Tulsa will be among cities hosting stops on a nationwide press tour for Ken Burns’ “Country Music” documentary.
The eight-part, 16-hour film will premiere Sept. 15 on PBS.
According to a news release, “Country Music” will explore crucial questions — “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from?” — while focusing on the biographies of the trailblazers who created and shaped it: The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many others.
The film connects the history of country music to the larger story of America, looking at how artists and songwriting reflected periods of war, depression and cultural upheaval.
“At the heart of every great country music song is a story,” Burns said in a news release. “As the songwriter Harlan Howard said, ‘It’s three chords and the truth.’ The common experiences and human emotions speak to each of us about love and loss, about hard times and the chance of redemption. As an art form, country music is also forever revisiting its history, sharing and updating old classics and celebrating its roots, which are, in many ways, foundational to our country itself.”
A national campaign exploring the history and music through screenings and discussions will take place in more than 30 markets across the country leading up to the film’s premiere. The press tour will include events in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, according to the news release. Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa was known as the Carnegie Hall of Western swing music during the heyday of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
Filmmakers spent eight years researching and producing the documentary, conducting interviews with more than 100 people, including 40 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame (17 of those interviewed have since passed on). Among those storytellers are historian Bill Malone and a wide range of country artists such as Marty Stuart, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Haggard, Parton, Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, and Naomi and Wynonna Judd, as well as studio musicians, record producers and others.
In conjunction with the documentary, a special concert will be held at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and will be recorded for broadcast later this year. Gill will be among the artists participating in the concert, which will include clips from the film.