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Editor's Note:

Discuss Country Music here!

 

 

An eight part documentary produced by Ken Burns, it will be airing this fall on PBS. There's no official air date (s) listed yet beyond that, but once there is I'll certainly post it here.

He's worked on this for the last six or so years, so I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing how this turns out, especially in terms of how (or frankly, if) they will discuss the infamous "bro country" movement, the lack of women on the radio this past decade, and the more "underground" scene that has developed as a counterpoint to the mainstream.

And, as always, for those of you who are fans, please join me in the Country Music, Y'all! thread over in the Music forum. I can always use more friends over there!

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We have some air dates, y'all! Well, close to it, at least.

This will be on PBS across eight different nights, spanning between this September 15-25th.

Unfortunately (well, for me, at least), according to this article in Variety, in order to keep from running long, it will cut off its time span during the mid-1990's/Garth Brooks' superstardom, which leaves a LOT from the two decades following it out. That's disappointing to me, to say the least, but it IS sixteen and a half hours long, so there will be plenty else to see.

https://variety.com/2019/music/news/ken-burns-country-music-pbs-premiere-september-1203126693/

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Check your local PBS listings for tonight, September 8th.  There's a concert at the Ryman featuring music from the series, and a half-hour preview show getting us ready. 

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On 2/3/2019 at 6:53 PM, UYI said:

Unfortunately (well, for me, at least), according to this article in Variety, in order to keep from running long, it will cut off its time span during the mid-1990's/Garth Brooks' superstardom, which leaves a LOT from the two decades following it out.

That's a bummer, because, like you said in an earlier post, the ways in which country music has devolved (bro country, anyone?) and the startling extent to which women have been excluded from country radio since then are worthy topics of exploration.  I'm also bummed Lynn Novick isn't involved with this (although I'm looking forward to seeing the reason for that, her solo directing debut College Behind Bars), but I'm looking forward to it.

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Ralph Peer, the man who first recorded Fiddling John Carson, looked so much like Donald Trump I started laughing when the picture came up.

Burns' style is apt for country music, a genre rooted in oral histories, as demonstrated beautifully tonight by Dolly herself.

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I loved this special as it combined two of my favorite things, American History and music history. I was shocked a bit at my reaction to blackface pictures. It felt like being punched in the face to see those. I knew it happened but it was just cringey to me but necessary. Loved learning the history of radio and how the culture of music shaped the genre.

Cannot wait for more.

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I loved this!  So much to take in.  Oddly enough, the thing that surprised me the most was WLS in Chicago, where I used to listen to White Sox games on my 1970 Dodge Dart's fabulous AM radio at night, was started by Sears and stood for "World's Largest Store".  It's amazing you could just start a radio station at the time for whatever reasons you wanted to.  And thank goodness!

Also loved learning about the origins of the name "Grand Ol' Opry".  I really learned so much.  Can't wait for tomorrow.  

Oh, and one more thing - I love Rhiannon Giddens!!! 

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I really enjoyed this. I am from the South, but have never been much of a country music fan. The older music though reminds me of my grandparents, and I hope my Mamaw is watching this and enjoying it.

Is Burns' Jazz series similar to this in style? I have been meaning to watch that as well.

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Not a country music fan really, but I always like Burns' stuff. The most memorable moments of episode 1 for me were Dolly's off-hand singing of that old song that ended with 'at his feet she did fall' (gave me goosebumps) and the guy demonstrating 1) Maybelle Carter's guitar technique and 2) the 'claw hand' banjo style. I also have a new appreciation for Jimmie Rogers, who I knew little about.

13 hours ago, stonehaven said:

I was shocked a bit at my reaction to blackface pictures. It felt like being punched in the face to see those.

And I was actually shocked at all the photos  that indicated how much interracial social mingling there seemed to be in the poor/working class.

Also, Marty Stuart is a handsome man and doesn't need as much make up as he was wearing.

