Let's Explore The Knoxville Sessions, 1929-1930
Educator resources for the Knoxville Sessions of 1929-1930

Vocalion record label - "Satan Is Busy in Knoxville" - Leola Manning - Vocal with piano and guitarIn 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.

photo of Knoxville Sessions boxed setHaving 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.


photo of two African American musicians with two children holding guitars, 1920sphoto of Leola Manning in hatphoto of St. James building, 5-story brick building, 1920sLetter on Sterchi Bros. Stores, Inc. letterhead: Dear Sir: The Brunswick Company are coming to Knoxville very soon to make some more phonograph records. Please advise if your band is still intact and give your telephone numbers."photo of Cal Davenport seated in a kitchen with a banjoNewspaper clipping headline reads "Come to Make Records: Musicians from Several Towns Arrive for Try-Outs"

History Goes on the Record DVD

A brief history of the Knoxville Sessions of 1929 and 1930.

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.