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Old 09-16-2019, 11:26 AM
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(Ken Burns) Country Music Documentary


I’m a big fan of Burns documentaries and enjoyed the first episode of his latest opus on Country Music which aired last night.

I’m no expert on the topic and did not know about how seed and insurance companies created popular radio stations or about the huge influence of Carson, the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers.

Critics largely appear to have liked the previews, but some think more time could have been spent with their favourites and a few people were not highlighted. But editorial decisions render such thoughts inevitable. Any other fans out there?
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Old 09-16-2019, 12:11 PM
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Loved it!
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Old 09-16-2019, 01:01 PM
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I enjoyed it overall, and learned a lot about the early years of radio and how acts like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers got their start.

I did feel like I learned a little more about Rodgers than I really wanted to, though.

I can't wait for the 1950s and 1960s!
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Old 09-16-2019, 02:36 PM
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The Carter/Cash thing is enormously important to country music. I read a book on the Carter family years ago. It was written before Johnny and June.
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Old 09-16-2019, 06:56 PM
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I hadn't heard about this show, ack! Now I need to find it. Hopefully it will be rebroadcast.
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:04 PM
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If they don't talk about Uncle Dave Macon, I for one will be very disappointed.
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:07 PM
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I enjoyed the first segment, will be watching the second tonight.
Here's a critical review that I listened to today, makes some valid points, but I'm all in for the whole thing.
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:35 PM
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FWIW, it is an eight-part, sixteen hour series on public television that began yesterday. It will certainly be rebroadcast since it is a major fundraising plank for these stations.
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:47 PM
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I enjoyed the first segment, will be watching the second tonight.
Here's a critical review that I listened to today, makes some valid points, but I'm all in for the whole thing.
Me too.
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:49 PM
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If they don't talk about Uncle Dave Macon, I for one will be very disappointed.
They talked about alot last night. What a character.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:27 PM
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Another great episode. I had no idea jazz influenced country music.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:41 PM
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It was great.
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:46 PM
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I got a little confused by one of the on-line reviews I read. It was talking about how Ray Charles, finally given the freedom to record album of his own music, recorded a soulful album of country and “hillbilly” music. The article was critical of the documentary, since it did not mention the difficulty Charles had in getting songs played on the radio and Nashville’s not unusual rejection of new musical trends. But the documentary quotes white stars who say it played all the time, and the record sold twenty million copies. Admittedly, both views probably have some truth, but clearly eventually it got tons of exposure. Anyone hear able to clarify this?
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Old 09-18-2019, 10:01 PM
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I think Ray Charles' album probably, singlehandedly saved country music.
What shocked me tonight was the so-called 'Nashville' sound and Chet Adkins role in it.
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Old 09-18-2019, 10:11 PM
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I got a little confused by one of the on-line reviews I read. It was talking about how Ray Charles, finally given the freedom to record album of his own music, recorded a soulful album of country and “hillbilly” music. The article was critical of the documentary, since it did not mention the difficulty Charles had in getting songs played on the radio and Nashville’s not unusual rejection of new musical trends. But the documentary quotes white stars who say it played all the time, and the record sold twenty million copies. Admittedly, both views probably have some truth, but clearly eventually it got tons of exposure. Anyone hear able to clarify this?
And for all Ray Charles did, a Black man didn't make it to #1 on the Billboard Country Charts until 2008.

"Old Town Road" was retroactively removed from the Billboard country charts.

Kid Rock is Country and Lil Nas X is not.

This is a problem all public brodcasting stations will live with.
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Old 09-18-2019, 10:25 PM
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And for all Ray Charles did, a Black man didn't make it to #1 on the Billboard Country Charts until 2008.
WTF are you talking about? Charley Pride had his first #1 hit on the Billboard Country chart in 1969, his last in 1983, and 27 #1 songs between those two. He also had nine #1 Country albums and a #1 Gospel album.

I believe Charley Pride is covered in Part V (Thursday night.) I suggest you watch.

Last edited by Kent Clark; 09-18-2019 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:04 AM
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WTF are you talking about? Charley Pride had his first #1 hit on the Billboard Country chart in 1969, his last in 1983, and 27 #1 songs between those two. He also had nine #1 Country albums and a #1 Gospel album.

