COUNTRY MUSIC" BY KEN BURNS FEATURES SEVIERVILLE, TENNESSEE'S OWN DOLLY PARTON
While in Sevierville, Tennessee, as part of a national 30-city tour to promote his documentary, “Country Music,” filmmaker Ken Burns stood next to the iconic Dolly Parton statue and described the legendary singer/songwriter: “I found Dolly Parton to be the most open, generous, smart, talented, funny, self-deprecating human being I’ve ever met.”
No surprise to those of us who love her, Sevierville’s own Dolly Parton plays a key role in the eight-part, 16-hour documentary that chronicles the history of country music and premiered on PBS in 2019.
Written by Dayton Duncan (who also wrote an illustrated companion book), the documentary chronicles country music’s evolution over the 20th century to become “America’s music.” The film profiles many of the genre’s trailblazers as it seeks answers to the questions “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from?”
“This film is a story of an amazing American art form,” says Burns. “At its heart are stories. The history of country music includes many great artists, and many of them are extraordinary, strong women including Dolly Parton. I think we forget in our relative comfort—despite hard times or divisions we see among ourselves—the way that so many country music stars raised themselves out of poverty. They dreamed bigger dreams and then created art that permitted the rest of us to dream those dreams. Dolly is no exception: When she was born her family paid the doctor with a sack of cornmeal. She never forgot where she came from, but dreamed big dreams and is arguably the first lady of country music. She is an extraordinary human being with a voice beyond compare and one of the most talented singer/songwriters in the history of country music. We look forward to sharing her story and all the stories in the film with you.”
In addition to Dolly Parton, “Country Music” features many artists—including the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, and others—sharing hardships and joys as well as the times in which they lived.
“At the heart of every great country music song is a story,” says 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.”
“We discovered that country music isn’t––and never was––one type of music; it actually is many styles,” says Duncan. “It sprang from diverse roots, and it sprouted many branches. What unites them all is the way the music connects personal stories and elemental experiences with universal themes that every person can relate to. And as it evolved, from the bottom up, it created a special bond between the artists and fans that is unique among all other musical genres.”
Burns, Duncan, and Dunfey spent eight years researching and producing “Country Music,” interviewing more than 100 people, including 40 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame (including 17 who have since passed on). The film uses more than 3,200 photographs and over two hours of archival footage, including rare and never-before-seen photos and footage.
Watch “Country Music”
“Country Music” is available at PBS.org and on the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast.
“Country Music” is also available on Blu-ray and DVD from PBS Distribution at shopPBS.org. The DVD and Blu-ray extras include a preview program, a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made, and material gleaned from the hours of interviews. The series will also be available for digital download.
Join the conversation online using #CountryMusicPBS.
Visit Dolly’s Hometown: Sevierville, Tennessee
Come see Dolly Parton’s hometown of Sevierville. We offer more than 3,000 lodging options—resorts, campgrounds, luxury mountain cabins, cute cottages, romantic bed and breakfasts, and quality hotels—so you can find the perfect place to stay.
Make your first stop the Sevier County Courthouse to snap a selfie with the iconic bronze statue of the music maven as a young woman. The statue was sculpted by local artist Jim Gray and has adorned Historic Downtown Sevierville for over 30 years.
Then explore Dolly’s hometown with Sevierville’s free, self-guided Historic Walking Tour. Pick up a printed walking tour brochure at the Dolly Parton statue or get it online here.
In neighboring Pigeon Forge, visit Dollywood which recently opened the largest addition in the park’s history, Wildwood Grove. The $37 million new area was designed specifically for families to enjoy together. When the project was announced, Dolly Parton explained, “This area is going to give families a place to explore, play and imagine together—but more importantly—it’s a place where they can spend more time together.”
Visit during fall to enjoy your pick of festivals like the Robert A. Tino Smoky Mountain Homecoming, Kyker Farms Corn Maze, Wears Valley Fall Fest, and more.
Plan a winter visit and enjoy the Annual Smoky Mountain Winterfest Celebration. Among the festivities, you can view more than 15 million lights in a 25-mile stretch!
For more information contact the Sevierville, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce at 1-888-766-5948 or VisitSevierville.com.