Country Music Marathon

Explore the history of a uniquely American art form

  • Fred Vigeant

WITF encores the 16-hour documentary exploring the uniquely American art form Saturday June 27 and Sunday June 28. The series premiered last fall on WITF and was seen by more than 34.5 million viewers nationwide on PBS stations  and the PBS Video app.

County Music explores crucial questions –– “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from?”–– while focusing on the biographies of the fascinating trailblazers who created and shaped it — from the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe 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 — 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.

County Music digs deep to uncover the roots of the music, including ballads, minstrel music, hymns and the blues, and its early years in the 1920s, when it was called “hillbilly music,” and was recorded for the first time and played across the airwaves on radio station barn dances. It explores how Hollywood B movies instituted the fad of singing cowboys like Gene Autry and shows how the rise of juke joints after World War II changed the musical style by bringing electric and pedal steel guitars to the forefront.

At the film’s heart are the stories of unforgettable songs and the artists who created them: their emergences from humble beginnings, their musical influences and their breakthrough moments. County Music explores the extraordinary connection between country music artists and fans, and notes the enduring influence of particular songs and musicians across generations. The narrative ends in the mid-1990s as a young Garth Brooks emerges from a small venue in Nashville to achieve phenomenal success, brings country music to an entirely new level of popularity, and yet shows up to sign autographs for more than 20 hours at the Country Music Association’s Fan Fair.

Watch County Music on WITF beginning at 10:00am Saturday June 27 through to midnight (concluding the day with WITF Music’s production of Country Music in Pennsylvania).  The marathon continues Sunday June 28 at 9:00am and continues to 5:00pm.  Country Music is also available for on-demand viewing through the PBS Video app for WITF Passport members.

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