By Gregory Crofton
You might have heard about the beginning of Country music and a family called the Carters. Being based in Nashville for the last 16 years, I certainly had.
I took a drive to Hendersonville, about 20 minutes outside of Nashville, to visit Johnny Cash’s grave when I first moved here and saw June Carter lying right there next to him.
The Carters and their ‘Old Time’ music found its first foothold in 1927 in Bristol, a town split by a state line that separates Southern Virginia and Northern Tennessee.
The Carters drove to Bristol determined to make their first records after reading about an open call for musicians in the newspaper. Ralph Peer, a producer for the Victor Talking Machine Company, had placed the ad.
In a makeshift studio above a hat shop, Peer and Alvin Pleasant (A.P.) Carter, along with his wife Sara, and her sister Maybelle, recorded four songs the first night they were in town.
American singer-songwriter Jimmie Rodgers, from Meridian, Miss., also recorded with Peer that weekend, a time that became the infamous Bristol sessions now known to be the very beginning of County music.
Beth Harrington’s “The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music” (2014) is full of well-documented early country music history and American history. Harrington and her team explain this complicated story, about the rise and evolution of Clinch Mountain folk music, with a deft hand.
If you’re looking to finally learn how it all went down — not just find out a few tidbits here and there — look no further than this tightly packed 91-minute film. Along the way you’ll figure out how Johnny Cash found himself smack in the middle of Carter family, a place he dearly wanted to be.