Country Music Series by Ken Burns

August 21, 2019

The eight-part Country Music series premieres Sunday, September 15 through Wednesday, September 18, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, September 22 through Wednesday, September 25 at 8 p.m.

From The Civil War and The Roosevelts to Jazz and Baseball and Jackie Robinson, no one tells the incredible stories of our country like Ken Burns. The celebrated filmmaker, heralded as “America’s storyteller,” turns his lens on a uniquely American art form in Country Music, an eight-part documentary series premiering this month on THIRTEEN.

Featuring interviews with more than 80 country music artists, the film follows the evolution of country music over the course of the 20th century, spotlighting the trailblazers who created and shaped it: the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and more.

For Burns, one of the joys of making the series was discovering how diverse country music’s roots are, and how intertwined it is with other American music genres, such as jazz and rock and roll.

“Country music has never been confined into one simple category. Like America itself, it’s too big for that,” he says.

The series traces the history of country music, from the “hillbilly music” of the 1920s to the popularity of Hollywood’s singing cowboys during the Great Depression and World War II, to the rise of bluegrass and rockabilly, the transformation of Nashville into Music City USA, and the impact of radio and television on the art form.

The film reveals how country music has reflected America’s changing times. Loretta Lynn struck a chord with female fans in the 1960s and 70s with “The Pill” and other hit songs. Charley Pride became the first black country music superstar. Bob Dylan and other artists found a recording home in Nashville as the Vietnam War raged.

We also witness a vibrant new era in country music with Dolly Parton and other megastars, and artists like the Judds who help country music stay true to its roots as the genre skyrockets to new heights.

Like his other films, Burns says the story of country music offers a window for exploring our history, our culture, and who we are as Americans.

“Its story is filled with fascinating people, many of whom rose from poverty but dreamed big dreams, and through determination and talent, created great art that has touched millions of people,” he observes.

As Dolly Parton says in the film, “You can dance to country music. You can cry to it. You can make love to it. You can play it at a funeral. It has something for everybody.”

The first four episodes of Country Music will stream here and via the THIRTEEN Explore app beginning September 15 at 8 p.m.; episodes 5-8 will stream beginning September 22 at 8 p.m. Watch the entire series the night of the premiere with the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport.

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #CountryMusicPBS.


Watch Country Films Now

Preview Country Music in a half-hour introductory special or browse Country Music clips.

You can also stream the American Masters documentary on Charley Pride: I’m Just Me through August 29 (afterwards, for members only). THIRTEEN members can stream the American Masters film Loretta Lynn: Still A Mountain Girl, using the member benefit, THIRTEEN Passport.