Radio Bristol Book Club: Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Radio Bristol Book Club: Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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