In the evening, on August 1, 1927, The Carter Family – Alvin Pleasant Carter, his wife Sara Dougherty Carter and Sara’s younger cousin, Maybelle Addington Carter – made their first recordings.
The recording session took place in a make-shift recording studio located on the second floor of the building used by the Taylor-Christian Hat Company at 408 State Street in downtown Bristol, Tennessee.
Ralph Peer, a traveling talent scout for New York City-based Victor Records, had set up the studio and produced the recording session.
The Carters stood together that evening on a small wooden stage in the middle of the blanket-draped room and leaned into the single microphone. Sara played the autoharp and sang lead, Maybelle played a small Stella acoustic guitar and together with A.P., sang harmony.
When the session was done, they had recorded four songs and, though no one knew it yet, they’d made history.
Here’s one of those recordings. Give a listen.
Years later, Maybelle would recall this day:
“When we made the record and played it back, I thought it couldn’t be. I just couldn’t believe it, this being so unreal, you standing there and singing and they’d turn around and play it back to you.”
Over the next seventeen years, The Carter Family would record – and listen to the playback of – hundreds of songs. Their music would come to define Country music for decades.
The Carter Family was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988. They were given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
To this day, A.P., Sara and Maybelle are widely referred to as “The First Family of Country Music.”
Make sure your see the Ken Burns series “Country Music”. He delves deeply into many artists, including the Carters.