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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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    Yep, they talk about it.
     
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  2. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    Following up on Robert's comment, these are some of the ways the episode briefly deals with the topic of where Elvis fits in the music spectrum...

    Elvis is invited to the Grand Ole Opry and the audience, and Opry management do not respond well to his act. As the episode notes it is his one and only appearance at the Opry. He is booked by one of the Opry's competitors Louisiana Hayride where he makes a number of appearances.

    The episode quotes Sam Phillips as saying with Elvis that he had smashed the color line in music.

    The episode deals with the early Elvis material and recordings as well.

    - Walter.
     
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  3. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Producer

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    I didn't know Elvis had played the Opry. That somewhat boggles my mind. I saw it live in 1969 and was a bit surprised some of the musicians had long(er) hair (a couple with over the ear and one almost shoulder length). Outside those few musicians and me (mine was shoulder length at the time) I didn't see anyone else there with hair past the top of the ear. I just can't see Elvis at that venue at all. More than anything being his show (gyrations, etc.). Other than the lead singer, who'd occasionally walk the stage while performing, all the musicians at that show I saw appeared to be glued in place with little movement outside what's needed to play.
     
  4. The Obsolete Man

    The Obsolete Man Cinematographer

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    As the documentary brought up, even Elvis's stage act wouldn't have been most offensive, but him doing what he did to Bill Monroe's Blue Moon of Kentucky (from their perspective) would've pissed people off more.
     
  5. Hollywoodaholic

    Hollywoodaholic Edge of Glory?

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    Good stories are good stories, and with a Ken Burns' documentary, regardless of the topic, you know you're going to get good characters and well-told stories. My interest in country music doesn't begin until retro-actively (in the 90s) discovering "The Nashville Sound," or the more pop-oriented country music. Patsy Cline was my start there. And k.d. lang worked with that same producer Owen Bradley in the 80s. Two unforgettable voices. Roy Orbison. We don't get much on him here except a few snippets of "Crying." I don't know how you can include Elvis Presley in a country documentary, and yet ignore Roy. Either they were both just rock or evolved from country to rock, but it's the same arc.

    Linda Ronstadt was also my entrance to country in the 70s, and where I first heard "Crazy." Granted, Cline's version is the best, but Ronstadt began almost pure country western, as well, and again, an unmatched voice. I hope they don't give short shift to the country women (and voices) that followed for me: The Judds, Reba, Rosanne Cash (she's in the doc, so assumed), k.d., Trisha Yearwood (Linda's country heir, and a great new album, btw), Martina, Mary Chapin Carpenter. Past the 90s country gets very uninteresting for me. And today, gag me, it's all interchangeable 'bro' country. Look at the country charts and see if you can even spot a woman on it. It's all Lukes and Rhetts and who can tell any of these dudes singing about their trucks, fishing, hunting, apart? I don't get it. No wonder all the women end up going pop to get some radio airplay (we hear you Taylor).

    There's a new album by The Highwomen which features four great women acts getting together to make some noise (like the Highwaymen). Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby. Check it out.

    In the meantime, I'll continue to tune into this doc waiting for the acts I really started to follow post-60s. And I hope we're done with the big funerals. Sheesh. But speaking of stories; what's the one behind why the coroner also found Williams had been severely beaten recently just before he died of "insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart"? And shouldn't that be a title of another country song?
     
  6. Message #26 of 92 Sep 21, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2019
    BobO'Link

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    Just finished the second episode. Again, I learned a few things. I'd have liked to have seen more about country music during WWII. From all the movies and documentaries I've seen I never considered country music a force in those years. All those products use swing/jazz/easy listening music of the era.

    One thing that annoyed me, and it's really a small thing, is the announcer being unable to keep his pronunciation of "Grand Ole Opry" consistently correct. As often as not he said "Grand Old Opry" rather than "Grand Ole Opry." I even backed up the stream a couple of times when I heard "Old" to make sure I didn't just hear it incorrectly.

