September 23, 2020

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Country Music History



Although musicians had been recording fiddle tunes (known as Old Time Music at that time) in the southern Appalachians for several years, It wasn't until August 1, 1927 in Bristol, Tennessee, that Country Music really began. There, on that day, Ralph Peer signed Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family to recording contracts for Victor Records.

These two recording acts set the tone for those to follow - Rodgers with his unique singing style and the Carters with their extensive recordings of old-time music.

More About Jimmie Rogers

Known as the "Father of Country Music," James Charles Rodgers was born in Meridian, Mississippi on September 8, 1897. Always in ill health, he became a railroad hand, until ill health caught up with him and he was forced to seek a less strenuous occupation. An amateur entertainer for many years, he became a serious performer in 1925, appearing in Johnson City, Tennessee and other places. In 1926, Rodgers and Carrie, his wife of 6 years, moved to Asheville, North Carolina, and organized the Jimmie Rodgers' Entertainers, a hillbilly band comprising Jack Pierce (guitar), Jack Grant (mandolin/banjo), Claude Grant (banjo), and Rodgers himself (banjo).

Upon hearing that Ralph Peer of Victor Records was setting up a portable recording studio in Bristol, on the Virginia-Tennessee border, the Entertainers headed in that direction. But due to a dispute within their ranks, Rodgers eventually recorded as a solo artist, selecting a sentimental ballad, "The Soldier's Sweetheart," and a lullaby, "Sleep, Baby, Sleep," as his first offerings. The record met with instant acclaim, thus causing Victor to record further Rodgers' sides throughout 1927, including the first in a set of 13, Blue Yodel # 1 (T for Texas)

Rodgers, who died in 1933, never appeared on any major radio show or even played the Grand Ole Opry during his lifetime. But he, Fred Rose, and Hank Williams were the first persons to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961, which is indicative of his importance in the history of Country Music.

One of the most influential groups in country music was The Carter Family (A.P., Sara, cousin Maybelle, and others). The Carters first recorded for Ralph Peer for Victor on August 1, 1927--the same day that Jimmie Rodgers cut his first sides--completing six titles, including "Single Girl, Married Girl," at a makeshift studio in Bristol, Tennessee, known as the Bristol Barn Sessions.

Sara and A.P. obtained a divorce during 1936, but continued working together in the group, which now included Anita, June, and Helen (Maybelle and Ezra Carter's three daughters) and Janette and Joe (Sara and A.P.'s children). From 1936-39, the Family cut for Decca, and after that for Columbia and again for Victor. The last session by the original Carter Family took place on October 14, 1941, and the Family disbanded in 1943, having waxed over 250 of their songs and one of their signature songs, "Sunny Side of Life", recorded in 1928. Also included is a video clip from the 1950's of Maybelle's daughters June, Helen, and Anita who carried on this legacy for more than two decades after the original Carter's left the studio.

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