Museum celebrating 'Big Bang' of country music opens in Virginia

Fri Aug 1, 2014 3:34pm EDT
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By Verna Gates

BRISTOL Va (Reuters) - A museum celebrating 10 days in 1927 that helped introduce the mountain music of Appalachia to mainstream America opened in Virginia on Friday.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum tells the story of record producer Ralph Peer, who offered $50 to "hillbilly" musicians willing to come to a makeshift studio in Bristol, Tennessee, and play into his modern microphone.

  The result, which launched the careers of such luminaries as Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, was dubbed by music historian Nolan Porterfield as "the Big Bang of country music" and hailed by Johnny Cash as the genre's most important moment.

The session featured 19 acts recording 76 songs for the first time, including Rodgers' "Sleep Baby Sleep" and the Carters' "Single Girl, Married Girl."

The museum's exhibits trace the origins of hillbilly music through the fields, the train tracks and the churches of the Appalachian Mountains.

Most of the story is told through song lyrics, although interviews with some of the original old-time music artists also help describe the poverty and the natural environs that helped shaped the sound.

"Our goal was to get the story right and get it deep by capturing the personal experience," said Jessica Turner, the museum's director and head curator.

  The museum, heavy on listening stations and music videos, features spots where visitors can craft their own songs. All the original Bristol Session songs can be heard, many also in modern versions.   Continued...