The Country Music Archive (incorporating the British Archive of Country Music) is a UK-based organisation run by passionate lovers of country music. It is probably the largest collection of recordings, magazines, books, photographs and other items relating to country music outside of America. The music library contains more than 540,000 songs on various forms of media including 78rpm, 45rpm and 33rpm transcriptions, video, audio cassette (normal and 8 track) and reel to reel and CD all housed in purpose-built building (which later had to be extended as the archive continued to expand!).

A non-profit organisation, the Archive was set up by Dave Barnes, a veteran country music collector, editor and journalist in 1987 to catalogue and preserve what had already become a large and ever growing collection of music, magazines, books and other country music items some of which were rarities of great historical interest.
Dave has always been passionate about his country music and is a renowned expert on the traditional country music of pre-1960 when the growth of commercialised pop-country started to dominate the music he loves. His mission was to preserve traditional country music and make it available to country music historians, researchers and enthusiasts—now and for future generations. With the assistance of a small group of equally passionate volunteers he has succeeded in this mission beyond his wildest dreams.

Alongside the vast library of recorded music, the Archive also includes thousands of magazines, fanzines, discographies, biographies and photographs all stored under one roof. In 2002 Dave, with the expert help of Brian Golbey, a veteran country musician, and recording artist, who is the Archive’s music restorer & designer, began releasing recordings ‘from the vaults’ on CD.

Each release is meticulously researched—Dave and his colleagues draw on a team of country music experts from around the world, many of them specialists in a particular era or genre of the music. Tracks are identified and whittled down to between 25 and 30 for each CD, roughly 65 to 80 minutes music time. Some of the tracks come from the Archive library but where there are gaps they seek help from a network of collectors.

On average they release three CDs a month—the production is mainly a joint effort by Brian and his wife Sandi Golbey—Brian looks after the audio cleaning as well as the cover artwork and Sandi does the editing of the cover notes. Finally, when everything is ready for printing (the CDs and the insert notes), this is all done at the Archive by Dave Barnes and Barry Farnes. Others that play a vital role in the Archive include Derek Taylor, Assistant Archivist, Press & Publicity Officer and Book Reviewer and Robin Jones the BACM’s webmaster who designed the website; and does the ongoing updating and maintenance.

The Archives’ reference library is available to provide educational services to the media and record, TV & film producers, serious collectors and researchers. There is also a database with details of artists & groups from 1920 to the present day—some 30,000 artists & musicians plus over 540,000 Country song titles.

Though it’s been many years since I last visited the Archive, I do recommend that if you’re visiting Kent that you do stop off at Dover for a visit, but please do make arrangements before hand by contacting Dave Barnes via or on 01304 205000.

The Country Music Archive
c/o “Greenacres”
451 Folkestone Road, Dover, Kent
CT17 9JX