The Birthplace of Country Music https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/ Wed, 06 Dec 2023 17:57:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.3.2 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/cropped-BCMMfavi-32x32.png The Birthplace of Country Music https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/ 32 32 Unwrap the Joy: Birthplace of Country Music’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide is Here! https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/unwrap-the-joy-birthplace-of-country-musics-2023-holiday-shopping-guide-is-here/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unwrap-the-joy-birthplace-of-country-musics-2023-holiday-shopping-guide-is-here Wed, 06 Dec 2023 16:48:43 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=54265 From vintage vibes to strum-tastic swag, our curated collection is here to transform your gift-giving game into a chart-topping hit!

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– PROMOTIONAL CONTENT –

Are you ready to rock around the Christmas tree and surprise the music lover in your life with gifts that hit all the right notes? 🎄🎵 Well, buckle up because the Birthplace of Country Music‘s holiday shopping guide is dropping some serious beats and festive treats!

From vintage vibes to strum-tastic swag, our curated collection is here to transform your gift-giving game into a chart-topping hit! And the best part? You can snag these melodic masterpieces both online at BirthplaceofCountryMusic.org and in person at The Museum Store inside the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

But wait, there’s more! When you shop with us, you’re not just getting awesome gifts – you’re supporting a nonprofit that’s all about keeping the music alive. 🎶✨ Your purchase goes the extra mile, helping us continue our mission to celebrate the rich musical heritage that makes our community sing.

And speaking of community, let’s crank up the volume on supporting small businesses! Explore the wonders of Historic Downtown Bristol, where local shops are ready to make your holiday shopping as unique as a catchy country tune. Your support means everything! 🌟🛒

Get ready to sleigh the season, support local, and spread the joy of music! Happy holidays, y’all! 🎅🤘 #ShopSmall #MusicMagic #HolidayHarmony

Weekend Passes to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

2024 Weekend Pass packaging with Christmas background.

Buy Now! | $135

Why settle for a run-of-the-mill present when you can gift an experience that will be music to their ears? Weekend passes to the 23rd annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival (Sept. 13-14) isn’t just a gift – its the key to a sonic adventure that traverses the magic of live performance, foot-stompin’ beats, and the electric energy that only this legendary festival can deliver. The colorful packaging for festival wristbands is a presentation in itself and contains a postcard you may send to a friend! 🎁🎸

Bristol Rhythm Swag

Photo of 2024 festival shirt, weekend pass envelope and trucker hat.

Buy Now! | $35 Shirt, $30 Hat

Deck yourself in fresh festival flair with a 2024 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion t-shirt and Honky Tonk trucker hat combo! Infused with the spirit of the music-filled weekend, these must-have accessories are more than just stylish – they’re a badge of support for the Birthplace of Country Music. Embrace the groove and let the world know you dig the Bristol Rhythm vibe! 🎸🧢

Bristol Babies
A photo of a toddler aged boy wearing a Bristol sign t-shirt with insets at the bottom of photos of a wooden train whistle and a little book entitled "It's Bristol Baby."

Buy Now! $23.99 Shirt, $12.99 Book, $11.99 Train Whistle

Introduce the youngest members of your tribe to the heart of Bristol with our delightful collection of kid-friendly treasures! From adorable Bristol sign T-shirts and onesies to the charming baby book “It’s Bristol, Baby!” and the timeless joy of an old-fashioned wooden train whistle – these gifts are a whimsical journey into the essence of our beloved city. Immerse your little ones in Bristol’s culture from the get-go, creating memories as cherished as the melodies of a Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Let the fun begin, and watch as the magic of Bristol unfolds for the next generation! 🚂👶

Roots & Branches

A pendant dangling from a bronze chain. The pendant is made from twisted bronze wire, and shaped into a tree in the center. The "leaves" of the tree are made of tiny stones.

Buy now! $45 Necklace

Elevate your style with the “Tree of Life” necklace, a stunning creation handcrafted by local artisan Kathryn Jenkins. Crafted from intricately woven copper wire, this exquisite piece not only complements your wardrobe but also serves as a symbolic ode to our Appalachian heritage. With every delicate detail, the tree becomes a timeless emblem of our roots, connecting wearers to the rich tapestry of our community. Embrace the artistry and spirit of the Appalachians with this uniquely crafted necklace. 🌳✨

Vintage VibesPhoto of the Radio Bristol gramophone t-shirt.

Buy now! $20.00 On Sale!

Show your support for independent radio in style by donning the WBCM Radio Bristol “Putting the Roots Back in Radio” t-shirt in a beautiful shade of deep teal. This shirt isn’t just a fashion statement; it’s a bold declaration of support for the authentic voices that independent radio brings to our ears. Featuring a vintage gramophone design, it’s a nod to the roots of radio that paved the way for the diverse tunes we love today. Wear your support proudly and showcase your love for the airwaves with this cozy and chic tee. 🎙👕

It’s 5:00 Somewhere…

Photo of a wine cup made from pottery. It features a rabbit design etched into the cup.

Buy Now! $50.00 Wine Cup

Sip in style with the enchanting handcrafted wine cup by Jen Otey of MOONbow ARTworks. Residing in the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia, Jen infuses her creations with the magic of the region’s natural beauty. Each cup is a testament to her artistic prowess and passion, offering a whimsical touch to your sipping experience. Elevate your moments with a piece of art that not only captures the spirit of the Appalachians but also supports the creative endeavors of a local artist and educator. 🍷🎨

Art Imitates Life

A photo of two fine art prints: watercolor drawings of Johnny Cash's mugshot and another of Dolly Parton.

Buy Now! $40.00 Johnny Cash, $40.00 Dolly Parton

Bring the legends of country music to life with Richard Graves‘ stunning fine art Giclee prints, featuring Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. As a Neo-Appalachian artist hailing from the Wolf Hills of Abingdon, Virginia, Graves infuses his work with a captivating blend of portraiture, figure drawing, and the surreal. These prints not only pay homage to the iconic voices of Cash and Parton but also serve as windows into the creative spirit of the Appalachian region. Each print comes in two sizes, 8″ x 10″ or 11″ x 14″. Elevate your space with the essence of music icons, crafted by a local artist with a unique and visionary touch. 🎨🎶

Hitting all the Right Notes

A display of the Tennessee Ernie Ford CD Box set contents including the cover of the album, a book with liner notes, and the CDs.

Buy Now! $139.95 Box Set

Immerse yourself in the timeless melodies of a true American icon with the “Tennessee Ernie Ford: Portrait of an American Singer” CD box set. This meticulously curated collection spans Ford’s inaugural twelve years as a recording artist (1949-1960), capturing the essence of his unparalleled musical journey. With a comprehensive 120-page hardcover book and 5 CDs featuring 154 tracks, this box set celebrates the legacy of Tennessee Ernie Ford, a native of Bristol, Tennessee, and one of America’s most treasured entertainers. 🎤🎶

A Taste of the Region

A photo of the book entitled "Past & Repast: A Fine Collection of Recipes, A Panorama of Food, Facts & Faces, Bristol Historical Association. The cover of the book depicts vintage black and white photos of the historic Bristol Sign, a photo of a historic marker, and a panoramic vintage photo of downtown Bristol.

