The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is located in an unprepossessing industrial building in the midst of a rapidly redeveloping area in downtown Bristol VA/TN. What has come to be known as the "Big Bang" of country music took place only a few blocks away in a building that no longer exists. It's fitting, however, for this wonderful small museum be placed where it is, as it becomes a magnet for those interested in experiencing where the music they love originated, who the people involved in this explosion of music were, and how an industry developed on the talents of some country people, widely called "Hillbillies" at the time, who appeared in response to some newspaper adds run by Ralph Peer for a recording session that took place in Bristol from July 25 - August 5, 1927.
In a delightful interactive setting, The Birthplace of Country Music Museum tells the story of the origins and spread of traditional music as well as its development into commercial areas that have since become concentrated in Nashville and other centers. As a major stop on the Crooked Road, however, it stands as a venue that tells where country and traditional music came from while suggesting where it might be going. Along the way it showcases, through films, recordings, and artifacts the fascinating story of how peoples' love of their music and the commercial needs of the growing recording industry met and expanded to the country and the world.
Bristol has become a bustling center for the celebration of country music. Three areas of activity focus the city's centrality and maintain its relevance. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum explores the story of the development of country music in this city and region. Radio Bristol, located physically and emotionally within the museum, broadcasts locally and world-wide on three channels covering all the country music bases. Bristol Rhythm and Roots, held each September, is a large, eclectic music festival drawing thousands to the streets of Bristol.
Our visit took place early on a weekday morning, when few people were in town and fewer still at the Museum. During the high season, which lasts from mid-May through late October, you can expect to see many more people at the Museum. However, museum spaces are well-designed to separate crowds and increase movement through them. Depending on how thoroughly you wish to explore this deeply involving museum, you should plan to visit for a minimum of a full day. Check the events schedule for special events and ticketed ones. The museum programs and opportunities are more widespread than what's been covered here. Take a good, careful look at its web site.