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Country Music: An Illustrated History

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The rich and colorful story of America's most popular music and the singers and songwriters who captivated, entertained, and consoled listeners throughout the twentieth century--based on the upcoming eight-part film series to air on PBS in September 2019 This gorgeously illustrated and hugely entertaining history begins where country music itself emerged: the American South The rich and colorful story of America's most popular music and the singers and songwriters who captivated, entertained, and consoled listeners throughout the twentieth century--based on the upcoming eight-part film series to air on PBS in September 2019 This gorgeously illustrated and hugely entertaining history begins where country music itself emerged: the American South, where people sang to themselves and to their families at home and in church, and where they danced to fiddle tunes on Saturday nights. With the birth of radio in the 1920s, the songs moved from small towns, mountain hollers, and the wide-open West to become the music of an entire nation--a diverse range of sounds and styles from honky tonk to gospel to bluegrass to rockabilly, leading up through the decades to the music's massive commercial success today. But above all, Country Music is the story of the musicians. Here is Hank Williams's tragic honky tonk life, Dolly Parton rising to fame from a dirt-poor childhood, and Loretta Lynn turning her experiences into songs that spoke to women everywhere. Here too are interviews with the genre's biggest stars, including the likes of Merle Haggard to Garth Brooks to Rosanne Cash. Rife with rare photographs and endlessly fascinating anecdotes, the stories in this sweeping yet intimate history will captivate longtime country fans and introduce new listeners to an extraordinary body of music that lies at the very center of the American experience.


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The rich and colorful story of America's most popular music and the singers and songwriters who captivated, entertained, and consoled listeners throughout the twentieth century--based on the upcoming eight-part film series to air on PBS in September 2019 This gorgeously illustrated and hugely entertaining history begins where country music itself emerged: the American South The rich and colorful story of America's most popular music and the singers and songwriters who captivated, entertained, and consoled listeners throughout the twentieth century--based on the upcoming eight-part film series to air on PBS in September 2019 This gorgeously illustrated and hugely entertaining history begins where country music itself emerged: the American South, where people sang to themselves and to their families at home and in church, and where they danced to fiddle tunes on Saturday nights. With the birth of radio in the 1920s, the songs moved from small towns, mountain hollers, and the wide-open West to become the music of an entire nation--a diverse range of sounds and styles from honky tonk to gospel to bluegrass to rockabilly, leading up through the decades to the music's massive commercial success today. But above all, Country Music is the story of the musicians. Here is Hank Williams's tragic honky tonk life, Dolly Parton rising to fame from a dirt-poor childhood, and Loretta Lynn turning her experiences into songs that spoke to women everywhere. Here too are interviews with the genre's biggest stars, including the likes of Merle Haggard to Garth Brooks to Rosanne Cash. Rife with rare photographs and endlessly fascinating anecdotes, the stories in this sweeping yet intimate history will captivate longtime country fans and introduce new listeners to an extraordinary body of music that lies at the very center of the American experience.

