s concerts at Folsom Prison. We’ll be discussing this interesting book on Thursday, September 22. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks HERE, where you can also listen to archived shows!

Tonia Kestner is the Executive Director at the Bristol Public Library.

Radio Bristol Book Club: The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

For those who don’t know, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, and so that connection inspired our July book club pick: The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian by Heather Ewing. British scientist James Smithson (1765–1829) left his estate to the United States to found “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Congress authorized acceptance of the Smithson bequest on July 1, 1836, and ten years later the Smithsonian was officially founded. Drawing on unpublished letters and diaries from archives across Europe and the United States – including the entirety of the Smithsonian’s archive – Heather Ewing paints an in-depth and fascinating portrait of James Smithson. His compelling story takes us from his complicated beginnings as the illegitimate son of the first Duke of Northumberland to his career in science, the closest thing the 18th century had to a meritocracy. Against a backdrop of war and revolution, Smithson and his friends, who included many of the most famous scientists of the age, burst through boundaries at every turn, defying gravity in the first hot air balloons, upending the biblical timeline with their geological finds, and exploring the realm of the invisible with the discovery of new gases. This book presents readers with a wonderful journey through science, ambition, and philanthropic vision, resulting in the largest museum and research complex in the world!

Book cover shows a painted portrait of James Smithson - he is a white man, middle-aged, wearing a high collar and white cravat, and a black frock coat.

Heather Ewing is a graduate of Yale University and the Courtauld Institute of Art. She is an architectural historian who has worked for the Smithsonian and the Ringling Museum of Art. She lives in New York.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, July 28 at 12:00pm for the discussion of The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for August is The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, August 25. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks HERE, where you can also listen to archived shows!

* The featured image above is the original Smithsonian Institution building, Washington, D.C. in 1864. Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs. http://lccn.loc.gov/2017659613

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an obsessive reader!

Radio Bristol Book Club: Crooked Hallelujah

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Our June book club pick is Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford. A saga about family, the bonds between women, and surviving in a world filled with challenges and dangers, Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine – a mixed-blood Cherokee woman – and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma’s Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. Justine’s mother Lula and her Granny were powerful forces in her life, and leaving them and the home she’s always known behind is hard. Throughout the book, Kelli Jo Ford explores the mother-daughter bond and the ways that this family sacrifices much for those they love, amid the larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture.

A black book cover with the silhouette of two women holding hands. The silhouettes show a red sky and open landscape.

Courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Kelli Jo Ford is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Crooked Hallelujah, her debut novel-in-stories, was longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel, The Story Prize, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, The Dublin Literary Award, and The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. She is the recipient of an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize, a Native Arts & Cultures Foundation National Artist Fellowship, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, and a Dobie Paisano Fellowship. She teaches writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

A photograph of a Native American woman. She has short black hair and is wearing a dark blue long-sleeved top and dangly earrings. She is smiling at the camera.

Courtesy of Grove Atlantic, © Val Ford Hancock

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, June 23 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Crooked Hallelujah. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for July is The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian by Heather Ewing; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, July 28. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an obsessive reader!

Radio Bristol Book Club: My Old True Love

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Our May book club pick is My Old True Love by Sheila Kay Adams. My Old True Love is a fictional story inspired by Appalachian ballads and Adams’ own family history. This tale of doomed love, heartbreak, and betrayal takes place in a close-knit 19th-century Appalachian community. Arty Wallen narrates the story as she reflects on her life and the lives of those closest to her. When Arty was nine years old her cousin Larkin Stanton was born and orphaned by the death of his mother, so Arty raises him as her own. Larkin and Hackley, Arty’s younger brother, are close but rivalrous friends. Both boys are musically gifted and enchanted by the old songs their grandmother used to sing to them. Eventually they find themselves competing for the love of Mary Chandler, the prettiest girl in their mountain community. Though Hackley wins Mary’s love, he does not stop his womanizing ways even after their marriage. When the town gets swept up in the Civil War, Hackley is conscripted to fight for the Confederacy, leaving Larkin and Mary behind. What Larkin does next reminds us that these sad songs of old are often reflective of imperfect people and the decisions a troubled heart can make.

Book cover showing an artistic rendering (painting or colored etching) of a mountain landscape with a river passing through it.

Cover design for My Old True Love

Sheila Kay Adams is a seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and musician. She was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County, North Carolina. Her skill as a storyteller and deep familiarity with Appalachian music and culture is apparent right from the beginning of the novel. She interweaves ballads, depictions of rural community life, and Appalachian vernacular into the tale so naturally that you feel as if you are there. Adams learned the tradition of unaccompanied ballad singing from her great-aunt and other notable singers in her community. She is also an accomplished clawhammer-style banjo player and has been performing publicly since she was in her teens. In addition to her books, she has recorded several albums of ballads, songs, and stories. She was the vocal coach and technical advisor for the movie Songcatcher (2000) and made an appearance herself in Last of the Mohicans (1992).

A white woman with long straight white hair wearing a reddish-orange quarter-sleeve dress and a brown vest. She is holding a large head banjo and looking.

Sheila Kay Adams

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, May 26 at 12:00pm for the discussion of My Old True Love. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for June is Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, June 23. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

Erika Barker is the Curatorial Manager at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

 

 

 

Radio Bristol Book Club: What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Our April book club pick is What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte. While the book is only 146 pages, it packs in a lot of history, culture, and analysis into its examination of Appalachia and the too-frequent stereotypes or perceptions of this region. Appalachia covers over 700,000 square miles, with counties in 13 states from Alabama to New York. Despite this huge area and the widely different characteristics and peoples who live and work here, Appalachia has too often been viewed over the years as a monolithic region and described predominantly with words like backwards, poor, white, uneducated, rural, isolated, etc. A lot of those perceptions were strengthened by J. D. Vance’s popular book (and now a movie) Hillbilly Elegy, published in 2016. Catte knows a different Appalachia – and her book is a powerful answer to the caricatures and assumptions made about the region as she explores its diverse peoples and voices and why stereotypes about Appalachia have been embraced.

