Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary Country Music will begin airing on PBS stations before the year is out, but a piece of it will live on forever at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. At a press conference on Wednesday in Nashville, Burns showed a clip from the documentary and announced that he would be donating all the transcripts and interviews from the project to the Hall of Fame.
The eight-part documentary, on which Burns worked with regular collaborators Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey, was filmed over the course of eight years and was culled from 175 hours of interviews with more than 100 subjects. It was subject matter rich with stories and history that, as Burns noted, needed to be heard by people who weren’t familiar. “They belong to our country,” he said.
Joining Burns for the presentation were some of the subjects he interviewed in the documentary, including Kathy Mattea, Holly Williams, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs and Rhiannon Giddens. Stuart touched on his own tenure in country, which began when he joined Lester Flatt’s band as a teenager and has continued through today with many stylistic turns along the way. “You do find a place your heart belongs,” he said.
Burns’ stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame came at the end of a whirlwind bus tour of Tennessee’s musical towns, including Cookeville and then Bristol, where Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were first recorded. He followed that with a stop in Knoxville, near Dolly Parton’s hometown, and then crisscrossed the entire state to arrive in Memphis on Tuesday, where he visited the launching pad of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash at Sun Records and Sam Phillips Recording. The celebration continues in Nashville on Wednesday night with a Ryman Auditorium concert featuring performances by Giddens, Stuart, Skaggs, Secor, Williams, Mattea, Dierks Bentley, Rosanne Cash and Dwight Yoakam.
The eight-part Country Music premieres on PBS September 15th.