BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Birthplace of Country Music, along with Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Virginia Tourism Corporation, debuted the highly anticipated film "Born in Bristol" on Thursday as part of the 90th anniversary celebration of the 1927 Bristol Sessions.
Featuring Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow, and Doyle Lawson, among others, "Born in Bristol" is a docudrama that explores the impact of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and their lasting influence through artist interviews and visual recreations.
Public screenings of the film, included with museum admission, will be available for viewing Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 4, 5 and 6).
"Born in Bristol" is a companion piece to the 2015 CD release “Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited,” a re-imagining of the historic 1927 Bristol Sessions by some of the biggest names in the music industry, many of whom appear in the film. “Orthophonic Joy” was produced by multi-Grammy Award-winner Carl Jackson and features a historical narrative by Eddie Stubbs, the voice of the Grand Ole Opry.
“I go back to what Johnny Cash said years ago, that the Bristol Sessions were the big bang of country music,” Stubbs said prior to the film’s screening Thursday. “Up to 1927 there had never been as much talent assembled in one place as there was here over a two-week period of time. And the end result, three of the acts that recorded went on to become members of the Country Music Hall of Fame: Ernest Stone, the Carter Family, and Jimmie Rodgers.”
Producer Ralph Peer conducted the Bristol Sessions, seeking local talent for potential recording careers, at the Taylor-Christian Hat Company between July 25 and August 5, 1927.
Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development Kevin Triplett noted today, Aug. 4, marks the 90th anniversary of the day Jimmie Rodgers walked through the door of Peers’ makeshift recording studio.
Filmed on location in Bristol (more than 500 locals auditioned), Tennessee-Virginia and Nashville, "Born in Bristol" was produced by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development with support from the Virginia Tourism Corporation and directed by Sundance Award-winner Chusy Haney-Jardine of Plan A Films. "Born in Bristol" received shortlist consideration at the 2016 Cannes International Festival of Creativity.
“From a tourism standpoint, the way we try to get people to travel is by telling stories, hopefully good stories,” Triplett said Thursday. “And one of the things that is so good about this is not only is it a good story, it’s real. When you hear the artists in this film talk about this with the respect that they have, it also creates a sense of pride. And we hope that’s what it will do to others and make them want to come here and see where it happened, and go on to Nashville and Memphis. It’s important because you turn on the radio or download a song ... however you listen to music, a large part of how that song was created, published and recorded can trace back to what happened in that hat factory 90 years ago. We feel good about the product and telling the story of what happened and the impact of how it is still relevant today.”
The 50-minute film, owned by the Tennessee Department of Tourism, is being shopped around for potential wide-release distribution or broadcast, Triplett said.
“We want to take it to the masses,” Triplett said. “We want school kids to know this story and to know the music they listen to and the origins of it. You know, ‘green beans don’t come in a can on the grocery store shelf, they’re grown somewhere.’ So, the music originated somewhere. We did quite a bit of research, and the Bristol Sessions are referenced in all kinds of documentaries about music ... Jimmie Rodgers is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of his influence on people like Bob Dylan. But a piece just on the Bristol Sessions, I don’t think it has been done.”
“The film really highlights what we are so honored to be here tonight, the 90th anniversary of the Bristol Sessions,” said Rita D. McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “And A.P., Sara and Maybelle (the Carter Family) when they made that jolting ride over to Tennessee to record that music, they had no idea that it would reverberate and it would have such lasting impact and the songs would still be being sung today. Like, what a mind blowing thing. Look what country music has done. It’s popular around the world. People come from all over the world to visit the museum. We know they make their way further into Virginia for a lot of musical festivals, they make their way to Nashville and other places in Tennessee. So, it’s been a great partnership between Virginia and Tennessee, which I think is also a good story — we play well together.”
Showtimes include: 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Attendees must purchase museum admission online at www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (click on "events") to reserve a seat at the film. Admission is good for all day; arrive early to tour the museum before the film. Space is limited. Museum members should contact [email protected] to reserve seats.