Tennessee Brew Works
1927 was an important year in Tennessee, certainly one worth naming a beer after. It was the year that Ralph S. Peer headed down to Bristol, TN to record some local musicians. He was the producer for the Victor Talking Machine Company based out of Camden, NJ, better known as Victor Records, and was on a mission to record blues, gospel, ragtime and other styles of music that had developed in different regions of the South. What he didn’t realize at the time, however, was that his “Bristol Sessions” recordings would launch the entire genre now known as country music.
As with most types of music, it’s difficult to point to one particular person or event as an absolute beginning point but the Bristol Sessions were so powerful that they are often referred to as the “Big Bang of country music”. Even Johnny Cash described them as “the single most important event in the history of country music.” A few country artists had recorded before the Bristol Sessions, like Henry Whitter, A.C. Robertson and Uncle Dave Mason, but most country artists had to find a way to travel to New York City to lay down a recording and since their music originated from the South, the expenses were often just too much. Vernon Dalhart became the first million-seller in country music history with his hit “Wreck of the Old 97” in 1924.
Peer was definitely at the forefront of the music industry. He embraced new mobile recording technologies, looked for unique artists and even developed a style of contract that allowed him to get paid through royalties which ultimately allowed more musicians the opportunity to record. This style of contract, as well as his company, Peermusic, are still around today. A white man, Peer was also very appreciative of Southern black music and created many opportunities for black musicians, a rarity at the time.
He had made a similar trip to the South before and recorded Fiddlin’ John Carson in 1923. Although he disliked the recording quality of the two songs, “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” and “The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster’s Gonna Crow”, he sold all 500 copies in just a few weeks which inspired him to look for more “hillbilly music”. The first two stops on Peer’s second journey to the South were in Savannah, GA and Charlotte, NC, and after reaching Bristol he opened up his studio for two weeks with the hope that some local talent would find him. He placed ads in newspapers but had little response aside from Ernest “Pop” Stoneman who had already recorded a year earlier. After a second newspaper ad was run, one that emphasized how much money Stoneman had made in royalties over his career, dozens of artists suddenly began showing up at the studio and, recording all day and night, Peer ultimately managed to get down 76 tracks from 19 different artists including the incredibly talented Jimmie Rodgers and the legendary Carter Family. Rodgers is sometimes called the “Father of Country Music” and the Carter Family, who attended the session in overalls and “hillbilly clothes”, have become synonymous with early country and bluegrass. Each artist was paid $50 and given 2.5¢ in royalties for each copy sold but, more importantly, country music was no longer a secret.
The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers went on to become superstars and the Carters put together three generations of talented musicians, including June Carter Cash, the wife of Johnny Cash. The Carter Family’s Bristol Sessions recordings were released by Victor Records in late 1927 while the rest of the songs went out in various singles and compilations.
The music recorded during the Bristol Sessions may not be the finest ever played but its historical value is unmatched. It has influenced generations of musicians and has resulted in the creation of an endless array of different musical styles. Musicians from around the globe and from a variety of genres continually point to the Bristol Sessions as one of the most inspirational recordings they have ever heard. Bristol, TN is appropriately nicknamed the “birthplace of country music” and is also home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
From the Brewer: Juicy. Citrusy. Dank. This beautifully crafted IPA utilizes a multitude of hop varietals along with the highest quality malts; creating a super aromatic, citrusy and slightly hazy IPA that is perfectly balanced on the palate. This beer is our tribute to the birth of modern country music: the “Bristol Sessions,”Bristol, Tennessee, 1927. ABV 7.5%, IBU 70
Christian Spears - Founder & President, Matt Simpson - Head Brewer