Bristol sessions

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The Bristol sessions are considered the "Big Bang" of modern country music. They were held in 1927 in Bristol, Tennessee by Victor Talking Machine Company company producer Ralph Peer. They marked the commercial debuts of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.

Country music before the Sessions[edit]

Country music had been recorded commercially since 1922. Among these very early artists were Vernon Dalhart, who recorded the million-selling Wreck of the Old 97, Ernest Stoneman from Galax, Virginia, Henry Whitter, A.C. (Eck) Robertson, who recorded the first documented country record along with Henry C. Gilliland ("Sallie Gooden" b/w "Arkansaw Traveler"), and Uncle Dave Macon. However, any "hillbilly" artists who recorded had to travel to the New York City studios of the major labels, and many artists, including Dalhart, were not true "hillbilly" artists but instead crossed over from other genres. ("Hillbilly" is used here to distinguish the largely secular folk music of the region from gospel and blues, and is not meant as a pejorative.)

Okeh Records and later Columbia Records had sent producers around the South in an attempt to discover new talent. Peer, who worked for Okeh at the time, recorded Fiddlin' John Carson using the old acoustic method (known for its large intrusive sound-gathering horn) in 1924, at the behest of the Okeh dealer in Atlanta, Georgia, Polk Brockman. Despite Peer's belief that the record was of poor quality, the 500 copies made of "Cluck Old Hen" sold out in weeks. This experience convinced Peer of the potential for "hillbilly" music.

Peer left Okeh for the Victor Talking Machine Company, taking a salary of $1 per year. However, Peer owned the publishing rights to all the recordings he made. Peer's arrangement of paying royalties to artists based on sales is the basis for record contracts today, and the company he founded, Peermusic,[1] remains in existence today.

The rise of electronic recording allowed records to have a sound better than radio, which had threatened to reduce the recording industry to irrelevance by 1925. This new method allowed softer instruments such as dulcimers, guitars and jaw harps to be heard, and it also meant recording equipment was highly portable — and as such, recordings could be made nearly anywhere (the acoustic equipment was not really portable.)

Peer asked his friend Stoneman, who had recorded for Okeh, how to find more rural talent. Stoneman convinced Peer to travel through southern Appalachia and record artists who might otherwise have been unable to travel to New York. Peer recognized the potential with the mountain music, as even residents of Appalachia who didn't have electricity were using hand-cranked Victrolas. He decided to make a trip, hoping to record blues, gospel and "hillbilly" music. Artists were paid $50 on the spot for each side cut, and 2½ cents for each single sold.

In February and March, he made a trip which recorded blues and gospel music, and decided to make another trip. He decided to make a stop in Savannah, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina. He settled on Bristol (at the urging of Stoneman) as a third stop, because with Johnson City and Kingsport, Tennessee, it formed the Tri-Cities, the largest urban area in the Appalachians at the time. In addition, three other record companies had held or were scheduling auditions for Bristol. So Peer set out with his wife and two engineers for Bristol.

The Sessions[edit]

Peer then set up a record studio in a hat warehouse on State Street, which is the state line in Bristol. He placed advertisements in the local newspapers, which did not receive much response aside from artists who had already traveled to New York (such as the Powers Family) or were already known by Stoneman.

Stoneman was the first to record with Peer, doing so on July 25. He recorded with friends such as his wife Hattie, Eck Dunford and Mooney Brewer. Other acts, including the Johnson Brothers vaudeville duo (best known for their Crime of The D'Autremont Brothers) and a church choir, filled out the rest of July. However, these artists were only enough to fill the first week of recordings and Peer needed to fill out his second week.

A newspaper article about one of Stoneman's recordings (Skip To Ma Lou, My Darling), which stressed the $3,600 in royalties that Stoneman had received in 1926 and the $100 a day he was receiving for recording in Bristol, generated much more interest. Dozens of artists went to Bristol, many of whom had never been to Bristol in their lives. He had to schedule night sessions to accommodate the extra talent, which included the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers. Rodgers had a disagreement with his band over what name to record under, and so Rodgers recorded solo and his band recorded as the Tenneva Ramblers. Rodgers and his band only found out about the sessions when they stayed at the boarding house of one of the band members' mothers.

Eventually, nineteen performers recorded seventy-six songs at the Sessions.

A second group of sessions was made by Peer in 1928, but the artistic success was not duplicated. In those twelve days in Bristol, Peer had managed to fully introduce America to the authentic music of southern Appalachia. The results were two new superstars, the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers, and Peer's becoming very wealthy.

