Review – Episode 7 of Ken Burns Country Music Documentary
Ken Burns and screenwriter Dayton Duncan had the unenviable task to trying to tell the entire story of country music in eight, 2-hour episodes. And though the general the reception for PBS’s Country Music documentary has been positive, the lingering concern has been who is left out. The 7th Episode in the series was unique in that 30 more minutes were added to give Ken Burns and his team the time to delve into a decade of the music, explain the important influence of Texas songwriters and the emergence of the Outlaw movement in the early and mid 70’s, all while keeping up with the goings on in popular country in Nashville at the time. And though the claims of blind spots and snubs will continue, what was covered in Episode 7 was done with great reverence, appeal, and care.
Though the entirety of the documentary has dealt head on with country’s constant changes, the shifts that occurred during the period between 1973 and 1983 seemed especially significant. The Ryman Auditorium was shuttered after downtown Nashville had become a crime-infested location, and the Opry House east of town had been constructed. The last song played on the final Opry broadcast from the Ryman was “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” The struggles of artists against the business of country music felt more significant than ever before, whether it was Dolly Parton trying to part ways with Porter Wagoner, or Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings winning their creative control from RCA.
Meanwhile we get the first tastes of country music existing in two separate worlds. One is more commercial and ordered to the business of Music Row, while in both Nashville and Texas, songwriters like Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, and Townes Van Zandt did things their own way, and were successful in doing so, at least eventually. And as The Nashville Sound bloomed into “Countrypolitan” under the guidance of producer Billy Sherrill, the “Outlaw” movement gave rise to country music’s first ever Platinum-selling album, Wanted: The Outlaws.
Many artist were dutifully profiled in Episode 7, from Dolly Parton who wrote and released her mammoth standard “Jolene,” and “I Will Always Love You” for Porter Wagoner. Marty Stuart talked about joining the band of Lester Flatt at 13-years-old, and walking into the Grand Ole Opry to play. “It was like walking into The Vatican … Everything I had ever dreamed of happened for me when I was 13-years-old.”
George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and their tumultuous relationship was revisited once again. Their duet “Golden Ring” was a big hit, despite the super couple going through a divorce. Olivia-Newton John winning CMA Awards was explained, and the notorious moment when Charlie Rich burned the piece of paper announcing John Denver as the CMA Entertainer of the Year was relived.
“Things were changing, and not everybody agreed with it,” Marty Stuart explained. “I think a lot of people saw it as the boundaries being broadened and expanded upon. And other people saw it as country music losing its soul.”
The Mexican Americans of country music were also finally introduced in the form of Johnny Rodriguez and Freddy Fender. “I say this with all sincerity, I never had a cross feeling to this day,” Rodriguez said about being country’s first major Mexican American star. “I never felt like that that. It makes me want to cry. I’m serious. These people are so nice, it still touches me to today.” The words of Rodriguez underscore what Charley Pride and Wynton Marsalis said during Episode 4, that the racial prejudice that persisted in American society didn’t always translate to inside the country music industry as many assume.
You knew Waylon Jennings would play a big role in the episode, and he did with his story as a Littlefield, TX kid turned DJ in Lubbock, to luckily avoiding the Buddy Holly plane crash memorialized as “The Day The Music Died,” to a big club draw at JD’s in a Phoenix suburb. When Bobby Bare discovered Waylon there, and Waylon asked Willie if he should come to Nashville, Willie advised him against it. Waylon went anyway, and was made into a folk country and Countrypolitan star by Chet Atkins, before becoming the man who arguably rearranged the business of country music more than any other by negotiating his creative freedom, and inspiring others to do the same.
This led to stories about Hillbilly Central in Nashville—the renegade recording studio run by Tompall Glaser, and the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin where Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Asleep at the Wheel held court. Willie recorded Red Headed Stranger for $4,000 in Garland, TX, and just like Waylon did with his contract negotiations, it revolutionized the music. “Suddenly we didn’t need Nashville. They needed us,” Waylon was quoted as saying.
Hazel Smith, who had been the office manager of Hillbilly Central and coined the phrase “Outlaw” was one of the best contributors to the episode. The recently-passed songwriter, journalist, and former love interest of Bill Monroe said she was inspired by the term by looking in the dictionary and seeing the end of the definition as, “Living on the outside of the written law,” which she felt applied to the laws of country music. And looking into the camera, she said, as the person who coined the term, that if anyone didn’t believe her definition of what a country music Outlaw was, “They’re a liar.”
Much time was also spent in Episode 7 on Emmylou Harris, starting with her emergence as the harmony singer for Gram Parsons. “He was passionate about real country music, the real washed in the blood stuff,” Emmylou explained. “But he was a child of the 60’s. Rock n’ roll was also a passion of his. He really believed he could bring the two together.” The documentary told of Gram “inspiring” the Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses,” but true Gram Parsons fans know the real story.
“Emmylou didn’t explode on the scene, she bloomed,” Dwight Yoakam said. “And she will forever be that rose that bloomed in our collective consciousness.” Instead of a folk rocker, Emmylou became what would pass as a traditionalist at the time, covering many classic country songs, and later delving deep into bluegrass while being devoid of commercial concerns.
Hank Williams Jr. also receive his due in Episode 7, from performing renditions of his fathers songs at the age of 8, to falling off of Ajax Mountain in Montana right before his landmark Hank Williams Jr. and Friends album was about to be released, all the way to becoming one of the biggest country music superstars in history, selling 21 straight gold records. “Daddy didn’t need me to promote him,” Hank Jr. said, but he got booed off stage when he started playing his own songs, and eventually overdosed due to the pressure he was put under trying to live in his father’s shadow. But he emerged victorious, giving Waylon a lot of credit. “There was nobody, NOBODY in this business that was more special to me than Waylon Jennings. He believed in ME,” Hank Jr. said.
Rosanne Cash was also profiled as another famous child of a country music superstar, especially through her first big hit, “Seven Year Ache” when she was married to Rodney Crowell. It was at this moment that you could palpably feel the style of country music make a seismic sound shift, though the film didn’t stop to make that point. From “Seven Year Ache,” to Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again,” Willie Nelson’s Stardust record, and even the recording of “Pancho and Lefty” by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, heavy keyboard, and very little twang helped usher country music into the 80’s, along with the continued influence of Billy Sherrill’s Countrypolitan sound in the form of George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today”–a song many consider the greatest in country history.
Billy Sherrill recalled about the recording, “Word for word, after I played him the finished product, so help me God, Jones said, ‘You’ve got your record. But listen, SON, nobody would ever buy that morbid son-of-a-bitch.”
Legendary WSM personality Ralph Emery also had a good quote in the moment. “I asked Merle Haggard once time who his favorite country singer was, and he said George Jones. And I asked George who his favorite country singer was, and he said Merle Haggard.”
This didn’t stop Jones from becoming destitute in the period leading up to his resurgence in the early 80’s. At one point Jones weighed less than 100 pounds and was living in his car.
Dolly Parton also made an important point as she received more attention near the end of the episode, saying, “I never had a problem being a woman. That’s always worked for me more than it’s worked against me. I always believed that I was strong in myself and strong in my work. I do know and I have seen that it can be a hindrance … [but] I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes, because I’m not dumb. And I’m not blonde, either.”
