Ken Burns Documentary ‘Country Music’ on PBS Sept. 15

The Ken Burns film Country Music starts on PBS Sept. 15. The film has eight parts and runs for 16 hours. Burns directed, and produced the documentary alongside Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey.

PBS airs Country Music Sept. 15-18, then Sept. 22-25.

Duncan wrote the documentary and an illustrated companion book, Country Music: An Illustrated History, that comes out September 10. The film chronicles country music’s early days, from southern Appalachia’s songs of struggle, heartbreak and faith to the rollicking Western swing of Texas, California’s honky-tonks and Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. “The film follows the evolution of country music over the course of the 20th century,” said PBS, “as it eventually emerges to become ‘America’s music.’”

Related: Songs and Daughters: Ken Burns Looks at Women in Country

The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and other country figures get their close-up.

“As with so many of their films, Ken and Dayton guide us on a journey through history that educates and entertains, providing an intimate look into the creative lives of those women and men who came together to develop an authentic American art form,” said Perry Simon, PBS chief programming executive and general manager, general audience programming.

Duncan, Burns and Dunfey spent eight years researching and producing the film, conducting interviews with more than 100 people. Country Music is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, DC.

“At the heart of every great country music song is a story,” said Burns. “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.” 


Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.