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Photo of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, 1931
Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, 1931

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Birthplace of Country Music
A Local Legacy

Where was country music born? If you said Nashville, you'd be wrong.

The right answer is Bristol, Tennessee. Bristol is on the Tennessee and Virginia border, where Appalachian mountain folk music has been popular for generations. Many of the fiddle tunes and song styles came over from the British Isles in the 1700s.

By the early 1900s, the recording industry had begun, but most musicians had to travel to New York City to record their music. In 1927, Ralph Peer of Victor Records decided to try something different. He went to Bristol, Tennessee, to record local musicians. He thought that old-time and "hillbilly" musicians could be found there. Two local acts signed recording contracts -- the Carter Family from Virginia and former railroad worker Jimmie Rodgers of North Carolina. While the Carter Family played old-time mountain music, Jimmie Rodgers sang ballads and used a singing style called yodeling. They both became successful nationwide. The Carter Family formed the core of several generations of popular country musicians, and Rodgers's 1928 recording of "Blue Yodel" became one of the first country records to sell a million copies!

These early Bristol recordings laid the groundwork for much of the country music that followed. Because Bristol is not usually thought of as the place where country music began, it was especially important that the U.S. Congress recognized Bristol's contribution to music history. In 1998, Congress passed a resolution recognizing Bristol as the "Birthplace of Country Music."

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