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I really enjoyed this first part showing how these often very counterproductively opposing ethnicities, regions, etc. somehow, somehow were able to temporarily put their differences aside and even celebrate them through their shared passion for music and storytelling!  I knew the banjo came to the North American British colonies via African slaves but I never knew that it was SUCH an ancient instrument that its prototype showed up on Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings but what a cool way to prove that! Also, I really liked seeing Miss Parton's intense passion for the music's origins via recalling her own mother's singing them to her. She hadn't just done her homework, she'd LIVED it! Oh, and it was great seeing how the evolving technologies from sheet music to phonographs to radio then sound movies each magnified,refined and helped cross pollinate the genre. Enjoyed hearing the individual stories of Uncle Dave Macon, the Original Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and DeFord Bailey.  Lastly, it was so ironic how the elites of Nashville initially resisted tooth and nail to be associated with this 'hillbilly music' especially considering how much they've embraced it (somewhat like Anglo Saxons doing their best to avoid having their properties listed in William the Conqueror's Domesday Book but their contemporary descendants being PROUD of the listings).  Yes, Mr. Burns definitely hit another home run at least at this first inning! 

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I've had "I'll Fly Away" stuck in my head ever since that delightful woman (sorry, I've forgotten your name!) sang it and said something like Try to feel sad after singing that! She's right. I knew next to nothing about Jimmie Rodgers -- look at all he accomplished in six years, all while basically dying the whole time. Looking forward to Bob Wills and Western swing tonight.

Dolly, I love you, but your eyebrows are in the wrong place.

Thanks -- again, and again -- to Ken Burns and his crew for making history hypnotic. I know he's got upcoming documentaries on Hemingway and Stand-up Comedy, but I SO wish he would do one on the American Musical.

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My primary concern coming into this was that it might idealize country music as "America's music/something for everyone/made by and for those left out," giving lip service to how it was "influenced by" black music without addressing the degree to which it was and is exclusionary, sometimes outright hostile, to blacks, other people of color, women, non-Christians, and the LGBT community (this is true of many genres, but has been a particular problem in country).  The first episode made me feel both better and worse about that fear.

I knew I wouldn't be home for the original (8:00) airing, but my station was immediately repeating it at 10:00 and midnight, so I figured I'd get in bed early for the night and watch.  Oops; I neglected to factor in the soporific effect of Peter Coyote's soothing voice.  So I dozed off some, but between the two airings I saw it all. 

There wasn't a lot in the way of individual bits of information I hadn't learned at some point before, but weaving it together into a narrative was something I hadn't read/heard in quite some time, so it was an excellent refresher course on the origins.

We have quite a few years to go before we get to the kinds of country I enjoy listening to (in broadest terms, '60s through '00s), but that doesn't in any way diminish my enjoyment of the episodes covering the earlier periods.

Edited by Bastet
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It seems that country music is just like every other form of American music.  Every five minutes Peter Coyote says 'Billy Bob Whathisface heard a Black gospel/blues/jazz tune, changed the lyrics a little and went on to make a million dollars'. 

I've always thought that country music was 'Blacker' than most country music performers or fans would admit but I didn't realize how much.   'Will the Circle Be Unbroken' is credited to the Carter family but it always sounded African-American gospel to me.  Know I now that it actually WAS an African-American gospel song.  And I'm surprised by just how many versions 'This Land is Your Land' went through before Woody Guthrie got hold of it.

There are so many unknown gems in a Burns documentary.  Who knew the Texas Playboys were so cool?  And how brave was Sarah Carter to send a message to her long-lost lover over the airwaves.  That love story would make a great movie.

I've always been a huge Ken Burns fan and one of the reasons is that he always address the issue of race, America's original sin.  I liked the fact that Burns showed that even in the deepest, darkest South, not everybody was dyed in the wool racist.  It was good to hear the story of the White band that traveled with the African-American harp player and refused to eat where he wasn't welcome.  That wasn't just decent; it was brave as hell.  I can't imagine how heartbroken that man was when he wasn't just kicked out of the Grand Old Opry after being a founding member but they managed to add insult to injury by saying he was LAZY.  I'm glad that he didn't just fade away but became a successful businessman instead.  Watching the footage of his return to the Opry in the 60s, I couldn't help but wonder what was going on in his mind.  Was he cursing every person in that auditorium or was he proud that he'd survived after they had thrown him away like trash?

