Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’ Documentary To Premiere Sept. 15

Johnny Cash at his home in California, in 1960. Photo: Sony

Ken Burns‘ long-awaited documentary Country Music, an eight-part, 16-hour series on the history and significance of the country music genre, will premiere Sunday, Sept. 15 through Wednesday, Sept. 18, and Sunday, Sept. 22 through Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 8 p.m.-10 p.m. ET on PBS.

The first four episodes will stream on station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and PBS apps, timed to the Sunday, Sept. 15 premiere and the second four timed to the broadcast of Episode 5 on Sunday, Sept. 22 (each episode will stream for a period of three weeks). PBS Passport members will be able to stream the entire series for a period of six months beginning Sunday, Sept. 15.

The documentary, produced by Burns, Julie Dunfey and Dayton Duncan, chronicles the highs and lows of country music’s early days, from southern Appalachia’s songs of struggle, heartbreak and faith to the rollicking Western swing of Texas, California’s honky-tonks and Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. The film follows the evolution of country music over the course of the 20th century as it eventually emerges to become “America’s music. 

 

Country Music boasts nearly 600 music cues over the 16 hours and in the fall of 2019, Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment will release a comprehensive suite of soundtrack music products timed to the PBS broadcast of Country Music.

Duncan also wrote an illustrated companion book with an introduction by Burns, Country Music: An Illustrated History, which will be issued by Burn’s longtime publisher, Alfred A. Knopf on Sept. 10. The 464-page work includes over 400 images, many not seen in the film.

Country Music will stream for free and be available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. The documentary  will be available on Blu-ray and DVD in September 2019  from PBS Distribution at shopPBS.org. The DVD and Blu-ray extras include a preview program, a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made and material gleaned from the hours of interviews. The series will also be available for digital download. Viewers are encouraged to join the conversation online using #CountryMusicPBS.

 

 

As previously reported, the Ryman Auditorium will celebrate the documentary with an all-star concert on March 27.

A national campaign exploring the history and music through screenings and discussions will take place in more than 30 markets across the country leading up to the film’s premiere. Kicking off the promotional roadshow is a Country Music bus tour along Tennessee Music Pathways with stops and events with local stations and other partners in Cookeville, Bristol, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville.

Duncan, Burns and Dunfey spent eight years researching and producing the film, conducting interviews with more than 100 people, including 40 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame (17 of those interviewed have since passed on). Among those storytellers are historian Bill Malone and a wide range of country artists such as Marty Stuart, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, and Naomi and Wynonna Judd, as well as studio musicians, record producers and others. The film uses more than 3,200 photographs and over two hours of archival footage, including rare and never-before-seen photos and footage of Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash and others. In addition, there will be a robust interactive website and an educational initiative designed to engage teachers and students through multiple platforms, including PBS LearningMedia.

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Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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