The Bristol Sessions (Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies Series, #12)

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In the summer of 1927, nineteen bands gathered for a recording session in Bristol, on the Tennessee-Virginia border, including some of the most influential names in American music—the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Stoneman and more. Organized by Ralph Peer for Victor records to capitalize on the popularity of "hillbilly" music, the Bristol sessions were a key moment in country music's evolution. The musicians played a variety of styles largely endemic to the Appalachian region. Rather than attempting to record purely traditional sounds, however, Peer sought a combination of musical elements, an amalgam that would form the backbone of modern country music. The reverberations of the Bristol sessions are still felt today, yet their influence is widely misunderstood, and popular accounts of the event are more legend than history.

These 19 essays offer an examination and reevaluation of the Bristol sessions—from their germination, to the actual sessions, to their place in history and their continuing influence. The first section discusses technological advances that resulted in the unmatched quality of the Bristol recordings. The second section chronicles the people and musical acts involved in the event. The third section gives first-hand accounts of the Bristol sessions, while the fourth presents musicological studies of two of the prominent acts. The final section details subsequent recording sessions in Bristol and nearby Johnson City, and explores the lasting local musical legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

highly recommended
an astonishing piece of research
ARSC Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786419456
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/20/2005
  • Series: Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies, #12
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 306
  • Sales rank: 1,277,735
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

The late Charles K. Wolfe lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and taught English at Middle Tennessee State University. Ted Olson lives in Johnson City, Tennessee, and teaches Appalachian Studies and English at East Tennessee State University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Early sound recording technology and the Bristol sessions 7
2 The legend that Peer built : reappraising the Bristol sessions 17
3 The Bristol sessions : the cast of characters 40
4 Jimmie Rodgers and the Bristol sessions 54
5 Something old, something new : the Carter family's Bristol sessions recordings 66
6 The Blackard-Shelor story : biography of a hillbilly string band 87
7 Gospel according to Bristol : the life, music and ministry of Ernest Phipps 95
8 The life of Alfred G. Karnes 119
9 The life of Blind Alfred Reed 125
10 The West Virginia Coon Hunters : on the trail of a lost mountain state string band 130
11 Discovery of the first hillbilly great 137
12 My husband, Jimmie Rodgers 142
13 Before the myth was born : Claude Grant of the Tenneva Ramblers remembers Jimmie Rodgers 161
14 I remember Daddy 172
15 My memories of the Bristol sessions 183
16 Ernest Stoneman's 1927 session : hillbilly recordings of gospel hymns 187
17 On the vanguard of change : Jimmie Rodgers and Alfred G. Karnes in Bristol, 1927 214
18 The rest of the story : other early recording sessions in the tri-cities area 235
19 The birthplace of country music, 75 years later : the cradle still rocks 257
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