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Bristol, Tennessee Well attuned as he was to the value of publicity, Ralph Peer placed an ad in the local papers saying, "The Victor Company will have a recording machine in Bristol for ten days beginning Monday to record records," and inviting all comers to present themselves. Reading the ad -- and seeing in it the potential fulfillment of his musical dreams -- A.P. packed himself, Sara and Maybelle into his brother's car, and set out for Bristol. It took a day to drive the 26 miles from Maces Springs, and when they got to Bristol they found the hat factory turned recording studio deluged by hopefuls from the surrounding hills.

First Recording
The Carters recorded four songs one evening, and two the following morning. Sara led in her beautiful alto, the voice that had first captivated A.P., while A.P. chimed in from time to time in his bass. The women provided the instrumental accompaniment, Sara on her autoharp and Maybelle at the guitar. It was unusual for a musical group to have a female lead singer, and this gave Peer pause, but he liked their music, and they went home $300 richer for their efforts. The Carters recorded six songs in Bristol that day:

Poor Orphan Child
Wandering Boy
Single Girl, Married Girl
The Storms Are on the Ocean
Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow
Little Log Cabin by the Sea

Another Record
Maybelle, A.P. and Sara in Poor Valley, VA That November, Victor finally released a monophonic 78rpm record with Poor Orphan Child on one side and Wandering Boy on the other, followed a few months later by The Storms Are on the Ocean and Single Girl, Married Girl. Despite Peer's uncertainty about the Carters' music -- and the songs' gloomy topics -- the records sold so well that Peer wrote to the Carters asking them to come to Camden, New Jersey, for a second recording session.

A Year's Harvest
In May 1928 the Carters set out for New Jersey, where over the course of two days they recorded a dozen or so songs, including such classics as Wildwood Flower, the anthem of country music named by National Public Radio as one of the 100 "most important American musical works of the twentieth century," and John Hardy, later covered by such country greats as Flatt & Scruggs, Doc Watson, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez. At $50 per song, the total take amounted to $600 for the twelve songs they recorded, as much as they could make in a whole year on the farm. They split the money three ways, and with their winnings A.P. bought 70 acres of land and moved Sara and their three children into a larger farmhouse on which he spent an extravagant down payment of $233.



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