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Anybody going to Watch Ken Burn's Country Music?

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Robert Crawford, Sep 15, 2019.

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  1. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I lived in Nashville for five years back in the 1970s. I wasn't a fan of country music back then and it's barely tolerable to me now.
     
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  2. atcolomb

    atcolomb Screenwriter

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    Big fan of documentaries and what Ken Burns has done. Will watch it on my local PBS station starting tonight.
     
  3. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    Can't imagine a music doc I'm less likely to watch. OK, history of rap, but otherwise . . .
     
  4. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    I love Ken Burns work, but have no interest in this subject matter.
     
  5. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    Growing up, my mother loved country music and would watch a series of C&W music shows on Saturday evenings, so naturally I detested the genre.

    I don't mind it so much these days and will probably give the Burns' series a try. I believe that just about every genre of art has practitioners who excel and advance the art, and country music is no exception. I loved the series Jazz, in spite of some oversights, and I hope this series takes a similar approach regarding the origins and evolution of the genre. (Haven't really read anything about the series or its overall arc, so going into this 'blind'.)

    BTW, thanks for the reminder.

    - Walter.
     
  6. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    So, I finished the first episode a little while ago and it lived up to my expectations of a Ken Burns' series. Excellent production values, a strong narration by Peter Coyote, and a fairly broad overview of the roots of country music. I don't have a great deal of knowledge of the origins, so I am in no position to assess its accuracy or the completeness of its treatment, but the one thing that really stood out for me was the segment dealing with Jimmy Rodgers. His charisma and presence as a performer came across and I can see why he was such a sensation in his time.

    Interesting to see the commercialization of the music, and how some things don't ever seem to change when it comes to money. The way of the world, I suppose.

    Not a genre of music I care for very much, but the historical aspects of the series and how the music fits into the culture of America will keep me watching.

    After watching this first episode I feel a strange desire to watch O Brother, Where Art Thou?. :)

    - Walter.
     
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  7. Steve Armbrust

    Steve Armbrust Second Unit

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    It's definitely a series I've been looking forward to. I've listened to and liked a lot of country music over the decades, and listened to and hated a lot of country music over the decades. But I don't have a good sense of the history and what some of those early performers meant to people. I watched the first episode and enjoyed it. And I was glad that there was mention of the black influence in country music. But the first episode mentioned but sort of tiptoed around the racism of life in the south (and all over, actually). Yes, white and black musicians borrowed from each other, but did the "borrowing" by white musicians cut into the success of the people they borrowed from? So far, the series is sort of giving the white country musicians a pass on racism, but should they? Perhaps there will be more about this in future episodes.
     
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  8. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    I was a bit surprised at how quickly the years of WWII were covered in the second episode. I realize that isn't the focus of the series, but still it was so momentous that I thought the music of those years would get more coverage.

    Following a very similar style of episode one, it covers the emergence of some of the major artists - particularly Gene Autry and Bob Wills, and the evolution of the Carter Family. (Guess even back then, that romance and heartache could undo musical groups. As I commented regarding episode one, one of the big takeaways from these types of historical documentaries is how seemingly there is nothing new under the sun.)

    The amalgamation of musical styles is an interesting phenomena and the most enjoyable musical style for me in episode two was the development of Western Swing by Bob Wills. The anecdote concerning the development of the song New San Antonio Rose was pretty interesting. As per the program Bing Crosby covered this song and garnered over one million sales of this record. Not too shabby!

    As we get closer to contemporary times more of the artists and music covered in the show has greater recognition for me. (Of course a lot of this has to do with the use of these songs in more recent works. Once again going back to the Coen Brothers and The Big Lebowski's use of Tumblin Tumbleweeds as performed by the Sons of the Pioneers.)

    Following up on Steve's prior post - race is touched upon in the series, but clearly is not the focus. I guess the question of whether or not the series should spend more time highlighting the contributions of African Americans to the roots of Country & Western music is its own discussion. I'd like to hear Ken Burns' thoughts on the topic and the editorial decisions made in creating the series.

    - Walter.
     
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  9. benbess

    benbess Producer

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  10. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Producer

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    Thanks for the link! My TV hasn't been connected to cable for a few years now and I was wondering how I might see this one - or at least sample an episode or two.

    I've enjoyed everything I've seen that Burns has produced/created (in all fairness I also only watch things that I find of interest so there's that). I'm not a huge country music fan (OK - minor at best with a small handful of 50s artists I'll listen to on occasion) but did grow up listening to Grand Ole Opry stuff due to my dad (a huge fan of early country and bluegrass). I do know about some of the early artists that've been mentioned already so it'll be interesting to see what Burns does with them. I'll likely bail once it hits the 60s, the decade country began turning into pop.
     
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  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I streamed the fourth episode because I'm a fan of Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. I thought it was great and will try to stream the other episodes too. Seeing Ralph Emery brought back memories of my college years in Nashville.
     
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  12. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    I've been watching the series in broadcast order to get a better sense of the continuity of the development of C&W music. I'll probably continue to watch them off the DVR. (I may jump ahead due to the gap between Wednesday and Sunday, but I have plenty of other stuff to watch.)

    The third episode continued to explore the development of new stars and focused on more individuals vs. the earlier episodes. (At least that is how if felt.) As the popularity of Country & Western music expanded (with it finally being classified as C&W in 1949) it would attract more talent. This episode felt less focused on trends in the music and concentrated on the performers, the business, and more importantly the relationships.

