The Birthplace of Country Music

Welcome to Southwest Virginia, where America's music was born

Explore the history of a uniquely American art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, learn how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music.

Abingdon is proud to be featured in the new Ken Burns documentary, Country Music, alongside our Southwest Virginia neighbors.  Make Abingdon your home base as you explore the origins of country music. 

Plan your visit
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Photo by Nicola Aloisio Photography

Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns

Explore the history of a uniquely American art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, learn how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music. Country Music features never-before-seen footage and photographs, plus interviews with more than 80 country music artists. The eight-part 16-hour series is directed and produced by Ken Burns; written and produced by Dayton Duncan; and produced by Julie Dunfey.

Country Music explores questions –– such as “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from?“–– while focusing on the biographies of the fascinating characters who created and shaped it — from the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more — as well as the times in which they lived. Much like the music itself, the film tells unforgettable stories of hardships and joys shared by everyday people.

No one has told the story this way before.

Watch the film
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About the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

While visiting Southwest Virginia, make plans to visit The Birthplace of Country Music Museum. The museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and tells the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings, explores how evolving sound technology shaped their success, and highlights how this rich musical heritage lives on in today’s music. Through text and artifacts, multiple theater experiences, and interactive displays – along with a variety of educational programs, music performances, and community events – the exciting story of these recording sessions and their far-reaching influence comes alive.

Rotating exhibitions from guest curators and other institutions, including the Smithsonian, are featured throughout the year in the Special Exhibits Gallery. The museum also houses a collection of related objects, photographs and paper ephemera, and digital items.

Learn more
Hog Slop String Band At Carter Fold

Visit Southwest Virginia and experience the birthplace of country music

Make Abingdon your home base as you explore the origins of country music.  Whether you are visiting the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, or traveling along The Crooked Road: Virginia's Heritage Music Trail, Abingdon is perfectly located for your musical adventure. 

Travel to Hiltons, VA (just 45 minutes away) and the Carter Family Fold. The mountains come alive with the sounds of some of the best old-time and bluegrass music around. 

The Carter Family – A.P., Sara and Maybelle – first recorded in nearby Bristol in 1927 and went on to record over 300 songs, laying the foundation for what we know today as country music. The rustic music theater in the hills is pure "mountain music magic." Put on your dancing shoes and hit the floor as you listen and possibly clog, flat-foot and/or buck dance to traditional string music.

Explore the rich musical heritage of Southwest Virginia at Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Marketplace in Abingdon, VA– and glimpse the frontiers of fusion with other traditions and instruments.

Listen to the huge collection of local old-time, bluegrass and gospel music CDs and DVDs, and take some music home with you. Explore exhibits about how this authentic roots music grew and continues to thrive here.

Plan your visit

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