If you’re looking for who they left out in Episode 7, the list is long. Near the end, they gave quick mentions to Ronnie Milsap, The Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, Barbara Mandrell, and Kenny Rogers, but no way in a worthy measure of any of the legacies of these performers. Some may be revisited in the final Episode 8, some may not. But Billy Joe Shaver felt like a glaring omission with his ties to Waylon. Don Williams was only seen from the back in a picture where if you didn’t notice his signature hat, you wouldn’t have known it was him at all. And though many have long lists of those who’ve been “snubbed” by this documentary, the performer that has the biggest beef for not being paid proper due is Conway Twitty, who logged 44 #1 singles, and once again was simply referred to as a “former rockabilly star” in this episode, as opposed to one of the most successful performers in country music history.
But unlike Episode 6, which spent too much time on Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and extraneous concerns about the Vietnam War, Episode 7 was power packed with important country music information and profiles. Many will complain about who was missed. But Ken Burns did great justice to the artists and moments that did make it.
This was emphasized most demonstrably by the final segment that helped underscore the importance of Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons to country music. The story was told of Willie Nelson’s daughter showing her father a copy of “Pancho & Lefty” that Emmylou had recorded way before Willie and Merle Haggard did. It was 4 in the morning, and Willie woke up Merle on his bus to record the song. Gram Parsons turned Emmylou Harris onto the beauty of country music when she was a folk singer living in Washington D.C. After the death of Gram, Emmylou went on a quest to share her newfound love for country with the rest of the world by covering many country standards, and some that would soon become them like “Pancho & Lefty.” Emmylou said she was obsessed to the point of annoying people about it, and it ultimately led to Willie and Merle recording a track written by Townes Van Zandt, which became Van Zandt’s first and only #1 song, and solidified his place in history.
The pace of the Ken Burns Country Music documentary has felt frenetic, and it will only speed up more as they try to encapsulate a dozen years in country music in the final episode. But the stories that are being told are handled with depth, passion, and reverence. Watching Episode 7, it seems scandalous that Hank Williams Jr. still isn’t in the Hall of Fame. And by framing Gram Parsons as a seminal ambassador of the music—and the man who single handedly turned Emmylou on to the power of country—it doesn’t feel unreasonable that he should be seriously considered too, especially since Emmylou is in already.
The only major issue with Episode 7 is that once again it felt too short, even though it was the longest one. But so goes the passion for the involved narrative that is the story of country music.
Episodes 1 thru 7 can now be streamed online.
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September 25, 2019 @ 9:19 am
I really wish they had the time to make this a longer series, but for what it is I’m still not complaining because there’s been a lot of good info. Stories, and quotes
September 25, 2019 @ 9:20 am
Agree whole heartedly with the Billy Joe Shaver omission. Would have covered Honky Tonk Heroes instead of Dreaming My Dreams if you’re only gonna spotlight one Waylon album. My own wishful thinking mention- Gary Stewart.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:55 am
I’ve always marked “Honky Tonk Heroes” as the turning point in Waylon’s career, because it was the first album he got to record the songs he wanted to, and with his own band. Granted, he still recorded it in an RCA studio, but it was the first he did his way. “This Time” was the album he did with Tompall at Hillbilly Central, so I can understand why some mark that album as the turning point. “Dreaming My Dreams” was the third, and I’m guessing the reason that album was selected because they could tie it back to Hank, Bob Wills, and Jimmie Rodgers. But in my opinion the most interesting and cultural significant Waylon record will always be “Honky Tonk Heroes.” It would have also made it easier to mention Shaver, who is one of the last living ties to the original Outlaw era.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:31 am
The no mention of Billy Joe Shaver was my second mild “no mention” disappointment of the series, after the no mention of Doc Watson during the Will The Circle Be Unbroken album sessions segment in the previous episode. In both cases, they were at least pictured, I guess.
Besides just my disappointment as a big Billie Joe fan, it would have been a cool story to tell about the balls it took for Waylon to cut an album of songs predominantly written by one unknown songwriter and then maybe talk about the colorful character that is Billie Joe Shaver a little bit. But I guess by featuring Dreamin’ My Dreams (obviously a giant of an album), they were then able to segue into Wanted: The Outlaws and the revisiting of “earlier recordings.” And at that point, we did hear the “Honky Tonk Heroes.”
September 25, 2019 @ 8:13 pm
Agreed. And it’s a colorful story about Shaver at the studio and his persistence. It could have introduced some people to his music who don’t know it and helped an outlaw still out there on the road.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:29 am
I just keep hearing of people who aren’t reallyCountry Music fans but are really enjoying this documentary. It is really a wonderful testament to this great music!
September 25, 2019 @ 9:36 am
Between them, Conway Twitty and Ronnie Milsap scored 85 #1 songs on the country charts. It does seem like a huge oversight, although Ronnie might be revisited tonight. And hopefully Don Williams – who had another 21 #1 songs – will be touched on tonight as well. What WAS covered was very good, although I think less time could have spent on Guy Clark, Gram Parsons, and Townes Van Zandt in exchange for more info on some of the folks you mentioned above. The Outlaws stuff was essential though, as was the Dolly stuff, and the George and Tammy stuff. Overall, a good episode.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:07 am
Sadly, as much as I wanted to, I did not feel the ship got righted entirely in episode 7, though it did straighten up a bit. I couldn’t agree more with your opinion about how time was spent disproportionately on some and not enough on others. Dolly, Outlaws (Hazel Smith was a gem!), Emmylou, and Hank Jr. were fine. How they could miss Don Williams (especially), Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, among others, as significant artists of that era is like missing the broad side of a barn. Episode eight was blown so off-course by Hurricane Garth.
I loved the series until the last few episodes,where it felt like the end was rushed and perhaps had to be hurried up, much like a science fair project that is started with much work, diligence, and attention to detail but as the deadline looms, is hurried, only to receive a grade of B- with comments like “you could have done a better job with this or that.”
Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed it for the most part and am glad it was done. I’ve learned a lot.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:27 am
Oh no. So they DO spend a huge chunk of episode 8 on Garth? I was afraid of that, but figured it wouldn’t be the case. Oh well…
September 25, 2019 @ 10:47 am
to non-country fans , garth is , like it or not , COUNTRY music . burns and co. would have no choice but to acknowledge that fact and address it accordingly .
September 25, 2019 @ 11:40 am
No, I know that, but I was hoping the time focused on him would be brief.
September 25, 2019 @ 12:49 pm
I was worried that Garth would take over. And I don’t feel he’s country, he was just cunningly marketed as country in a world that was taken by soft rock. He’s an interloper, the same as many on country radio today.
September 25, 2019 @ 7:29 pm
No sweat (we all have our own thoughts), but, Garth an “interloper” with songs like, Cowboy Bill, and, In Lonesome Dove?
September 26, 2019 @ 5:53 am
I think I felt that way at the time, but my feelings on him have evolved somewhat. For one, if it wasn’t HARD country music, I would have dismissed it back then. Now, I think songs like Friends in Low Places, Long Neck Bottle and Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House are enjoyable country songs. And even some of the less country songs I’ve heard from him are at least real songs, as opposed to a lot of the assembly line crap today.
