To launch Ken Burn’s highly anticipated Country music film, the Grand Ole Opry hosted a special screening of Episode 1 the night it aired on television, as well as a pre-show concert featuring the Old Crow Medicine Show. Faces in the crowd included Ricky Skaggs, Jeannie Seely and others. After eight years of filming, everyone was delighted that the film was now ready to air.
The 16 hour documentary, spread over 8 episodes, shares the stories of the many people who created and shaped country music. It describes the early years with the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers, shines a light on major artists from each decade that followed, and concludes things with the arrival of Garth Brooks in the mid-90s.
“I was really impressed with the emotion to see it all,” notes Vince Gill. “It tells the story and gives the story of this music in a long overdue way. You look back at so many of these people who made an impact, whether it was Hank Williams or Roy Acuff, George Jones or Merle Haggard or Bob Wills. All have struggled and all have come through difficult times. I have a feeling that now country music will finally get the real respect it has always deserved.
Gill was among more than 80 artists interviewed for the film. Another was Ketch Secor from the Old Crow Medicine Show, and remembers how excited he was when he first heard that Ken Burns had come to Nashville.
“I just appreciate that America’s best-loved documentary was brought in to tell the story and get it right,” he says. “Whoever told me about the Roosevelts and the Civil War, he’s the one I want to tell me about the historical context that country music is in and finally stir old bones and open up those dusty closets and let the music in. light so that we can see who really made it. And when you see the true spectrum of country music, it becomes so much more beautiful. “
The film presents the many styles of country music and how it has evolved over the years. There are countless never-before-seen photos and footage, much of which is from the Grand Ole Opry.
“I think we’ve been the biggest contributor of photo and video vignettes,” said Colin Reed, president and CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties. “We have tried to be very open with the house of Ryman and Opry. Ken Burns is an amazing person who is such a great storyteller and has such a great knowledge of history, so we’ve been a great support. “
The documentary follows the journey of country music through different parts of America, but shows – time and again – how the roads lead back to Nashville.
Secor says he heard a lot of positive comments from people who saw the movie.
“They say it’s the most exciting thing to happen in Nashville in a long time. And I think they are hopeful, as I am, that this movie is going to lead to some kind of flourishing renaissance and an understanding of what makes this city special.
And as people seek to understand what makes the city special, they will want to visit it.
“I think Ken Burns is going to energize people in discovering and learning about historical aspects of this fabulous genre,” Reed said. “And I think that’s going to make people want to come visit and find out in a meaningful way.”
It will not be the first time that national television attention has attracted an influx of tourists. It happened after the TV show Nashville debuted on ABC in 2012. The drama followed fictional artists trying to make their way into country music and filmed at concert halls and businesses across town. Visitors came from across the country and even overseas to see the Grand Ole Opry, the Bluebird Café, and other places they had only seen on TV – up close.
“All of this great exhibit is helping our cause,” says Butch Spyridon, President and CEO, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. Nashville The TV show helped keep our momentum going and we expect this documentary to do the same. We are fortunate that business is already exceptionally good, so our key for the future is to get things done ”,
This potential tourism boost comes as Nashville is booming in terms of growth. Despite being known for music (it’s the city of music, after all), it has also become a top destination for stag and hen parties, conventions, and other major events. Cranes dot the skyline, marking the constant stream of new hotels, apartment buildings and other businesses under construction. It is a city that is constantly preparing for the future.
As more music fans head to Nashville, Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman will be ready. There have been recent additions and extensions. The Grand Ole Opry has just added a new, highly visual “Circle” experience to give visitors a better understanding of what it means for an artist to stand at this symbolic spot on the Opry stage.
“We have installed more retail businesses and built more parking lots,” says Reed. “We developed Ole Red with Blake Shelton and we are developing Old Reds outside of Nashville. “
Next year, Ryman Hospitality Properties will also launch a new multicast TV channel aimed at country music fans and those devoted to the country lifestyle.
Reed says planning has been underway for several years, all scheduled to coincide with the completion of the Country music documentary and the renewed appreciation for a musical genre that is such an important part of American history.
“When you watch the Ken Burns movie you realize it’s really about storytelling and I think he does an amazing job depicting how the artists of country music, the record companies of music country, management and organizations like us are all about telling the story of life.
And people will want to come and see, hear and feel this story where a lot of it took place.