As always, with Ken Burns it's the stories.  I like some country music but I'm not a fan by any stretch of the imagination.  I didn't think I'd be able to sit and listen to all that twanging and the YODELING!  But it's the stories that have me hooked.

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Agreed, mightysparrow, the Carter family's relationships would make a good movie. Let's see: cousins marry brothers; then one falls in love with her husband's cousin who's been brought in to look after the farm while said husband is on the road looking for songs, only to have the family put the kibosh on the (presumably unconsummated) affair; boyfriend's family drags him off to California where his mother intercepts all of his inamorata's letters (no wonder Sarah never seems to smile in any photo); after finally divorcing her distant husband, she dedicates a song to her love on the radio and he is in her arms in five days. I may have clapped at the end of that story.

And poor Bob Wills -- five divorces and a drinking problem. But I do love his twin-fiddle sound. Ah-hah!...

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Lord have mercy.  Hank Williams breaks my heart.  And I love Vince Gill.

Today (9.17) would have been Hank’s 96th birthday. Well done, Ken Burns.

Edited by ninjago
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Seeing the beginnings of bluegrass just made me smile and brought me back to 1996 when I first fell in love with the genre..and hearing names I had heard for years but never saw their faces, Farron Young, Kitty Wells and Ernest Tubb and Lefty Frizzell, wow....and yes, the stories are what keep this going...and yet, the feeling of hearing the origins and knowing that for a lot of us, that art still matters to us today. The Carter family trying to reach out to Hank Williams and not really getting through made me see why they pulled out all the stops when it came to getting Johnny Cash sober.

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I think this was my favorite episode of the three they've shown so far. I seem to always forget just how young Hank Williams was when he died. It's honestly heartbreaking. I have to agree with Kris Kristofferson, imagine how much more brilliant music he would have put out had he lived a few more decades.

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13 minutes ago, Izzy85 said:

I think this was my favorite episode of the three they've shown so far. I seem to always forget just how young Hank Williams was when he died. It's honestly heartbreaking. I have to agree with Kris Kristofferson, imagine how much more brilliant music he would have put out had he lived a few more decades.

Even though I knew that Williams had died young, it was still such a shock when the narrator said he was only 29.  He packed a lot of life into those years.

This episode reminded me of just how awful the recent film about Hank Williams was and how woefully miscast Tom Hiddleston was.  I don't know what misguided fool thought that Hiddleston was THE GUY to play Hank Williams but they were dead wrong. 

To hear some fans of bluegrass talk, the music is as old as the hills of Kentucky (there are hills in Kentucky, right?) but it turns out that it was created in the late 40s - 50s.   And the name was created because everybody was afraid of Bill Monroe.

There were so many great performers in this episode.  I've never heard of most of them but I really enjoyed them. I loved the Maddox Brothers and Rose.  They were amazing.   So many talented people packed into one episode.

But once again it's the stories and the people telling them.  I know Marty Stuart is a country musician but I'm not familiar with him.  But the man knows his country music and his love for it just shines through.  And hearing 'Man of Constant Sorrow' sung a capella was beautiful. 

I didn't think I'd like this as much as I do.  I'm looking forward to more.

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I've always thought Marty Stuart was...damn!  And loved his duet with Travis Tritt ("The Whiskey Ain't Workin'").  I'd read somewhere that he was something of a country music historian.  But I'd never heard him *talk about it.

Color me fascinated.  Not just the stories he tells, but how he tells them.  I'm adding him to my list of dream dinner guests.

And -- Christ!! the last ten minutes of tonight's show, I couldn't look away.  And even though I knew it was coming: the  sight of the funeral, & Hank plaintively wailing "Your Cheatin' Heart" over those photos, made me weep.

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I knew Hank's name, but as a non-country fan,  I was surprised at how many of his songs I recognized. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't realize he wrote one of my favorites (I'm So Lonesome I Could Die). 