Buy Now! $35.00 Recipe Book

Embark on a culinary journey through time with the “Past & Repast” cookbook from the Bristol Historical Association. This delectable collection not only brings together recent and vintage recipes from local culinary enthusiasts, but also serves up a visual feast with captivating pictures and stories from the rich archives of the BHA. Dive into the flavors of Bristol’s history and savor the traditions that have seasoned generations, all while supporting the preservation of local heritage. Spice up your kitchen with this delightful blend of recipes, anecdotes, and community spirit. 🍽📖

Flavor of the Season

A photo collage of Birthplace of Country Music brand Apple Butter, Apple Cinnamon Jelly, Dutch Apple Jam and Apple Cinnamon BBQ sauce.

Buy Now! $4.95 – $8.95 Assortment

Indulge your taste buds in the sweet symphony of the season with Birthplace of Country Music’s apple-infused delights! Elevate your holiday spread with the warm, comforting flavors of apple butter, the zing of apple cinnamon jelly, and the irresistible sweetness of Dutch apple jam. For a savory twist, drizzle your festivities with the delectable apple cinnamon barbecue sauce. Each jar is a delicious nod to the Appalachian orchards, making these delights the perfect addition to your festive feasts and a thoughtful gift for fellow food enthusiasts. 🍎✨

Wishing you and your family a joyful holiday season from all of us at the Birthplace of Country Music! 🌟🎄

CLICK HERE to shop The Museum Store online for more great gifts!

 

 

 

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The Carter Sisters Radio Transcriptions with Chet Atkins https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/the-carter-sisters-radio-transcriptions-with-chet-atkins/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-carter-sisters-radio-transcriptions-with-chet-atkins Tue, 26 Sep 2023 02:13:32 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=52263 A deep dive into the recordings of Carter Sisters shows from 1949 and 1950 before they were signed by the Grand Ole Opry by guest blogger Ed Hagen.

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Ed Hagen is a volunteer gallery assistant and guest blogger at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. His recent blog posts include The Carter Family on the Border Radio and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. 


The original Carter family became nationally famous after being recorded in the 1927 Bristol sessions. A. P. Carter sang bass and harmonies on many songs, and very occasionally played guitar, but his principal contribution acted as a songcatcher, working to find, rewrite, and rearrange traditional songs. His wife Sara Dougherty Carter was the lead singer, co-wrote many songs, and performed playing either a guitar or autoharp. Sara’s cousin Maybelle Addington Carter, (who was married to A. P.’s brother Eck) also sang, but is remembered today as a guitar virtuoso (more on that later).

Their record sales crashed with the Great Depression of the 1930s, but an opportunity to perform on a radio station on the Mexican border revived the fortunes of the group. In those days, Mexico and the United States had a dispute over AM radio signals, and some Mexican stations were given many times the wattage of U.S. stations. That meant that the Carters’ border radio shows were heard all over the country, reviving their popularity. The border radio station XERA had a massive 500 kilowatts, and could broadcast across 48 states and into Canada. Visit my previous blog post, The Carter Family on the Border Radio, to learn more about that story. 

Carter Sisters and Maybelle September 1944. Left to right: Anita, June, Maybelle, and Helen

A new generation traveled with the Carters to the Mexican border. A.P. and Sara brought their two children, Janette and Joe. Maybelle and Eck brought their three daughters, Helen, June, and Anita. The children sang on the radio show (but not on records). The original group continued to perform for several years, but that ended when Sara moved to California in 1943.

Maybelle and her daughters continued to perform after the original Carter Family disbanded, performing as “the Carter Sisters and Maybelle Carter” on local radio stations in Richmond, Knoxville, and Springfield, Missouri. They became local celebrities in each city with big crowds as the stars of local “barn dance” radio shows, and they took their act to every town within range of the local radio signal. They were eventually signed by the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1950.

With that extended introduction, and with today being National Daughter’s Day, let’s take a look at the radio transcriptions of the Carter Sisters. Years ago, radio shows were often recorded on “transcription discs,” special high-quality recordings that would be distributed to radio station affiliates. These disks had pauses in them so that the affiliated stations could insert their own commercials. The disks were never intended to be distributed to the public, but thousands of them have survived, later archived to tape and digital recordings by “old time radio” enthusiasts. These include recordings of a dozen Carter Sisters shows from 1949 and 1950 (just before they were signed by the Grand Ole Opry) that can be listened to today via YouTube.

Carter Family circa 1939. Standing A. P., Janette, announcer Harry Steele, Sara, Maybelle. Seated Helen, Anita, June.

By the 1950’s, The Carter Sisters lineup included Helen, then age 22, playing the accordion and guitar; June, age 20, playing autoharp and ukulele; and Anita, age 16, playing upright bass. By this time June, a natural comedienne, introduced the songs and pitched sponsored products. Maybelle anchored the group playing her 1928 L5 guitar, which she bought with royalties from the 1927 Bristol Session recordings.  What makes these recordings extraordinary is that the costar of the show was a then-unknown guitar player, Chet Atkins. Think about it; here we have recordings of perhaps the two most influential country guitar players of all time playing together just before they joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Why were Maybelle and Chet influential? Let’s start with Maybelle, the inventor of the “Carter scratch.” She would play the melody of songs such as “Wildwood Flower” and “Keep on the Sunny Side” on the bass strings of the guitar using a thumb pick, while rhythmically brushing the other strings with her fingernails or finger picks. Essentially, she played rhythm and lead guitar at the same time. This was revolutionary, because country guitar players didn’t see the guitar as a lead instrument before that.

Maybelle, an extraordinary musician, mastered other styles of playing. She can be seen on videos playing rhythm guitar up and down the neck like a jazz guitarist on some songs, and Mexican-inspired fills on others. She also played something the Carter family called the “blues.” Years later, in a wonderful documentary, Mother Maybelle’s Carter Scratch, Helen explains that Maybelle learned to play the “blues” around 1930 from Leslie Riddle, an African-American man in Kingsport. Riddle taught Maybelle guitar, and therefore played a direct impact on the early styles of country music, but due to race and discrimination was never able to reach the success the Carter Family achieved. This guitar style featured an alternating bass played with the thumb, with the melody played on the top strings (the reverse of the Carter scratch, where the melody was played on the bottom strings). Most people today call this style “Travis picking” because it was popularized by Merle Travis.

Carter Sisters with Chet Atkins circa 1950

If you look closely at videos of Merle Travis playing this style, you’ll see that he used a thumb pick and just one finger for the melody. He got a miraculously full sound with this technique, but Chet Atkins, using all of his fingers, took Travis picking to another level. He went on to have a long and successful career, with best-selling instrumental hits like “Mr. Sandman” and “Yakety Axe”. 

The shows starts with thirty seconds of their theme song, the “Columbus Stockade Blues,” just enough for one chorus and a sizzling Chet Atkins guitar break. They close each show with “In the Pines.” In between, different sisters are featured vocals, and Chet played instrumentals (check out, for example, Peach Pickin’ Time on show 17 and Humoresque on show 39). He also sings a bit, and plays the fiddle, something he’s not known for. Check out his version of Shortnin’ Bread in show 17. 

Maybelle shows off her Carter Scratch on show 17, playing and singing the old Carter Family standard,  “You Will Miss Me When I’m Gone”. We sure do, but these old radio shows bring them all back to life.

 

 

 

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East Tennessee Fiddlers and Their Fiddles https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/east-tennessee-fiddlers-and-their-fiddles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=east-tennessee-fiddlers-and-their-fiddles Thu, 14 Sep 2023 20:22:33 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=52225 From Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman to Eddy Simms, a brief look at the music makers and their instruments by Julia Underkoffler.

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By Julia Underkoffler,  Collection Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum


Fiddle me this: What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle? One has strings, and the other has strangs!