I believe Charley Pride is covered in Part V (Thursday night.) I suggest you watch.
And I'd highly recommend the recent American Masters episode on Mr. Pride. It was rebroadcast last week here. It's great.

The current series is up there with the best of Burns' documentaries so far, IMHO.

I haven't learned too much, but it's been told really well. I didn't know that Mother Maybelle was also the brains behind the business of the Carter Family. I knew that Chet Atkins made Nashville the sound it became, I didn't know that the session musicians saw his takeover coming and that the Opry had actively tried hard to keep him out. I knew Jimmie Rodger's history, and was surprised that my wife hadn't heard it before. I missed tonight's episode due to band practice, but I'll watch it tomorrow night.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:05 AM
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It was good. The part about Patsy Cline and her life being cut short. Be sure you watch it.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:48 PM
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Best episode yet. It was good to see Roger Miller get some coverage, especially at the beginning of his career. I thought they'd wait until later to introduce him. It really blew my mind that he was in the search party for Patsy's crashed plane.

I also like the way Rosanne Cash talks about her dad. It's obvious she loved him but is under no delusions whatsoever about his bad side.

The stories of Willie Nelson's early days were great too. The one about him being too shy to go into Patsy Cline's house was really sweet. I'm glad it worked out, though: Patsy's recording of Crazy is one of the all-time great performances.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:04 PM
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I'm not overly critical of shows such as this, and am enjoying pretty much every minute. I would say though that time spent on the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Jimmy Rodgers, and others, as undeniably important as they are, could have been trimmed a bit for other performers that are very worthy of inclusion. Hank Snow, for instance. Multiple number one hits and a big star of the 1950s. I don't believe he was mentioned once, though I did see his face in one of the pictures. I know he performed in the 60s and onward, but I don't suspect we will be hearing about him in episodes 5, 6, and 7.

But it's all good. Favorite non-musical moment so far: find out that Johnny Cash was the first

SPOILER:

Elvis impersonator. Priceless!

Last edited by Fiddle Peghead; 09-19-2019 at 01:08 PM.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:08 PM
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I guess they're not going to cover the novelty site of the genre. Bob Skyles, for example.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:10 PM
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I've really enjoyed the first four episodes. I've only become a Country fan in the last decade or so, so this is filling in a lot of the gaps in my knowledge about the music's history. I knew about the Carters and the 1927 Bristol sessions, for example, but really nothing about Jimmy Rodgers, Dave Macon or Bob Wills for example. And I knew who Bill Munroe was but I didn't know about his feuds with his brother or with Flatt & Scruggs.

I enjoyed the Willie Nelson stories last night and how great is it to hear directly from Willie, Jean Shepard, Merle Haggard (RIP) and other witnesses/participants.

Speaking of Merle, how long has Burns been working on this? It's kind of eerie to see him and Jimmy Dickens speaking from beyond the grave. Dickens died almost 5 years ago!

Really looking forward to Charley Pride tonight, and the inevitable segment on Dolly Parton.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:19 PM
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Heard about this over the summer and ordered the CD collections, just received them today.

At the time, I did not realized that it would be shown on PBS.

I currently have the first four episodes on the PVR, haven't watched any of them yet.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:31 PM
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Burns spent 8 years working on this. Haggard died in 2016. I think the series starts up again Sunday night. I got a little bored with all the Johnny Cash coverage Wednesday. Tuesday night was excellent with its focus on Hank Williams. And I am enthralled by Marty Stuart’s hair.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:35 PM
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I saw Marty at the Opry last year and he is very charismatic. The hair and the scarf! But his fingers sure fly on that mandolin.
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:04 PM
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Loving it and I'm not really a "country" fan. I recall a lot of the most recent music they've covered from hearing it played by family and just being alive and listening in the early 60s.

Upthread I posted a link to a critical review that noted they thought Minnie Pearl got shortchanged coverage-wise. Having now seen the episode I have to disagree with the reviewer. I thought MP got a pretty good overview.

I too was surprised (and got a little choked up) to learn that Roger Miller went out in the woods and searched for Cline's downed plane. Apparently helped carry the bodies out if I'm interpreting what I saw correctly.