September 26, 2019 @ 4:00 pm
Garth Brooks. Listen to ‘Friends i low places , working on a full house. Papa loved mama. Seriously folks. If that ain’t country NOTHING OR NOBODY IS. THAT boy is country. Today’s group of whatever’s are not even close to country an i bet you a!l love em. Hank Williams would have !OVED Garth . Lots of variety an enough differences to go around. THAT’S country today. Love it
September 25, 2019 @ 2:18 pm
Well, I honestly didn’t count the minutes but it SEEMED like a long amount of coverage to me, certainly longer than I thought was necessary, considering all the other artists very relevant to this era who were only casually mentioned.
I’m neither a fan nor hater of Garth. All I know is, when I go scouring the local thrift shops and yard sales for good, country CD’s, the shelves are littered with Garth Brooks CDs. George Strait CDs, on the other hand, are very hard to find. I could be wrong, but this suggests to me that perhaps the popularity of Garth’s music was more transient rather than enduring and consistent, which is why I thought too much time was spent on him in episode 8.
By the way, I love this blog and the cast of regular comment contributors. The variety and writing quality of blog entries and comments is both entertaining and informative, without all the unnecessary viciousness so commonly found online these days.
September 29, 2019 @ 3:39 am
I couldn’t agree more about “Hurricane Garth”. Even though I will admit to making a comment about those who feel as though they could do a better job than Ken Burns-go ahead- I was ready to turn off the TV until Garth stopped flying.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:37 am
Probably would need another 16 hours to cover all the artists and writers they had to skip or mention just briefly. Hmmm…not a bad idea. I did hope that they would at least include Don Williams duet with Emmylou (Townes “If I Needed You”) since she was an important part of this episode as was Townes.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:38 am
Dang! Did I go into the spam filter? I posted a comment and now it’s gone.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:49 am
I’m seeing a comment above. Not finding anything in the spam filter.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:28 am
It popped up again after a couple of minutes. Odd…
September 25, 2019 @ 9:42 am
Episode 7 was great. I do wish that some time could have been devoted to how big Kenny Rogers was in the late 70’s. I’m also surprised that the Urban Cowboy period wasn’t mentioned. Maybe these weren’t the best moments for traditional country, but they did play an important part in the history of country music. It was great to see Guy Clark and Townes get substantial coverage, and to learn how Emmylou Harris became a convert to country music.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:31 am
Agree 100% about Urban Cowboy. It was a bit of influence on the music but major influence on the business. Could have used more Conway & Don Williams. For my money…. just send me full length un-cut interviews of Merle, Hazel & Marty. If I could have that, I’m good.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:16 am
I lived in Quito Ecuador during the Urban Cowboy period. It was so big that local stations here started playing country music. Even heard George Jones. For awhile it really impacted the global music scene.
September 25, 2019 @ 5:22 pm
My father in law was in the western wear business when Urban Cowboy came out. He had a lot in common with Bud, as he was an insulator on the refineries in Houston when he was younger. He made a fortune selling hats and boots to city slickers. Urban Cowboy was a huge deal. Just ask Johnny Lee.
Something Always Told Me They Were Reading Tommy Wrong
September 26, 2019 @ 3:08 am
I’ve noticed that sometimes I get a slightly older version of the comments on SCM. Happens quite a lot. You’ll see something like 55 comments on the articles link on the main page, but when you click on the actual article it becomes 52. Refresh the page and the new ones come back. Same thing happens sometimes when posting a comment. I’m not tech savvy but it seems to be just how SCM works. It has always been like that for me.
September 26, 2019 @ 5:59 am
Well, I see that the urban cowboy phase did get mentioned at the beginning if episode 8.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:47 am
I liked the idea of connecting the various musical styles raised at the end with ‘Pancho and Lefty’ – it was clever, and it provided a nice sense of cohesion to the narrative.
Also really liked the choice to use ‘I Just Don’t Give a Damn’ in the Jones section – an amazing performance.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:58 am
The ending was very well done, explaining the significance of Gram And Emmylou, even if they didn’t have a huge string of country hits. Just because they weren’t country superstars doesn’t mean their impact wasn’t mammoth. Some will complain they’re interlopers and more time should have been spent on others. But Gram and Emmylou have been huge ambassadors for country, and deserved recognition.
September 26, 2019 @ 3:33 pm
In agreement about the ending; I sat on my couch and blubbered like a 2 yr old. It was that kind of golden, full-circle moment that you cant make up. But the part that got me was more about the song and the craft, rather than the performers. That Townes Van Zandt’s brilliantly-crafted song, through a series of events, found the right performers to introduce it to the rest of us is what country music is all about…..the song, and the story behind it. I get a chill every time I think about it. Definitely my fave part of this series, followed closely by the Kristofferson and Hank, Sr portions.
September 26, 2019 @ 5:29 pm
Definitely agree — as one who was into Gram when he was the name and Emmylou was the supporting singer, it was surprising and interesting to hear how much credit she gets from others (Dwight, for instance) for keeping country alive and vibrant. Not saying she doesn’t deserve it. The “Wild Horses” nod to Gram was weird (as you say, that’s not quite the story I’ve heard, or even one of the stories I’ve heard) — it would have been better if they’d have talked about how deeply Gram influenced Keith, and through him the Stones. Keith has talked forever about how important Gram was to him.
Something Always Told Me They Were Reading Tommy Wrong
September 26, 2019 @ 3:09 am
LoL, this is not where I posted this. I was replying to dukeroberts. Seems like the old girl is having a rough day. 🙂
September 26, 2019 @ 8:50 am
We’re actively looking into if there are any problems with the comments section. What I can say is right now we’re receiving about 2,500 spam comments a day, which is very high. Trying to keep these comments clean of spam take a tremendous effort.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:58 am
An excellent episode, and yes Willie, we see your stupid hat. This was a great rebound from the prior episode.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:02 am
I’m a happy guy. All my boxes were checked last night: Guy, Townes, Rodney, Emmy Lou, Roseanne. So much talent.
They could spend tonight on Georgia Florida line. I don’t care. They did right by my favorites last night.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:29 am
“They could spend tonight on Georgia Florida line.”
YOU SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH!!!
🙂 🙂 🙂
September 25, 2019 @ 10:16 am
The list of people left out has to include Glen Campbell, too. He got maybe five seconds in part 6 as a guy with a variety show, rather than one of the biggest stars in country at the time (2 consecutive awards for both ACM Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year). Without Glen, I don’t believe John Denver and Olivia Newton-John would have ended up winning country awards later on. He opened the doors to country-pop crossover as much as anyone.
Billy Joe Shaver’s contribution was pivotal to the very narrative Ken Burns was trying to tell. If you didn’t know better, it’s like Honky Tonk Heroes never even happened.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:27 am
This was my favorite of the later episodes (5-8), since a lot of my favorites got covered. Loved that they spent so much time on Emmylou, though I’m not surprised. Honestly, if the documentary had been 16.5 hours of footage of her, I still would’ve watched it.
Neither Gary Stewart nor Dean Dillon get a mention. I was bummed that the Oak Ridge Boys only get a short shoutout in Ep. 8, but that’s it.
