Here is a brief history of Bristol and the.To learn more about the region’s musical heritage, the Birthplace of Country Music, our programs, or the Cultural Heritage Center, visit our website at www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org
Bristol sits in the middle of a region that has a long, rich history as a fertile breeding ground for traditional music. The earliest settlers brought with them their instruments and musical traditions which were fused together to form hillbilly, country, bluegrass, and other forms of American roots music.
In 1927, Ralph Peer, a record producer with the Victor Talking Machine Company set up a temporary recording studio in downtown Bristol. Over the next 12 days, he recorded 76 songs by 19 artists, including the Stoneman Family and the first recordings of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Historians consider these sessions the “Big Bang of Country Music” launching the country music industry. As a result, the United States Congress has recognized Bristol as the “Birthplace of Country Music.”.
While Peer’s 1927 recordings stand as a milestone in the development of country music, the musical heritage of Bristol continued after those recordings. In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, radio programs in Bristol, most notably WCYB’s Farm and Fun Time, became popular and assisted in the development of a new genre of music – bluegrass. Other than Bill Monroe, virtually every important musician from the first generation of Bluegrass played on the “Farm and Fun Time” program.
Today, the rich musical heritage of Bristol remains vibrant with musical venues in Bristol or nearby offering traditional Appalachian music on a regular, year round basis.
The organization is developing a 24,000 square foot Cultural Heritage Center in downtown Bristol, scheduled to open in 2011. The Center will include exhibits that trace the history, cultural influences, and development of country music through a sequence of audio-visual experiences. The facility will also include space for educational programming for all ages, live musical performances, lecture and film series, and other outreach activities. The Center will serve as a major tourist destination for the region, drawing at least 75,000 visitors per year resulting in an economic impact of over $43,232,806 over five years to the region.