Country or Folk music had been in existence for many generations before it was first commercially recorded in the early 20th century. For many music historians, the "official" birth of country music happened in August 1927 when all-comers were welcomed to a demo session held by visionary record producer Ralph Peer in Bristol, Virginia.
The Carter Family were amongst those who showed up dreaming of stardom and financial success. Alvin Carter, his wife Sara and her cousin Maybelle formed this most unlikely trio but their clean and professional style made a huge impression on Peer who signed them to the RCA Victor record label and also appointed himself publisher of their music, making a personal fortune in the process.
Alvin scoured the backwater towns and villages assembling an amazing anthology of old-time songs and ballads that could be polished, edited and copyrighted for Mr Peer. The Carter Family became small-time celebrities, loved all the more by their public because they never conformed to the country-hick cliches, always presenting themselves in their Sunday best clothes for photographers.
But fame took its toll on the Carters and they worked for several years as a broken family until the group drifted apart at the end of the second world war. Their legacy is a wonderful collection of heartfelt songs, many of which carry a keen sense of longing and sometimes bitter regret.