Honestly though, Burns could’ve tacked on 20 minutes about Yoakam, Buck and Flaco and ended it after this episode.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:35 am
But Lightnin’ Hopkins *did* get a shoutout. I was pleased.
September 25, 2019 @ 8:37 pm
And Dwight could talk about country music history and influences for 20 hours. I’d watch every episode.
With at least 2 Waylon LPs downstairs, including “Wanted: the Outlaws” and “Ol Waylon,” and growing up listening to him, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the documentary is the first I heard of him singing “Been a Long Time Leaving (But I’ll Be a Long Time Gone.)” I associate that one entirely with Roger Miller.
The 73-83 episode was the first I watched, though I have been DVRing all of them. I have been looking forward to this since I heard Burns was making it. And yet, I was almost afraid to watch. I knew it would bring a surge of adrenaline, a few critiques, and dozens of rabbit holes. I started last night’s when it was at “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and then watched the rest of it and watched it again. I would have restarted it with a sleep timer as I went to bed, but I know my mind wouldn’t disengage enough to sleep, even after repeated viewings.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:36 am
if you aren’t familiar with the characters presented by burns and co and how they may have played into the soundtrack of your life , i’m not sure how much , if anything at all , the anecdotes would mean to you . thus , the dilemma that the filmmakers must surely have faced .
like a sport you don’t follow or care about , the stories and circumstances of the legends would mean little. in this sense , burns is , of course , somewhat preaching to the choir and seemingly trying his best to keep that choir entertained beyond what they are already familiar with and aware of . to that end , i think he succeeds .
however the uninitiated would be familiar , at best , with the legends and , perhaps unfortunately , only the ‘legends’ that had the most success crossing over to pop or making it onto national variety -type shows in their heydays. ( dolly , cash , willie , kenny rogers , glen , etc… ) THIS is also burns’ audience for this program and may , arguably , make up more than a considerable portion of it . its PBS …not CMT ..
at times this leads , imo , to the series almost slipping into simply an ‘oldies show’ mode similar to the Time-Life concert series of advertisements designed to sell CD’s. its quite clear that the documentary burns has made could be twice or three times as long if only to avoid the effort to fit EVERYONE in at the cost of ignoring relevant and interesting back stories which , again , may only be appreciated by the faithful .
it seems the doc team would have no choice but to use their own discretion , ultimately , in determining the significance and relevance of a particular artist or event in the genre’s/culture’s history while being constantly aware that there would indeed be disagreements among viewers . and again …….this had to have been a very tough job . certainly one that i’m guessing most of us would not want the responsibility of .
in the end , the doc is actually entertainment , is it not ? and I think its safe to say that it gets a passing grade , if not straight A’s on that count .
September 25, 2019 @ 10:39 am
Two things worth mentioning:
(1) Trig, I know that the facts here are known, and you might have been using a bit of shorthand-speak, but Waylon was not a “survivor of the Buddy Holly plane crash.” Some fatal plane crashes do have survivors. This one did not. The story, as Waylon told it, was that he was originally supposed to be on the flight but did not get on, due to the plane being full.
(2) Willie woke up Merle on his bus at 4 am to record “Pancho and Lefty”??
Does not sound likely. “Pancho and Lefty” is a produced, studio recording. It’s also really a Willie Nelson record. There’s no interaction between Willie and Hag on the recording. It appears that the verse with Merle’s vocal was dubbed in later.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:56 am
”2) Willie woke up Merle on his bus at 4 am to record “Pancho and Lefty”??
Does not sound likely. “Pancho and Lefty” is a produced, studio recording. It’s also really a Willie Nelson record. There’s no interaction between Willie and Hag on the recording. It appears that the verse with Merle’s vocal was dubbed in later.”
so LOS , you’re callin’ merle a liar ????.well you’re walkin on the fightin side of me
….lol lol lol lol
September 25, 2019 @ 5:50 pm
I wouldn’t use the term “liar,” but let’s just say that you can’t rely on anecdotes that artists tell about how their songs were written or recorded. They’re entertainers and the stories they tell are intended to entertain.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:07 am
Hag recounts the story of the “Pancho and Lefty” cut around the 2:12 mark of episode 7 (on the PBS website stream). Hag and Willie had been working on an album together for several days at Willie’s studio in Texas. Hag had just gone to sleep on his bus around 4 in the morning. Willie went out to Hag’s bus, woke him up, and insisted they record it right then and there. Hag was half asleep but agreed to do it, thinking he’d get to redo his vocal track later that morning. But the original cut was already on the way to production by then. Great story.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:26 am
Willie and Merle have both mentioned this story. I am unsure which studio they recorded it in but it was a studio and Willie indeed got Merle out of bed and a sleepy Merle managed to record his piece of the song in one take! I’m thinking the bus was parked at the studio at the time and Merle slept there.
The Waylon / Buddy Holly plane story has been told alot. Waylon gave his seat up and opted to take a bus, telling a miffed Holly he hoped his plane crashed after Holly told him he hoped he froze on the bus. You are correct, Waylon never even stepped onto the plane.
September 25, 2019 @ 12:56 pm
The story of how Willie and Merle came to record “Pancho and Lefty” always seemed like a lot of “Eureka!”-type mythmaking to me. Emmylou’s cover of the song was something of a hit and a standard in her live show since the late 70s, and Willie would have heard the song at some point outside of her version. He and Townes were friends and Townes played several of his Fourth of July picnics. If Merle really did get dragged out of a deep sleep to record his verse, then, that’s a superhuman vocal feat only he could pull off. This episode covered a lot of ground, but dang, they could’ve expanded it into a three-hour segment, easily.
September 25, 2019 @ 7:42 pm
Albert, the Pancho and Lefty story came straight from Merle’s mouth. And yes, he dubbed his vocals onto an already-recorded song – they did not cut the record “live” and together at 4:00 a.m. Wilie had (and stil has) a full studio at his compound in Austin, and Merle was staying in his (Merle’s) bus. He had only to walk a few feet to be in Willie’s studio. Willie is famous for recording at all hours of the night.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:39 am
Good to see Freddy Fender and Flaco. Held my breath waiting for Augie Myers and Doug Sahm but no, they didn’t get a mention. I love their music. “Who were you thinking of when we were making……”
September 26, 2019 @ 5:32 pm
Yes, leaving Doug Sahm out was a big oversight, imo.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:43 am
I liked the episode but was bummed that Jerry Jeff Walker didn’t get more notice, I feel his impact was much bigger than a couple pictures and his name thrown out once.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:19 pm
Jerry Jeff Walker may loom large in a discussion of Texas outlaw country music in the 1970s. But if you pull back and try to look at the entire history of country music , he’s a pretty minor figure.
I think Jerry Jeff’s most lasting contribution was writing Mr. Bojangles, which was a hit for NGDB (on the rock–not country–chart) and an important record (though not a chart hit) for both Nina Simone and Sammy Davis Jr.
September 26, 2019 @ 4:17 am
Love Jerry Jeff but I gotta agree. He is a name in Texas and in outlaw and songwriter circles, although superstardom eluded him. Should mention though, that Trashy Women was a big hit for Confederate Railroad and was written by JJW.
