87 years ago this week, the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and other musicians made their first recordings in southwestern Virginia. The Bristol Sessions made them famous, and came to be known as "the Big Bang of Country Music."
Now, a new museum celebrating that moment in country music history is opening in Bristol.
The early sounds of country music take center stage at the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
A building that once housed a truck dealership is now a state-of-the-art exhibit space, with many priceless artifacts, including a guitar that belonged to Jimmie Rodgers.
“This is one of the best museums I've ever seen in my life,” said Dino Delray, a musician from Maryland who visited the museum soon after it opened Friday morning. "It's fascinating how profound the Bristol sessions were," he said.
Interactive exhibits trace the rise of country music from its traditional roots to the first commercial recordings.
For Blacksburg resident, Sharolyn Heatwole, it was an emotional visit that reminded her of the music her father loved.
“It's just wonderful, sincere music. It's foot-stomping music. It's gospel music. It's joyous music. It's sad music. It's just music about life,” Heatwole said.
That was a sentiment echoed by Bluegrass great Jesse McReynolds, who helped the museum celebrate its opening. He played a fiddle his grandfather used during the Bristol sessions 87 years ago.
“I think it's a great thing," McReynolds said of the new museum, "and should have been done a long time ago." "And I’m just glad we got it started now. I think it's going to be a big thing,” he said.
The museum opened Friday, but the celebration continues through the weekend. Saturday's events include a ribbon cutting at 1 P.M., and series of free concerts with performances by Ralph Stanley, and Carlene Carter and Jim Lauderdale.