East Tennessee is known for its music, and in particular, it was home to several well-known and influential old-time and bluegrass fiddlers. The museum is fortunate to have three fiddles on loan that were owned and played by Charlie Bowman, Edd Vance, and Benny Sims, all of which are currently on special display in our permanent exhibits. Instruments – and other objects – like these help us to tell the stories of the music, people, and cultural heritage that make our region so special.

Fiddlin’ Charlie Bowman was born on July 30, 1889 in Gray Station, Tennessee. Bowman started playing music from a young age – he started recording as early as 1908 on a neighbor’s Edison Cylinder phonograph, and by the early 1920s, he was regularly being hired to play at square dances and political rallies. When Bowman started to enter fiddling contests around the area, other local fiddlers got quite mad because Bowman just kept on winning! 

A black and white image of Charlie Bowman. He is seated on a small bench and holding a fiddle in his lap. He is wearing a collared shirt. The image is old and not completely clear, his face is slightly fuzzy.
Charlie Bowman, from the Lewis Deneumoustier Collection, Archives of Appalachia, East Tennessee State University

 

 

In 1928, when the Columbia record label came to Johnson City, Tennessee, to do a location recording session, Bowman and several other musicians, including his daughters, recorded six songs. He also traveled the East Coast vaudeville circuit with his daughters and his band – in 1931 alone, they played 249 days of the year. Bowman was later hired to perform by B. Carroll Reece, who served as representative for the first district of Tennessee. They stayed lifelong friends, and Bowman even wrote “Reece Rag” for Congressman Reece. Alongside his solo career, Bowman was also a member of the Hill Billies and the Blue Ridge Ramblers. 

The museum has two Bowman family instruments on loan: Charlie’s fiddle and his daughter Jenny’s accordion, which is currently on display in the museum’s special exhibit, I’ve Endured Women in Old-Time Music

 

 

 

 

 

Edd Vance more commonly known as Red – was born on November 19, 1923 in Sullivan County, Tennessee. Red became recognized in East Tennessee for his old-time fiddling skill, and he performed at The Down Home, a well-known musical hub in Johnson City, Tennessee. 

Red followed in the footsteps of his father, Dudley Vance, who was born on March 12, 1880 in Bluff City, Tennessee. During the second week of May 1925, Dudley played at the first Mountain City Fiddlers’ Convention, held at a local high school. This event featured famous fiddlers Charlie Bowman, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Fiddlin’ Cowan Powers, Charlie Powers, and G. B. Grayson. Dudley famously beat everyone with his rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Two years later, Dudley and his brother traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to record three records for Okeh Records, under the band name Vance’s Tennessee Breakdowners. These were the last professional recordings done by Dudley. The museum has Edd Vance’s fiddle and several other items related to Dudley and Edd Vance on loan from their descendants. 

Edd “Red” Vance’s fiddle shows the wear of a lifetime of skilled fiddling. On loan from the descendants of Edd and Dudley Vance. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Ashli Linkous

Benny Sims was born on August 4, 1924 in Sevier County, Tennessee. Sims was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and was stationed in Foggia, Italy during World War II. While in Italy, Sims played with the U.S. Air Force Orchestra. He played fiddle with the Morris Brothers, but he is best known for his time performing with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Sims recorded with Flatt & Scruggs over 25 times as part of the Bluegrass Boys, including on their famous “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”  

The cover of a music book, “Fiddle Favorite” by Benny Sims, pictured.

After Sims left Flatt & Scruggs, he went to work for WNOX in Knoxville and WJHL-TV in Johnson City until he retired in the early 1960s. When he retired from the music industry he worked at Life & Casualty Insurance Company and gave private fiddle lessons. Just months before Sims’ death in 1995, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance held a tribute to him at the Paramount Center for the Arts. Today, East Tennessee State University awards the Benny Sims Scholarship to one Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Student each year.

This fiddle is on loan from Benny Sims’ family and is believed to be the one that he played on the “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” recording. On loan from the descendants of Benny Sims; © Birthplace of Country Music Museum; photographer: Ashli Linkous

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Round Two: Ashli’s Top 5 Bristol Rhythm Must-Sees https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/title-round-two-ashlis-top-5-bristol-rhythm-must-sees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=title-round-two-ashlis-top-5-bristol-rhythm-must-sees Mon, 04 Sep 2023 04:30:22 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=52159 BCM social media guru Ashli Linkous shares her top picks at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2023.

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By Ashli Linkous, Marketing Specialist & Photographer


It’s almost time for my second festival as a staff member here at the Birthplace of Country Music, so here’s year two of Ashli’s “Must Sees” at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, coming up this week on September 8-10th, 2023!

Larkin Poe

When I heard that Larkin Poe was on this year’s lineup, I was stoked! I grew up listening to rock music, so I’ve always had a soft spot for anything rock and roll. The sister duo’s unique sound is a melting pot of blues, gritty southern rock, gospel, and even bluegrass and old-time country music. It’s not surprising that the sisters draw from such genres as bluegrass and old-time – you may remember when the sisters were in an acoustic trio called The Lovell Sisters. Personal favorites from Larkin Poe are “Kick the Blues,“Mississippi”, and “Deep Stays Down.” They headline Cumberland Square Park Stage on Saturday, September 9th at 10:00 PM! Don’t miss it! This show will be such a vibe with the atmosphere of the Cumberland Square Park stage lights at night!

Promotional image of the duo Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe. Two women are facing the camera and holding instruments. The women on the left is holding a light pink guitar with glitter and wearing a brown fringe western jacket. The woman on the right is holding an instrument and wearing a black sleeveless shirt with shiny patterned pants. Both women are sitting on a fuzzy yellow blanket in front of a colorful orange and yellow background.
Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe.

Sons of the East

I learned about Australian based indie-folk band Sons of the East when they made their way through Bristol in 2022. They played at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino last October and came to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum for a spur of the moment tour the next day. I’ve been hooked ever since! For fans of Bristol Rhythm alumni such as CAAMP and Rainbow Kitten Surprise, this band is a must see! Trust me, you’ll be bragging about seeing them at Bristol Rhythm in a year or two. We are lucky enough to have them play twice for us: opening the State Street Stage on Friday, September 8th at 5:00 PM and on the Piedmont Stage on Saturday, September 9th at 3:45 PM! Personal favorites are On My Way,” Millionaire,” and “Into the Sun.” 

Three young men are posing and smiling for a promotion image of their band. The man on the far left is smiling and wearing a white button up shirt and jeans. The man in the middle is wearing a brown shirt and jeans and leaning down towards the camera, his hair is in his face. The man on the far right is leaning against a yellow wall behind the other two men, and wearing a blue button up shirt with a white tee shirt with the text “NYC” on the shirt.
Australian indie folk trio formed in 2011 by Nic Johnston, Dan Wallage, and Jack Rollins.

Arcy Drive

If you loved Briston Maroney’s Sunday set (or missed out and heard about it later) at last year’s festival, then you have to add Arcy Drive to your list! This four piece band has dubbed their music “attic rock,” and have racked up accolades such as Luck Reunion’s Southwest Air “Artist on the Rise” winner. They recently embarked on their first sold out headlining tour, so it’s going to be awesome to have this band make a stop in Bristol before they absolutely blow up, because they definitely will! Personal favorites are Roll My Stone,” “Smoke & Fire,” and their newest release “Wicked Styley.” They play Cumberland Square park Stage on Saturday, September 9th at 4:00 PM.

 A black and white image of 4 young men in the back of a vehicle. The men are all smiling and have their arms around one another. The men are wearing t-shirts and hoodies.
Promotional image of the band Arcy Drive.

