Discover the stories of the people who helped shape Country Music in Nashville.
"If you go down to Robert's Western World, you get to hear authentic country music, real country music like some people would say, but it's my favorite place to go with my friends who come from all around the world to listen to steel guitar, twin fiddles and some twang."
– Brett Kissel –
- Howdy folks. My name is Brett Kissel and you're watching NPT, Nashville Public Television, your home for Nashville stories. In Nashville, there's so many great places to listen to live music. You know, this is gonna be a crazy answer 'cause people nowadays kinda try to avoid Broadway 'cause it's so touristy but my favorite place still is Robert's. If you go down to Robert's Western World, you get to hear authentic country music, real country music like some people would say, but it's my favorite place to go with my friends who come from all around the world to listen to steel guitar, twin fiddles and some twang. One of my first gigs in Nashville wasn't really a gig but I got called up on stage at Tootsie's. I'm, like, 12 years old. I got a big X on my hand so that I couldn't order a cold beer but there was a band playing and I was there with my family and I think one of my family members probably slipped a $20 bill to the lead singer to get this young punk up to sing, probably Garth Brooks or Brooks and Dunn and everything like that and they said, "No kid. We only play classic country music." And I said, "Well, how about we play some Ray Price?" And they said, "You know Ray Price?" So I played "Heartaches By the Number," a song from 1959 and I played that with the band and it's interesting 'cause you fast forward and some of the players that were onstage playing in that band, actually played on my first Nashville recording session. A bass player named Larry Paxton, a steel guitar player named Mike Johnson and it's really cool how that moment came full circle. For a 12 year old playing at Tootsie's to get a chance to now record with these guys when I got into my 20s. If I could collaborate with anybody in country music, it would be the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. And, you know what? It's for his ability to song write, to tell stories and what he stood for as a man, as a guy who was a rebel without meaning to be a rebel. He just, he just, well, there's a song he had called, you know, "The Man in Black," and, you know, "I wear it for the poor and beaten down, "living in the homeless, hungry side of town." "The hopeless, hungry side of town." He was an icon and he just was who he was and I don't know if anybody's really like that nowadays, maybe even in music in any genre. So the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. Whether we collaborated or not or just had a cup of coffee, I could pepper him with questions. That would be a good day for me. You know, there's so many lyrics from so many great artists. You look at Dolly Parton, you know, "I Will Always Love You," and the way that she portrayed that lyric and the way that she sang it. I mean, that's extraordinary. Kris Kristofferson and a Sammi Smith song "Help Me Make It Through the Night." That very beginning of that song, "Take the ribbon from your hair, "Shake it loose and let it fall." I mean, okay, we're getting somewheres here. You look at Johnny Cash. "Folsom Prison Blues." And he started every show, he'd say, turn his back, go to the people and he'd say, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." Is that a lyric? I don't know. It's just, it means something. And then you look at guys like, like Garth Brooks. "And now I'm glad I didn't know "the way it all would end "the way it all would go. "Our lives are better left to chance "I could've missed the pain "but I'd have had to miss the dance." That's what country music is all about. And I don't know if any other genre can tell those stories or have that type of impact the way that country music has had over the course of 50, 60, 70, 80, 100 years.
KEN BURNS' COUNTRY MUSIC
From southern Appalachia’s songs of heartbreak and faith to the western swing of Texas, from California honky tonks to the Grand Ole Opry in NPT's home town of Nashville, Ken Burns' Country Music follows the evolution, over the course of the twentieth century, of America’s music.