On the 87th anniversary of the Bristol Sessions, one of the most influential Country Recordings of all time, the city of Bristol has opened the Birthplace of Country Music Museum to the public. Bristol, on the border of Tennessee and Virginia, may not be as large a town as the nearby Nashville but that doesn’t make it any less historically significant to the evolution of Country.
The Bristol Sessions, nicknamed the “Big Bang” of Country Music, took place in 1927 in the studio of producer Ralph Peer. Throughout a week and a half, Peer recorded tracks for over 25 artists, including the commercial debuts of Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. The result was the introduction of America to the strange, new sound of Appalachian music.
The museum itself has been met with enthusiastic praise. Touch screens, hands-on displays, and listening stations immerse the museumgoer into the rich history of early Country Music. Not only is this museum important for preserving the knowledge of Country’s origins, but also for reinforcing how important the town of Bristol is to the genre.
“If you were traveling anywhere north or south of Bristol by train, you had to stop in Bristol for a considerable amount of time because the train gauge actually changed,” says Reagan Streetman, spokesperson for the Birthplace of Country Museum, to NPR. “We are on a state line. They had to take it off the Virginia tracks and switch them to Tennessee, and that took some time — so a lot of people came downtown. This was a really bustling city, and if you were an artist, you would perform here.” It’s fitting that the road to country’s capital had to come through the town where it all began.
For those in the area or looking for an excuse to road trip, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is located on 520 Birthplace of Country Music Way. Admission is a surprisingly low $14 per person with discount rates for children, seniors and groups. More details can be found on their website located here.