    Part of me wants to take him to task over the pronunciation of Dyess as most folks in this part of the world (NE AR) pronounce it "Dice" but I've never been to Dyess to find out just how locals pronounce it and I have heard it as he pronounced it (just not often) so...

    I'm really enjoying this series.
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  8. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Producer

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    Had to look him up to see who he is. Still unfamiliar overall. He *does* have a good voice and is one of the better narrators I've heard in my life. Considering what all he's done I find the inconsistency in his pronunciation of "ole" rather inexcusable but fault Burns more as he's the producer/director and should have insisted it be done right. I'll forgive Dyess as it's pronounced rather inconsistently around her anyway and it could be Cash actually pronounces it that way so that's where they got it. I've heard it 3 different ways in my life: dice, die-yes, and die-ess.
     
  9. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I guess it's just not a big deal for me.
     
  10. Message #30 of 92 Sep 21, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
    BobO'Link

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    It's no big deal - just a minor annoyance and really didn't detract from the episode too much and absolutely did not affect my enjoyment of the episode.

    When in college working for the college radio station I once got a phone call at 12:30am from someone to correct my prononciation of a word. That caused me to realized it makes a lot of difference to some people and your credibility can be on the line so I became very attuned to making sure I got pronunciations correct. It had the side effect of making me extremely critical of professional announcer's delivery.
     
  11. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Howie: You and I have such similar stories! And I'm with you about being closely tuned-in to VO guys and gals, narrators and off-camera announcers.

    I was hosting a live call-in radio program in my first professional broadcasting gig (as news director at a small-market radio station). It might've been my very first day of handling the call-in show when a retired school teacher called-in on-air to take me to task for the way I announced numbers. She told me (in the way only an old seasoned teacher could) that I was wrong when I would,for example, say this year "2019" as "two-housand-and-nineteen." She calmly and slowly explained that I should only use the word "and" with numbers when talking about money. As an example, "$20.19" is said as "twenty-dollars-and-nineteen-cents."

    This is something that happened to me 35 years ago and I have never forgotten it.
     
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  12. Message #32 of 92 Sep 23, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
    Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    Episode 5 focuses on the years 1964 - 1968. A lot of the artists who were popular around this time were individuals I experienced growing up, so there was a little bit more recognition, for me, in this episode.

    One thing the series has expressed (and obviously this was true of large swath of the adult population in America, not just C&W artists) was the fact that many were born and raised during the Great Depression. Was there a more universal drive for success as a result of that circumstance? Hard for me to say, as plenty of folks outside that era have experienced their own sets of problems. Something that just kind of got into my mind during the segment on Buck Owens.

    The development of the Bakersfield sound was interesting. Seeing Buck Owens tailor his sound for AM Radio (which was pervasive at the time) gave me a little bit more understanding of his style which stood in contrast to the Nashville Sound. Dwight Yoakam certainly is a fan. Never thought about Owens using vocals to intro the song and set the rhythm for the piece. A nice detail from his segment.

    My memories of Minnie Pearl as an entertainer are fairly intact. Even at the time, there was a certain awareness that it was an act, but I had no idea how deep a contrast there was between the fiction and reality at the time. I guess that is another one of those fundamentals of entertainment that has never changed. Sometimes what you see is what you get with artists and entertainers and at other times the two aspects of the individual are in deep contrast. I'm not saying that she wasn't a nice person in her personal life, but simply as the series depicts she came from a background and lived a life that was not something you would associate with her stage persona.

    Never really cared for Porter Wagoner. Maybe I was picking up on some of his attitude towards Dolly Parton? Maybe I just didn't care for his music, or perhaps it was the over-exposure as my mother watched his show religiously. (??)

    The series continues to excel, with strong segments on Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, and Charley Pride. The Charley Pride segment in particular was illuminating on the cultural changes sweeping through America. Particularly enjoyed his telling the story about the song with the lyric 'golden hair' and his bemused reaction.

    If there was a more attractive female singer than Bobbie Gentry in this period, well I certainly don't know who it would be. (Personally speaking of course. :) )

    - Walter.
     
