WITF and Susquehanna Folk Fest to Host Central PA’s First Public Screening of Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’

  • By Heather Woolridge

PBS filmmaker Ken Burns traces the history of COUNTRY MUSIC in a new documentary series exploring the uniquely American art form. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, Burns highlights how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music.

The series, premiering on WITF TV September 15 at 8pm, explores questions like “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from?” From the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more, the series explore stories as well as the times in which they lived. Much like the music itself, the film tells unforgettable stories of hardships and joys shared by everyday people.

Pennsylvania has a long legacy of musical storytelling that continues to inspire new generations of country, folk and bluegrass musicians today.


This summer the WITF Music project will celebrate the Commonwealth’s country roots at three regional music festivals including the Susquehanna Folk Festival at Roundtop Mountain Resort July 26 through 28. The festival showcases a variety of acoustic music styles including bluegrass, old-time, blues, and swing. The weekend will be jam-packed with concerts, dancing, jamming, an artisan marketplace, food, lots of hands-on activities. Tickets are available at susquehannafolkfestival.org/tickets.

Plus, visitors can catch the first public preview screening of the COUNTRY MUSIC series, local WITF Music TV and radio specials, and more. Screenings will be held Saturday and Sunday at noon, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm in the air-conditioned Alpine Room, adjacent to the Patio Tent behind the lodge. Some screenings will also feature talk-back sessions with festival performers. Learn more at witf.org/countrymusic.


Grammy Winning Dom Flemons to perform at the 2019 Susquehanna Folk Festival

One of the festival’s headline performers is GRAMMY Award Winner, Dom Flemons. Known as “The American Songster”, his repertoire of music covers over 100 years of American folklore, ballads, and tunes. In 2018, Flemons released an album titled “Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys” on GRAMMY Award-winning record label Smithsonian Folkways and received a GRAMMY Nomination for “Best Folk Album” at the 61st GRAMMY Awards.

Flemons shares more about his love of country music, it’s history and heritage.

What are the country music stories that speaks to you? What song originally hooked you? What moves you?

DOM FLEMONS: I would say that “Hey Good Lookin'” by Hank Williams made me a country music fan.  When I heard that record it was all over for me!  The steel guitar and the fiddle.  Hank also had a great singing voice! As I became a professional musician, I began to learn about the early African American musicians who were connected to the early pioneers of country.  DeFord Bailey.  Old Teetop Payne.  Lesley Riddle.  Arnold Schultz.  When I began to find these stories, I naturally wanted to share them with others.  That moves me.

What are some of the earliest country songs that you remember hearing? 

DOM FLEMONS: My father Charles Flemons used to have a CD of Charlie Daniels in the car.  “Super Hits”.  He got it at the gas station.  He used to love to sing “Long Haired Country Boy”.  He grew up in Northern Arizona and heard country music on the radio.  He and mom always had music playing around the house.

Your album “Dom Flemons presents Black Cowboys” pays tribute to the music, culture, and complex history of the Wild West. Why was it important to you to create this album?

DOM FLEMONS: After I performed at the opening ceremonies for the national Museum of African American history and culture, I knew that my idea for a Black Cowboys album would best be served by Smithsonian folkways and the African American legacy series.  Around a decade ago I read the book The Negro Cowboys and began to research stories on black western culture. By the time I pitched the idea to the Smithsonian, I had an overwhelming amount of information but a strong idea that the story I was going to tell would be an important one. Being both African American and Mexican American, presenting a multi-faceted and multicultural West and Music form allowed me to tell a little bit of my story in the context of a much bigger cultural phenomenon.

How does music bring us together?

DOM FLEMONS: Music is the universal language. No matter how divided the ideologies are between different segments of society, music brings them all together because everyone loves music. Good folk music fills the soul. That’s the reason I play it.  It’s always my hope that the songs I choose to sing will bring people together.

Save the Date

WITF Music: Storyteller Sessions–September 8, 2019 at 6pm at American Music Theatre, Lancaster.

$12 General Admission. Featuring a sneak peek at the new Ken Burns series COUNTRY MUSIC, plus, musical performances by Country & Bluegrass artists like Colebrook Road and more–with insights into their songwriting process and reflections on the classic country artists who’ve inspired them. Tickets go on sale at the AMT box office soon!  


Learn more at witf.org/countrymusic


COUNTRY MUSIC on WITF is supported by American Music Theatre in Lancaster. With additional support from Messick’s.



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