Whitesburg KY

‘Bristol – Birthplace of Country’ is focus of new PBS documentary


A new PBS documentary will highlight Bristol’s contributions to country music, hailed by some historians as the “big bang” of commercial country.

“Bristol – The Birthplace of Country Music” will premiere Saturday at the Paramount Center for the Arts. It is the first in a series of eight roots-music shows produced for public television by “Mountain Stage,” the long-running live music show.

In 1927, Ralph Peer came to Bristol to record for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Peer recorded future Country Music Hall of Fame members Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, the Stonemans and many others. Historians say the sessions marked the beginning of commercial country music.

“We’ve done programs from Nashville and New York City, and they were all important. But they were no more important than Bristol,” said Andy Ridenour, executive producer of “Mountain Stage.” “There is a root to most popular music that, by happenstance, happened to be coalesced in Bristol.”

Filmed here last year, the show features performances and interviews with Ralph Stanley, Tim O’Brien, Roni Stoneman, Ollabelle, Reagan Boggs and others. Later this month, it will be available to stations nationwide.

“Mountain Stage” technicians originally planned to record a typical radio and TV performance show in Bristol, Ridenour said, but their plans changed after they arrived.

“We got down there and got fully immersed,” Ridenour said. “When we got back home, we knew this was special and needed to be a show of its own.”

While the program has a documentary feel, Ridenour said, producers allowed the music to tell the story.

“People who see the show won’t learn a lot about Bristol itself. But they will hear the music that was an essential part of what Bristol was 80 years ago,” he said.

Besides the film premiere, “Mountain Stage” also will tape a Sunday concert with Dierks Bentley, Joe Ely and Kelly Willis to help mark the anniversary of the Bristol sessions.

Information from: Bristol Herald Courier, http:// www.bristolnews.com

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