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  13. Message #33 of 92 Sep 23, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
    BobO'Link

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    I had pretty much the same thoughts watching episode 2 which discussed her early years and beginnings at the Opry. I always knew it was an act but never knew about her education and "high falutin'" home life growing up.
    I saw his show some in the late 60s - never did like it or him. I don't remember if dad did or not as he rarely watched TV. I think it was one of those shows we'd watch a few minutes of while waiting for something "better" to come on. To me he came off as a kind of "stuffed shirt." I have very vague recollections of Parton on the show.

    I thought I'd get in another episode yesterday but it wasn't to be. It's encouraging to hear that episode 5 still has the show in the pre-70s stage. In the early 70s I'd gotten my first job in radio and worked the Sunday afternoon shift on the local AM daytimer. Unlike the shifts I worked during the week after school, playing Top 40 pop, that one was 100% Top 40 country. While I didn't really care for most of what I played I heard a *lot* of then current country.
     
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  14. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    What an odd hill to die on.
     
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I haven't watched that episode yet about Minnie Pearl, but I went to college in Nashville during the 1970s so I knew about her going to Belmont college there in Nashville. It was well known in Nashville that her act was just that, an act, as I remember seeing some local TV spots about her and that mansion she lived in.
     
  16. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    But once her words took hold of me, I find myself--to this day--dying there on a regular basis.
     
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  17. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Producer

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    I watched episode 3 last night. Another enjoyable and informative episode however it felt somewhat disjointed the way it bounced around. Every time I'd think they were done with Hank Williams they'd come back a minute later for another long piece on another part of his life. By the end I was wishing they'd made his segments a single piece. Same with Bill Monroe and The Carters. I never got a sense of them trying to weave it all together in a time line although I think that's what they were doing. I wanted to hear more about Woody Guthrie and I've never been a fan of Little Jimmy Dickens so could have done with less of him. Still, it was interesting to learn one of Hank's best songs was originally written for Dickens. Coyote said "Ole" properly every time this episode so that was a plus. ;)

    I'm a bit excited about episode 4 to hopefully learn a bit more about Sun Records (I grew up not far from Memphis and my dad was a radio engineer/announcer - he has a few vintage 45s from Elvis and Cash on Sun) and Patsy Cline is one of my all-time favorite country singers.
     
  18. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    I was pretty tired last night when I viewed episode six, so maybe that was a factor; but it felt a little less cohesive. Perhaps because it was such a tumultuous time in the US at that time (1968-1972), the events themselves did not lend themselves as much to the concept of 'trends' which was at least partly the focus of earlier episodes of this series.

    Bob commented in the previous post about the series bouncing around, and I feel like it does that in pretty much every episode. I did get a sense of chronology from the presentation however.

    I was not aware of how much Nashville factored into music outside 'traditional' Country & Western. One of the main threads of episode six dealt with artists such as The Byrds, Bob Dylan, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band working in Nashville to avail themselves of the talented session musicians, amongst other reasons.

    I have vague memories of the Johnny Cash show, but I didn't recall just how much variety, in terms of styles, was present. While I don't have specific memories, the inclusion of Gospel music does seem to ring a bell. I do recall Cash's costuming, specifically the adornment around his neck, which to me felt like something from a century ago.

    Other artists discussed include Kris Kristofferson (very interesting background), Janis Joplin, and Shel Silverstein. Interesting anecdote about 'Me and Bobby McGee'.

    I probably should revisit this episode as I was pretty sleepy while viewing it, and I think I may have dozed for a few minutes. It's hell getting old. :)

    - Walter.
     
  19. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Thanks for starting this thread and calling out this show - I didn’t realize it even existed. I don’t know much about country music other than the broad strokes and a few random things I’ve happened upon over the years, and I enjoy Ken Burns and his documentary style. Not sure when I’ll have the time but this is now on my list.
     
  20. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    If you are going to watch this On Demand, the clock is ticking. I believe the on demand window expires on October 6th. Of course, it is available on Blu-Ray if that is your preferred viewing option down the road.

    - Walter.
     
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