Segments in this Video

American Folk Music (05:55)


Kathy Mattea describes the painting "Sources of Country Music." The roots of country music lay in farming communities, the banjo, and the fiddle. Experts reflect on lyrics and the personal impact of country music.

Fiddlin' John Carson (03:32)

In the 1920s, the textile worker earns extra money playing music on the weekends and participates in the Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention. Nostalgia is an important element of country music. WSB increases Carson's exposure and music events.

Ralph Peer (04:55)

General Phonograph Company creates records aimed at immigrant populations. Peer records Mamie Smith in 1920 and Carson in 1923. He recognizes a new market and records other country musicians.

Old World Music (03:08)

Country music originates from various sources; hear "Barbara Allen." Dolly Parton recalls her mother singing old time songs. Americans adapt old melodies to new lyrics.

Religious Music and Revivals (03:40)

Music is an integral part of church and social life. Singing schools teach shape notes and people attend conventions.

Musical Instruments (05:33)

Fiddles are common in early America. Slaves from Africa introduce the banjo. Christian Frederick Martin produces small guitars; larger guitars become popular in the early 20th century. Orville Gibson produces mandolins.

Stephen Foster (02:41)

In the 1840s, Foster's songs become commonplace in parlors. Traveling minstrels sing songs that sentimentalize life in the antebellum south. Many songs thought to be southern originate from northern urban sources.

Southern Music (05:14)

Peer records Emmett Miller in the 1920s. Experts reflect on mixed cultures in the South and its impact on music. In 1925, Peer markets the term hillbilly music.

Music and Commerce (08:22)

Dr. John R. Brinkley opens a radio station to promote his business of restoring male sexual potency. Competing stations in Shenandoah draw large crowds and Sears-Roebuck launches WLS. Edwin Craig establishes WSM; George "Judge" Hay schedules regular barn dances with local talent.

DeFord Bailey (03:56)

Bailey is a regular on WSM's barn dances; experts discuss his background. "The Fox Chase" is one of his favorite songs to play on the harmonica. Bailey tours between barn dances.

Saturday Night Shows (03:24)

Nashville's elite believes hillbilly music damages the city's reputation and Craig begins broadcasting classical music before the barn dance. Bailey mimics a train on the harmonica. Hay introduces the "Grand Ol' Opry"; the show helps sell insurance.

Jazz Age (04:56)

The music that originated in New Orleans becomes popular throughout the country. Henry Ford attempts to revitalize old time music. Peer joins the Victor Talking Machine Company and implements the "square deal" with artists including Ernest "Pop" Stoneman.

Victor Talking Machine Recording Station (04:05)

Peer establishes a studio in Bristol, TN to record Stoneman and invites the local newspaper editor. Musicians, including the Carter family and Jimmy Rodgers, arrive after a published article.

Carter Family (07:30)

Alvin Pleasant Carter struggles in "Poor Valley," marries Sara Dougherty, and builds a home in the Clinch Mountain foothills. Carter, Sara, and Maybelle Addington-Carter record six songs with Peer in Bristol.

Jimmie Rodgers (09:01)

Rodgers learns to play string instruments, works for the railroad, marries twice, and quickly spends money. He contracts tuberculosis and turns to music for financial support. Rodgers records with Peer in Bristol.

"Blue Yodel" (05:17)

Rodgers arrives in New York City to record another session with Peer. Experts reflect on Rodgers' musical style and success. He goes on tour and becomes an ambassador for country people.

Rodgers' Music Tour (05:14)

Rodgers' health suffers, but he continues to record and tour; Elsie McWilliams writes several songs. Louis Armstrong records with Rodgers in Hollywood. Rodgers relocates to Texas and in 1929, appears in "The Singing Brakeman."

Carter Family Music (06:38)

The Carters records 12 songs with Peer in 1928, including "Keep On the Sunny Side" and "Wildwood Flower." Experts discuss Maybelle's guitar technique and A.P.'s gathering of material. Lesley Riddle accompanies A.P. and introduces the Carters to African American church hymns.

Great Depression (03:14)

The Carter family tours close to home; session fees and royalties provide a steady income. In October 1929, the stock market crashes and the recording industry struggles. "Worried Man Blues" is the Carters' best-selling song in 1930.

Rodgers' Music Resonates (06:23)

Rodgers makes appearances with a humorist to raise relief money for Dust Bowl and Depression victims. Despite worsening health, Rodgers continues to tour.

Rodgers' Death and Legacy (05:59)

Rodgers arrives in New York City in May 1933 and records several songs. He dies on May 26th and is buried in Meridian, Mississippi. Experts discuss Rodgers' influence on country music.

Credits: The Rub (Beginnings –1933) (03:04)

Credits: The Rub (Beginnings –1933)

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Episode 1: The Rub (Beginnings-1933) (Ken Burns: Country Music)

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After centuries of percolating in America’s immigrant and racial mix, particularly in the American South, what was first called “hillbilly music” begins reaching more people through the new technologies of phonographs and radio. 

Length: 113 minutes

Item#: BVL192000

Copyright date: ©2019

Closed Captioned

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