Bristol, Virginisee: The Birthplace of Country Music

PHOTO: Birthplace of Country Music Museum, courtesy of Malcolm Wilson.
PHOTO: Birthplace of Country Music Museum, courtesy of Malcolm Wilson.

There are few cities in the mountains of Appalachia as awesome as Bristol, Tenniginia.  Or is it Virginisee?  With the border of Virginia and Tennessee running straight through the center yellow line of the two cities’ shared main street, aptly called State Street, Bristol showcases the very best of the Old Dominion and Volunteer State – blending 400+ years of Virginia history with the lonesome sound of a Tennessee guitar.

Home to the likes of a beautifully restored downtown, which features locally owned eateries, shops and numerous photo opportunities, Bristol showcases exactly how a modern Appalachian city can be both progressive, yet true to its self and rich heritage.

Just down the road from State Street is the “World’s Fastest Half Mile”, the Bristol Motor Speedway, where NASCAR’s greatest teams compete in the “Last Great Coliseum”.

However, it is the city’s music legacy that serves as the soundtrack for Appalachia.

So well in fact does this border town serve as the perfect blend of country music and American history that in 1988 the United States Congress voted to officially designate the area as the “Birthplace of Country Music”.

In the days leading up to the Great Depression, the music world was forever altered thanks to a groundbreaking recording which took place just feet from the state line in the heart of this city’s downtown.

The 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings, a.k.a. the “big bang” of country music revolutionized the music industry, bringing country music to the mainstream, and introducing to the world The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. These two icons would go on to lay the foundation for generations of country music lovers, songwriters and artists — and though country music is ever changing, the influence these two had on music is still very and evident today.

Recognizing the importance of this city’s role in creating one of the most popular music genres of all time, The Birthplace of Country Music Museum was opened in 2014 with the hope of perpetuating, promoting and celebrating the city’s rich musical heritage, as well as educating and engaging audiences worldwide regarding the history, impact and legacy of the 1927 Bristol Sessions.

The museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, boasts of highly interactive core exhibits, featuring a number of video experiences as well as various artifacts relating to the 1927 Bristol Sessions and other aspects of Bristol’s musical legacy.

Additionally, the facility offers a performance theater, radio station, learning center and a museum store.

Like articles like this? Then you would love Appalachian Magazine’s Mountain Voice: 2017: A Collection of Memories, Histories, and Tall Tales of Appalachia!  Click here to check out the book on Amazon!

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