I had to laugh when the narrator said in a shocked voice that Hank married a ! 19 year old ! shortly after his second divorce. Although he certainly looked middle aged at that point, he was only 9 years older than his new bride.

Looking forward to seeing some of the great female stars soon.

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I'm so very grateful my mother shared her vast knowledge of country music with me.  She'd be happy to know I absorbed most of it. I know all these people, I know all these stories.  She could give Marty Stuart a run for his money (Marty - the keeper of all country music artifacts and knowledge)! 

I'm a little disappointed the Carter Family didn't get the same treatment Hank Williams got in Tuesday night's episode. They certainly deserve it.  And as my mother would often tell me - Elvis Presley was always sweet on Anita Carter. :-)  

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16 minutes ago, seaELare said:

I'm a little disappointed the Carter Family didn't get the same treatment Hank Williams got in Tuesday night's episode. They certainly deserve it.  And as my mother would often tell me - Elvis Presley was always sweet on Anita Carter. 🙂

My guess is the next episode will have plenty of Carter/Cash focus. Or at least it should.

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1 hour ago, sempervivum said:

I had to laugh when the narrator said in a shocked voice that Hank married a ! 19 year old ! shortly after his second divorce. Although he certainly looked middle aged at that point, he was only 9 years older than his new bride.

I laughed when the narrator Peter Coyote sounded so shocked, although, it was true that Hank Williams didn't look anywhere near 28.

I thought the Carter Family got a lot of mentions so I'm actually looking for less focus on them and more focus on Cash. 

And I have to say, I wish Marty Stuart would get a haircut, lol.  The way it's styled just looks weird. 

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14 hours ago, stonehaven said:

Seeing the beginnings of bluegrass just made me smile and brought me back to 1996 when I first fell in love with the genre..and hearing names I had heard for years but never saw their faces, Farron Young, Kitty Wells and Ernest Tubb and Lefty Frizzell, wow....and yes, the stories are what keep this going...and yet, the feeling of hearing the origins and knowing that for a lot of us, that art still matters to us today. The Carter family trying to reach out to Hank Williams and not really getting through made me see why they pulled out all the stops when it came to getting Johnny Cash sober.

I recently watched a documentary on MPT about bluegrass, and was shocked to discover it was a more recent genre than country music.  I'd always assumed bluegrass came first, and then evolved into other forms of country.  When I was growing up, my best friend's mother & stepfather used to go to bluegrass festivals in the summer, and my friend and I made fun of it as "that twangy shit" - yeah, teenagers can be stupid.  Color me very surprised to find out that it wasn't particularly twangy at all, and that I actually liked a lot of the music they included.  (I imagine Bill Monroe would've been insulted to be considered 'twangy'.)

28 minutes ago, seaELare said:

I'm a little disappointed the Carter Family didn't get the same treatment Hank Williams got in Tuesday night's episode.

I think they're more of a continuous thread throughout the story of country music because their careers lasted so long.  They were featured more prominently in the first two episodes than in the third, but I imagine once we get to Johnny Cash, we'll see more of the later incarnation of the family.

My mother's family were/still are big country fans, and so I've heard of a lot of these performers, but have not actually heard many of the earliest ones.  So this has been really fascinating for me.  Now I can put a voice to the names, such as Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills.  And I know who to blame for the yodeling - not my fave.

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I knew the bare bones of Hank Williams' story but did not know he started drinking at age 11 or died on the backseat floorboards of a car on a West Virginia backroad headed to Canton, Ohio (clearly the driver was taking the long-way-'round route from Tennessee). Good lord... And he wrote Hey, Good Lookin' for Little Jimmie Dickens and then recorded it first himself; that's some near-Bill-Monroe meanness right there.

While I love many of Hank Williams' songs, I have to say I like them even better performed by others. If you can get through the Cowboy Junkies' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry without actually crying you're a stronger person than I.

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2 hours ago, Ohwell said:

And I have to say, I wish Marty Stuart would get a haircut, lol.  The way it's styled just looks weird. 