The cover of What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia shows a yellow sky with the title words in black on it. The sky is above a dark green and black forest and the reflection of the trees in the red water below as standing people.

 Elizabeth Catte is a writer and historian from East Tennessee. She writes about history, politics, and culture, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Washington PostGuernicaThe NationMcSweeney’sIn These Times, the Boston ReviewGravy, and has been reviewed in The New York TimesBookforumNew York Review of Books, and the Los Angeles Times. Currently she is an editor-at-large for West Virginia University Press and the co-founder of Passel, an applied history firm. She has a PhD in public history from Middle Tennessee State University and uses her master’s degree in museum studies to curate a website dedicated to food eaten on King of the Hill called Pork Chop Night. She also serves on the board of the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center in Pennington Gap, Virginia.

This photograph is a headshot of a white woman. She has reddish brown hair that reaches to her shoulders, and she is wearing a blue button-down shirt. Her eyes look blue and she is smilling at the camera.

Author Elizabeth Catte.

 Please make plans to join us on Thursday, April 28 at 12:00pm for the discussion of What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for May is My Old True Love by Sheila Kay Adams; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, May 26. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

René Rodgers is head curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an avid reader.

Radio Bristol Book Club: Come Sing, Jimmy Jo

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm! If one of your resolutions for 2022 is to read more books, Radio Bristol Book Club is a great way to help you meet that goal – so read along with us!

This month we are reading Come Sing, Jimmy Jo, a children’s book by Katherine Paterson. The story follows James Johnson as he sings and plays the music he loves. But approaching fame as the centerpiece of his family’s band on television – and the change of his performing name to Jimmy Jo – bring mixed feelings and anxiety. Jimmy Jo isn’t sure that this new music is for him, and he’s sad to leave his mountain home to be on stage. How does he reconcile these feelings and responsibilities with the music that is a part of him and with still being just a kid? Aimed at children 10 years and up, this book makes for a great story for adults too!

Book cover shows a young white boy with light hair and glasses singing and playing guitar in the front yard of a wooden house. He is wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Behind him, an older gray-haired woman sits on the porch listening to him. She wears a light-colored dress.

Katherine Paterson’s website shares this beloved author’s many achievements and accolades, but for many of us, the Paterson book that had the most impact on us is the wonderful but cry-inducing Bridge to Terabithia. However, she has written a multitude of books – more than 40, in fact, including 18 novels for children and young people. She has twice won the Newbery Medal, for Bridge to Terabithia in 1978 and Jacob Have I Loved in 1981. The Master Puppeteer won the National Book Award in 1977 and The Great Gilly Hopkins won the National Book Award in 1979 and was also a Newbery Honor Book. For the body of her work, she received the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1998, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2006, and in 2000 was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.

Not only is she a prolific author, but she also gives her time and passion to children’s literature and reading. She is a vice-president of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance and is a member of the board of trustees for Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is also a honorary lifetime member of the International Board of Books for Young People and an Alida Cutts lifetime member of the US section, USBBY. She was the 2010-2011 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

In this image, an elderly white woman sits in a wooden chair with trees and meadow behind her. She is wearing a blue long-sleeved top with a long necklace.

Author Katherine Paterson.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, February 24 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Come Sing, Jimmy Jo by Katherine Paterson, followed by a conversation with the author! The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app.

Looking ahead: Our book pick for March is LGBTQ: Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia by Jeff Mann; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, March 24. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and a voracious reader.

Radio Bristol Book Club: Storming Heaven

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm! If one of your resolutions for 2022 is to read more books, Radio Bristol Book Club is a great way to help you meet that goal – so read along with us!

Our first book of 2022 is Denise Giardina’s Storming Heaven. This 1988 novel follows the journeys of four residents of Annadel, West Virginia, who live in the midst of conflict between the mining community and the coal industry that dominates the small town. From activists and union men to a local nurse and a Sicilian immigrant whose sons lost their lives in the mines, Giardina uses their personal and every day stories to explore “forgotten events in history,” including the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest labor uprising in United States history. Giardina’s book is a complement to The Way We Worked, a Smithsonian exhibit currently on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. This exhibit traces the history of work in America over the last 150 years, including the impact of unionization on workers’ rights and working conditions. The museum has also created a supplementary display focused on local and regional work history, and one section of the display explores coal mining and includes a wide variety of objects and images loaned to us from the Buchanan County Historical Society. The exhibit will be open through January 23, so be sure to stop by and visit it before it goes!

The cover of the book is dark green with the title in a pink or peach color. Below the title and author, an image of a coal town in the mountains is seen with a railroad track leading into it from the right side of the picture.
The cover to Denise Giardina’s Storming Heaven.

Denise Giardina was born and raised in West Virginia. Storming Heaven, her second book, was a Discovery Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and received the 1987 W. D. Weatherford Award for the best published work about the South. She is the author of Good King Harry, Saints and Villains, The Unquiet Earth, Fallam’s Secret, and Emily’s Ghost. Her Appalchian novels have been taught in university courses. Giardina has been ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church, and she is also a community activist and a former candidate for governor of West Virginia.

An older white woman sitting in a wooden rocking chair. She is wearing a green-patterned floral dress with a brownish cardigan, and she is holding a microphone while she talks to an audience.
Denise Giardina speaking at Appalachian State University in 2015.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, January 27 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app.

Looking ahead: Our book pick for February is the children’s book Come Sing, Jimmy Jo by Katherine Paterson; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, February 24. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and a voracious reader.