Born in Bristol is an eye-opening documentary about the summer of 1927 when Ralph Peer, a producer for the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey, held auditions in Bristol, Tennessee (about four hours’ drive from Nashville) to find the first big stars of country music. He would go on to discover some of the greatest names in the genre and make history in the process.
Artists such as The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and The Stoneman Family all cut songs in a makeshift recording studio inside Bristol’s Taylor-Christian Hat Company from late July to early August. Today, we know those recordings as the Bristol Sessions, which Johnny Cash called “the single most important event in the history of country music.”
The film lovingly recreates these sessions and also features contributions from the likes of Dolly Parton, Marty Stuart, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Ashley Monroe and Sheryl Crow.
Having already received shortlist consideration at the 2016 Cannes International Festival of Creativity, the UK premiere of Born in Bristol took place on the third and final day of the 2017 C2C (Country to Country) music festival at the O2 in London. After the showing, BBC radio presenter Baylen Leonard (himself a Bristolian) conducted a Q&A with Marty Stuart, in town to perform at the festival.
Speaking about the evolution of country music from those humble recording sessions in Bristol 90 years ago, Stuart, who is married to fellow country icon Connie Smith, said: “I’ve always said that country music, to this very minute, is such a diverse place.
“It doesn’t matter where you get on. Whether it’s the Brothers Osborne or Eric Church or Florida Georgia Line or Taylor Swift, or the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, or Merle Haggard or somewhere in the middle, just get on board and start listening. You will find something that applies to your life – something that speaks to you, I’m sure.”
Bristol is now known as ‘The Birthplace of Country Music’ and to celebrate this fact, a museum opened there in 2014.
For more information on Marty Stuart, visit his official website.