Music documentary

Union County Museum Sees New Attention After Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’ Documentary

The documentary covers major country music stars, including Roy Acuff and Chet Atkins, who call Union County home.

UNION COUNTY, Tenn. – Filmmaker Ken Burns’ new country music documentary started airing this weekend – and in the birthplace of country music, it’s causing a stir.

Union County is a small county with a big history. Country music stars Chet Atkins, Roy Acuff, Carl Smith, Lois Johnson and Kenny Chesney each call East Tennessean County their home.

These stars shine in Burns’ “Country Music,” an 8-part, 16-hour series about the musicians who built the genre, including East Tennessee legends Dolly Parton, Roy Acuff and Chet Atkins.

Although the series began airing Sunday night, the Roy Acuff Museum in Union County has already seen renewed interest in the region’s musical heritage.

Union County Historical Society president Martha Carter said the community is proud of its contributions to country music.

“It’s a small county that has as many Grand Ole Opry members as we’ve had,” Carter said.

In 2017, Union County was home to just under 20,000 people. Of Tennessee’s 95 counties, it is ranked 67th in population.

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For Carter, historical sources of information like the museum play an important role in daily life.

“I don’t think the county — the people and the public — would be what it is and truly understand people’s lives if it wasn’t preserved and guarded,” Carter said.

The museum exhibits hundreds of books, newspaper clippings, awards and other memorabilia, including a rare Roy Acuff violin.

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Only one of eight episodes of “Country Music” has aired, but the reviews are there.

Rolling Stone called it “both a lesson in the history of an American art form and the United States of the 20th century” for its emphasis on the origins of the genre – a fusion of English, Irish and Scottish ballads sung in Appalachia and instruments brought by European immigrants and African Slaves.

The first four parts of the series will air from Sunday, September 15 through Wednesday, September 18. The second half of the series will air from September 22 to September 25.

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