Bless him. He's had that mullet since mullets were a thing and he still had black hair.  He's also been wearing that cravat and spray tan for far too long as well.  What's wrong with his neck?  Does he have a waddle?  I kid. I love him but sometimes he does come off a wee bit pretentious.     

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1 hour ago, AllAboutMBTV said:

(clearly the driver was taking the long-way-'round route from Tennessee

Depending on what roads existed between the two in 1953, probably not.

Edited to note: looking at a modern map, Montgomery to Knoxville to Bristol TN/VA to Canton seems a pretty good route using main roads, so in the early 50s, it might've been the only one decent to use in the winter.

Edited by proserpina65
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I think this will turn out to be my favourite episode.  So many greats.  I've always loved rockabilly because of the mixture of r&b and country. There aren't too many things prettier than the harmonies of the Everly Brothers.  And Brenda Lee who has one of the best voices in country and in rock and roll.  Johnny Cash.  I've always felt so sorry for his first wife.  She always gets pushed aside in his story, even though he wrote 'Walk the Line' for her.  Apparently June Carter did her best to erase Johnny's first wife from his story as much as she could.

I knew it was Patsy Cline singing before they even showed her picture.  Patsy was one of greatest singers ever.  Jessica Lange played her in 'Sweet Dreams' but Beverly D'Angelo gave a much better performance in 'Coal Miner's Daughter'.  I think the world needs another Patsy Cline film.

Once again, so many stories.  The songwriting couple who wrote NINE HUNDRED SONGS!  And loved each other so much.  I knew Patsy Cline had died in a plane crash but I didn't know who else had died with her.  What a tragic story.

Tomorrow is Charlie Pride's story and I'm mad because I know how much hell those people put him through.  I know I'm going to be even more pissed off because Ken Burns has made a point of pointing out just how much country music owes to Black musicians and writers who NEVER got any credit.  Still don't.

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Thank goodness the PBS Website is making the next four episodes members-only, otherwise I'd be up for the next eight hours. I am totally riveted by this series!

I'm also far from what you'd call a country fan, but almost everything that's been played makes me want to hunt down all the music. And buy vinyl singles even without a record player (hee). Ugh, I may have to open a spotify account.

Hearing some of the "classic" songs in context makes me appreciate them all the more, even over my computer's speakers.

There's also another documentary series --American Epic, I think --that's being aired on PBS this week. That should help tide me over until episode 5 runs!

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I laughed out loud a few times tonight, mostly at Mel Tillis' recollection of his joshing friendship with Roger Miller (I'm pretty sure "King of the Road" was the first country song I liked), and Faron Young's reax to Willie Nelson's thank-you kiss.

Here's some cocktail party trivia: Charles Schulz featured a cat -- very briefly! -- in Peanuts (IIRC, it belonged to either Violet or *Frieda).  He named it "Faron", after Young, who was one of his favorite singers.

Edited by voiceover · Reason: *I remembered her name!!!
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9 hours ago, Kaiju Ballet said:

Thank goodness the PBS Website is making the next four episodes members-only, otherwise I'd be up for the next eight hours. I am totally riveted by this series!

Wait.  So that's it, non members just get the first four episodes?

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I've watched each episode and not usually a country fan or a fan of Willie Nelson, but I was shocked that he wrote so many songs for the artist.  He was and is very talented.  What Patsy Cline did for his song "Crazy" is unbelievable.  She was so good.  Brenda Lee surprised me as well.. she has some serious talent.

Just now, MissT said:

I've watched each episode and not usually a country fan or a fan of Willie Nelson, but I was shocked that he wrote so many songs for the artists.  He was and is very talented.  What Patsy Cline did for his song "Crazy" is unbelievable.  She was so good.  Brenda Lee surprised me as well.. she has some serious talent.

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20 hours ago, seaELare said:

Bless him. He's had that mullet since mullets were a thing and he still had black hair.  He's also been wearing that cravat and spray tan for far too long as well.  What's wrong with his neck?  Does he have a waddle?  I kid. I love him but sometimes he does come off a wee bit pretentious.     