    I remember a lot of the Hank Williams' music because my parents listened to his music quite a bit. This episode definitely brought back some memories. The big takeaway from this episode for me was how prolific Hank Williams was as a song writer. I have always marveled at how quickly artists like Lennon & McCarthy could produce songs, but based on this third episode it sounds like Williams could comfortably fit into that canon of song writers.

    In each episode I have sort of unconsciously favored a particular song or artist and in this episode it would be a) The guitar work of Chet Atkins with the Carter Sisters and b) The entirety of the segments dealing with Hank Williams.

    - Walter.
     
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  13. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Producer

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    I started watching last night. My grandson (age 16) came in while I was watching and asked what it was. I told him. After a few minutes he asked "Where are you getting this? It's interesting." When I told him PBS he said "Free? Can you send me the link?" Sure! What a surprise as he's mostly into 60s-80s rock (with some new thrown in just for good measure).

    The first episode was quite good and I learned a few things. I was a bit surprised at how big "country" music was in the 20s. I'd always thought of commercial country starting in the late 40s/early 50s with the 20s-40s being mostly jazz and easy listening. I think that stems from hearing songs from Jimmy Rodgers performed by others and that many of those early hits are, just what the series says, songs that've been around for a very long time, often repurposed with new lyrics.

    PBS already has all the episodes up for streaming. That's nice!
     
  14. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Most likely not. My only interest in country music was a brief period in the 90's (Reba, Clay Walker, Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, John Berry, Ty Herndon). Other than that, I've never really been a fan.
     
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  15. The Obsolete Man

    The Obsolete Man Cinematographer

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    I bought the Blu.

    Started watching last night.

    My knowledge of Country pretty much started with the 1927 Bristol sessions, so the first 2/3rds of episode one was interesting background information I didn't know.

    Episode 2... getting into stuff I'm more familiar with... Bob Wills, Roy Acuff. I was wondering which versions of some Acuff songs were used because I remember them sounding different on Columbia's '90s releases, but they didn't quite sound like later era Hickory rerecordings. Plus I'm fairly confident a Ken Burns production wouldn't screw up that egregiously .

    And yes, this is the stuff that goes through my head while watching.

    Episode 3, what we all came here for. But it actually has the one thing I've not liked about the series so far. The old Kinescopes of Hank on TV were zoomed and cropped. Borders, man. OAR. And screw the people who think black bars steal your soul and every pixel has to be filled.

    Episode 4 tonight, both for my collection and on PBS IIRC. The post-Hank era and the rise of the Nashville Sound. Strings on country...
     
  16. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    Excellent fourth episode. Once again, like the third episode, it is the relationships between the artists that supplied some of the most interesting content, at least for this viewer. Really strange, seeing a young, relatively clean cut Willie Nelson. Compared to his latter image, those photos of him from the early days should have been on the back of a milk carton somewhere. :)

    Another episode that spotlights my own lack of knowledge on the subject in some rather obvious ways. I had no idea that Johnny Cash and Elvis ran in the same circles for a time. Really amusing seeing Cash mimic Elvis' swivel hips. I knew that Cash had come from a hard upbringing, but this episode brought that point home, and made the financial success that I associate with the Cash I watched on television in the '60s and '70s stand in marked contrast.

    Enjoyed all of the segments tonight but particularly the ones with Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. Patsy Cline - damn, what a magnificent voice.

    Speaking of magnificent voices; I was a bit disappointed the episode teased us with just a snippet of Roy Orbison that was overshadowed by narration. Hopefully Orbison will get a little more coverage in an upcoming episode.

    The episodes continue to excel and I can see myself picking this series up on Blu-Ray at some point.

    - Walter.
     
  17. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Walter,

    I guess you never saw the movie "Walk the Line" as it touches on Cash and Presley's relationship as well as Cash's impoverish childhood. Most black people don't like country music, but one artist that they always liked was Johnny Cash. When I was in college back in Nashville, I found that out by talking with many of my classmates over those years. Perhaps, it's' his man in black persona, but even young black rappers would pay tribute to Cash in some of their songs. As to Cline, what a voice and personality. She died much too young.
     
  18. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    Robert - Yeah I saw Walk the Line over a decade ago around the time it hit Blu-Ray, but obviously I don't remember much about the film; mostly a few of the scenes with Witherspoon & Phoenix. I don't remember Elvis from the film at all. :blush: As far as Cash's background goes I was familiar with it from other sources, maybe interviews with Cash himself (?) I should probably watch the film again. I would agree that Cash's general persona probably helped him reach across cultural lines.

    Patsy Cline definitely is a member of that group of artists who were taken far too soon.

    - Walter.
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    A really good movie. I'm going to watch the extended cut of it that I bought from iTunes earlier this year.

    By the way, I watched the first episode of "Country Music" this morning. I will watch episodes #2 & #3 before moving on to #5. What this documentary shows is how intertwine music is across the cultural lines.
     
  20. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Producer

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    I've not yet seen that episode. Do they discus Elvis being considered a country artist early in his career? IIRC the radio stations just didn't know quite how to classify his music. Both Cash and Elvis recorded for Sun Records in the early-mid 50s along with other up and coming country and rock acts.
     

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