Michael Murphey also was a part of the Outlaw movement, he was the original Cosmic Cowboy , although he sadly gets typecast as the Wildfire guy. So many great songs he wrote like Geronimo’s Cadillac and Cherokee Fiddle. I think Burns coulda given him at least a brief mention like he did with JJW and Asleep At The Wheel.
Lately I’ve been digging Gary P Nunn and listening to his contributions to Texas and Outlaw era music. Probably too obscure for this documentary though.
We can all nitpick this thing to death, but understand it was Burns deal and it was made for the PBS audience, not neccesarily us hardcore fans of the music.
September 26, 2019 @ 7:18 am
I guess all I would say to that is if Burns is going to spot light Townes and Guy he should also spotlight Jerry Jeff. Walker was exposing Clark to a larger audience by covering his songs before anyone else and he’s the one who influenced Van Zandt to hit the road and give up on a 9 to 5 life. He also set the stage in Austin before Willie moved there in the early 70’s. IMHO
September 25, 2019 @ 10:47 am
A nice fist pumping moment was when Emmylou talked about wanting to push the boundaries of country music while still paying respect to traditional country music. You hear that, FGL and Thomas Rhett?
September 25, 2019 @ 10:53 am
I’ve been very complimentary of this documentary, and this episode seemed to address some of the complaints some people have leveled at this series.
Want more George/Tammy? Check.
Want attention paid to Townes Van Zandt and his fellow songwriters? Check.
Attention to country’s Mexican-Americans? Check.
And of course, covering Outlaw Country was mandatory.
I thought Hazel Smith was the MVP of tonight’s episode, but Bill Anderson has been providing quality commentary night after night, without the fanfare of Marty Stuart or Merle Haggard. I have really enjoyed what he has brought to the show and wanted to mention it.
It’s impossible to cover everybody…but I have to admit I’m a little nervous to see how tonight’s episode will cover a dozen years, bring us into the age of modern country, and wrap everything up. But with the vast majority of the series completed, I think it’s been very well done!
September 25, 2019 @ 10:59 am
I feel Conway Twitty is underappreciated at the moment. When he gets mentioned it’s usually in connection with Loretta, but he was great in his own right – there’s a reason he’s one of the singers mentioned in Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes.
September 25, 2019 @ 12:48 pm
I think one of the reasons Conway Twitty’s legacy has gone so forgotten is in the midst of years of estate disputes between his children and his last wife, there is nobody there to carry his flag forward. Twitty City, which was supposed to enshrine his legacy, was sold off to television evangelists.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:05 am
Add to the left out list Jerry Jeff Walker – he got a mention because he wrote “Mr. Bojangles” and lived at the AWHQ, but my sense is that as an ambassador for the music, he oughta be a bit bigger. I’d also pitch that Gary P. Nunn rated a 3-second shout-out in that section. Also, a lost opportunity to add “London Homesick Blues” to the soundtrack when introducing Austin City Limits.
I’m only half-serious about all of that, but watching the trailer for episode 8 and looking at the soundtrack, the very biggest omission at the end will be Twitty. Additionally, lots of sub-genres have gotten a nod, but trucking songs, huge in the 70s, haven’t been given even a nod. And George Strait deserves at least 5 full minutes on his own, consistently charting #1s for most of his career, his sound never bowing to the trends at any point (I suppose, without any drama in his story, he is less compelling…).
I agree with whoever gave a mention to Urban Cowboy as an ambassadorial tool, and add Dukes of Hazzard and even Smokey and the Bandit, and obviously Pure Country; it may not be terribly important considering the artists who ought to be given some weight for their contributions, but the film industry has done its share (some of us were introduced to Dolly Parton as kids when she made “9 to 5”). Ending the production in 1996 gives no chance to discuss other things that have pushed country music in the American consciousness. The “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack, for example, major violinists and string musicians recording “Applachian” albums to capitalize on that success.
September 25, 2019 @ 2:22 pm
Good point about the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack and movie. My daughter, age 23, is a huge fan of the movie and soundtrack and loves bluegrass, in large part as a result of her exposure through these vehicles.
September 25, 2019 @ 8:22 pm
I thought the same about no mention of trucking songs as a sub genre. 10-4, good buddy and we’ll see you on the flip side.
September 25, 2019 @ 8:43 pm
Mercy sakes alive…we got us a convoy.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:07 am
I really think it’s hard to understand Outlaw county or Americana music without discussing the songwriting on Honkytonk Heroes and Billy Joe Shaver. While Hazel Smith and the various small stories about Outlaw country were entertaining, I think the overarching narrative was missing. I expected more.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:28 am
Although it is subjective, I contend that this documentary channels its vision on artists and events that changed the trajectory of the genre. For example, Waylon changed the trajectory like few before or after him in how he approached the business side of it.
Hank Jr. did as well in making southern rock a part of country, as did Charley Daniels. And of course earlier artists/events such as the emergence of he Bakersfield sound.
These types of changes are still being felt today.
Artists like Campbell and my own personal favorite of all time, Don Williams, were huge but maybe didn’t usher in a sea-change like the others had. Maybe that was on Burn’s mind when choosing who/what to focus on.
Overall I am pleased though I haven’t seen the last episode yet. And yes, there will be another mention of Cash on it. He is way over-exposed.
Probably one legitimate gripe I have is not focusing more on the gospel roots that influenced the genre, especially in the beginning but continues to day, albeit to a lesser extent.
I contend that although much focus was given to the blues influence in earlier episodes, NO OTHER GENRE OF MUSIC influenced country music, especially early on, like gospel music had.
We saw it in the lyrics of yester-year and we still see it today. We see it in the collective biographical histories of various artists yesterday and still see it today.
There was a time when every country album included a gospel song. Not a blues song, but a gospel song. The old adage, “brought up singing in a church choir” applied to most artists then and to a degree now. From Hank to Travis Tritt to Alabama and beyond, it is ingrained into the fabric of the history of country music like no other influence, in my humble opinion.
On to the last episode.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:37 am
The series should be called eight degrees of separation from JR Cash. This could have been a feast, but feels like a weight watchers meal. I would like to see something like this done by somebody that actually knows Country Music.
September 25, 2019 @ 12:41 pm
Johnny Cash played a very marginal role in Episode 7, as well as 1, 2, and 3. Yes, he was mentioned a couple of times, but that was it. Episode 6 is where it went too far.
September 25, 2019 @ 5:19 pm
This whole thing is obviously built around him. But, that makes sense for somebody that isn’t familiar with the genre. He is well known outside of Country Music, so neophytes may believe he is more important than he is.
God damn, that George and Tammy could tear your heart out with their delivery. I had to listen to them today since it had been awhile. They are way more important than JR, as are a dozen other people that didn’t get the spotlight here.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:51 am
If John Denver isn’t country I’ll kiss your butt. I would have liked to know why his award card was set on fire,was that country’s way of saying we don’t want you?
September 25, 2019 @ 12:39 pm
There is a dispute around what the real intentions were of Charlie Rich burning the card. His son says that Rich meant no malice in the situation to John, and regretted it. Others say that he was just drunk, and would have burned it no matter who won. Rich had recently been in an accident, and was on pain pills at the time.