Recording details[edit]

Click on a label to change the sorting.[2][3][4]

Matrix Recording
date
Artist(s) Title Victor
No.
Release
date
Key Name Notes
39700 25 July 1927 Ernest Stoneman/M. Mooney Brewer Dying Girl's Farewell 21129 17 February 1928 Stoneman
39701 25 July 1927 Ernest Stoneman/M. Mooney Brewer Tell Mother I Will Meet Her 21129 17 February 1928 Stoneman
39702 25 July 1927 Ernest Stoneman/Eck Dunford/Miss Irma Frost Mountaineer's Courtship 20880 4 November 1927 Stoneman another take issued on LP & CD
39703 25 July 1927 Ernest Stoneman/Eck Dunford/Miss Irma Frost Midnight On The Stormy Deep Stoneman issued on LP & CD
39704 25 July 1927 Stoneman's Dixie Mountaineers Sweeping Through The Gates 20844 16 September 1927 Stoneman
39705 25 July 1927 Stoneman's Dixie Mountaineers I Know My Name Is There 21186 16 March 1928 Stoneman
39706 25 July 1927 Stoneman's Dixie Mountaineers Are You Washed In The Blood? 20844 16 September 1927 Stoneman
39707 25 July 1927 Stoneman's Dixie Mountaineers No More Goodbyes 21186 16 March 1928 Stoneman
39708 25 July 1927 Stoneman's Dixie Mountaineers The Resurrection 21071 20 January 1928 Stoneman another take issued on LP & CD
39709 25 July 1927 Stoneman's Dixie Mountaineers I Am Resolved 21071 20 January 1928 Stoneman
39710 26 July 1927 Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Quartet I Want to Go Where Jesus Is 20834 16 September 1927 Phipps
39711 26 July 1927 Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Quartet Do Lord Remember Me 20927 18 November 1927 Phipps
39712 26 July 1927 Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Quartet Old Ship of Zion 20927 18 November 1927 Phipps
39713 26 July 1927 Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Quartet Jesus Is Getting Us Ready for That Great Day 21192 2 March 1928 Phipps
39714 26 July 1927 Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Quartet Happy In Prison 21192 2 March 1928 Phipps
39715 26 July 1927 Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Quartet Don't You Grieve After Me 20834 16 September 1927 Phipps
39716 27 July 1927 Uncle Eck Dunford/Ernest Stoneman/Hattie Stoneman/T. Edwards The Whip-Poor-Will's Song 20880 4 November 1927 Dunford
39717 27 July 1927 Uncle Eck Dunford/Ernest Stoneman/Hattie Stoneman/T. Edwards What Will I Do, For My Money's All Gone 21578 5 October 1928 Dunford
39718 27 July 1927 Uncle Eck Dunford/Ernest Stoneman/Hattie Stoneman/T. Edwards Skip To Ma Lou Ma Darling 20938 16 December 1927 Dunford
39719 27 July 1927 Uncle Eck Dunford/Ernest Stoneman/Hattie Stoneman/T. Edwards Barney McCoy 20938 16 December 1927 Dunford
39720 27 July 1927 Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers Old Time Corn Shucking Part 1 20835 16 September 1927 Stoneman similar personnel to Dixie Mountaineers
39721 27 July 1927 Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers Old Time Corn Shucking Part 2 20835 16 September 1927 Stoneman similar personnel to Dixie Mountaineers
39722 28 July 1927 Johnson Brothers With Tennessee Wildcats Two Brothers Are We 21243 6 April 1928 Johnson
39723 28 July 1927 Johnson Brothers The Jealous Sweetheart 21243 6 April 1928 Johnson another take issued on LP & CD
39724 28 July 1927 Johnson Brothers A Passing Policeman Johnson issued on LP & CD
39725 28 July 1927 Blind Alfred Reed The Wreck Of The Virginian 20836 16 September 1927 Reed another take issued on LP & CD
39726 28 July 1927 Blind Alfred Reed I Mean To Live for Jesus 20939 16 December 1927 Reed
39727 28 July 1927 Blind Alfred Reed You Must Unload 20939 16 December 1927 Reed
39728 28 July 1927 Blind Alfred Reed Walking In The Way With Jesus 20836 16 September 1927 Reed another take issued on LP & CD
39729 28 July 1927 Johnson Brothers With Tennessee Wildcats The Soldier's Poor Little Boy 20891 4 November 1927 Johnson
39730 28 July 1927 Johnson Brothers Just A Message From Carolina 20891 4 November 1927 Johnson
39731 28 July 1927 Johnson Brothers I Want To See My Mother (Ten Thousand Miles Away) 20940 16 December 1927 Johnson release date uncertain
39732 28 July 1927 El Watson Pot Licker Blues 20951 18 November 1927 Watson Only African American artist to record at Bristol Sessions
39733 28 July 1927 El Watson Narrow Gauge Blues 20951 18 November 1927 Watson Only African American artist to record at Bristol Sessions
39734 29 July 1927 B. F. Shelton Cold Penitentiary Blues V-40107 6 September 1929 Shelton
39735 29 July 1927 B. F. Shelton Oh Molly Dear V-40107 6 September 1929 Shelton
39736 29 July 1927 B. F. Shelton Pretty Polly 35838 16 September 1927 Shelton 12 inch disc
