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The Story behind Country Music in Pennsylvania

WITF brings together regional country and bluegrass artists for in-studio performances and conversations

  • Fred Vigeant
WITF visited the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival

WITF visited the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival

In anticipation of Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary, Country Music, WITF Music has been busy looking at Pennsylvania’s past and present connections to the genre.

Country Music premieres on WITF-TV September 15 at 8pm. This 16-hour, 8-part series, traces modern country music back to its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns. Stories and recollections from artists like Loretta Lynn, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson and more add insight into the workings of the country music industry.

WITF Music has presented previews of Country Music at the Susquehanna Folk Festival in July, the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival in August and the York Fair in September.  After the screenings talkback sessions were conducted with musicians about their early recollections of country music, the common themes between country, folk and bluegrass and how they connect their genre of music to country music.

Jess Zimmerman

Country artist Jess Zimmerman of Elverson, PA

Complementing WITF’s engagement in the community are WITF Original Productions for both TV and radio. WITF Music Presents: Country Music in Pennsylvania is a one-hour TV and radio program premiering on September 19 on TV and September 20 on 89.5 & 93.3. The programs bring together regional country and bluegrass artists for in-studio performances and conversations. Colebrook Road, Ben Gallaher, Stephanie Grace and Al Shade all share their reflections on the history of country music and how they see themselves in relation to the genre and treat us to live performances of their own music. The program profiles PA native and bluegrass legend Del McCoury.

Viewers will also visit Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth, PA. The company’s guitars are legendary in the music industry and especially in country music. Also, a behind-the-scenes look at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival digs further into country music’s roots in Pennsylvania. Plus, WITF Music radio features will air weekly during the month of September profiling local country and bluegrass artists.

Ben Gallaher

Country artist and Camp Hill native Ben Gallaher

“It’s an honor to be a part of the WITF Storyteller Sessions,” said Ben Gallaher. “Country music is one of the most relatable genres as it tells the stories of our everyday lives. As a songwriter and artist, I’m excited to connect my music with the roots and future of country music.”

Colebrook Road

Central PA bluegrass band Colebrook Road, l-r: Jesse Eisenbise, Joe McAnulty, Jeff Campbell, Mark Rast and Wade Yankey

The guys of Colebrook Road are ready to share their stories as well. “Colebrook Road is incredibly excited to be part of the Storyteller Sessions. We can’t wait to see the full documentary about so many of our musical heroes. Our music is deeply rooted in the historical country and roots music of America — we are trying to be a continuation of that lineage with our own music.”

Watch WITF Music Presents: Country Music in Pennsylvania on WITF-TV Thursday September 19 at 8:00pm.  Listen to WITF Music Presents: Country Music in Pennsylvania on WITF 89.5 & 93.3 Friday at 9:00am and 7:00pm. Watch more WITF Music performances…

Support for WITF Music Presents: Country Music in Pennsylvania comes from: American Music Theatre, Messick’s Farm Equipment and Homeland Hospice.

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