Music History: Mountain Music is as timeless as the majestic Appalachians themselves. When our great country was young, shipload after shipload of immigrants came to her shores from points far and wide, and many of them found themselves trying to eke out a meager living in the hills and hollows of Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Carolina. Back then times were hard, days were long and entertainment options were very few. One of the most common forms of entertainment in those days was music, and since there were no recordings - or even radio for that matter - families spent much of what little free time they had making their own music.
They sang a bevy of songs that they brought with them from their native countries, and over time a new form of music took root that was influenced heavily by a mixture of Irish, Scotch and African rhythms. This "Mountain Music" has endured for hundreds of years, giving birth to what we now know as Bluegrass and Country music along the way. Singers and musicians from the middle Appalachian region have contributed enormously to the rise and perpetuation of Mountain Music, Bluegrass and Country, including many within a short drive of the Mountain Music Museum in Kingsport and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in nearby Bristol.
In July 1927, musical history was made just a few steps from the famous state line that divides the two Bristols. A gentleman by the name of Ralph Peer came to town on behalf of the Victor Talking Machine Company on a mission to record some of the unique Mountain Music that the area was so rich in. Over the course of the next two weeks, Peer recorded the sounds of The Stoneman Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and arguably the most influential group in music history, The Carter Family. Those now-famous "Bristol Sessions" represented the birth of what we know today as Country Music.
While the performers who participated in the Bristol Sessions never obtained wealth on a grand scale like today's entertainers, the influence they had on the world of music is simply beyond compare. The legendary career of the Carter Family proved that a good living could indeed be made by performing music, and a large portion of the huge catalog of songs attributed to A.P. Carter have been performed by singers and musicians in virtually every musical genre. And there probably isn't a guitar player alive today who hasn't made an attempt at Mother Maybelle's "Wildwood Flower".
Of course there are many other music legends who hailed from the Birthplace Of Country Music region including the great Tennessee Ernie Ford, a Bristol native. There are also dozens of lesser-known, but just as important singers and musicians who have had a tremendous amount of influence on the world of Mountain Music. Ralph Blizzard, Patsy Cline, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Janette and Joe Carter...the list just goes on and on!
The Mountain Music Museum and Gift Shop in Kingsport, Tennessee was maintained and staffed by the Appalachian Cultural Music Association until 2017. The ACMA is an organization which continues to be dedicated to the preservation of our Appalachian musical heritage and the growth of Old-Time, Bluegrass and traditional Country music.