Bristol, right on the border of Tennessee and Virginia, is known as the birthplace of country music.
It's where pioneer artists The Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers cut their first records in August 1927 with producer Ralph Peer.
Until Peer took a mobile recording device to the Appalachian town, the few hillbilly music songs recorded until that point had all been made in New York.
Born in Kansas City in 1892, Peer had started working for the Columbia Phonograph Company when he was 18 then later moved to Okeh Records in New York.
One of those few artists to record prior to Bristol was Ernest Stoneman, who first ventured to New York's recording studios in 1924.
The following year Stoneman had a breakthrough hit when he recorded 'The Titanic', about the shipping disaster which had happened 13 years earlier.
He later formed musical groups involving family members and neighbours, which would form a large part of the Bristol Sessions.
In 1926, Peer left Okeh Records and approached the Victor label with a plan of recording new hillbilly music.
Stoneman suggested to Peer that he visit Virgina – Stoneman's home. Encouraged by Stoneman's strong record sales, Peer hoped to find more musical talent in the region.
Johnny Cash, who married a daughter of The Carter Family, once said: “These recordings in Bristol in 1927 are the single most important event in the history of country music.”
Between July 25 and August 5, Peer recorded almost 80 songs from more than 20 singers and groups at Bristol where he had set up a studio in the upper storeys of the Taylor Christian Hat company on State Street.
Stoneman recorded with family members, and recruited other acts. Meanwhile Peer had placed ads in newspapers which attracted other singers and groups to the sessions, including the two that would find the most fame with their music.
The Carter Family recorded their first four songs on August 1, and Jimmie Rodgers recorded two songs on August 4. Both acts would continue to be managed and produced by Peer.
For almost 20 years, the harmonies of The Carter Family became a staple of country music radio.
While Jimmie Rodgers had planned to record with his band at Bristol, a disagreement saw them record separately. Later known as the Singing Brakeman, Rodgers recorded 'The Soldier's Sweetheart' and 'Sleep, Baby, Sleep' at Bristol.
He would record more than 100 songs over the next five years before dying of tuberculosis at the age of 35.
Two years ago, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum opened in Bristol on August 1, 2014, to coincide with the anniversary of the Bristol Sessions and recognise their significance to country music.
“The first mention that Bristol needs a museum devoted to the story of the Bristol sessions was about 40 years ago, when they put the historic marker on the site where the sessions were recorded,” the museum's director and head curator, Dr Jessica Turner, said.
When I visited Bristol in June last year, Dr Turner said despite being open for less than a year at that stage, they had already had visitors from Australia go through the museum.
“You know, one of the things (we knew) when we were curating these exhibits is it's very important to tell the story of the Bristol sessions in a way that connects with local communities here and it really matters to them personally,” Dr Turner said.
“But the story of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and the Bristol Sessions; that reverberates around the world and a lot of people come to this museum from outside the United States with as much or more knowledge than I have about the Bristol Sessions and about the Carter Family.
“It's music that a lot of people grew up listening to or had in their households and have studied, are real students of this music,” she said.
The Taylor Christian Hat company, which was a warehouse and factory, was destroyed by fire, so the actual birthplace of country music no longer stands on State Street, Bristol.
“That building was right about 416-418 State Street, which is now where our administrative offices are in the little brick building,” Dr Turner said. “(But) right at the corner of State Street and Martin Luther King boulevard, you'll see a historic marker paying tribute to Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, and the Stonemans and Ralph Peer there.”
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