One group I'd never heard of and then was really impressed by was The Maddox Brothers And Rose. Clearly doing rock-a-billy before anyone was calling it that.
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Old 09-19-2019, 09:01 PM
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I miss Word Man in these threads, I hope he comes back someday.
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Old 09-19-2019, 09:07 PM
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I miss Word Man in these threads, I hope he comes back someday.
Oh yes, I miss him too.

Anyway, I'd love to see the documentaries right now, everything sounds very thrilling, but I'll have to wait till it comes to Germany. I hope Arte TV will license it, seems like the right kind of stuff for them.
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Old 09-19-2019, 09:58 PM
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It’s kind of cool how close Elvis and Johnny Cash were. And the impersonations were quite amusing, as was the moniker “The Shaky Kid”.
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Old 09-19-2019, 10:12 PM
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Brenda Lee may have been a child prodigy but her early filmed performances were creepy at heck.
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Old 09-19-2019, 10:31 PM
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Didn't help that she's tiny and looked young for her age. I mean she was almost old enough to marry Jerry Lee Lewis.

Last edited by dropzone; 09-19-2019 at 10:32 PM.
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Old 09-21-2019, 12:26 PM
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I purchased the two disc musical soundtrack to the show. They also have a five disc version.

The first CD contains music from the first four episodes, basically one popular song from every artist they highlight. Some of the songs would be on any country compilation (Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn) but others would require some effort to find (Deford Bailey, Bob Wills, Foggy Mountain Boys). It’s pretty good.

The second CD goes from Merle Haggard to Roseanne Cash. It is okay, maybe a little heavy on son-daughter tributes. (Are You Sure Hank Would Have Done It This Way, I Still Miss Someone). A decent disc, maybe would have been better if it included more modern songs too. I’ve seen the same criticism for the series which I think goes into the 1980s or so.

There are better country compilations out there, in the sense that they contain old songs I like more. But they are probably less historically important. It got me wondering what a music compilation of historically important songs would look like in other genres. I would like to see one for Quebecois music, for example.
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Old 09-22-2019, 12:49 PM
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{...}
I’m no expert on the topic and did not know about how seed and insurance companies created popular radio stations or about the huge influence of Carson, the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers.
{...}
I noticed banners for flour companies, and thought, "ohh yeah, that's the source of Prairie Home's "Powdermilk Biscuits" ads, and for O Brother's radio sponsor, Pappy O'Daniel.

And if anyone else is unacquainted with the real Pappy O'Daniel, this summary is worth your time. It spells out the path from Pappy to Reagan to Donnie T.

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Old 09-22-2019, 01:01 PM
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How broad is the scope of the documentaries? Does is touch country rock (Gram Parsons et al.) and later americana/alt-country? Are outsiders like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark or Steve Earle mentioned?
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:34 PM
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How broad is the scope of the documentaries? Does is touch country rock (Gram Parsons et al.) and later americana/alt-country? Are outsiders like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark or Steve Earle mentioned?
Chronological.

The Episode Guide
Beginnings - 1933
1933-1945
1945-1953
1953-1963
1964-1968
1968-1972
1973-1983
1985-1996
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:50 PM
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Chronological.

The Episode Guide
Beginnings - 1933
1933-1945
1945-1953
1953-1963
1964-1968
1968-1972
1973-1983
1985-1996

Thanks. Seems like the rather alternative branches of country don't play a big role. That's a pity, I'm sure many folks got to country via the rock->country rock->alt-country route and worked their way back to country's roots from there, at least that was my way of exploring it.
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:12 PM
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I hadn't heard about this show, ack! Now I need to find it. Hopefully it will be rebroadcast.
you can watch it on passport if you have a PBS membership. I'm going to.
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:23 PM
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I hadn't heard about this show, ack! Now I need to find it. Hopefully it will be rebroadcast.
Here's the schedule for KTWU.
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:46 PM
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I know Townes Van Zandt is mentioned since one of his songs is on the CD. Although I have only seen the first half of the series, my impression is (like the jazz series) that they concentrate on the first forty years in some detail, then cover the last forty years in one episode, going to around 1990. I will let you know if they mention Steve Earle, but probably not. I’ve heard they miss a lot of mainstream modern stars and more modern variations.
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:57 PM
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I don't think they get too much into Americana as a genre. That's a whole other documentary. Starting with Guthrie, going thru folk in the 60s and 70s all the way to present. I'd like to see that doc.