I wrote about it back in 2013:
September 25, 2019 @ 1:43 pm
Funny thing is Charlie Rich wasn’t that country himself, as mentioned in the documentary. Behind Closed Doors is pretty much a crooner type song – but a great one.
September 26, 2019 @ 5:37 pm
Agreed. The Most Beautiful Girl even better, imo. One of the best first verses I’ve ever heard.
October 25, 2021 @ 8:51 pm
John Denver said the “western” eventually got left out of what was “country and western” music. I just saw a repeat of the Depression-era episode and they talk about how Gene Autry came in and added all the Western costuming and cowboy stuff. John Denver was the real deal, but he was never accepted by the country music industry (not to mention a lot of the elites of this country). I just saw a Christmas special he did with Clint Blank and Kathy Mattea and Patty Loveless. All I can say is shame on Ken Burns. It seems like a pretty narrow, maybe even romanticized version of Country.
September 25, 2019 @ 11:52 am
I really like this episode particularly that they talked about Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark who are often overlooked. It took me years to appreciate country music, even though I grew up in Hendersonville Tn and was surrounded by it (possibly the reason). Years ago I turned an old family friend that was a steel player on to Nirvana and he loved it…I’ll never forget he told me there’s only two kinds of music good and bad. I’ve even learned to appreciate George Jones..now I’ll probably never own a CD but I can appreciate the honest place it’s coming from.
September 25, 2019 @ 12:03 pm
Maybe I missed it, but was there even a mention of Crystal Gayle?
September 25, 2019 @ 12:19 pm
in the ‘nothing to do with anything really ‘ dept :
the old footage of the legends is pretty great . the music holds up but so too do the fashions and styles , for the most-part .they don’t look all that out-of place
i can’t help thinking how clown-like and laughable a band like FGL will look when they look back 40 years from now and see their ‘ fashions’ , ink , chains goofy hats , fur , ripped jeans , running shoesm hand gestures , hair styles and videos ……let alone their music ‘ .
if they ever make it into a ‘history of country music’ doc as anything but comic relief i’m taking names .
September 26, 2019 @ 4:28 am
Great point Albert. I think about this a lot.Tony Bennet is in his 90s, still dressing like he did in the beginning, and it still works. Timeless.
September 25, 2019 @ 12:44 pm
I was a little disappointed of no mention of CW McCall or the popularity of trucking/55MPH speed limit protest songs and their influence during this era.
September 25, 2019 @ 5:09 pm
Ken could have put KK in again if they talked about the movie. You got your ears on Pigpen?
September 25, 2019 @ 5:40 pm
Good point! I’m 10-10 on the side!
September 25, 2019 @ 1:16 pm
It’s most pleasing to follow such gracious discourse regarding Ken Burns’ Country Music.
Of course not everyone could have possibly made the final cut of the series. I don’t recall seeing Johnny Horton, an old friend of the family, and as is most proper- There’s no hard feelings. Considering most everyone from those days has passed on…Well, I’m sure that it all makes for fine conversation at the Pearly Gates Bar & Grille.
For those that have grown up with this, of course the light shines a little differently. For those that are encountering this rich detailed history for the very first time, the lights have now come on. Let’s all enjoy the final episode as it ends with a smile.
September 25, 2019 @ 1:27 pm
A great Episode 7 – but a glaring omission of Jerry Jeff Walker is a concerning gap of history and country legacy. Mr. Bojangles was covered by many – and JJW’s 30 years long discography of top quality country albums is easily in the top 10 of all country artists.
September 25, 2019 @ 1:32 pm
Watching episode 7 currently. No mention so far of vern gosdin in the series that I can recall. I hope he gets a mention.
Looking forward to the final episode. Hoping a lot of time is spent on the impact of randy Travis, Alabama, and Keith Whitley. Impacted the entire decade of the 80’s.
From the comments looks like a lot of time will be spent on garth. He’s the reason I listen to country music and many others. His impact can’t be denied for better or worse.
September 25, 2019 @ 1:40 pm
Just finished watching episode 8. I will reserve comments until Trigger posts is review.
I would like to add, and I am sure I am speaking for many, a great big thank you for Trigger’s reviews of each episode and sponsoring lively discussions. It as been an exhilarating experience.
September 26, 2019 @ 4:05 am
I agree. And I can imagine with all the input Trigger has received he would have heard the take on the documentary from some of today’s ‘country’ ‘stars’, and maybe will report on that. I’d love to hear what FGL, Kane Brown, Sam Hunt, et al thought about it.
September 25, 2019 @ 2:29 pm
I think I’m the target audience: someone who has an appreciation of the music but wouldn’t call himself a big fan. The makers know country fans will tune in anyway. People with a disilke of country will ignore it. I’m 51. I grew up hearing Roy Acuff and Sons of the Pioneers from my mother and Emmylou Harris from an older sister and remember being at Singing on the Mountain in NC when I was 7. I’ve seen Waylon and Cash in concert (separately) but couldn’t name a George Jones song let alone a song in the Country Top 1000 today. I know my music history enough to appreciate the impact of the Carter family Hank Williams and Dolly Parton on American culture. I’m watching to expand my knowledge of the music and not be completely ignorant when my wife watches and fills in my blanks (“you can’t name a George Jones song!”)
It was interesting for me to watch Episode 7 on the day the death of Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter was announced. His lyrics carried on the “Western” part of C&W that disappeared from mainstream country; the Dead covered songs by classic country artists and now have their songs covered by modern country artists. But I digress.
I wouldn’t have found this website if I hadn’t search for decent knowledgeable reviews of the series. That the episodes are inspiring me to search would probably please the film makers.
The Red Barron
September 25, 2019 @ 3:02 pm
I think Burns does a really, really solid job on this doc. There’s always gonna be complaints, but overall, it’s a good look at the history of the genre.
1. Slightly less time on folk. I like Townes Van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, and Bob Dylan, but no at the expense of other artists.
2. Slightly less time on Cash. Again, obviously influential. But mentioned and highlighted A LOT.
3. Would have loved to see mentions of quite a few folks, including the Red Trifecta (Red Simpson , Red Sovine, and Red Steagall), Gary Stewart, Don Williams, Johnny Paycheck, Coe, and Johnny Horton.
But, overall, I get it. Only so much time to go around.
King Honky Of Crackershire
September 25, 2019 @ 3:10 pm
As a documentary on C(c)ountry music, this thing has gone predictably off the rails. It’s a failure.
I knew episode 7 would be joke before the intro was over, when they compared the legacy of Rosanne Cash to that of Hank Jr., as though her success is comparable to his. But of course, I should’ve known they would; she’s Johnny Cash’s daughter after all.
It played out almost exactly like I said it would.
In Ken Burns’ world, “The Voice” doesn’t exist, but Gram Parsons is a legend.
In Ken Burns’ world, California rockers, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles were all more important to C(c)ountry music than Don Williams.
September 25, 2019 @ 3:25 pm
They didn’t compare the legacy of Rosanne Cash to Hank Jr. aside from saying they were both the children of stars. Rosanne has been featured throughout the series as a commentator, but her profile segment was much shorter than Hank’s. Gram’s segment was also relatively short, and more of a setup for Emmylou Harris.
