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The Johnson City Sessions gets a box set

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 09:25:51 AM CST
Updated On: Oct 08 2013 08:32:11 PM CDT

Just a year after the famous Bristol Sessions, Columbia Records came to Johnson City to do their own recording.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -

They call the Bristol recording sessions of 1927 "The Big Bang of Country Music." Why? Because it started a new way for record companies to go to where the talent was to get their future artists.

That big bang was heard in Johnson City too. Columbia Records sent a producer there in 1928 to record the local music of the region. Next week, a celebration of those recordings will take place.

There's now a historic marker near the spot where some famous recordings took place on East Main Street in Johnson City.

There's also a marker across the street that tells the story of the 1928-1929 Johnson City Sessions.

Historians knew about the sessions by Columbia Records but not much else. "I worked with a historian named Charles Wolf. Charles Wolf was one of the people helping to recover the story of the Bristol Sessions before almost anybody else, and so Charles and I did a book together on the Bristol Sessions. We had one little chapter in there that was called the rest of the story," author and musical historian Ted Olson says.

Now the rest of the story has become a box set of four CDs and a hardback book about those sessions in Johnson City. Olson is the co-author. "We basically had to go knocking on doors to get that information. Nobody knew about a lot these artists except for the family members. So we had to meet the family members to get the information about the artists. They were truly lost from the historical record," Olson said.

But after years of work, they know who was there and now the box set from Germany's Bear Family records will let you hear the recordings. "We have a hundred recordings from Johnson City from 1928 to 1929. I would say record-for-record they're just as exciting as the Bristol Sessions recordings, just very different. Frank Walker was the producer here for Columbia. Anything went for him. He recorded string bands, fiddle music, banjo music, some guitar music, some yodeling," Olson told us.

A celebration of those recordings is planned beginning about the time they took place beginning October 17. So now the after shock of the Bristol Sessions, Johnson City will be heard around the world. "I'm happy to report that people all of the works is interested in knowing more about the Johnson City Sessions now that Bear Family has taken an interest in it and released the box set as of this month," Olson said.

Here is a list of the planned activities planned:

October 17- ETSU Reece Museum reception. Music provided by the ETSU Old Time Pride Band. 4:30 to 6 pm.

October 20-Live radio show "Studio One" WETS-FM at 1pm. The Pride Band will play some of the music from the C-D.

October 20-Special V.I.P. gala at The Venue with family of those who originally recorded. Muic by the Bowman Family and the ETSU Blues Band. Begins at 5pm

October 20-A recording of the syndicated "Mountain Stage" radio show at the Martha Street Culp auditorium in the ETSU D.P. Culp University Center. 7pm