30 review for Country Music: An Illustrated History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Country Music: An Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan, (Kenneth Burns), is a 2019 Knopf Publishing Group publication. I love Ken Burn’s PBS documentaries. However, I will make a sheepish confession – Often times I tuned in to these documentaries, even though the subject matter wasn’t always one I was all that interested in, just so I could listen to Peter Coyote narrate the series. I love his voice! While I haven’t seen all the Ken Burns documentaries, the ones I have seen were absolutely incre Country Music: An Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan, (Kenneth Burns), is a 2019 Knopf Publishing Group publication. I love Ken Burn’s PBS documentaries. However, I will make a sheepish confession – Often times I tuned in to these documentaries, even though the subject matter wasn’t always one I was all that interested in, just so I could listen to Peter Coyote narrate the series. I love his voice! While I haven’t seen all the Ken Burns documentaries, the ones I have seen were absolutely incredible. The only one I deliberately did not finish was the one about the Dust Bowl- it was just too depressing. When I heard Burns was about to do a documentary series over Country Music, I was intrigued. I have had a love/hate relationship with country music, but I was very excited about seeing Burns’s presentation.... And for another opportunity to listen to Peter Coyote! Unfortunately, I was unable to watch all the episodes of the series when it aired. I caught the first few episodes, but before I was able to go back and finish watching it, it was no longer available to stream on my PBS channel. Maybe someday I’ll be able to find it on a streaming service or on DVD … at an affordable price. So, while I’m waiting for that, and saving my pennies, I decided to check out this illustrated companion book. The research, of course, is impeccable and as stated, the book is packed with photographs. It was a fun trip down memory lane for me, in many ways. Now, I know what you are thinking. Aren’t you the big rock, blues and jazz fan? You listen to country music??? I know, many of you would never suspect that the music I was most exposed to growing up was, in fact, country music. This book, along with the few episodes of the series I got to see, puts the genre into perspective and proves that it is respected across the board by many musicians who are primarily blues and rock artists. The roots of the genre solidify its worth in my eyes and I found the journey through this unique history to be quite interesting and very compelling. The series is much more in depth, of course, but this book is a great summation especially considering the amount of time covered and the wealth of material that is included, along with all the photographs. I think this book-and of course the documentary- might be a real eye-opener for those who have a tendency to roll their eyes at country music, or hold it in contempt, thinking it is a lesser form of music. The country music industry is packed with talented writers, singers, and musicians. Not only that, Nashville is very business oriented, which might also surprise a few people. The only complaint I had, was that once we reached the nineties, the era of time I was most appreciative of country music, and the part I was most looking forward to, was very rushed through. George Strait and Randy Travis barely had a paragraph each!! Seriously? Strait has more number one hits than any other artist in any genre, and he only got a paragraph? The other thing that gave me pause was how often Marty Stuart was quoted and how heavily the author leaned on excerpts from interviews with Marty. I was wondering why a more diverse group of artists weren’t interviewed for this book and began to think maybe the author and Marty were good pals or something. Other than that, this book is exceptional, especially while exploring the musical roots of the genre and digging into the early history of country music and how it managed to hang on all these years, surviving all manner of musical trends and suffering from a deep identity crisis. It’s really very interesting. This book is not just for fans of country music. It should also appeal to all music lovers, as well as history buffs. If you aren’t a fan of country music, or if it’s a genre you are mostly unfamiliar with, I challenge you to check this out- and the documentary- then sample some of the music- older stuff and newer stuff alike. If you open your mind and heart you might be in for a real treat and you just might surprise yourself! 4 stars *Personal note: For me country music in a huge mixed bag. Growing up, my mother listened to the radio a couple of hours a day and it was always tuned to a country station. It wasn’t until I started school and was allowed to view more of a variety of television programs, that I discovered a wide range of music. Once I got a taste of rock music, I dumped country music unceremoniously. I never looked back, until the late eighties to the mid-nineties when I had a brief flirtation with country music, finally letting go of most of my disdain for the genre. I still occasionally get in the mood for some country music. I live in a small Texas town known as the cowboy capital of the world for rodeo- and is the home to Ty Murray. Country music is still the most listened to genre in these parts. So, it’s hard for me not to rub elbows with this music from time to time. But, of course, I’m mostly an outlier here in my small corner of the world. I try to think for myself and refuse to mimic what everyone around me is saying. As a result, my political views often clash with my fellow citizens and rock music, blues and jazz are my ‘go-to’ musical genres- not country. Many of my issues with country music has nothing to do with the music, itself. In fact, I enjoy listening to a country song from time to time- mostly older stuff from the nineties, though. But, I cringe when I see the blatant lack of diversity within country music- although this book worked super hard to try and dispel that image. I am frustrated by the conformity and quietness of country performers when to comes to addressing social issues-( probably due to the fear of a ‘Dixie Chicks’ style backlash,) - And despite efforts to prove the music and its artists are not against diversity or opposed to blending various musical forms with its own, or working with artists from the world of hip hop or rock and roll, the Travis Tritts of the genre erase the effectiveness of many such efforts. The industry gets an B-for effort though, because as well meaning as they be, the olive branch doesn't extend far enough or fails spectacularly. For example: Currently, one of the most irritating issues in country music is centered around sexism. Female artists are fighting for equal air play from radio stations who give the majority of airtime to male artists. The CMA awards show highlighted the women of country in their opening ceremony this year, but then turned around and handed every major award to.... male artists. To that end, I would like to support more female country artists out there. They are working to bring the attitudes in the country music industry up to speed and are bravely speaking out with more boldness that has been the case in years past. Country music is still trying to find its identity in many ways. Often times, the arguments for pure country clashes with a demand for a country rock or pop sound. The core base of listeners often demands the artists, at least publicly, ( you’ll want to read the story about Merle Haggard- who sang the patriotic ode to Oklahoma- Okie from Muskogee- which lambasted marijuana use in favor of illegal 'white lightning'. It was a well -known fact that Haggard was a pot smoker), present a conservative unity, while many other music lovers would welcome a mishmash, which could help the genre reach a much broader audience. While there are issues that need work, the talent can’t be ignored, and country music’s place in American history is an important one. The music means something to people and represents a lifestyle and frame of mind for many of the working class but doesn’t have to stop there. The music itself is a blend of various genres and often flirts with mainstream appeal. If you can, try a little open- mindedness. You might discover that many of these songs are just great storytelling! Biographical stories, coming of age tales, emotional, bittersweet, and sentimental stories sometimes, but many that are good toe-tapping fun, too! There are rich stories of hardship, tragedy, and heartbreak, but also uplifting stories of triumph and great epic love lasting forever and ever- Amen!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stinky Girl

