Segments in this Video

Country Music (05:42)


Experts reflect on the genre and meaning of "don't get above your raisin'." By 1984, sales of country records significantly drop. Two television networks, bluegrass pickers, a mother/daughter duo, an Oklahoma cowgirl, and two singer/songwriters help reverse the trend.

Johnny and Rosanne Cash (04:51)

Johnny's solo records are not selling and his newest albums fail to chart. Columbia Records drops him in 1986. Johnny's daughter Rosanne discusses her individualism and divided feelings as her success increases.

Ricky Skaggs (06:16)

Skaggs reflects on the nature of country music and "Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’." He joins The Hot Band in the late 1970s and in the 1980s, releases many top hits; Bill Monroe appears in the "Country Boy" music video.

George Strait and Randy Travis (03:34)

Strait's music has an old fashioned element and direct approach; he records 60 top singles. Lib Hatcher rescues Travis from trouble and brings him to Nashville. In 1986, his debut album sells 3 million copies.

Reba McEntire (04:40)

McEntire signs a recording contract in 1974. She discusses her accent and decision to sign with a new record label; women relate to many of her songs. In 1991, eight members of McEntire's band die in a plane crash. McEntire diversifies her career.

The Judds (07:18)

Naomi Judd discusses moving her daughters, to Kentucky; Wynonna Judd recalls living on the mountain and playing guitar. Naomi and Wynonna begin singing together and appear on television. They sign with RCA Records and their first album tops the charts.

Neotraditionalists and Dwight Yoakam (07:54)

Skaggs, Strait, Travis, McEntire, and the Judds comprise the group of country artists who want to reclaim the genre from pop music. Yoakam recalls singing "at" the record player. In California, his refusal to mainstream leads to success; "Guitars, Cadillacs. Etc. Etc." sells over two million copies.

"Streets of Bakersfield" (04:03)

Yoakam's criticism of Johnny Cash's release from his label and Nashville's Countrypolitan sound puts him at odds with industry insiders. In 1988, he performs with Buck Owens at the CMA Awards; the song becomes a number one hit.

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (02:15)

Everyone has an ethnic heritage, but we all share a human heritage. Wynton Marsalis discusses truth in music.

Steve Earle and Kathy Mattea (04:21)

Music City's financial success makes room for artists that are difficult to categorize. In 1986, Earle produces a sound that blends country and early rock. Mattea earns a recording contract and works with producer Allen Reynolds.

"Where've You Been" (05:28)

Amy Kurland discusses opening The Bluebird Cafe. In 1988, Jon Vezner performs the song inspired by his grandparents. Mattea and Reynolds discuss recording the song as a single; it wins several awards.

Vince Gill (09:42)

Gill struggles to make it in his career. He records "When I Call Your Name." The deaths of Keith Whitley and Gill's brother inspire him to write "Go Rest High on That Mountain"; he sings at George Jones' memorial service.

Garth Brooks (04:17)

Brooks discusses his exposure to music. In college, he plays whatever music the audience wants to hear. He moves to Nashville, performs at The Bluebird Cafe, and eventually signs with Capital Records.

Brooks' Success (05:32)

Brooks' popularity surpasses that of other new country artists. His second album is the first to reach $5 million in sales and his 1993 concerts at Texas Stadium sell out in record time. He recalls attending a Queen concert.

Trisha Yearwood (03:12)

Billboard Magazine implements a new way of gauging album success; country music sales significantly increase from 1989 to 1995. Yearwood discusses musical influences. She tours with Brooks and 14 years later, they marry.

CMA Fan Fair (03:03)

The music festival allows fans a chance to meet country music stars; fans are invested in artists as people. Brooks signs autographs for over 20 hours. Mattea recalls a heartfelt experience with a fan.

Country Music Industry (06:17)

Experts discuss the behavior of record label executives. A telecommunications bill allows companies to consolidate radio station ownership, impacting country artists. Some independent stations play music that is eventually labeled as Americana. Emmylou Harris records an album in the Ryman Auditorium, inspiring its restoration.

Bill Monroe (04:01)

Marty Stuart recalls spending time with Monroe; Ricky Skaggs promises Monroe he will continue playing bluegrass music. Monroe dies in 1996 and Stuart and Skaggs refocus their careers.

Family Reconciliation (03:20)

Rosanne Cash reflects on the consequences of fame and singing "I Still Miss Someone" with her father. Singing together on stage resolves their strife.

Johnny Cash (10:23)

Johnny performs at theaters in Branson, Missouri. He records four albums with Rick Rubin, returning to popularity. Johnny's wife dies soon after the release of "Hurt"; he dies four months later. The Ryman Auditorium hosts a memorial concert.

American Voices (04:59)

Musicians reflect on the power of country music. The genre tells a story and provides a history of American people; it still requires "new life." See images of various country artists.

Credits: Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’ (1984 –1996) (03:08)

Credits: Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’ (1984 –1996)

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Episode 8: Dont Get Above Your Raisin (1984-1996) (Ken Burns: Country Music)

Part of the Series : Ken Burns: Country Music
3-Year Streaming Price: $339.95



As country music’s popularity skyrockets, the genre confronts the question of whether it can also stay true to its roots. The success of the “New Traditionalists”—Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, the Judds, and Dwight Yoakam—suggests it can.

Length: 115 minutes

Item#: BVL192007

Copyright date: ©2019

Closed Captioned

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