HAPPY LANDING

If you are in search of a feelgood band that will get you on your feet, then look no further! Perhaps the band I am most excited to see at this year’s festival, HAPPY LANDING is a folk rock band that hails from Oxford, Mississippi. If you like bands such as The 502s, The Head And The Heart, or Oliver Hazard, or The Backseat Lovers, you should make plans to be at Cumberland Square Park on Saturday, September 9th at 2:00 PM. Personal favorites are “Love Your Guts, “October,” and “Carry On, Carry On.”

Five people are wearing blue, or white, or orange jumpsuits and are jumping in mid air on a beach.
Promotional image of HAPPY LANDING.

Holy Roller

Back in July I got a taste of Richmond, Virginia based band Holy Roller at our Road to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion show and I’ve been listening nonstop ever since. Their energetic live show blew me away. Their fans in the Richmond music scene showed up in droves and sang every word to their songs. The strength of their local fan base felt very similar to the momentum 49 Winchester was gaining right here in Southwest Virginia back in 2021. I feel that Holy Roller will likely find a similar path to success in the coming months/years. With a sound combining southern rock, Americana, folk, and country, personal favorites are “Flat Track Fire,” “Honey Where’d You Sleep,” and “Muscle Up.” They play for us twice: Friday, September 8th at 6:00 PM on the Lauderdale Stage and Saturday, September 9th at 3:00 PM on 6th Street. I would make plans to see both.

A fun group image of the band Holler Roller. The group consists of six men and one woman, they are all sitting on a porch with their arms around each other. The man on the far left is holding a white dog in his lap. Everyone is wearing colorful clothing and smiling and laughing.
Promotional image of Holler Roller.

You can buy tickets to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion right now at a special rate! Our prices rise at the festival gates, so buy early and save!! We also offer discounted weekend tickets for groups of 10+ at $100 each! Visit BristolRhythm.com for more information.

Ashli Linkous is a Marketing Specialist & Photographer at the Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. and an avid music lover!

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The Carter Family on the Border Radio https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/the-carter-family-on-the-border-radio/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-carter-family-on-the-border-radio Fri, 01 Sep 2023 15:58:35 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=52131 Guest blogger Ed Hagen explores The Carter Family's time at XERA radio station in Del Rio, Texas in the 1930s.

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By Ed Hagen,  volunteer gallery assistant and guest blogger at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.


Here at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, we celebrate the 1927 Bristol Sessions that launched the recording careers of a number of traditional music acts, notably Country Music Hall of Fame artists Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.

Three members of the Carter Family pose for a promotion photo taken in black and white. Maybelle Carter is seated holding a guitar and facing the camera. She is wearing a unique coat with a wooden clasp at the collar. Seated beside her is Sara Carter - she is holding an auto harp instrument in her lap and pressing the keys. She is wearing the same outfit as Maybelle, a unique coat with a wooden clasp at the collar. Leaning behind them is A.P. Carter, he is wearing a dark suit jacket and tie.
The original Carter Family: Maybelle, A. P., and Sara Carter

The Carter Family is now considered to be the “First Family of Country Music” after gaining commercial success and stardom from their 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings. The original group was a trio made up of A. P. Carter, his wife Sara Dougherty Carter, and Sara’s cousin Maybelle Addington Carter, who was married to A. P.’s brother Ezra “Eck” Carter.  All three members of the Carter Family were born and raised in SouthWest, Virginia in an area called Poor Valley, Virginia (also known as Maces Springs) and were steeped in mountain musical traditions. Sara was the lead singer of the group – unusual for the time period – singing and playing guitar and autoharp, with Maybelle singing, playing lead guitar, and creating her own style of guitar playing known as the “Carter scratch”. A.P. Carter acted as songcatcher and band leader singing harmony vocals. In November 1927 and following months, the Victor record label released all six songs from the Carter Family’s Bristol Session recordings, and by the end of the 1930’s the group had sold over 300,000 records. As their popularity grew due to the success of the 1927 recordings, for years the group then recorded over 250 songs under the RCA Victor label, Decca and the American Record Corporation, had regular performances and saw great commercial success. But business slowed a bit during the 1930s as the Depression badly hurt consumer spending for things like record players and records. In addition to a collapsing economy, the Carters’ ability to tour was also hampered by the breakup of A. P. and Sara’s marriage, which was finalized in 1936, but the group still continued to record and perform together, even after Sara’s marriage to Coy Bays (A.P.’s cousin).

During the mid- late 1930’s, the Carter Family had a unique opportunity to take a job on the border of the U.S. and Mexico on the XERA radio station in Del Rio, Texas. The Consolidate Royal Chemical Corporation had contacted them with an offer to perform on their border radio station XERA daily. XERA was a 500 kilowatt border blaster, and the station’s location in Mexico had a powerful broadcasting signal with the ability to reach much of the U.S. with its broadcasting ability.  With the possibility of reaching a national audience through XERA’s station, the Carter’s took the gig, which led to their next surge in popularity.  This opportunity took them from their quiet country home in Southwest Virginia to living just across the Mexican border in Texas.

This is where this story gets odd: John Romulus Brinkley was the station manager at border radio station XERA and also the infamous “goat-gland doctor.” A “doctor” with specious credentials, Brinkley achieved fame and fortune in Kansas in the early days of radio by advertising surgical clinics where he performed xenotransplantations of goat testicles into humans. This supposed cure for male impotence was the foundation of a medical quackery empire worth millions of dollars. Chased out of Kansas and other states by outraged medical boards, he set up business across the border in Mexico, where the American limits on radio station power did not apply. Brinkley’s million-watt station XERA could be heard all the way to Canada and in 48 U.S. states. 

 a black and white image of a women and a man looking directly at the camera performing surgery on a person laying on a table with a white sheet placed over their body. The women is wearing a surgical hat, and round glasses. The man is to her right and also wearing a surgical hat and round glasses, and is holding a surgical tool in his hand and gloves
“Doctor” John Romulus Brinkley performing a surgical procedure, date unknown. Image via LegendsofAmerica.com.

In 1938, Brinkley’s Mexican based border radio station XERA featured obscure hillbilly acts who played on the Good Neighbors Get Together show. That show aired for four hours every night, and again the following morning.  For six months out of the year in 1938 and 1939, the Carter Family and their children lived in Del Rio, Texas performing regular spots on the radio with the sessions being recorded. They were offered $75 a week –  serious money at the time. The Carters agreed and took the opportunity despite A. P. and Sara’s uncomfortable domestic situation.  During a radio segment in February of 1939, Sara dedicated a song, “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blues Eyes” to Coy Bays who was living in California – shortly afterwards the two were married and Sara moved to California. Brinkley’s empire was eventually brought down by a series of lawsuits and a federal mail fraud prosecution. He died bankrupt and penniless in 1942.

At this point the next generation of Carters appear in our story: A. P. and Sara’s children Gladys, Janette, and Joe, and Eck and Maybelle’s children, Helen, June, and Anita. The Carters did not want to disrupt their children’s schooling, so only the youngest child, five-year-old Anita, went with them the first year. Anita was part of the act and, as you can imagine, the other children, living with relatives in Virginia and listening to XERA at night, got very jealous. In subsequent years all of the children made the trip and sang on the radio shows.  

 A black and white image of three young girls, Anita, June and Helen Carter. The Girls are singing and dressed in the same overall dress outfit with bows at their necks. Helen is standing, singing and playing a guitar, June is in the middle touching an autoharp on a table in front of her, and Anita is smiling and singing.
Maybelle’s daughters left to right: Anita, June and Helen during a 1941 photoshoot with Life Magazine that was never published. Image from Life.com

The border radio shows were a great success. Young listeners to these radio programs included future country stars like Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Tom T. Hall, Waylon Jennings, and Buck Owens.