(I haven't seen the final episode yet)

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 09-22-2019 at 05:59 PM.
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Old 09-22-2019, 06:59 PM
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Hahahaha! I had never heard that story about Faron and Willie.

I'd imagine I'd kiss you pretty well if you had shown me how to make $14K in the 1950's too.
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Old 09-22-2019, 11:01 PM
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Damn, another great episode tonight. Merle made me cry a lot (and I always thought that was a stage name), Buck made me smile a lot and proud to be a musician, Loretta made me smile about being a human being.
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Old 09-22-2019, 11:54 PM
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Great episode.
Merle Haggard just floors me. IMO one of the best vocalist in his genre. His songs pull my heart strings.
For some reason at this time in my life he seems to be singing right to me. Love him.
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:11 AM
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My husband and I watched the last segment tonight, we are sorry it’s over. Very interesting and entertaining. One thing that surprised me was the short shrift that Glen Campbell got. From what I recall they showed a photo of him presenting an award to Loretta Lynn and mentioned his “pop” hits such as Gentle On My Mind and By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Gentle On My Mind is a beautiful country song, imo. (And both of these songs charted higher in country than in pop). I looked Glen up to see if maybe I had the wrong idea about his success in country, but nope. He won many country awards including CMA Entertainer of the year in 1968. Many hits on the country chart. I looked especially for the gorgeous “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” and they both hit #1 in country. Maybe because he was a SoCal guy rather than. Nashville (I don’t know where he recorded his albums), but I just thought it was strange.
But all that being said I thought it was excellent and I wish it went on for a few more episodes.
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:58 AM
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I'm enjoying it.

I did spot one whopper: the series mentions Milton Brown as someone whom Bob Wills played with in the Light Crust Doughboys before Wills invented western swing. Music historians consider Brown to be the father of western swing, not Wills. Brown died in a car accident at the age of 32, which may be why he isn't as well-known as Wills today. I prefer listening to Brown's recordings because he didn't rely on hokum the way Wills did.

I wish that Burns had let the audience listen to at least one uninterrupted song per episode. This is a documentary about a type of music, so it should feature the music. The Jazz documentary had a similar problem: only two recordings were heard uninterrupted in the whole series (West End Blues by Louis Armstrong and Body and Soul by Coleman Hawkins).

I'm grateful that, for once, Burns doesn't hammer the audience over the head about race. He talks about it in appropriate places (e.g. the origins of the music, De Ford Bailey, Charley Pride).

I am learning a lot about the history of the music and the performers. It does make me want to listen to some of those old recordings.
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Old 09-23-2019, 08:12 AM
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But all that being said I thought it was excellent and I wish it went on for a few more episodes.
There's still three more episodes left to air. We're only at 1968.
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Old 09-23-2019, 09:56 AM
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Wish there was more about Buck Owens. Sadly, the only song played almost in its entirety was Ode to Billy Joe, which I loathe.
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Old 09-23-2019, 10:43 AM
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Good episode last night. Loved the stories of Charley Pride and Merle Haggard; the "redemption" of Johnny Cash; Loretta Lynn taking little Connie Smith under wing and of course Marty Stuart's story of meeting Connie for the first time as a kid and then finally marrying her 25 years later (she's 18 years his senior). As a Nashvillian I appreciated learning more about the Bakersfield sound and Buck Owens. It left me wanting a lot more Dolly Parton but I assume there will be more coming, since they just covered her rise and not her reign.
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Old 09-23-2019, 11:09 AM
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I've generally enjoyed the series thus far, but why on earth is Wynton Marsalis a go-to interviewee on a documentary about country music? In fact, why is he spending any time on screen, apart from perhaps making a brief remark in episode one comparing jazz and country as musical forms?
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:01 PM
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I've generally enjoyed the series thus far, but why on earth is Wynton Marsalis a go-to interviewee on a documentary about country music?
That's Ken Burns. If Shelby Foote were still alive he might have used him.
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