PBS is gearing up for the release of the extensive 8 part, 16-hour Country Music Documentary starting September 15th directed by Ken Burns. And ahead of the release, PBS is trying to engage the country music public by asking people to share who their favorite country music icon is, what their favorite country song is, and what their first country music concert was. Fans can post videos to social media with the hashtag “#MyCountryMusicPBS,” or submit their videos via their website to have a chance to be featured as part of the promotion before and during the airing of the film.
To prime the pump, PBS asked a few famous country music personalities to participate, including Miranda Lambert, Vince Gill, and Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, who spoke about who first inspired them, and who they look up to as a country music icon.
“Probably Dolly Parton,” Miranda Lambert responded. “When you think of a woman that’s built an empire, that’s the face that comes up in my mind. She’s done everything, and is still going on eleven, and it’s just such an inspiration.”
Vince Gill’s selection was Merle Haggard, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Not only has Vince regularly cited Merle as one of his greatest inspirations, his new album Okie out August 23rd has a song on it called “A World Without Haggard,” which is a tribute to Merle.
“The way that he wrote songs spoke to me maybe differently than anybody ever has, and I would attribute some of it to the fact that he went to prison,” Vince Gill says. “He knew what it felt like to not be free. And it made him tell the truth in a way that was just so much more engaging to me as a listener. I love the way he sang, I love the way he played, he had a great band. Everything he did was right up my alley.”
Ray Benson’s response was, “Musically, it’s old fiddle players that I first heard when I played in a square dance band. I heard fiddle fiddle music for the first time and I just fell in love with it. And then when I heard Hank Williams, that was it. Hank Williams was the reason I decided to dedicate my musical life to country Western music.”
The PBS Country Music documentary will include footage from 56 separate interviews with artists and historians, including interviews with 40 Country Music Hall of Famers, and a few artists who have passed away since film production was commenced. Some of the principal commentators include Marty Stuart—who producer Dayton Duncan calls the “Human avatar thread in our tapestry”—as well as Willie Nelson, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, and Ray Benson. The film will also utilize ample archive footage, including from the iconic film “Heartworn Highways,” footage from country music variety shows, and other archive material.
Over 500 songs are featured throughout the film, from small snippets to full performances. The film starts all the way back in 1923 with Fiddlin’ John Carson who began performing at an Atlanta radio station and became a star, and goes to roughly 1996 with the death of Bill Monroe, and the revitalization of Johnny Cash’s career via his work with Rick Rubin and his American Recordings projects.
— PBS (@PBS) August 14, 2019
Find out who Vince Gill (@VGcom) considers to be his country music icon — and share your story using the hashtag #MyCountryMusicPBS or on the website for the chance to be featured: https://t.co/6NrC5NvPdT pic.twitter.com/cQssab7taS
— PBS (@PBS) August 9, 2019
Find out who inspired Ray Benson’s love of country music — and share your story using #MyCountryMusicPBS or on our website for the chance to be featured: https://t.co/6NrC5NvPdT pic.twitter.com/xClgSPPxVI
— PBS (@PBS) July 31, 2019