Casting call for Bristol Sessions film

orthophonicIf you live in that part of the country where Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina collide – and can play an instrument and sing old time country music – here’s an opportunity to be included in a new film project that is being made to recall the Bristol Sessions.

Sometimes described as the “Big Bang of Country Music,” these Bristol Sessions refer to the two times that Ralph Peer visited Bristol in the 1920s to demonstrate his employer’s new cylinder recording equipment, and to capture the music of regional artists who might prove popular for sale in rural markets. Peer was savvy enough to recognize the quality of music he might find coming down from the Tennessee and Virginia Mountains, but probably had not expected to make the first commercial country records for future legends like Jimmie Rogers, The Carter Family, and The Stoneman Family along the way.

The fact that these seminal recordings were made in Bristol has served as the rallying cry for declaring the cities of Bristol Tennessee and Virginia as the Birthplace of Country Music, something now celebrated in the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a component of the Smithsonian system of museums, located on the Virginia side.

Following this year’s release of Orthophonic Joy, a two-disc set which includes new, reimagined versions of the songs Peer recorded in those 1927 sessions, work is set to begin in December on a film to further commemorate this historic event. The film is commissioned jointly by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Virginia Tourism Corporation, and will be directed by Chusy Haney-Jardine.

The album’s producers, who also worked with the two state tourism offices, are hoping for some attention in this year’s Grammy awards. It’s a realistic expectation given the participation from award winning country and bluegrass singers like Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Carl Jackson, and The Church Sisters.

A casting call for the film is scheduled for this Friday afternoon at the museum, where they will audition men, women and children (5-70) who can sing and play an instrument. Both actors and musicians with no acting experience are urged to attend. Producers will audition attendees from 3:00-7:00 p.m. on November 13.

Pre-audition consideration will be given to actors/musicians who will submit a video of themselves singing and playing, with a brief introduction speaking in a Southern accent. Quicktime or .mp4 video is preferred, which can be submitted by email to

That same email address can be contacted for more details about the film project and Friday’s casting.

Leah Ross, Executive Director of the Museum, says that the film could spark a rekindling of interest in traditional country music forms – and a jolt to the economy in her region.

“Many Americans know about the birth of rock-and-roll or the rise of the Motown sound, but fewer people know the real story behind the roots of country music. This will help us share the history of what has become the world’s most popular musical form and attract more visitors to Bristol and the Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia regions.”

More details about the many efforts in Bristol to promote bluegrass and traditional mountain music can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.