Since its modest formation in the late 1990s, Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. (BCM) has emerged as one of the most distinguished cultural institutions in the Northeast Tennessee/Southwest Virginia region, earning national recognition for its innovative museum model and multifaceted programming. BCM has remained devoted for over two decades to preserving and telling the story of Bristol’s critical early role in the history of Country Music, while also creating new opportunities and exposure for contemporary artists and audiences to explore the evolving sounds of Americana. The organization took its original charge from no less a body than the United States Congress, which in 1998 passed a resolution recognizing Bristol as the “Birthplace of Country Music.” Today, BCM continues to celebrate the extraordinary musical legacy of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, where the landmark first recordings of the legendary Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers were made. At the same time, BCM moves into the future as an ambitious arts and economic leader in its community and region.
Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. has developed several distinct but interconnected platforms to fulfill its mission. The state-of-the-art Birthplace of County Music Museum serves as the only facility in the world devoted to the legacy of the momentous early Bristol Sessions. Museum programming strives to expose young people to the richness of music and to exemplify a commitment to the preservation of art, history, and culture. The renowned Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival was launched in 2001 and became a part of BCM in 2012. Held each September, the three-day music event features multiple stages scattered across downtown Bristol. Musical performers include nationally known acts, regional mainstays, and local upstarts. Typically, over 40,000 attendees line Bristol streets for the outstanding event. Radio Bristol hit the regional airwaves in 2015 as a network of channels showcasing the diversity of American roots music, from the early recording era to today. In addition to its local broadcasts and worldwide streaming reach, Radio Bristol has also allowed BCM to expand into the production of live sessions, original recordings, and intimate public performances.
More broadly, the legacy of Birthplace of Country Music, Inc. resides in its exceptional stewardship and dynamic presentation of a story at the foundation of the American musical imagination. While the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers continue to inspire musicians around the world, BCM anchors the early achievements of these icons to their sacred place of origin and welcomes visitors to experience the sites that birthed the sounds. With BCM as the centerpiece, Bristol now serves as the bridge between Tennessee’s Music Pathways and Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Through its effective, thoughtful programming, BCM has inspired a renewed sense of community pride for Bristol’s authentic music heritage. Appropriately, the Museum is the first stop on the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development’s Country Music passport, a project that guide tourists to significant locations highlighted in Ken Burn’s PBS docuseries Country Music. As the 100th anniversary of the Bristol Sessions looms around the corner, BCM ensures daily that the spirit of regional creativity and sense of cultural heritage persist stronger than ever.