September 25, 2019 @ 4:56 pm
And what didn’t get mentioned in the Gram/Emmylou segment (except in a single photo) is that it was when the two of them were performing at Liberty Hall in Houston that they were joined onstage by Linda Ronstadt (then opening for Neil Young at nearby Sam Houston Coliseum), sparking the mutual admiration society between Linda and Emmylou that still exists to this day.
Hopefully, Linda gets in the final segment through the TRIO project, which came out in 1987. I’m not holding my breath, but I’m also not going to complain if she’s not mentioned, since Linda never thought of herself as a country artist in the strictest Nashville sense of the term. I think her large fan base of so many female country singers since the 1990s kind of speaks to Linda’s impact without needing it to be validated on TV
September 25, 2019 @ 5:40 pm
Ronstadt doesn’t make it in, which is a shame since her early albums are great and pretty country.
You probably know already, but there’s a new documentary about her life that was released recently in theaters.
September 25, 2019 @ 7:34 pm
I saw said documentary (LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE). It is a masterpiece (IMHO).
September 25, 2019 @ 4:44 pm
Jeez, I sure hope it doesn’t get back to Ken Burns that someone who chooses to go by the handle of King Honky of Crackershire has declared his documentary a failure.
September 25, 2019 @ 5:01 pm
I don’t agree with about 96% of what he says, but I’d bet King Honky knows more about country music than Ken Burns does.
September 26, 2019 @ 7:18 am
I have been seeing Honky’s comments on this site for the last two or three years or so. I think it goes without saying that a lifelong passionate country music fan is going to know more about country music than Ken Burns, who has admitted to not knowing much about it before undertaking a SEVERAL YEAR effort to produce a lovingly made mammoth documentary series on country music, for which I am very grateful. I don’t care that Honky knows more about country music than Burns.
King Honky Of Crackershire
September 26, 2019 @ 8:01 am
It’s not about who knows more. It’s about setting out to make a historically accurate portrayal about the topic you are documenting, and then failing to do so because you allowed your personal feelings, and your social and political agendas to get in the way.
September 26, 2019 @ 5:59 pm
Ok, Honky. But I think we already knew based on what Ken Burns said before the airing of the documentary that his goal was to tell a story about country music and not necessarily to produce the definitive video document on country music. He is more of a popular historian (e.g., like Steven Ambrose or David McCullough) than one from academia. And if he was beholden to some leftist agenda, he wouldn’t have bothered to make such mammoth documentary on country music. Or interview people like Charlie Daniels and Hank Jr. (who are anathema to some of the shallower people on the left, I would think) and portray them sympathetically and with the respect they deserve as music artists, which I think he did. And I applaud him for that. And when he was doing those media interviews where some here accused of apologizing, I think he was standing up for country music in his smooth, political way.
Like you, I wished there was a lot more on Lefty Frizzell. And I know who Conway Twitty is and what he looks like, but don’t know all that much about his country career. I agree that someone who had as many hits as he apparently had merited much more than a passing mention.
King Honky Of Crackershire
September 26, 2019 @ 7:00 am
If I was Ken Burns, I wouldn’t give a rat’s backside about what anybody thought, and if I did care what anybody thought, it wouldn’t be anonymous people on the internet?
Regardless of what Ken Burns thinks about what I think, I maintain that as an accurate portrayal of C(c)ountry music, this documentary is a failure, and I haven’t finished E8 yet.
September 25, 2019 @ 3:44 pm
Doug Sahm was a Star at six years old…
He was the epitome of Texas and Country Music.
And he was “ cool” long before Waylon and Willie and the “ boy’s”
He deserves at least an hour of screen time
September 25, 2019 @ 4:12 pm
If Doug Sahm has received an hour of screen time, that would have been more than anyone but Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. He did deserve to be mentioned. But a lot of people did.
September 25, 2019 @ 4:36 pm
On the short segment that named a lot of the great Southern Rock bands, the first picture they showed was of The Outlaws (Green Grass and High Tides, There Goes Another Love Song, etc.), but they weren’t mentioned I guess to avoid confusion with the Outlaw Country movement and the Wanted: The Outlaws compilation album.
September 25, 2019 @ 5:24 pm
Any idea why Robert K. Oermann wasn’t used on the documentary? The guy strikes me as kinda effeminate, but he knows his shit.
September 25, 2019 @ 6:24 pm
Well, I got what I wanted… Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt were given the spotlight I feel they deserved.
Really though, the highlight in what was my absolute favorite episode, the insight of Hazel Smith was the cherry on top to me. Her interviews were hysterical and a “cherry on top” bit of the episode. I adore that woman.
September 25, 2019 @ 9:16 pm
The series was fantastic overall. I have been glued to the tv! And the emphasis on key figures from Mother Maybell to Johnny to Waylon to Emmylou has been spot on. I was suprised that Hank Snow got overlooked and I think maybe too much credit is given to Gram Parsons. Perhaps a little focus could have gone to Chris Hillman who nudged the Byrds into country music before Gram came along. Through his later work with Herb Peterson and the Desert Rose Band and others projects, he has kept both Bluegrass, country folk,and The Buck Owens Bakersfield sounds alive. Not to mention, it was he who discovered Emmylou and told Gram to meet her. And, 50 odd years later he still sings and plays. He definitely should be in the Country Hall if Fame by now!
September 26, 2019 @ 4:51 am
And let’s not forget the Flying Burrito Brothers!
Edward P Johnston
September 26, 2019 @ 10:27 am
Yes, sure agree that Hank Snow (although pictured and briefly mentioned) was largely left out.
September 25, 2019 @ 10:59 pm
Ken Burns should redo the 73 to 83 and make into two parts and include more in Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Paycheck, David Allan Coe, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell, Crystal Gayle, CW McCall and Red Foley and the other trucker country music, Jerry Reid, Ray Stevens and country ditties, etc, etc.
Why they got so off track in later years, as well missing Johnny Horton and more on Jim Reeves in 50s to 60s plus a few other from that era.
80s to 90s was rushed, spent way too much time on Cash, sorry to say many far more important artists and better singers with more hits given little time or barely a mention omg.
Seemed like they got tired of things once they got half way thru series and rushed putting final episodes together vs taking time to do it fair and square.
Conway Twitty I see as biggest slight with 44 #1 hits and many top ten hits from 58 to his death in 1993 before he was 60 years old from aortic aneurism. He was country to rockabilly to country pop over years but he was COUNTRY no doubt about it.
I suggest a edit and reissue to make wrongs right for all those great artists snubbed or given barely a mention inc. Don Williams whom I did not care for as much but he was a important figure in country music with well over 20 hits in 70s plus despite me not caring for him as much as some others mentioned.
How many hits did Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker have, too many too not be given more mention than they were given. Disappointing being such a fan, surprised they did not slight others as well as Toby Keith etc. They were bigger stars than some that were given too much air time on this series but alas next to nothing or …
Enough said but hope they make it right but not holding my breath, seems like history being rewritten to appease some at expense of others more deserving of more than fleeting mention.
Did they not have this reviewed by real country fans of different ages to better understand the impact some of these artists had on the music. Look at the charts and you will see what I mean, too many hits not too be a huge impact but seemed liked they were treated as one hit wonders which they were not.