    This is a good chronology of country music and its' particapants.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Doty

    The accompanying volume to the PBS mini-series of the same name, this book is everything you'd expect from Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns--thoroughly researched history, fascinating stories, and a compelling narrative that leaves you wanting more. Tracing the arc of country music from its "hillbilly" and Western swing roots in the 1920s and 1930s to the rise of the "Nashville sound" and the Grand Ole Opry in the 1950s and 1960s, to its more recent crossover into rock and pop, Dayton and Burns paint The accompanying volume to the PBS mini-series of the same name, this book is everything you'd expect from Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns--thoroughly researched history, fascinating stories, and a compelling narrative that leaves you wanting more. Tracing the arc of country music from its "hillbilly" and Western swing roots in the 1920s and 1930s to the rise of the "Nashville sound" and the Grand Ole Opry in the 1950s and 1960s, to its more recent crossover into rock and pop, Dayton and Burns paint the history of America in the 20th century through the eyes of some its most talented artists. With comprehensive profiles of several of country's biggest stars, including Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Gene Autry, Buck Owens, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, the Carter family, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kathy Mattea, Tricia Yearwood, Vince Gill, and Garth Brooks, the book provides detailed insights into how the genre developed and continues to speak to Americans across the racial, political, and economic spectrum today. Described by various people as "three chords and the truth," country music is said to be more appreciated as one gets older and actually experiences many of the life events described by country songs--from the joyful to the sorrowful. I agree, and recommend this book to anyone who really wants to understand how music can touch the heart and soul.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    Why does it always seem like country music is having an identity crisis? Does R&B have identity crises? Does pop? Does hip-hop? Sure, but somehow with country music there always seems to be a tension between some idea of "real country" and whatever genres, ideas, or textures are influencing the sound of music made by artists who consider themselves country. In his landmark book Country Music USA: 50th Anniversary Edition, Bill C. Malone (with co-author Tracey E.W. Laird for the most recent editio Why does it always seem like country music is having an identity crisis? Does R&B have identity crises? Does pop? Does hip-hop? Sure, but somehow with country music there always seems to be a tension between some idea of "real country" and whatever genres, ideas, or textures are influencing the sound of music made by artists who consider themselves country. In his landmark book Country Music USA: 50th Anniversary Edition, Bill C. Malone (with co-author Tracey E.W. Laird for the most recent edition) tackles that question head-on and brings it right up to the minute, with Beyoncé’s "Daddy Lessons" hanging as the unanswered question for country music in this decade. Can an African-American woman who gained fame for pop R&B make the country charts? Even more recently, Lil Nas X prompted another round of headlines about what counts as "country music" — and specifically, whether the genre's gatekeepers will ever allow a return to the dialogue with African-American musical traditions that produced the genre in the first place. Judging by the companion volume, though, Ken Burns's new documentary series about country music doesn't go there. Burns shines a welcome spotlight on the contributions of artists of color, and women, from the genre's inception, but he doesn't ask a lot of tough questions. Instead, Country Music: An Illustrated History, co-authored with Dayton Duncan, functions as a visual timeline of country music from Fiddlin' John Carson in 1923 until the death of Johnny Cash in 2003. I reviewed Country Music: An Illustrated History for The Current.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Livingston