Each show was repeated the following morning. In those days, this was done by recording the evening show direct to “transcription disks”, a special phonograph record intended for, or recorded from, a radio broadcast. Nobody at the time thought much of the historical value of these disks. One story has it that they were sold to a Mexican contractor who used them as roofing tiles. Miraculously, seventeen disks with seventy-eight songs from the 1939 season were discovered in a San Antonio radio station in 1963 and were issued as LPs. The LPs are long out of print, but the recordings are available for purchase on the Internet in CD and mp3 formats, and are also posted on YouTube.  Take a listen to these recordings here via this YouTube playlist. 

The recordings are interesting alternate takes of previously recorded Carter Family songs, but also include previously unreleased songs. The border transcriptions are a bit shorter than the Carters’ commercial recordings on the Victor label, typically two minutes rather than three minutes long (perhaps shortened to save room for commercials), but the performances are flawless.

The original Carter Family disbanded in the 1940s, still performing together on occasions.  Maybelle Carter and her daughters began performing as a separate act as “Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters” featuring Anita, Helen and June and also performed under the groups original name “The Carter Family”, after 1960. The musical legacy of the Carter Family is one that continues to play an impact on musicians and fans of music to this day.

This blog post is a condensation of a colorful story told at much greater length in the XERA chapter of the excellent book about the Carter Family by Mark Zwonitzer and Charles Hirschberg, Will You Miss Me While I’m Gone. Another source was Ed Kahn, The Carter Family on border radio (University of Illinois Press 1996). 

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Radio Bristol Spotlight: The Dimestore Cowboys https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/radio-bristol-spotlight-the-dimestore-cowboys/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-bristol-spotlight-the-dimestore-cowboys Thu, 24 Aug 2023 04:30:36 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=52041 Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses. Radio Bristol is proud to offer a […]

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Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.


Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists, artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission we are pleased to bring you our latest series – Radio Bristol Spotlight. Radio Bristol Spotlight is a series highlighting top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performance we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Central Appalachia one the richest, and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

A few different names, 15 years of performing, and two lead singers later, The Dimestore Cowboys have re-emerged as a major player in the Tri-cities music scene. Originally known as JB Five and Dime, the band was started as a passion project between bass player and songwriter, Jason Shaffer and his long time singing buddy James Brashears. The two began playing at local watering holes and small venues around 2008, and shared lots of music and good times.  

 A promotional image of the group The Dimestore Cowboys. A group of six musicians are posing all facing the camera and looking into the lens. They are sitting on an old 1970’s style floral couch next to an old large TV with amps and other miscellaneous music equipment surrounding them. The lighting is moody and dark, no one is smiling. Members of the group are dressed in rustic western attire and dark clothing.
The Dimestore Cowboys. Left to right: Jason Vaper, Julia Wilson, Torrey Warren, Jason Shaffer, Adilene Delgado, and Travis Bentley

However, with the onset of the pandemic, the band came to a screeching halt causing the lead singer of the group to step down to refocus on work and family. The Dimestore Cowboys reformulated with a new line up adding frontman Travis Bentley, harmony vocalist and fiddle player Julia Wilson, Adilene Delgado on drums, lead guitarist Torrey Warren, and Jason Vaper on keys. Shaffer, the only original member remaining, has continued to be a driving force within the band and currently shares songwriting duties with Bentley. Shaffer was raised in Hiltons, VA just a few miles from the Carter Family Fold, and cites The Carter Family and old mountain music as a major inspiration for his writing. Travis Bentley grew up singing gospel music in church just outside of Bristol in Hickory Tree, TN and possesses a velvety twang that will make your hair stand on end. When not playing out, you can find Shaffer working at the well known local music store Campbell’s Morrell Music.

With their new line up in place the band has exploded onto the scene scoring high profile gigs opening for acts such as Mark Chestnut, Laid Back Country Picker, Tan and Sober Gentlemen, and is slated to be on the lineup for Bristol Rhythm and Roots this coming September. With two electric guitars, a Fender Rhodes organ, and fiddle in toe the band has some major grit with plenty of old school vibes. Shaffer says the talents of the new group and vocal harmonies between Travis and Julia have been taking the band to the next level. In 2022 Dimestore Cowboys released a new album aptly titled Let’s Try This Again recorded mixed and mastered by Mike Stephenson at Classic Recording Studio in downtown Bristol, VA. 

A stand out track from the new record, Appalachian Troubadour displays major radio playability dealing with themes of classism in Appalachia, spirituality, and the pressure of social norms. Listening to the new record you can’t help but feel like you’re hearing the next big band to emerge from the growing country music scene in the region which has recently birthed major talent such as 49 Winchester and Amythyst Kiah. Listeners can also hear influences from bands such as The Drive By Truckers and American Aquarium. You can listen to their latest release by visiting The Dimestore Cowboy’s bandcamp. 

Currently the group is working on a second release which is due out this coming Fall, and are looking to tour more extensively. This summer has proved to be busy for The Cowboys, with regional festivals, theater shows, and outdoor events. Follow their music and tour schedule by visiting their Facebook.

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Threads of History: Safeguarding The Birthplace of Country Music Quilt https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/threads-of-history-safeguarding-the-birthplace-of-country-music-quilt/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=threads-of-history-safeguarding-the-birthplace-of-country-music-quilt Mon, 21 Aug 2023 04:30:07 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=51979 The Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s quilt By Julia Underkoffler, Collection Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum Since the opening of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in […]

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The Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s quilt

By Julia Underkoffler, Collection Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum


Since the opening of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in 2014, a quilt donated by the Bristol TN/VA Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America has been one of the first objects visitors have seen when entering the museum and heading up the stairs to the main exhibits.

A closeup image of the details of the BCM quilt. The image features a closeup of the colorful, detailed quilted squares.
A closeup of the details on the BCM quilt. Hand stitched along the pink inner border are names of each of the artists who recorded during the 1927 Bristol Sessions

The quilt, which took two years to complete, has always captivated and inspired museum visitors and guests with its beautiful and complex design. Many aspects central to the 1927 Bristol Sessions and time period were included in the design of the quilt a marriage of color, concept, and skill. The center of the quilt features the words “Birthplace of Country Music” overlaid across a stunning tree. The inner sage green border framing the center design includes the musical notes and lyrics of the The Carter Family song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and the inner pink border carries the names of the participants of the 1927 Bristol Sessions – each name carefully stitched along the border of the quilt in a whimsical design. The blocks that frame the entire quilt commemorate quilt blocks from the 1800s to the present day. The quilt’s design is inspired by the Stoney Creek Collections, a published cross-stitch design company. The final piece evokes a powerful emotion of pride for regional heritage, accented by the roots strongly anchoring our history and the growth of the tree representing our future.

A large group of twenty four women standing on a staircase inside of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in front of the handmade quilt. The camera is facing to the right of the group of women and many of them are smiling.
Quilters from the local Bristol TN/VA Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America gather in front of the quilt they spend two years making on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. This photo was taken during the quilt dedication event in 2014 prior to the museum’s opening

The quilt ended up being much larger than the quilters group originally planned – a testament to their passion and creativity! – with the final measurements being an incredible eight and a half feet wide and almost ten feet long. On July 14, 2014 the guild members were invited to the museum for the dedication of the quilt and a preview of the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum. The quilt has since been a focal point of the museum lobby for nearly a decade. The creation of this quilt was a true labor of love and friendship in support of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the twin cities of Bristol TN/VA.

