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Home » Recent News » New Film to Document Bristol Sessions

New Film to Document Bristol Sessions


A new film commissioned by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Viriginia Tourism Corporation will celebrate the 1927 Bristol Sessions, often referred to as the Big Bang of Country Music.

The famed sessions began when Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company placed an ad in a Bristol paper in order to recruit musicians to record music of the region for commercial sale. The Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers were among the undiscovered artists who answered that call. These first recordings of Rodgers and the Carters catapulted both acts to stardom.

Johnny Cash once said, “These recordings in Bristol in 1927 are the single most important event in the history of country music.”

Sundance Award-winning director Chusy Haney-Jardine and a crew from Plan A films, based in Asheville, North Carolina, arrived in Bristol in early December 2015 to film local artists and actors participating in the documentary. The film will accompany the May release of Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited CD project, an album featuring Local 257 (Nashville, TN) members Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, and Vince Gill; Emmylou Harris of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC); and Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) members Sheryl Crow and Keb’ Mo’, among others, performing classic songs from the original Bristol Sessions. Plan A Films was present during the Orthophonic Joy recordings of tunes like “Shall We Gather at the River,” “Black Eyed Susie,” and “Bury Me Beneath the Willow.””

As Ralph Peer had done for the 1927 Bristol Sessions, Plan A recruited the cast for the documentary by placing an ad in the local Bristol Herald Courier. More than 200 local musicians and actors turned out for the audition and dozens were chosen to help recreate the stories and events surrounding the original sessions.

“This is an exciting time for Bristol,” says Leah Ross, executive director of the Birthplace of Country Music, the nonprofit parent organization of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum founded in 2014, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, and WBCM Radio Bristol. The whole town was abuzz with the documentary film crew in town. “With our museum, the album, and this documentary we are inspiring and educating a new generation about the importance of Bristol’s influence on the soundtrack of our lives.”

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