The first installment of Ken Burns’ highly anticipated documentary series “Country Music” will debut Sept. 15 on PBS. In advance of the premiere, a preview of the eight-part, 16-hour series will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
The free screening event, hosted by the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), will feature clips from the series and a moderated discussion and Q-and-A with Dayton Duncan, a writer and producer of the documentary, and producer Julie Dunfey.
To reserve a seat for the preview (or a similar preview at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Nigh University Center in Edmond), go to OETA.tv/countrymusic.
What will people see at the preview?
“We always show the introduction to the film, which sets the table of contents, if you will, and expresses larger things about the music,” Duncan said in a phone interview.
“But we will concentrate on some of the Oklahoma connections certainly. We’ll be coming up from (preview stops in) Texas, where obviously there will be more Willie and Waylon and Ernest Tubb and that kind of stuff. That’s one thing in terms of this story. It’s not just in one location.”
Obviously, Nashville is an important place in country music history, and it’s a town that gets visited often in the documentary, Duncan said.
“But we try to make sure that people understand that there was also Cain’s Ballroom, that there was also Bakersfield, California, and Austin, Texas, and Georgia and Mississippi and all those places as well. When we are out showing crowds excerpts from the film, as much as we would like to just lock the doors and have somebody watch all 16½ hours to get the whole sweep of it, we have to do a 45-minute or so series of excerpts, and we have to choose carefully and we aren’t even able to show all the stuff that has an Oklahoma connection to it in 45 or 50 minutes.”
The Tulsa and Oklahoma City screening events are made possible with support from Bank of America, according to a news release.
Duncan, interviewed for this story and a longer preview story to be published closer to the premiere date, said at the end of the interview that he wanted to do one “shout out.”
“When I was doing some of the early research, I came to Tulsa, and Jim Halsey and his late son, Sherman, showed me around there and took me to Cain’s Ballroom and introduced me to a number of people in the Tulsa area. It’s just another example of all the help we got from different people throughout the country music family, but Tulsa-specific, Jim was a great help to us and we really appreciate it.”
Halsey, who once operated the world’s biggest country music agency from his office in Tulsa, was a guest speaker Wednesday at a Rotary Club of Tulsa meeting. Halsey mentioned the documentary series during his presentation about how Tulsa is poised to become a tourist destination for lovers of music and entertainment. Said Halsey about the “Country Music” documentary series: “It’s a story about America, even moreso than country music.”