One main part of my job as Collections Specialist is to care for and preserve the artifacts we have within our collection, and this role is arguably one of the most important jobs within the museum. My responsibility as caretaker of the museum’s collections, along with the documentation, photographing, and housing of all of the objects, is vital. In early March 2023, the quilt was taken down and placed in our collections storage for safekeeping and proper storage. There were many reasons for this decision, most importantly the preservation of the quilt itself. Institutions that have textiles in their collections must have a regular schedule to take the items off display or be sure that the textiles are located in a very dark area with special lighting to help prevent deterioration. Like any other textile objects, quilts are extremely fragile and sensitive to sunlight, and therefore that was one of the decision-making factors. Another issue that came into play was how our quilt was displayed – hanging from a specially made rod – and how that weight can affect the integrity of the quilt’s fabric, threads, and construction. In other words, it’s necessary to give textiles like our quilt time “to rest” by removing them from their hanging apparatus.

Two museum workers are leaning over multiple folding tables covered in white plastic and are carefully folding the birthplace of country music museum quilt. Julia Underkoffler is to the right of Rene Rodgers; both are smiling and wearing blue rubber gloves and handling the corners of the quilt. Julia is wearing a navy blue shirt and blue jeans and Rene is wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. They are standing in a gallery room with museum display cases behind them.
Head Curator Dr. Rene Rodgers and Collections Specialist Julia Underkoffler prepping the BCM quilt for safe storage

When the quilt was taken down, it was put out on several tables in a secured area for a few days before one of BCM’s board members, a fabric specialist, helped us to roll it on a tube with acid-free tissue paper and 100% cotton sheets, held together with pieces of fabric in four places. The quilt is now safely stored in the museum’s vault resting in the correct conditions, specifically where the temperature stays around 70 degrees and the humidity around 50 percent and with no natural light exposure.

A large colorful quilt is shown hanging on a display on a wall inside of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. The image shows the quilt on display over a staircase during the daytime with dim spotlights highlighting the quilt.
A view of the quilt at the top of the stairs in the museum lobby at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

The quilt will remain resting in storage for several years before it can return to public display. Being a staff favorite and knowing the love and care that was put into its creation, it was hard for us to take it down – and our repeat visitors have certainly missed it! – but we know that this is the course of action that will ensure its preservation for generations to come. In the meantime, our curatorial team pulled together a variety of wonderful images of the museum and its exhibits and programs over the last nine years that are now on display in the space left behind by the quilt – from a student gospel group’s performance and our Pick Along campers to the Jimmie Rodgers guitar on display and several 1927 Bristol Sessions relatives.

 

 

 

 

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Quick-Witted Women: Comedy and Country Music https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/quick-witted-women-comedy-and-country-music/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quick-witted-women-comedy-and-country-music Wed, 16 Aug 2023 10:00:37 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=51973 Left to right: Promotional images of Roni Stoneman as “Ida Lee” from Hee Haw from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum archives, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon as Minnie Pearl sporting […]

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Left to right: Promotional images of Roni Stoneman as “Ida Lee” from Hee Haw from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum archives, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon as Minnie Pearl sporting her signature hat and price tag courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry archives and Cynthia Mae Carver as Cousin Emmy courtesy of Georgia State University Digital Collections

Toni Doman-Vandyke is Grants Coordinator and Curatorial Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music


August 16th is National Tell A Joke Day! Comedy and country music have a long and enduring history. From the extravagant days of vaudeville variety act performances in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to early barn dance radio programs of the 1930s, comedians and musicians were regularly featured.

A graphic image of a logo for the program Hee Haw. The graphic is a mule wearing a yellow straw hat, with droopy eyes and prominent large teeth. The mule is smiling and underneath of the mule to to right are the words “hee haw”
The logo for the television show Hee Haw, a variety show featuring country music and humor in the fictional “Kornfield Kounty”

Comedians brought their wit be it silly, old-fashioned, and sometimes crude – to the stage to entertain audiences, oftentimes with humor focused on a rural country lifestyle. Some of the first comedians to be a part of the WSM’s Grand Ole Opry program in the 1930s included Sarie and Sally, a female comedic duo, and arguably the Opry’s most well-known comedian, Minnie Pearl, who later went on to be a cast member of Hee Haw, which ran for 25 seasons from 1969 until 1993. Humor can break down boundaries, engage and entertain people, and has the ability to connect listeners and audiences deeply through a shared experience of laughter. Comedy is deeply intertwined with the genres of and relating to country music, with many memorable funny and satirical songs by musicians through the years. Today contemporary artists still carry on the tradition of writing ironic, satirical and humorous songs.

I’m a huge fan of side-splitting country songs, with some of my earliest musical memories include “discovering” Ray Stevens and “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival“,and listening to every whimsical goofy tune by Roger Miller (personal favorite: “My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died). Upon doing research for this blog post, I found that most “funny country songs” are written and performed by male artists. However, female performers – despite historically facing challenges, such as the assumption that women aren’t funny and gender discrimination surrounding what might be appropriate for a female performer to sing or speak about on stage – have made their comic mark in the country genre too. Therefore, to celebrate National Tell a Joke Day, here’s a roundup of music and stories by some of my favorite funny female country music comedians and entertainers. From Cousin Emmy to Dolly Parton, women have been getting the last laugh for years!

Lulu Belle and Scotty – “Store Bought Teeth”
How are false teeth like stars?
They come out at night!

This novelty song about “store bought teeth” by Lulu Belle (born Myrtle Eleanor Cooper) and Scotty Wiseman features comical lyrics of problems that might just occur should you have fake teeth and you dig into the taffy candy (not advised). Lulu Belle and Scotty were known as “The Sweethearts of Country Music” first meeting one another on the WLS National Barn Dance in the mid 1930s. Together they both had successful careers in country music performing across the Midwest and even appeared in seven films.

“Well a feller called and said his name was Slim, and he wanted me to work for him
And I said boy I always aim to please
So I signed upon the dotted line and everything was just going fine
Then he led me to a 90 foot trapeze

Well he handed me some kites like them folks wear
And he pulled me way up in the air
Then hollered “hang on by your teeth and wait!”
And then it happened the things I feared
When the screaming stopped and the dust had cleared
The only thing hanging was my plate

Store bought teeth and taffy candy
Store bought teeth and taffy candy”

Cousin Emmy on Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest
What kind of music do balloons hate?
Pop.

Cynthia Mae Carver, known professionally as Cousin Emmy, began playing music as a young girl, mastering the fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica, ukulele, and musical saw, and even playing music on a rubber glove. She performed on local radio stations, and in 1935 she won the National Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest, which brought her better gigs and eventually larger radio markets in Knoxville, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri. Very few recorded performances exist of Cousin Emmy, though this excerpt from the 1944 film Swing in the Saddle by Lew Landers features one of her stage performances during her career heyday. The video below features another rare recording from Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest, a program focused on folk music. At mark 7:30 of the video, you can catch Cousin Emmy playing “You Are My Sunshine” on the rubber glove!

Roni Stoneman – “Going Up Cripple Creek”
How can you tell the difference between all the banjo songs?
By their names.

