The Birthplace of County Music Museum has proved an invigorating force for Bristol, Virginia’s tourism and music industries. With both permanent and revolving exhibits focusing on the history, present day, and future of roots music, as well as frequent live performances from bluegrass, old time, and Americana groups, the museum has drawn large crowds since its opening day. Also located within the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is WBCM, Radio Bristol, a station focusing on American roots music. However, one of their newest programs, Over the Waves, expands the station’s musical outlook a bit by highlighting the sounds of global string band music.
The show’s host, Dr. Lee Bidgood, is an associate professor of Bluegrass, Old Time, & Country Music Studies at East Tennessee State University, where his research interests have often focused on the overseas bluegrass scene. “This show is a way to present a whole bunch of interesting music that I have come across in my years of study and research,” says Bidgood. “In graduate school at the University of Virginia I took classes in African popular music, Indian classical music, and played in a klezmer band, and heard a lot of ‘string band’ elements in these diverse sounds.” He later spent time researching bluegrass in the Czech Republic, which piqued his interest in the way string band styles have traveled around the globe.
According to Bidgood, the show is a way to share his research interests with a wider audience, while making them more accessible to the general public. “While I write about these connections in my scholarly publications,” he says, “it is exciting to just play the music, without having to provide an interpretive framework.” He plans to share both music and the stories behind it, “listening for connections between rural, urban, down home, and uptown all around the globe.”
Bidgood believes that Radio Bristol is a perfect venue for the show, since it is both rooted in the history of bluegrass and traditional American music, through its connections to historic radio show Farm and Fun Time, and artists like the Stanley Brothers who got their start there, and is also connected to the new museum that shares roots music with broader audiences. “BCM Museum director Dr. Jessica Turner and WBCM director Kris Truelsen are great to work with,” he says, “as they are eager to have the rigor of academic attention, but also seek to do things that many people will be interested in hearing and experiencing.”
Over the Waves will likely feature plenty of bluegrass, especially Czech bluegrass, since that makes up a large part of Bidgood’s personal record collection. However, he also plans to spin old time, country, and other styles. The show premiered last week, and can be heard Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. EST and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. EST. Those outside of WBCM’s listening area can tune in on the Radio Bristol app, or online at www.listenradiobristol.org.