According to Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductee, Johnny Cash, the collective 1927 Bristol Sessions was, without a doubt, “the single most important event in the history of Country Music”.
“The Victor Co. will have a recording machine in Bristol for 10 days beginning Monday to record records — inquire at our store.”
That was the text in a small box that appeared in the Bristol (Tenn.) News-Bulletin on July 24, 1927.
Victor held the sessions on the second and third floors of the Taylor-Christian Hat Company building at 408 State Street on the Tennessee side of Bristol’s main thoroughfare, which also serves as the Tennessee-Virginia border. Director Ralph Peer and the Victor engineers recorded fiddle tunes, sacred songs, string bands, harmonica solos, and others from July 25 to August 5. Celebrated as the session that produced the first recordings of country music legends Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, the session also featured artists who had made previous recordings for other record labels. The session captured on 78-rpm commercial recordings an excellent cross section of the styles of music present in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian regions.
Ninety years later musicians and fans still marvel at the music captured at these sessions, music which has served as the inspiration for countless artists.
The music recorded during these sessons is celebrated on a 2011 compilation album: Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited. This recording is a collaborative effort by some of the genre’s most notoriously traditional names, including Dolly Parton, Marty Stuart, Brad Paisley, Emmylou Harris and Vince Gill.
Also available is a box set of the complete recordings, The Bristol Sessions, 1927-1928: The Big Bang of Country Music. Two other companion boxes include sessions recorded in Knoxville and Johnson City.