News/Thoughts

Birth Of Country Music

Recently, we here at the magazine became aware of a press release from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). This press release announced the up-coming airing of a new Ken Burns documentary film titled Country Music. This new film consists of eight two-hour episodes and will air on PBS stations this fall.

According to the PBS press release, the film Country Music will, “Chronicle the history of a uniquely American art form, rising from the experiences of remarkable people in distinctive regions of our nation. The series follows the evolution of country music over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music.” Additional details indicate the film series traces the origins of country music in its many forms such as in: minstrel music, ballads, hymns and the blues. The film also investigates how Hollywood B movies instituted the fad of singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Also told, is the story of how the popularity of so-called “juke joints” in the late 1940s and 50s’ influenced the genre with the introduction of both electric guitars and pedal steel guitars as lead instruments

Not to be ignored, Country Music will follow the rise of bluegrass music by telling the story of Bill Monroe. Further, the film notes how country music’s rockabilly offspring mutated into rock and roll in Memphis, TN. Plus the film documents how Nashville, TN slowly became Music City USA.

The film is directed and produced by Ken Burns; written and produced by Dayton Duncan; and produced by Julie Dunfey. These folks are Emmy-award winning creators of acclaimed and most watched documentaries that have been shown on PBS for more than a quarter century.

This latest Ken Burns directed documentary film is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington, DC. Florentine Films is a film producing co-operative of which Ken Burns is a part; and the PBS station, WETA, is the third-largest producing station for public television.
It is important to followers of Americana string music to note this fact: Florentine Films and PBS will start a national road show tour in March 2019 to promote the film, Country Music . This road show tour will begin in Bristol, TN/VA. There could be no more special place to start a promotional tour for a documentary film called Country Music than in Bristol TN/VA—the city nationally known as the birthplace of country music.

We contacted Ms. Kim Davis, Director of Marketing for the Birthplace of Country Music orginization, to ask for some details about the road show tour kickoff in Bristol. She told us that they plan a special event at the Paramount Center for the Arts in downtown Bristol on Sunday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. This event is produced by East Tennessee PBS and features filmmaker Ken Burns alongside producers Julie Dunfey and Dayton Duncan discussing and sharing clips from Country Music.

This event is open to the public, and tickets to attend are now available at: https://paramountbristol.secure.force.com/ticket/ .Click on the event to order.

Ms. Davis also told us that in addition to the road tour kickoff, there will be special promotions to be announced later that will tie in with the film release.

The Birthplace of Country Music organization showcases Bristol TN/VA’s role in the birth and development of country music through the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, Radio Bristol, and a multitude of community and educational outreach programs. For more information about the Birthplace of Country Music, visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.

Official dates and times for the film will be announced by Florentine Films and PBS; however, tentatively the film is scheduled to air on PBS in September, 2019. You must check the program listings of your local PBS station for their scheduled showings as each PBS station sets their own release date. To locate a PBS station in your home area, navigate your computer to: http://www.pbs.org/about/about-pbs/stations/. If you wish a bit more information about Ken Burns, you can check this web site: http://kenburns.com/films/country-music/

By Ed Tutwiler

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