In 1929 and 1930, the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company and their subsidiary record label, Vocalion, took advantage of new technology that made recording equipment portable and traveled to Knoxville to discover "new" talent they hoped to share with the rest of the country (and boost record sales). Brunswick set up a temporary studio in the downtown St. James Hotel and recorded more than forty artists who played a wide variety of music--country, jazz, blues and gospel.
Having been released during the Great Depression, however, sales of these records were dismal and the recordings languished in obscurity for eighty years. In 2016, Bear Family Records and the Knox County Public Library’s Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS) collaborated to re-master and release the surviving recordings from the Knoxville Sessions in a CD box set. The "lost" recordings and the history of the Knoxville Sessions were celebrated in a four-day musical festival known as the Knoxville Stomp. Today, Knoxville once again remembers the varied musical heritage and diverse voices that contributed not only to the city's musical history, but also to the evolution of what we know now as popular music across the country.
History Goes on the Record DVD
A brief history of the Knoxville Sessions of 1929 and 1930.
- Stream on Vimeo (full screen)
- Check out a copy from the Library
This video was produced through a grant from the East Tennessee Foundation Arts Fund. For educational purposes only; not for commercial use.
Knoxville Sessions Resources
We hope you'll find these curriculum resources useful in your study of the Knoxville Sessions. Each includes questions, materials, and a lesson activity developed by the East Tennessee Historical Society.
- Grades 4 and up
Economic Change and Urban Growth in Post Civil War South (3.3 MB)
- Grade 11
Prohibition in East Tennessee (871 KB)
- Grades 9-12
The Effect of Federal Programs on East Tennessee Economy (589 KB)