    A fantastic history of country music from the early 1900's to about the death of Johnny Cash with lots of great pics and quotes. Even if you're not a fan of country music, the way it developed over the years and how one generation learned from the one before is truly fascinating. A great book for fans of music, country music. You won't find a better book about music.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Edmund Davis-Quinn

    A lot of fascinating vignettes. Odd that it actually read better out of order much of the time. I read about a third of it but time to return to the library. The TV series is wonderful though. Would be a nice coffee table book for those who love country music in all of it's vastness.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Rainwater

    Loved this book! Would’ve given it 6 stars if I could... so many good stories & pictures. Highly recommended! Loved this book! Would’ve given it 6 stars if I could... so many good stories & pictures. Highly recommended!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Terry Dullum

    One of the most enjoyable books I've read in a very long time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Kelley

    I am not a diehard country music fan, but this series was nothing short of brilliant. This lavishly illustrated companion book is the perfect compliment to the eight-part, sixteen hour TV series. I decided to watch each episode first, then read the matching chapter. It was a great way to catch some information missed at first watch. Two elements really stood out for me. First, the incredible stories of the musicians themselves, often born dirt poor, but with big talent and bigger dreams. From th I am not a diehard country music fan, but this series was nothing short of brilliant. This lavishly illustrated companion book is the perfect compliment to the eight-part, sixteen hour TV series. I decided to watch each episode first, then read the matching chapter. It was a great way to catch some information missed at first watch. Two elements really stood out for me. First, the incredible stories of the musicians themselves, often born dirt poor, but with big talent and bigger dreams. From the Carter family to Loretta Lynn to Dolly Parton to Johnny Cash, to the Okies who made their way to Bakersfield, California, or the sad stories including Hank Williams or the untimely death of Patsy Cline, the series tells these stories with heart. The second point is how so much of the American musical tradition is interconnected. The strains of gospel, the blues, rock and roll, jazz, and folk find their way into the broad country music world. We see Johnny Cash singing with Bob Dylan; Ray Charles singing country songs; Emmylou Harris “converting” from folk to country; and the “ hippy” Nitty Gritty Dirt Band producing the classic “ Will the Circle Be Unbroken” album with many country music icons. Both the series and the book are a treat. Enjoy, then go visit the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee ( and maybe the Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame while you are there!)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I grew up on country music of the 90s (and 80s when the radio played songs from before I was born). Reba, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Sawyer Brown, and so many others. So when I saw this documentary was coming out, I knew I had to watch it. And I did. I watched the documentary before I read the book. Of the two, I would recommend watching the documentary. That way, you can hear the music they're referencing. But the book isn't bad. The book is basically word for word the script use I grew up on country music of the 90s (and 80s when the radio played songs from before I was born). Reba, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Sawyer Brown, and so many others. So when I saw this documentary was coming out, I knew I had to watch it. And I did. I watched the documentary before I read the book. Of the two, I would recommend watching the documentary. That way, you can hear the music they're referencing. But the book isn't bad. The book is basically word for word the script used in the documentary, but there are a few times where I saw either something I missed in the show or something that was added just for the book. (I think it's more likely I missed something.) So if you have one of the two (the book or the documentary), you really don't need the other. Still, the information is really good and really interesting. It's been really enlightening to see how country music started, where it all came from. Prior to this documentary, I knew nothing about the Carter Family or Gene Autry or Jimmie Rodgers. I knew who Patsy Cline was and Hank Williams, but that was about all I knew of country before you get to the age of Johnny Cash--and even after that, I didn't know a whole lot until we got to the 80s. This is a very informative book, but it was even better to watch the documentary.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brian Hutzell

