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Birthplace of Country Music Alliance leading grassroots effort to raise funds

March 22nd, 2012 1:47 pm by Staff Report

Birthplace of Country Music Alliance leading grassroots effort to raise funds

The former Goodpasture Motors building, located at the corner of Cumberland and Moore streets in Bristol, will eventually be transformed into the Cultural Heritage Center.

By Cindy Harmon

It all started in the summer of 1927 - 12 days, 19 performers and 76 songs that have come to be known as the Bristol Sessions. When producer Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company set up a makeshift studio and recorded The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Pop Stoneman and others, the "Big Bang" of country music was created. Basically, it was the beginning of the country music recording industry as we know it today. And now, 85 years later, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance (BCMA) continues to tell the story of the music and cultural heritage of the southern Appalachian region, Bristol’s role in the birth and development of country music, and its influence around the world.

The BCMA and Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, through their shared goals of preserving and promoting Appalachian music, have joined resources. The nonprofit has a full-time staff of three and, currently, the festival’s executive director, Leah Ross, manages the alliance, the festival and the yet-to-be-built Cultural Heritage Center.

When constructed, the Cultural Heritage Center will be much more than a museum.

The BCMA is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate and will have access to its vast array of artifacts as well as traveling exhibits. This affiliation is shared with less than 150 organizations across the country. The Cultural Heritage Center will house a 100-seat performing arts venue for live entertainment and state-of-the-art recording capabilities.

"When people come to Bristol, they want to hear live music and learn more about our history," John Rainero, the BCMA board president, said.

The building, formerly Goodpasture Motors, was donated to the organization in the 90s and is located at the corner of Cumberland and Moore streets. With recent grants from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Revitalization Commission ($1.7 million) and the cities of Bristol, Va., and Bristol, Tenn.,($1.1 million together over the next five years), funding for the project is nearly complete and the organization is poised to take the project to bid in the spring of 2012. This phase will allow the organization to complete the physical renovation/construction of the existing building, and fabricate/install interactive, multi-media exhibits for the building. The organization is ready to complete interior construction, hire staff, finalize and construct exhibits, and open to the public.

The BCMA is in the middle of a grassroots community effort to raise the remaining $1 million to complete the project.

This grassroots fundraising campaign, "Friends of 1927," is an opportunity for people in our region to contribute to building a home for the Birthplace of Country Music©.

"If 1927 people give $520 we accomplish two goals: We raise the final million dollars and it demonstrates the community support for the project" Rainero said.

The Cultural Heritage Center will serve as a major tourist destination for the region, drawing at least 75,000 visitors per year. According to an economic impact study produced by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center, over a five-year period, the new facility will, at a minimum, have an economic impact of over $49,642,800 to the region and generate $3,109,800 in direct tax revenue that will flow into local and state coffers.

Right now, the birthplace of country music is denoted by a marker in a parking lot. But, if all goes as planned, the center will break ground in 2013 and have a lasting impact on Bristol.

For more information or to donate, contact the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance at 423-573-4898 or visit

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