“Birthplace of Country Music”
The U.S. Congress declared Bristol to be the “Birthplace of Country Music”, according to a resolution passed in 1998, recognizing its contributions to early country music recordings and influence, and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is located in Bristol.
In 1927, record producer Ralph Peer of Victor Records began recording local musicians in Bristol, to attempt to capture the local sound of traditional “folk” music of the region. One of these local sounds was created by the Carter Family, who got their start on July 31, 1927, when A.P. Carter and his family journeyed from Maces Spring, Virginia, to Bristol to audition for Ralph Peer, who was seeking new talent for the relatively embryonic recording industry. They received $50 for each song they recorded. That same visit by Peer to Bristol also resulted in the first recordings by Jimmie Rodgers.
Since 1994, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance has promoted the city as a destination to learn about country music and the city’s role in the creation of an entire music genre. The alliance is organizing the building of a new Cultural Heritage Center to help educate the public about the history of country music in the region. On August 1, 2014, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum opened in Bristol, Virginia to commemorate the historical significance of the Bristol sessions. The museum features a 24,000-ft building that houses core exhibits, space for special exhibits, a performance theater, and a radio station.
Every year, during the third weekend in September, a music festival called the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion takes place. The festival is held downtown, where Tennessee and Virginia meet, and it celebrates Bristol’s heritage as the birthplace of country music.
Bristol is also the site of Bristol Motor Speedway, a NASCAR short track that is one of the best-known motorsports facilities in the country.
It is the twin city of Bristol, Virginia, which lies directly across the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. The boundary between the two cities is also the state line, which runs along State Street in their common downtown district.
Before 1852, Bristol was owned by Reverend James King. His son-in-law, Mr. Joseph R. Anderson, bought 100 acres of the plantation, and named it Bristol. The G.W. Blackley House, one of the oldest houses in Bristol, was constructed in 1869.