People that never grew up with these artists throughout the years are getting a flawed look when not much time devoted to these greats. What a slight and snub to these greats yet building up minor stars like they were the greatest but had only a few hits vs 20 plus for these others.
Listen to the song by George Jones, “who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”, he knew who the stars were back in 50s to 60s as Opposed to roducers of this series which you can tell were not true country fans or how could they slight so many with biggest slight being Conway Twitty as well Glen Campbell, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Horton and Don Williams plus.
Loved the earlier episodes which I am sure few slights in early years too but not in my era of listening but was knowledgeable for myself. Just wish they could have done justice to 60s to 90s, which I mainly grew up on and know well with my huge album collections of many genres but I grew up on country then rock and roll then back to country in later years again.
Far from perfect, too bad this was not rough cut with edits to be made to make it right IMHO!
September 26, 2019 @ 3:47 am
No mention of Eddie Rabbitt anywhere, not even in the comments. He was too significant to be forgotten altogether.
September 26, 2019 @ 4:44 am
I have to agree with all the disappointment that Don Williams was not given his due. But then I got to thinking. Don never was one to stand in the limelight, wasn’t into the awards he deserved. I have to wonder if he had some agreement with the powers of Nashville, just leave him alone and let him make his music. I think the one photo of him from the back of the stage says all that Don would have wanted said.
September 26, 2019 @ 4:57 am
My favorite part of the whole series is when they had all the footage of older country acts playing/dancing and “Are you Sure Hank Done it this Way” fires up. I thought it was a good transition and introduction of Waylon (my personal favorite of all time).
September 26, 2019 @ 5:09 am
It was noted that Dolly was the “girl singer” on Porter Waggoner’s television show, but the fact that Loretta Lynn was the girl singer on the Wilburn Brothers’ show was left out. I don’t think the Wilburn Brothers were ever mentioned at all, or I missed it. I remember my parents and I traveling to Nashville and watching the taping of 3 episodes of the Wilburn Brothers show. Loretta was the sweetest thing to me, a 12 year old kid when I asked if I could have my picture taken with her. Jack Greene and Jeannie Seely were the guest stars, and were just as kind to all the audience. Great memories!
September 26, 2019 @ 5:22 am
too bad they only highlight the ones to have major troubles in their lives and very little of the other artist who made it big, but we’re not pot heads or drunks. Made a big deal about loosing Patsy Klein in 1963 but said nothing about Jim Reeves one one of the greatest of his time when his plane went down in July of 1964. Very little of Waylon and many others.
September 26, 2019 @ 5:35 am
I was so highly DISAPPOINTED in this show. they left out some of the best performers of all time, and in my opinion RONNIE MILSAP DESERVED MORE THAN A HONORABLE MENTION. HOW DARE THIS MAN SKIP THE 70’S OF WHICH RONNIE MILSAP WAS SO IMPORTANT TO. THOUSANDS OF US LOVE RONNIE MILSAP AND FEEL THIS SLAP IN THE FACE WAS HORRIBLE, I PERSONALLY BOYCOTT THIS FILM FOR ITS NEGLECT TO LEAVE OUT SUCH LEGENDS. HOW DARE YOU, THIS STINKS AND NO WAY WOULD I EVER WATCH OR BUY THIS JUNK, YES THEY HAD SOME GOOD POINTS, BUT LEAVING OUT SUCH BIG ACTS, IS UNSPEAKABLY WRONG.
September 26, 2019 @ 8:11 am
It was a great series, but I think a little more recognition should have been given to Alan Jackson. He and Randy Travis were huge in bringing back hard core country country.
September 26, 2019 @ 9:06 am
WHERE THE HELL IS JERRY JEFF IN THIS DOCUMENTARY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
September 26, 2019 @ 12:51 pm
The most glaring omission in this series is that of Jerry Lee Lewis. He recorded a string of classic country albums on Mercury in the late sixties.
September 26, 2019 @ 6:02 pm
I was very surprised that “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” was not mentioned. I feel like that was the quintessential country song of the 70s.
September 26, 2019 @ 6:19 pm
So many good comments here. Happy especially to see so many mentions of Billy Joe Shaver and Honky Tonk Heroes (an album I admit I bought because of the cool cover photo before I knew anything about Waylon or Billy Joe). Also missed at least mentions of Doug Sahm and Jerry Jeff Walker, who were spiritual pillars of the outlaw movement regardless of their record sales or lack thereof.
With the focus entirely on Rosanne, I felt a little sorry for Johnny Cash’s other kids, who got left out pretty much entirely.
Also thought Steve Earle deserved to be mentioned more — he’s one of the songwriting greats in country history. On the other hand, I was surprised and sort of pleased he wasn’t interviewed. Not that I disagree with what he says (as many do) but no question, he’s been heard enough.
Did I miss Linda Ronstadt? Surprised she wasn’t mentioned. Also was surprised the Eagles didn’t get covered, even though (as everyone on this site knows) their status as country artists is controversial.
Speaking of controversial, I’ve gotten into arguments over this one, but where did Burns & Co. get the information that Lefty of “Pancho and Lefty” was a supposed to be an associate of Pancho’s? Did Townes say that somewhere? Cause I’ve always maintained that the connection between the two was existential rather than actual.
Finally, of course they had to cover “He Stopped Loving Her Today” as the greatest country song ever. I’ll still hold out for “The Grand Tour.”
September 26, 2019 @ 7:44 pm
I think the final song when they run the credits on the final installment should be “Murder On Music Row.” That would be the perfect statement on what Country Music has become in the last 25 years.
At least you could tell everybody apart in the old days. Today’s so-called “Country” stars all sound alike to me. No heart or soul.
Kinda like American society in general. We’ve all turned into McWalmart.
September 26, 2019 @ 9:02 pm
“Murder on Music Row” would have been great to hear somewhere in that doc. Can’t disagree about what’s happened to American society in general, but to say we’ve all turned into McWalmart is a bit overstated — there are some folks making great music today, and not everyone’s going quietly. I’m trying not to.
September 27, 2019 @ 7:02 pm
I wish it could have gone on longer. Every night as I watched it I was so touched by the personal stories . So many special people and to me it was many wonderful memories. The Highwaymen and having gotten to see them with my late husband was a particular touching memory. I just wish we had them with a full performance.
September 29, 2019 @ 5:55 am
I love this series. The amount of research that went into this is astounding. It is great to learn some of the facts behind how the songs were written and how the singers got their start in country music. It is really cool to get to see some of the rare footage and pictures of country legends. That all said, one of the things I really was disappointed with was their lack of Conway Twitty coverage. He is one of my all time top 5 favorite country singers along with George Jones, Merle Haggard Waylon Jennings and Charlie Pride. He had 40 number one hits. He was second only to George Straight with the all time record for number one hits in country music history. I wonder how much of who gets air time is politics. Other than that beef, the series is the best exciting and exhaustive look at country music.
October 4, 2019 @ 3:19 pm
I agree the series is fun. Ken Burns has more highbrow taste in country music than I do. He favors the more articulate Songbirds such as Emmylou Harris, Roseanne Cash and Kathy Mattea.
SANDRA ELIABETH SMITH
March 22, 2020 @ 9:40 am
ADVERTISE KENNY ROGER ON CMT CANADA NOT JUNK SHOWS