Watch Ken Burns’ Country Music

Now playing on PBS – Don’t miss it.

A few glaring omissions:

Web Pierce, one of the biggest stars of the 50’s and 60’s if not even mentioned. 

Lefty Frizzell is only mentioned in connection with “Long Black Veil” – a late recording. His early work is omitted. He also comes up in connection with Merle Haggard who immitated him in his early years.

Jim Reeves is heard only briefly in connection with the Nashville Sound. His name is not mentioned.

Burns, true to form, dwells on social and political issues, i.e., race relations and women’s lib. Some context is good, but he gives Charlie Pride a lot of time, while leaving out other artists of that time period. Also, a lot on Johnny Cash, who does have an interesting story, but he crowds out other worthy artists for time.

Wynn Stewart is not mentioned in connection with the Bakersfield Sound – only Haggard and Buck Owens.

More gripes sure to come. 



2 Responses

  1. My wife and I live in Montana and taught country dancing for 15 years at a Cowboy/Biker Bar. We are really enjoying this history of country music. Yes, don’t miss it because if you think it is all white man’s music, you’re wrong. The banjo, an integral part of original country music and today’s bluegrass is African Country Music has often been described as White Man’s Blues. Country is popular the world over as it’s roots are African and European just like Latin American Music.

  2. It’s a rare occasion.

    A very rare occasion, when I find a Ken Burns project lacking.
    I can’t put my finger on it but I’ve been watching for the last few nights and while I enjoy the music and the stories I’m finding it disjointed.
    The music is, of course, amazing, aching and catchy but it’s sort of always in the background and consequently slightly irritating.
    The interviews don’t click the way they usually do and though I love Peter Coyote, he’s the wrong voice for this series. His tone is “high anxiety” and they needed someone with more mellifluous pipes for this type of music

    I can scarcely remember a moment in his last few documentaries where I was bored with the content but on this one there are many.

    It may be that most of the interviewees are getting on in years or that they all come from the same poverty stricken backgrounds but it gets repetitive and you get the feeling that some of them aren’t quite all there at this late stage in life.

    What I do like is the insight into the lives of the superstars before they had a hit. Waiters, janitors, busboys, bums and penniless wanderers.

    They were almost always broke and it’s no wonder that they readily sold their songs for peanuts. It’s only after they’d sold and the song became a hit that they complained about being tricked into giving away their rights.

    Hardly any of them could read a note of music in fact hardly any of them could functionally read and write, and yet between them they sold hundreds of millions of records.

    They had no clue about business and the sleazy lawyer side of the business until they had been ripped off many times.

    The truth is though, that without those sleazy lawyers and managers most of them would still be living in cabins with outside toilets.

    I also love the theme of talent being totally ignored until a stroke of luck gets things aligned
    Felice and Boudleaux Bryant lived in a trailer until they wrote a few hit songs; Bye Bye Love, and Wake up little Susie didn’t get scooped up immediately but eventually ended up in the right hands and… Wham! There’s a couple of million bucks.

    Next thing we know they’re living in a mansion and entertaining everybody who’s anybody.The cautionary tale is that those people could spend money faster than they earned it no matter how fast it came in!
    So the message we get from the series is that there are so many talented musicians who, but for a twist of fate, would be household names like the others.
    The ones who made it had exceptional gifts and the stamina to get through the ridiculous and treacherous stormy seas of stardom.

    I think I’ll binge watch it a second time and see if I can get past the things that were annoying me because I can relax now that I know what’s coming.

    All in all a good piece of musical history.

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