1927, dozens of rural, mostly amateur musicians from the mountains of the
upper South streamed into Bristol, Tennessee many by horse and wagon to
try out at a mega recording session organized by Victor Records. Their desire
-- to get that big break, and get off the farm. The company's idea -- to
find new talent for its roster of hillbilly artists. Victor made two huge
discoveries: The Carter Family, with a riveting, wholesome sound driven
by great singing and powerful guitar work; and Jimmie Rodgers, a carefree,
yodeling, guitar-picking railroad man who broke away from his string band
to try a few songs on his own and would become the first true superstar
of country music. As we tell our story, the connection between Delta blues
players and ladies' parlor music of the elite Northeast starts to emerge
and we'll hear the start of the evolution of the guitar in America, the
dominant instrument in popular music.
It was small, and portable. It could sing like a bird or wail like a bluesman.
Musicians from all across the European continent brought the fiddle when
they came to America, and gave it fresh, new voices as they melded European
and African influences. We'll hear
the haunting sounds of early white and African-American fiddle bands,
find out about aces like Eck Robertson and Fiddlin' John Carson, who showed
the record companies that rural music could sell -- and meet a charismatic
Texan named Bob Wills who came from a sharecropper's childhood to redefine
the fiddle sound and pack dance halls with his Texas swing. As Bob Wills collaboration with Texas Playboys guitarist Leon McAuliffe shows, guitar evolved along with the fiddle. We'll hear how the guitar was first electrified by Bob Dunn. At that time, the accordion was squeezing its way into the scene as well, driven by Cajun, Mexican, German and Czech influences. Father and Son accordion legends Flaco and Santiago Jimenez, and Pearly Sowell add their music and insight.