The Winding Stream - The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music


(l to r) Oscar Harris, Laura Cash, John Carter Cash and Larry Perkins at the Bristol Sessions boxed set celebration

Once in a while in life all the pieces come together. 

This weekend was like that.  Early this year, on the heels of the successful Kickstater fundraising campaign, I’d been planning a couple of film shoots for The Winding Stream.  The idea was to travel to three different locations: North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.  But fortunately I caught wind of the fact that if I made my way to Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia (yes, it’s a town that straddles two states!) all the stars would align and I would be able to complete five interviews and a music performance, plus connect with important film colleagues, strategic partners and research entities. 

All in one fell swoop. 

So last weekend, my crew and I descended upon Bristol with fabulous results. 

The reason for this confluence was the release of a new Bear Family Records boxed set of CDs “The Bristol Sessions.”  These historic recordings document the 1927 discovery of the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, the Stoneman Family and others.  Johnny Cash once referred to this as “the big bang of country music” – the moment when recorded country music really took off.  [NOTE: See my earlier blog entry on the Sessions for more info.]

Our weekend in Bristol was fantastic.  Lots of folks connected to the Bristol story were in town.  The Stoneman Sisters were in attendance, since their father, “Pop” Stoneman had been the person who’d convinced Victor Talking Machine Company’s Ralph Peer into coming to this town in the first place.   Kevin Lamb of Peermusic arranged for our interview with Patsy Stoneman and we were tickled to meet her.  “Feisty” doesn’t begin to describe Ms. Stoneman. 

We also were thrilled to be invited to the open house at the Home Place – Ezra and Maybelle Carter’s home in Maces Spring.  The house has been lovingly restored by Laura and John Carter Cash; the work they’ve done there certainly honors the historic importance of this landmark.  We were able to catch up with old friends and Winding Stream stars Flo Wolfe (A.P. and Sara’s granddaughter) and Fern Salyer (A.P.’s niece) as well as Dale Jett (A.P. and Sara’s grandson) and Dale’s wife Teresa.  Also, John Carter and Laura made time for much-needed in-depth interviews with us.

Another important interview that we’d been seeking for a while now was with musician Bill Clifton who told us great first-hand stories about his friendship with A.P. Carter.  A friendly, warm and articulate man, we were delighted to spend time with him and his wife Tineke. 

Saturday night was a reception celebrating the boxed set with music from many of the aforementioned folks, speeches by Kevin Lamb, Dr. Ted Olson (an advisor to our project) and folks from the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance in Bristol. 

Sunday night was a fabulous concert at the Paramount Theater for the NPR show Mountain Stage.  Many of our spotlighted artists performed including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Carter and Laura Cash, Dale Jett and Hello Stranger and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Monday we got to interview Dom Flemons of the Chocolate Drops and shoot the group performing two songs popularized by the Carters.  The backdrop was the beautiful Paramount Theater. 

As you can tell, we got a lot accomplished.  I’ll be expanding more on what we learned in coming blogs but meanwhile, wanted to update you all.