    I grew up watching Hee-Haw, and had a real fondness for country music as a kid. (This was before I got older and became a jazz snob, far too hip for Podunk country music.) My favorite songs were Marty Robbins’s “El Paso” and anything at all by Roger Miller. The first album I remember buying was a collection of country songs from the 1960s-70s, featuring artists like Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Anne Murray, and Lynn Anderson. In the many years since then, I have occasionally revisited my country r I grew up watching Hee-Haw, and had a real fondness for country music as a kid. (This was before I got older and became a jazz snob, far too hip for Podunk country music.) My favorite songs were Marty Robbins’s “El Paso” and anything at all by Roger Miller. The first album I remember buying was a collection of country songs from the 1960s-70s, featuring artists like Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Anne Murray, and Lynn Anderson. In the many years since then, I have occasionally revisited my country roots (I was, after all, born in Nashville!), but my musical tastes have mostly hovered elsewhere. That made watching Ken Burns’s Country Music on PBS all the more fun. It was like hearing from old friends after a long absence. This companion book is packed with great information and photos. Now ‘scuse me while I go listen to some Johnny Cash.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kate Lawrence

    I didn't want to watch all sixteen hours of the Ken Burns PBS series of the same title, so I picked up this companion book. With it, I could review all the parts I was especially interested in and the later episodes I hadn't watched. Plus Burns' preface, Duncan's afterword, and all those photographs. Although as an old-time banjo player, my primary focus has been on the musical styles that PRECEDED country music, there was still a great deal of interest here. One of the best parts is on the dedi I didn't want to watch all sixteen hours of the Ken Burns PBS series of the same title, so I picked up this companion book. With it, I could review all the parts I was especially interested in and the later episodes I hadn't watched. Plus Burns' preface, Duncan's afterword, and all those photographs. Although as an old-time banjo player, my primary focus has been on the musical styles that PRECEDED country music, there was still a great deal of interest here. One of the best parts is on the dedication page, in the authors' assurance to readers that "The circle will be unbroken." Ah, yes . . . what that means to me is that the circle of roots music and the musicians who play it will be unbroken, continuing down the generations to come.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anne Hoffman

