digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















The Johnson City Sessions were a series of recording auditions conducted in Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1928 and 1929 by Frank Buckley Walker, head of the Columbia Records “hillbilly” recordings division.


The auditions were part of a search for native Appalachian-Blue Ridge Mountains musical talent. Walker was a pioneer, as was Ralph Peer of Victor Records, in the art of remote recording, which was deemed more effective than bringing musicians to New York City or larger northern cities to record. They thought the unsophisticated amateurs would perform more comfortably in their accustomed surroundings.[1]

First Auditions[edit]

On Saturday October 13, 1928, Walker auditioned musicians, with recording sessions scheduled for the following week at makeshift studios at the Brading-Marshall Lumber Company in Johnson City. Amateur musicians brought their fiddles, banjos, guitars and voices to Johnson City to display their talents for Walker. Participants included the Shell Creek Quartet, the Grant Brothers, the Roane County Ramblers, Renus Rich and Charles Bradshaw, Clarence Greene, the Wise Brothers, Ira Yates, Uncle Nick Decker, the Proximity String Quartet, Hardin and Grindstaff, the Greensboro Boys Quartet, Richard Harold, Charlie Bowman and His Brothers, the Bowman Sisters, Bill and Belle Reed, the Reed Children, the Reed Family, the Hodges Brothers, the Hodges Quartet, Bailey Briscoe, Robert Hoke and Vernal Vest, McVay and Johnson, Earl Shirkey and Roy Harper (Roy Harvey), George Roark, the Ed Helton Singers, the Garland Brothers and Grindstaff, Dewey Golden and His Kentucky Buzzards, the Holiness Singers, Frank Shelton and the McCartt Brothers/Patterson.

Second Auditions[edit]

Returning to Johnson City in October 1929, Walker auditioned the following in the second group: Blalock and Yates, Jack Jackson, George Wade and Grancom Braswell, the Roane County Ramblers, Wyatt and Brandon, Roy Harvey and Leonard Copeland, the Spindale Quartet, the Queen Trio, Earl Shirkey and Roy Harper (Roy Harvey), the Moatsville String Ticklers, the Weaver Brothers, Byrd Moore and His Hot Shots, the Bateman Sacred Quartet, Fred Richards, Clarence Ashley, the Bentley Boys, Charlie Bowman and His Brothers, Fran Trappe, Eph Woodie and the Henpecked Husbands, Ira and Eugene Yates, and Ellis Williams.


Popular recordings, such as "Roll on Buddy" (now a bluegrass standard) and "Moonshiner and His Money" by Charlie Bowman and His Brothers, along with "Johnson City Blues" by Clarence Greene, were made from the Johnson City Sessions. Clarence "Tom" Ashley's clawhammer banjo classic recording, "Coo Coo Bird", was a highlight of the 1929 Johnson City sessions. According to the North Carolina musician Walter Davis, he and Clarence Greene learned the art of blues guitar from the legendary performer Blind Lemon Jefferson, who played on the streets in Johnson City during the early 1920s.[2]

Other States[edit]

In addition to the Johnson City sessions, Frank Buckley Walker (Oct. 24, 1889 - Oct. 15, 1963) scheduled recording sessions in Atlanta (1925 – 1932), New Orleans (1925-1927), Memphis (1928), and Dallas (1927-1929) to search out musical talent throughout the southern United States. Walker recounted to Mike Seeger once during an interview:

We would build up the recording sessions in advance – getting the word around that at a certain time of year we were going to be there, and these people would show up from 800 or 900 miles away. How they got there I’ll never know and how they got back I’ll never know. This was natural. Life in the country, particularly in the early days, was a lonesome life. Farmers would often talk to themselves or to a horse and stock… and the sound of that railroad train, that lonesome whistle has a powerful emotional impact.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Old-Time Music Heritage", Johnson's Depot
  2. ^ Wayne Erbsen, "Walter Davis: Fist and Skull Banjo," Bluegrass Unlimited: March 1981, 22-26


  • The Bristol Sessions: Writings About the Big Bang of Country Music, by Charles K. Wolfe and Ted Olson, McFarland & Co., Inc., Publishers, 2005.
  • Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman, by Bob L. Cox, University of Tennessee Press, 2007.
  • Remembering Johnson City, by Bob L. Cox, History Press, 2008.
  • Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Josh Dunson and Ethel Raim, 1973.
  • "Hillbilly Music: Source and Symbol," by Archie Green, Journal of American Folklore 78: Jul-Sep 1965, 204-228.
  • "Walter Davis: Fist and Skull Banjo," by Wayne Erbsen, Bluegrass Unlimited: March 1981, 22-26.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_City_sessions — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
172546 videos foundNext > 

Various The Johnson City Sessions, 1928 1929 Can You Sing Or Play Old Time Music BCD16083

http://www.bear-family.com/en/bear-family-cd-cd-box/bear-family-international/va-the-johnson-city-sessions-4-cd-page-boo.html Various - The Johnson City Sess...

City Sessions: Close To You - Connor Flanagan feat. Katy Blythe

This is the first of three "City Sessions" filmed downtown Pittsburgh. Huge shout out to Ryan Harner for recording us live, to Brian Robau for his mad film s...

Johnson City Symphony Orchestra - Italian Inspiration

Wayne Hancock - Johnson City

No Copyright infringement intended, just for entertainment. Wayne Hancock - Johnson City.

Phil Sinclair - Thats All I Ask 'Steel City Sessions'

Steel City Sessions is project ran by musicians giving musicians the chance to perform their tracks live in a studio to showcase there talent to the world. P...

Luna Kicks - Candy Floss 'Steel City Sessions'

Steel City Sessions is project ran by musicians giving musicians the chance to perform their tracks live in a studio to showcase there talent to the world. P...

Tab-One x City Sessions - "Doomsday"

Tab Ichiban (@tab_one) of the classic Raleigh, NC hip-hop group Kooley High joins us on City Sessions, flowing over the unforgettable beat from MF Doom's "Do...

Little City Sessions -- Dylan Lee: Your Heartbeat

Singer/songwriter Dylan Lee plays his original song "Your Heartbeat" on the steps of Harrisburg's abandoned William Penn High School. Check out Dylan Lee at:...

King City Sessions - Tyler Boone (full length video)

King City Sessions was filmed in front of a live audience on April 20th, 2013 at "Ocean Industries" in Charleston, SC. Featured musicians are Dan Rainey, Joh...

Kane Smego x City Sessions - "Cost Of A King"

Kane Smego explaining the intersection of commemoration and commercialization with his MLK-inspired poem, "Cost Of A King." Every week, we're releasing new v...

172546 videos foundNext > 

1 news items

Cybergrass Bluegrass Music News

Cybergrass Bluegrass Music News
Sat, 05 Jul 2014 21:18:45 -0700

The following year, "The Johnson City Sessions" were recorded. Johnson City is just south west of Bristol. Now, a new piece is coming together. The music of the era was part news, part Gospel, all life and especially the hard times. The music was a ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Johnson City sessions

You can talk about Johnson City sessions with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!