Listen While I Tell: From Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music and Beyond

Today is the first day of the Birthplace of Country Music blog. Welcome!

For those readers who are familiar with us, you probably already know quite a lot about the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) in Bristol Tennessee/Virginia. But for those who might be meeting us for the first time with this blog, let me tell you a little bit about our organization. BCM celebrates, promotes, and preserves the history and legacy of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, historic recordings by Ralph Peer and the Victor Talking Machine Company that marked the beginnings of the commercial country music industry. You can read more about that history here.

BCM shares that history through our Smithsonian-affiliated Birthplace of Country Music Museum, our annual music festival – Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion – now in its 17th year, and our radio station, Radio Bristol. Each and every one of these branches bases their work on a huge amount of content – from the artifacts, images, history, and outreach in the museum to live performances and the musical heritage that make up the festival and radio programming.

Photos of museum visitors, a band onstage at the festival, and a dj on the air at wbcm radio bristol.

Scenes from the museum, festival, and radio station. © Birthplace of Country Music

And now we want to bring more of this content to you through our blog! The blog’s title – Listen While I Tell – is from the first verse of the song, “The Wreck of the Virginian,” recorded at the 1927 Bristol Sessions by Blind Alfred Reed.

Blind Alfred Reed

Songwriter, singer, and fiddler Blind Alfred Reed had one of the biggest hits of his career with the recording of “The Wreck of the Virginian.” Courtesy of Goldenseal Magazine

“Come all you brave, bold railroad men and listen while I tell
The fate of E. G. Aldrich, a good man we all loved well
This man was running on a road known as Virginian line
He was a faithful engineer and pulled his train on time.”

This song, describing a train wreck that happened near Ingleside, West Virginia, in May 1927, reflects a common theme in old-time and traditional music – songs that feature contemporary news stories, and specifically train wrecks. Now, while this blog is not all about train wreck songs, we loved how the “Listen while I tell” line from the song felt like a great introduction to the stories and posts we will share on this blog, and how it tied the blog firmly back to our content.

So what can you expect from Listen While I Tell? Our posts will bring you behind-the-scenes views into the work that we do each day at the museum, festival, and radio station; content-driven stories related to early country music history; features on instruments and musicians; explorations of the continuing music traditions in this region; and so much more.

This blog is not just for readers who already know the history – though we are excited to give those in-the-know readers even more interesting information. But we hope that this blog will also engage readers who don’t know much about us yet but who want to know more, hear more, and experience more! We want this blog to be a resource, for us and for our readers, and we want it to be a chance to gain a better understanding of our history and the music that made that history.

We are thrilled to get this chance to share our stories with a wider audience, to dig deeper into our history and content, and to pick out lesser known stories and quirky ways of looking at our heritage – all of which will hopefully make our readers as inspired, as engaged, and as ready to stomp their feet and clap their hands to the music as we are every single day at the Birthplace of Country Music.

Artistic renditions of the BCM logo on the streets during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

Artistic renditions of the BCM logo on the streets during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion declare our tie to music history. © Birthplace of Country Music

René Rodgers is the Curator of Exhibits & Publications at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

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