    I've been a country music fan since I was seven and listened and obsessed over my dad's Glenn Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy album (I especially loved the puffy cover artwork). That same year, I fell in love with Tanya Tucker and her Greatest Hits. This book reminded me how much I miss album cover artwork and when I was 13 my dad took me to see Willie Nelson. I loved this book; the photos and the stories (Marty Stuart and Connie Smith!). I read it with my Spotify account so I could listen to whate I've been a country music fan since I was seven and listened and obsessed over my dad's Glenn Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy album (I especially loved the puffy cover artwork). That same year, I fell in love with Tanya Tucker and her Greatest Hits. This book reminded me how much I miss album cover artwork and when I was 13 my dad took me to see Willie Nelson. I loved this book; the photos and the stories (Marty Stuart and Connie Smith!). I read it with my Spotify account so I could listen to whatever songs I wasn't familiar with and build a playlist. My only frustration was that for a history book, it didn't have dates on the photos.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Music rights are notoriously tough. So if this audio version suffers at all, it is from not having any music clips. It also has no illustrations, so you will miss the "Illustrated History" subtitle of this book. After that, it is the perfect audio book: gently and unassumingly read, with Ken Burns himself adding the epigrams, where you might usually hear Dylan McDermott or Amy Madigan. His is not a reader's voice, however, so Brian Corrigan carries the weight effortlessly. Great stories, organiz Music rights are notoriously tough. So if this audio version suffers at all, it is from not having any music clips. It also has no illustrations, so you will miss the "Illustrated History" subtitle of this book. After that, it is the perfect audio book: gently and unassumingly read, with Ken Burns himself adding the epigrams, where you might usually hear Dylan McDermott or Amy Madigan. His is not a reader's voice, however, so Brian Corrigan carries the weight effortlessly. Great stories, organized in interesting themes -- something here for both the deep-cut fan and the newcomer.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    I enjoyed reading this companion to the documentary series except that it was so big that it was difficult to hold. Lots of great pictures & information that I missed listening to the documentary. Made me go to YouTube numerous times to listen to songs, particularly when they spoke about different versions of the same song which, if they played on the PBS series, they only played as snippets instead of the whole version. I enjoyed reading this companion to the documentary series except that it was so big that it was difficult to hold. Lots of great pictures & information that I missed listening to the documentary. Made me go to YouTube numerous times to listen to songs, particularly when they spoke about different versions of the same song which, if they played on the PBS series, they only played as snippets instead of the whole version.

  16. 4 out of 5

    James Kennedy Public Library

    If you watched the accompanying documentary, much of what is in this book is verbatim what you heard in the documentary. But there is still lots of additional information in the book not discussed in the documentary. Also, there are hundreds of great photos in this book and that alone makes it worth checking out.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Very good companion to the PBS series. My only complaint, and I've found this with all Ken Burns companion books, is that many times the text is word-for-word the same as the script. You'd think writing for print would present differences to a television script. But whatever, it works. Because of that, I recommend you own the book or the DVD but not both because of the redundancies.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Macke

    It's a selective history that is engaging because it's as much about America as it is music ... I have never listened to contemporary country music, but the musicians of country music's past, in many ways, created the soundtrack of a nation and so learning their story is to learn little more about ourselves

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gerald Kinro

    Too much information to be a coffee table book. Yet it is wonderfully illustrated with priceless, nostalgic photos from bygone days. Well-researched and I thought very thorough. It brings to light the people and forces that shaped country music from its genesis to what it is today. On top of that, it is a wonderful read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anne McGill

    I read this book after watching the PBS special on Country Music (which I actually watched twice). The book is more in depth and I learned more about the lives and struggles of those writing and singing music.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Great read! I enjoyed the PBS series and thought I'd read the book to get any details I may have missed. Photos are great, all the musicians I love are in there. If you love country music and want to learn about where it started and how it grew into what it is today, read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Toller

    Country Music I got this book from overdrive because I just watched the film on PBS and loved it. The book is just as good as the film. Really enjoyed reading about this music. As a music lover I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommend this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mystic Miraflores

    This book is basically the script of the PBS series of the same name. Yes, it has photos but not as many as one would see in the actual video series. And of course, we can't hear the actual wonderful music or the interviewees speaking with their emotions.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mar

    Interesting history of country music. I liked the pictures. The documentary the book is based on would have more music which would be enjoyable.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan Liston

    Typically nice Ken Burns book to go with the very good series...

  26. 4 out of 5

    PWRL

    A

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This was an impressive read and extremely well written / photographed! Country Music truly is a family!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jimmit Shah

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steven Perry

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

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