Veronica “Roni” Stoneman is an accomplished banjo player and comedian, and she was a long-time cast member of Hee Haw from 1972 to 1990, known for playing the skillet-wielding “Ida Lee Nagger” character, as seen in this YouTube clip. She is the 14th child and youngest daughter of Ernest and Hattie Stoneman, old-time artists who recorded at the 1927 Bristol Sessions. With a career spanning a lifetime in music and stage performances, Roni is a true entertainer. This video of “Going Up Cripple Creek” features a performance by the Stoneman Family from 1967, with Roni playing the banjo with a stoic attitude and expression-less face, totally out of character (but still a hilarious performance) from her normal upbeat and energetic stage personality.

Mother Maybelle and The Carter Sisters – “Well I Guess I Told You Off”
Did you hear about the cow that tried to jump the fence and missed?
Utter disaster.

Some of my absolute favorite funny recordings feature Mother Maybelle Carter and The Carter Sisters with  tunes like Root Hog Or Die, Too Old To Cut the Mustardand “Well I Guess I Told You Off” when sisters Helen, June, and Anita each take turns singing lines of the chorus. Their amusing performances always make me laugh! 

The three daughters of Maybelle Carter began performing with her publicly as The Carter Sisters after the original Carter Family (A. P., Sara, and Maybelle) disbanded in 1943. The Carter Sisters appeared on numerous radio and television shows, performed live, and became regulars on the Grand Ole Opry. June, in particular, honed her comedic skills with the group, bringing a folksy charm and humor to many of their stage performances.

“If brains were thousand dollar bills
I’d tell you what we’d bet
You wouldn’t have enough
To buy a cup of coffee yet

Well, that ain’t the way I heared it
But here’s a thought for you
Your’s might as well be coffee grounds
For all the thinking they’ll do

Well I guess I told you off
That ought to hold you for a spell
Furthermore if you don’t like it
You can pack tonight, get out of sight
And go jump in the well!”

Dolly Parton – Songwriter and Storyteller
“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…and I also know that I’m not blonde.” – Dolly Parton

Finally, this clip features legendary living musician and singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, highlighting her character and charisma through humor and storytelling – a regular hallmark of her shows and appearances. With a successful career spanning over 50 years, she released her first album Hello I’m Dolly, in February of 1967, which included her first hit, Dumb Blonde,” a song that called out female stereotypes. Soon after she was invited to be the regular “girl singer” on The Porter Wagoner Show. At the six-minute mark in the video below, Dolly dives into a witty and humorous tale as a guest on The Tonight Show, cracking the entire audience up by the end of her tale. 

If you liked the female artists and their featured funny songs, check out these additional hilarious comedic country songs by female artists: 

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Big Lon’s Vinyl Record Collecting Guidelines https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/big-lons-vinyl-record-collecting-guidelines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=big-lons-vinyl-record-collecting-guidelines Sat, 12 Aug 2023 10:00:58 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=51945  Lonnie “Big Lon” Salyer is a vinyl record historian focused on local independent studios and labels in Southern Appalachia. His show “Diggin’ With Big Lon” airs weekly on WBCM Radio […]

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 Lonnie “Big Lon” Salyer is a vinyl record historian focused on local independent studios and labels in Southern Appalachia. His show “Diggin’ With Big Lon” airs weekly on WBCM Radio Bristol. 


Hey ya’ll this is Big Lon checking in to make sure you are aware that August 12th is National Vinyl Record Day, a celebration of vinyl records, their history, and their significance in music and culture. If you’re interested in collecting vinyl records, here are some guidelines on what to collect, where to find them, and how to store and clean them. 

A selfie of Big Lon inside of the Radio Bristol studio space holding a record with that reads "The Birthplace of Country Music Bristol" on the front. Big Lon (Lonnie) is smiling and wears a fedora straw hat and studio headphones.
 Big Lon is a Radio Bristol DJ and avid vinyl record collector. 

First off there’s not a wrong answer on what to collect, it all depends on you and what makes you happy. Music provides both a connective social bond and an individual experience, and no two people have the same tastes or collective life journeys. Collecting vinyl records bridges both realms together in a tangible format you can hold in your hand. I’m still learning and certainly don’t know all the answers but here’s my two cents based on my collecting experience.

What should I collect Big Lon? I’d answer that with what do you like about music? What are your motivations when it comes to hobbies, investments, collecting, socializing?  I can break this down into five basic categories to consider. First, what’s your personal connection with music? A great way to start is collecting records that have sentimental value to you on a personal level. Do you remember a song from Saturday morning cartoons or a song that you used to listen to with your grandfather on the drive to and from fishing trips? It may be as simple as the music you and your friends liked back in college or middle school. Make a list of all those songs you connect with as a bucket list you’d like to have on vinyl. Secondly, what genres of music and artists do you like? You can focus on records from your favorite artists or specific genres like heavy metal or even eras such as 1950’s jazz. This will be a great starting point that can lead to discovering similar artists or labels that specialize in the genre of music you like. Maybe you want to get into vinyl for the collectible aspect because you heard of valuable vinyl records and want to invest in records in hopes of your collection growing in value. Limited editions and limited pressings can fulfill this option. Limited releases, colored vinyl, and special editions can be valuable and unique additions to your collection. A great example is this limited pressing orange vinyl 45rpm release by Blake Berglund, recorded at The Earnest Tube in Bristol and released on Armadillo Tail Records. 

A closeup of a bright orange colored vinyl 45rpm record. The text on the front of the record reads "armadillo tail recording company presents" and the bottom text reads "Blake Berglund" in larger lettering with smaller text. An armadillo with his head inside of a cowboy boot is also on the record.
Limited orange vinyl 45rpm record in Big Lon’s collection.

Befriending the owners and sales people at your local vinyl record shop can lead to insight on when new releases will hit the shelves or what unique items your local shop will be getting for Record Store Day, which occurs annually in April. A fourth option is focusing on classic iconic albums that have had a significant impact on music history. A simple google search of the greatest or essential vinyl records in a genre you are interested in or maybe the top 20 of multiple genres so you can build a diverse interesting collection to match your mood or the social crowd you are having over for dinner or a cup of coffee. A final category I recommend is obscure and rare records. Once you get a little experience in vinyl collecting this one tends to happen organically. Seek out records that are hard to find or have historical significance. It can be that local band that you remember from high school that put out one independent record or whatever inspires you. For me, the hard-to-find Kingsport label from the 78rpm era of the early 1950s is one I actively collect.

A graphic collage of records with the text "Kingsport" labeled clearly. In the middle of the collage is a promotional graphic image of Big Lon. He is wearing a fedora straw hat and holding two records.
Big Lon’s Kingsport Records collection featured on an airing of Diggin’ With Big Lon on Radio Bristol.

Big Lon, where do I find vinyl records? We’ve already touched on visiting your local record shops to get an understanding of what they offer. Local record stores often have a diverse selection of vinyl records, both new and used. These stores can be a great place to discover hidden gems and interact with fellow enthusiasts. Online marketplaces like eBay, Discogs, and Amazon offer a wide range of vinyl records for sale. You can find rare and collectible records from various sellers. I’m a member of several Facebook groups of like interested collectors who specialize in specific record genres or format sizes such as LPs (33rpm), 78rpm or 45rpm. Flea markets and thrift stores are essential. Get to know those in your community. These spots can be treasure troves for vinyl collectors. You might stumble upon valuable records at affordable prices. In addition, don’t overlook estate sales and garage sales; occasionally, people sell off their vinyl collections, often at reasonable prices. I’ve personally bought four records that are valued over $1,000 each for a buck or less at rummage sales and from flea market dealers. Another great avenue is music festivals and conventions. Sometimes music events and conventions include vinyl vendors or the artists will have a merchandise table selling vinyl records along with t-shirts and swag. As you get your bearings in the hobby and a focused list of what you are looking for, I recommend record fairs. These events gather multiple sellers in one place, offering a variety of records for sale. It’s a great opportunity to network and learn more about collecting. I host one for Fun Fest in Kingsport, TN to meet new vinyl enthusiasts and network to find records on my want list.

