Knoxville Music Before Bluegrass

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Since colonial times, generations of families from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England have settled in Knoxville and East Tennessee. Early on, they arrived with ballads, stories, instruments, and folk music from their former homes. “Songcatchers,” including Francis James Child, Olive Dame Campbell, Maud Pauline Karpeles, Cecil J. Sharp, William Francis Allen, Lucy McKim Garrison, Charles Pickard Ware, and George Pullen Jackson, journeyed deep into the remotest areas of East Tennessee to capture their songs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This music existed almost unchanged until the introduction of commercial recording and radio broadcasting in the 1920s. The historic recording sessions in Bristol, Tennessee, in the summer of 1927 sparked new genres of music, and through the contribution of musicians like Lester Flatt, Josh Graves, Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, the Carter Family, Bill Monroe, and many others, Knoxville and East Tennessee are acknowledged for the roles they played in the birth of country and bluegrass music.