39737 29 July 1927 B. F. Shelton Darling Cora 35838 16 September 1927 Shelton 12 inch disc
39738 29 July 1927 Alfred G. Karnes Called To The Foreign Field V-40327 5 December 1930 Karnes
39739 29 July 1927 Alfred G. Karnes I Am Bound For The Promised Land 20840 16 September 1927 Karnes
39740 29 July 1927 Alfred G. Karnes Where We'll Never Grow Old 20840 16 September 1927 Karnes
39741 29 July 1927 Alfred G. Karnes When I See The Blood Karnes never issued
39742 29 July 1927 Alfred G. Karnes When They Ring the Golden Bells 20933 2 December 1927 Karnes
39743 29 July 1927 Alfred G. Karnes To The Work 20933 2 December 1927 Karnes
39744 1 August 1927 J.P. Nester Train On The Island 21070 20 January 1928 Nester
39745 1 August 1927 J.P. Nester Georgia Nester never issued
39746 1 August 1927 J.P. Nester John My Lover Nester never issued
39747 1 August 1927 J.P. Nester Black Eyed Susie 21070 20 January 1928 Nester
39748 1 August 1927 Bull Mountain Moonshiners Sweet Marie Bull Mountain never issued
39749 1 August 1927 Bull Mountain Moonshiners Johnny Goodwin 21141 28 February 1928 Bull Mountain release date approximate
39750 1 August 1927 Carter Family Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow 21074 20 January 1928 Carter
39751 1 August 1927 Carter Family Little Log Cabin By The Sea 21074 20 January 1928 Carter
39752 1 August 1927 Carter Family The Poor Orphan Child 20877 4 November 1927 Carter
39753 1 August 1927 Carter Family The Storms Are On The Ocean 20937 2 December 1928 Carter
39754 2 August 1927 Carter Family Single Girl, Married Girl 20937 2 December 1928 Carter
39755 2 August 1927 Carter Family The Wandering Boy 20877 4 November 1927 Carter
39756 2 August 1927 Alcoa Quartet Remember Me O Mighty One 20879 4 November 1927 Alcoa
39757 2 August 1927 Alcoa Quartet I'm Redeemed 20879 4 November 1927 Alcoa
39758 2 August 1927 Henry Whitter Henry Whitter's Fox Chase 20878 4 November 1927 Whitter
39759 2 August 1927 Henry Whitter Rain Crow Bill 20878 4 November 1927 Whitter
39760 3 August 1927 Fred H. Greever, John B. Kelly, J. V. Snavely When They Ring The Golden Bells For You And Me Private private recording, not made for release
39761 3 August 1927 Shelor Family Big Bend Gal 20865 7 October 1927 Shelor
39762 3 August 1927 Dad Blackard's Mountaineers Suzanna Gal 21130 17 February 1928 Shelor = Shelor Family
39763 3 August 1927 Dad Blackard's Mountaineers Sandy River Belle 21130 17 February 1928 Shelor = Shelor Family,
another take issued on LP & CD
39764 3 August 1927 Shelor Family Billy Grimes The Rover 20865 7 October 1927 Shelor
39765 3 August 1927 Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Baker The Newmarket Wreck 20863 7 October 1927 Baker
39766 3 August 1927 Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Baker On The Banks Of The Sunny Tennessee 20863 7 October 1927 Baker
39767 4 August 1927 Jimmie Rodgers The Soldier's Sweetheart 20864 7 October 1927 Rodgers
39768 4 August 1927 Jimmie Rodgers Sleep, Baby, Sleep 20864 7 October 1927 Rodgers
39769 4 August 1927 Red Snodgrass' Alabamians Weary Blues Snodgrass Jazz/dance band
39770 4 August 1927 Tenneva Ramblers The Longest Train I Ever Saw 20861 7 October 1927 Tenneva later recorded as Grant Brothers
39771 4 August 1927 Tenneva Ramblers Sweet Heaven When I Die 20861 7 October 1927 Tenneva later recorded as Grant Brothers
39772 4 August 1927 Tenneva Ramblers Miss Liza, Poor Gal 21141 28 February 1928 Tenneva later recorded as Grant Brothers,
release date approximate
39773 5 August 1927 West Virginia Coon Hunters Greasy String 20862 7 October 1927 West Virginia
39774 5 August 1927 West Virginia Coon Hunters Your Blue Eyes Run Me Crazy 20862 7 October 1927 West Virginia
39775 5 August 1927 Tennessee Mountaineers Standing On The Promises 20860 7 October 1927 Tennessee mixed 20-voice choir
39776 5 August 1927 Tennessee Mountaineers At The River 20860 7 October 1927 Tennessee mixed 20-voice choir

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Global Independent - Home". peermusic. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  2. ^ Russell, Tony. Country Music Records, A Discography, 1921-1942. 2004. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513989-5
  3. ^ Encyclopedic Dictionary of Victor Recordings
  4. ^ Wolfe, Charles K. The Legend That Peer Built: Reappraising the Bristol Sessions in Wolfe, Charles K. & Ted Olson (editors) The Bristols Sessions, Writing about the Big Bang of Country Music. 2005. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1945-8

External links[edit]