A promotional image of Big Lon's vinyl record expo. The poster features a colorful graphic that resembles 6 hot air balloons in a circle. The background is black with blue clouds and stars. The text reads "Big Lon's Vinyl Record Expo at the 2023 Kingsport Fun Fest July 16 Civic Auditorium 10-4. 1,000's of 33's, 45's, 78's and More!"
Big Lon’s Vinyl Record Expo, July 2023.

How do I store vinyl records Big Lon? The key is vertical storage. Heavy flat stacks of LP’s and especially 78rpm records can cause damage. Store records vertically to distribute weight which helps prevent warping. Use record crates, shelves, or dedicated record storage units. Keep records in protective inner sleeves to prevent scratches and dust buildup. Outer sleeves can safeguard the album covers. For loose 45rpm or 78rpm records, your local record shop most likely carries packaged sleeves you can utilize to protect the vinyl. Climate control is a major priority. Direct sunlight can warp and damage the vinyl and fade the covers. A cool, dry environment is ideal. Extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations can warp records or cause labels and covers to mildew. I’ve run across records with mold growing in the grooves from dirt and debris in wrong storage climates, like records found in musty basements.

OK Big Lon, what if I find the perfect record but it’s not been well cared for, what do I do? Here are some tips for cleaning records: first, handle records correctly by their edges and avoid touching the playing surface with your fingers. This keeps the oils from your skin off the vinyl to avoid the collection of dust and dirt. Sometimes what’s perceived as scratches or skips can be resolved with a gentle cleaning of the grooves. Use a carbon fiber brush to remove dust and debris from the surface before playing. A microfiber cloth can help clean the album cover. Invest in a good cleaning solution or cleaning system. I personally use Pristine Platters and a microfiber cloth for light cleanings and a system called Spin Clean for more challenging cleans. Both products as well as several similar products can be found online or at a local record shop. A static roller can work wonders to remove pops and crackles associated with static energy build up. Some collectors come up with their own system for cleaning records. Research any household cleaners before you use them to make sure they don’t contain chemicals that can damage your vinyl collection. Dry your records including the labels before putting them back in the sleeves and before putting them on your turntable.

Collecting vinyl records can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby. Remember that each collector’s journey is unique, so feel free to tailor your collection to your personal preferences and interests.

Happy collecting!

Local & Regional Record Stores 

Resources

Example Record Collecting Facebook groups 

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Radio Bristol Spotlight: Lightnin’ Charlie https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/radio-bristol-spotlight-lightin-charlie/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-bristol-spotlight-lightin-charlie Fri, 21 Jul 2023 10:51:49 +0000 https://birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/?p=51706 By Ella Patrick Radio Bristol Production Assistant Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving […]

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By Ella Patrick Radio Bristol Production Assistant

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission we are pleased to bring you our latest series – Radio Bristol Spotlight. Radio Bristol Spotlight is a series highlighting the top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performance, we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Central Appalachia one of the richest, and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

Songwriter, storyteller, and soul-seeker local “songbook man” Lightnin’ Charlie recently paid a visit to Radio Bristol. Decked out in a velvet burgundy 3 piece-suit, and a black flat-topped cowboy hat, Charlie shared songs from his forthcoming release Life, and spoke with us about his journey as a working musician in the Tri-Cities. Well known in the area as a longtime staple in the music scene, Lightnin’ is also known for his magnetic personality and eclectic style, and can regularly be spotted cruising down State Street in his vintage Lincoln Limousine with the words “Lightnin’ Charlie” streaked down the side. “Lightnin’” has been a working musician since the mid 1980’s, making “good music for good people” and possesses all the musical chops and sordid stories of late night bar brawls to prove it.

Lightnin’ Charlie posing next to his vintage Lincoln Limousine, courtesy of Lightnin’ Charlie.

Charlie started things off in the studio with an unbelievably good cover of “Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me”. Accentuated by his silky blues-tinged voice, Lightnin’ played his expertly crafted rendition of the tune made a hit by Harry Nilsson in the late 1960s. Charlie shared with us that his musicality has always had a wide scope encompassing sounds from 60’s pop, classic rock, rootsy delta blues, and reflects his lifetime obsession with Elvis Presley, and his ability to effortlessly blend together different styles of music. When talking to Charlie you recognize instantly that he has an incredible depth of musical knowledge with a massive rolodex of a repertoire spanning multiple genres and decades. 

His repertoire and original music has won him regional accolades. He’s been voted favorite musician of the mountain south by Marquee Magazine several years in a row, and nationally he’s won awards such as best in piedmont blues at the International Blues Challenge held annually in Memphis, TN. Over the years Charlie has opened for countless large nationally touring acts such as BB King, Bobby Blue Bland, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Albert Collins. He even joked with me about Garth Brooks opening for him when Garth was just getting started at the National Guard Armory in Johnson City, Tennessee and about how he once taught Kenny Chesney how to plug in an XLR cable to a microphone. More recently Charlie ended a four year long residency at The Barrel House in Jonesborough, Tennessee that was always sold out, and extremely well attended by his large group of fans known affectionately as “The Lightnin’ Bugs”. You can find where Charlie will be performing, and catch his online stream of “The Lightnin’ Charlie Show” on his Facebook page 

Charlie began “playing out” while attending college at East Tennessee State University, when Walnut Street was “a happening” teaming with late night venues such as Poor Richards, and Quarterbacks. Local acts would be stacked up burning the midnight oil for college kids, and crowds that poured out of famed Johnson City historic venue, The Down Home. Known back then as Chip Dolinger, “Charlie” stumbled onto the scene and by his words when he accidentally became a lead singer when the band he was playing guitar for auditioned singers and couldn’t find the right fit. The then pre-med student found himself with gigs piling up, and gained his moniker “Lightnin'” from a friend who was sitting in the crowd at a show and said you playing like you were struck by lighting! Lightnin’ Charlie has tons of tales about his adventures of being a working musician and has compiled them in his book, Lightnin’ Charlie Off the Record the Trials and Tribulations of a Travelin’ Troubadour

Another song Charlie shared with us on air that will be featured in his forthcoming release was originally written by Washington state folkie, Danny O’Keefe; Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues. His version was recorded just before the pandemic at a Canadian based studio; Mushroom Studios. Charlie and his wife Elizabeth who regularly sings backup for his project happened on the recording space while visiting her brother in Canada. The studio houses a slew of vintage recording equipment collected from Bill Putnam’s United Western Recorders, considered legendary for turning out such albums as Brian Wilson’s production of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and recording countless artists such as Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and many many more! Lightnin’ Charlie’s new release is due out in spring of 2023 and is sure to wow his fanbase. To keep track of upcoming releases and learn more about Lightnin’ Charlie’s upcoming projects visit his website. 

Charlie closed out on air with an original song dedicated to his son called “The Gift of Wisdom”. The heartfelt acoustic tune instills tidbits of wisdom collected from a life well lived. One thing any listener can’t help but notice about Charlie is the joy he experiences from telling stories through music, a joy which is as uplifting as it is infectious. Artist’s such as Lightnin’ Charlie are the bread and butter of working musicians in this area, and we’re thankful to spotlight artists who continue to produce new exciting music throughout their career. Check out Charlie’s live performance in our studio and keep your ear to the ground for his new album Life.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

    

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