Ken Burns’s Country Music Premieres September 15 on KQED 9

Johnny Cash at his home in California, 1960. Credit: Sony Music Archives (Sony Music Archives. )


The documentary series, Country Music, directed by Ken Burns and produced by Burns with longtime collaborators Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey, is an eight-part, 16-hour film following the evolution of country music over the course of the 20th century as it eventually emerges to become “America’s music.”

Duncan, Burns and Dunfey spent eight years researching and producing the film, conducting interviews with more than 100 people. Among those storytellers are a wide range of country artists, including Marty Stuart, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, and Naomi and Wynonna Judd, as well as studio musicians, record producers and others. The film uses more than 3,200 photographs and over two hours of archival footage, including rare and never-before-seen photos and footage of Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash and others.

“At the heart of every great country music song is a story,” said Ken 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.”

The series will have its Bay Area premiere Sunday, September 15 on KQED 9 with episodes airing episodes Sundays through Wednesdays at 8pm through the series finale on September 25. Each episode will be available for free streaming on and the PBS Video App for three weeks after airing, and the series will be available to Passport members for a period of six months.


In preparation for the premiere, KQED will share profiles and several of the stories that highlight the Northern California’s unique intersection with this American art form. Follow all of KQED’s related coverage at

KQED will also host two separate screenings and conversations with Burns on Wednesday, July 24. The first will be a private screening for prisoners at the San Quentin State Prison, where in 1959, Johnny Cash performed and inspired then-inmate Merle Haggard to pursue songwriting. The special screening will feature Burns, Duncan and Dunfey in conversation with moderator Rahsaan Thomas of the Ear Hustle podcast. Later in the evening, KQED will host a pubic screening at the Palace of Fine Arts followed by a conversation with KQED’s Mina Kim and the filmmakers.

Closer to the premiere date, KQED Arts will host a concert storytelling event that will explore the essence and evolution of country music. Host Gabe Meline, KQED senior arts editor, and beloved local band Red Meat will delve into the history and the musical elements behind quintessential country songs. This ticketed event will take place on Wednesday, August 21 at the SFJAZZ Center. Information on the public ticketed events can be found on

About KQED
KQED serves the people of Northern California with a public-supported alternative to commercial media. An NPR and PBS affiliate based in San Francisco, KQED is home to one of the most listened-to public radio stations in the nation, one of the highest-rated public television services and an award-winning education program helping students and educators thrive in 21st century classrooms. A trusted news source and leader and innovator in interactive technology, KQED takes people of all ages on journeys of exploration — exposing them to new people, places and ideas.

About WETA
WETA Washington, DC, is one of the largest producing stations of new content for public television in the United States. WETA productions and co-productions include PBS NewsHour, Washington Week, The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize, The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Latino Americans and The Italian Americans; documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including The Civil War, Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, Mark Twain, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and The Dust Bowl; and productions by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., including Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Seasons Three-Five) and Reconstruction: America After the Civil War. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. The WETA studios and administrative offices are located in Arlington, Virginia. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at On social media, visit on Facebook or follow @WETAtvfm on Twitter.