I told my husband he looks like country music's sassy grandma! LOL

We're really enjoying this series. I know most of the stories, so none of this is a surprise to me, but we've sat captivated for an hour and 45 minutes each night! Husband can't wait for Sunday, since he's Merle Haggard's biggest fan.

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54 minutes ago, LGraves65 said:

I told my husband he looks like country music's sassy grandma! LOL

Well, I'm never going to be unable to see that.   Marty is an excellent storyteller... just like my grandma.

I'm not a country music person I know a little bit more about Texas country than the rest but in general I'm uninformed.  But I have been riveted.  It is amazing to me how many songs we've heard have been big enough that I know every word of them without having any idea how I know them especially in the Hank Williams section.    

I'm an episode behind and will likely stay that way until the weekend, but I have really, really enjoyed this.

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1 hour ago, Ohwell said:

Wait.  So that's it, non members just get the first four episodes?

I would guess until they are broadcast 

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1 hour ago, Ohwell said:

Wait.  So that's it, non members just get the first four episodes?

I'm hoping that they'll unlock the rest once episode five airs Sunday night.

ETA: Or what @Raja said.

Edited by Kaiju Ballet · Reason: jinx!
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15 hours ago, mightysparrow said:

Johnny Cash.  I've always felt so sorry for his first wife.  She always gets pushed aside in his story, even though he wrote 'Walk the Line' for her.  Apparently June Carter did her best to erase Johnny's first wife from his story as much as she could.

I was very surprised to hear he'd written Walk the Line for his first wife.  I remember clearly in the movie, Reese Witherspoon as June cussing out Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) for being a messy drunk and saying to him, "You can't walk the line.", and that was the inspiration for him to write the song.  I realize it wasn't a documentary, but that's a pretty significant, brazen revision of history!

Johnny Cash's voice never appealed to me.  I think maybe it was too deep for my taste.  

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16 hours ago, mightysparrow said:

Once again, so many stories.  The songwriting couple who wrote NINE HUNDRED SONGS!  And loved each other so much.  I knew Patsy Cline had died in a plane crash but I didn't know who else had died with her.  What a tragic story.

I was telling my mother about the show before seeing this episode.  She asked me if they'd mentioned Hawkshaw Hawkins because when my father was in the army, one of the guys in his unit loved Hawkins' music and always played it anytime they were near a jukebox.  So much so that he got called Hawkshaw by the rest of the unit.  I got home late (fortunately was taping the episode) and turned on the tv in time to see the part about Hawkins' new song and his pregnant wife.  My first thought was "wow, Mom and I were just talking about him", followed immediately by "this isn't going end well".  And of course, it didn't.  How terribly sad for everyone involved.  And poor Roger Miller finding the wreckage - I can't imagine how awful that must've been for him.

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1 hour ago, Raja said:

Can you get PBS shows at a competitive price or being fund raising give aways the price seems inflated 

Try your local library.  Mine has an extremely extensive collection of films, tv and music as well as books.

The second part of the 8 episodes starts this upcoming Sunday night on PBS, free for all to watch.

Passport viewers (donors and not for much) can start watching now and not wait for Sunday.

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I've heard Patsy's "Sweet Dreams" more times than I can count, but I don't think it ever seemed as moving as it did played over the final credits of last night's episode. (Add me to the list of people who didn't know Roger Miller found the plane. Yeesh...)

My one complaint about the episode was the Louvin Brothers got about a minute of time (I certainly understand the series producers have thousands of acts to possibly cover). I didn't discover them until about 15 years ago when the (highly recommended, at least by me) tribute album Livin Lovin' Losin' came out. Their harmonies are so gorgeous and so, well, mysterious; I can rarely tell which is singing the melody and which the harmony (maybe they alternated while singing).

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I am a foul-weather fan when it comes to country music (have to be in the right, usually blue, mood to enjoy it - bring on the pain songs!) and I am still loving this series. Very interesting and entertaining, too. I’m on vacation tomorrow and intend to spend a whole lotta time binging the last four eps via Passport.

The companion concert was really well done, both in planning and in the performances. Amid all that impressive talent, Vince Gill was the MVP for me. His performance of I Will Always Love You made me cry. 

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