ETSU to commemorate Rich-R-Tone historical marker

The state of Tennessee has chosen November 4 for the dedication of a new historical marker in Johnson City commemorating the Rich-R-Tone Records company, which operated there for many years.

Rich-R-Tone was the first record label to locate in east Tennessee, and the first formed specifically to record bluegrass music. Launched in 1946 by James Hobart Stanton, they released the first recordings by The Stanley Brothers, plus records from Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, The Sauceman Brothers, The Bailey Brothers, Jim Eanes, and many others.

For the dedication, which is open to the public November 4 at 11:00 a.m., Johnson City Mayor Joe Wise will offer remarks, as will East Tennessee State University scholars Drs. Ron Roach and Ted Olson of the school’s Appalachian Studies department. The ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band will perform, along with Ralph Stanley II & The Clinch Mountain Boys.

The text on the marker reads…

“James Hobart (Hobe) Stanton founded Rich-R-Tone Records in Johnson City. An independent label, it was the first label dedicated to recording bluegrass music. Located at 113 West Main Street from 1946-1952, over half of the 220 songs on the Rich-R-Tone label were recorded here. Rich-R-Tone featured recordings by notable bluegrass acts including Carter and Ralph Stanley, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, and the Sauceman Brothers.”

Ron Roach, chair of the Department of Appalachian Studies at ETSU, says of the placement of this historical marker…

“Johnson City is a significant place in the history of bluegrass and country music. In addition to Rich-R-Tone Records, the city hosted some of the most important early country music recording sessions, and now is the home of the world-renowned ETSU Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Studies program, which has produced some of today’s biggest stars in this kind of music. So Johnson City continues to be the place where bluegrass grows.”

All dedication events will be held at the Pavilion at Founders Park on Commerce Street in Johnson City.

The Down Home will host a free tribute concert in honor of the dedication at 7:30 p.m. on the 4th featuring The Brother Boys and the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band.

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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.