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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ground Zero of Country Music Recording: Bristol, Tennessee

Ralph Peer (of Okeh Records fame), an entrepreneur/musical spelunker, came to Bristol in July 1927 looking for local music played by its hidden talent. There was a large interest in original American music—gospel and blues--from the far reaches of the country at this time, and Peer sought those genres in addition to secular music that fit neither category--that would be “country music”.

He was alerted to the area by his friend, the musician Ernest Stoneman (of an equally musically-rich area in Galax, Virginia), guided by the assertion that the Bristol/Johnson City/Kingsport area was a magnet for the musical talent of the region. He set up a temporary recording studio, renting the top two floors of the Taylor-Christian Hat Company (seen in the postcard image below, just beyond the Tip Top Hotel) at 412 State Street. Statestreetcirca1900 The initial react to his advertisement was underwhelming, but when an article appeared in the local newspaper in the second week of his two-week stay touting the $3600 that Stoneman received in royalties in 1926 for his recorded music, the floodgates opened, and suddenly Peer was completely booked.

The recordings that Peer made at 412 State Street were spectacular. Among those who showed up was the young Jimmie Rodgers. And Uncle Eck Dunford and Ernest & Hannah Stoneman. And A.P., Sara and (Mother) Maybelle Carter, who recorded their oh-dear-god-beautiful “Single Girl, Married Girl” (and "Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow”, “Little Log Cabin By the Sea”, “The Storms are on the Ocean”, “The Wandering Boy”) there on the second floor.

link: Ptak Science Books: Lost-topia: Looking for the Birthplace of Recorded Country Music


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