On August 6, 1927, Ralph Peer left Bristol. By Monday, August 8, there weren’t many people who even remembered that the Bristol Sessions had happened. Most of the musicians who had auditioned for him were already back in their everyday lives, scrambling to get by. Peer returned to New York, Bristol went about its business … Continue reading ‘The Most Important Event in the History of Country Music’
The most important event of the August 3, 1927, Bristol Sessions happened not on the second floor of the Taylor-Christian Hat Company building, where Ralph Peer had set up his portable Victor Talking Machine Company recording studio, but rather across town at Mrs. Pierce’s boarding house. Different parties involved had different recollections of what went … Continue reading The Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers
The Bristol Sessions looms large in history for artistic reasons: They launched the careers of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, whose music would define the parameters of country music for generations to come. However, the Sessions were not primarily an artistic exercise, but rather an economic one. Ralph Peer wasn’t in Bristol looking for … Continue reading If You’ve Got the Money: The Economics of the Bristol Sessions
Today “the Bristol Sessions” is a portmanteau phrase in its own right, so much a given to country-music aficionados that it hardly seems necessary to ask questions such as “why were there sessions in Bristol?” or, more relevant to this discussion, “Why were the sessions in Bristol?” They didn’t have to be. In the 1910s … Continue reading Why Bristol?
I spent a chunk of last summer toying with the idea of staging a country-music festival this summer to mark the 90th anniversary of the Bristol Sessions, aka the Big Bang of Country Music. Sadly, Country 90 NYC (as it was provisionally called) didn’t come together; we’ll just have to wait for 2027 and Country … Continue reading 2 States, 12 Days and 90 Years: It’s Time for a Party
A few weeks back, a relative of mine wrote to me: “I'm so excited about your new career as a country-western singer.” I wrote back to clarify that I’m a country singer now, not a country-western singer. Earlier this week, when I again found myself explaining this distinction, this time to an old friend, I … Continue reading Go South, Young Man
Jimmie Rodgers was arguably the most popular singer of his era. At the time of his death in 1933, he reportedly accounted for 10% of all records sold by RCA Victor, then the world’s largest record company. His contract had, in fact, been a key asset in RCA’s acquisition of the Victor Talking Machine Company … Continue reading Broke, Hungry, Wet and Far from Home: Things Are Looking Up
As any year’s Grammy awards can demonstrate, Americans love to slice and dice their music. Is a given song country, folk or Americana? Is it folk-rock, alt country or roots music? Is it neo-folk, country-punk or folkabilly? This might not seem important, but it matters in the business end of “show business.” How music is … Continue reading Is It Country? Is It Hip Hop? 20 Ways to Tell