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Ken Burns' 'Country Music': 5 Things We Learned From Episode 6

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Episode six of Ken Burns' Country Music, titled "Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (1968-1972)," continues to tell a Nashville-centered story about how the genre survived and evolved during the Vietnam War years.

Viewers meet soldiers (Kris Kristofferson) and voices of youthful protest (Bob Dylan) from a time when Nashville became a recording mecca for more than just the country stars created on Music Row. In that same period, variety television, from the all-genre Johnny Cash Show to the intentionally absurd Hee Haw and the barely acknowledged Glen Campbell's Goodtime Hour, recast national perceptions of country, folk and bluegrass music.

Read on for five quick observation about an episode that covers a trying time for the nation and a creatively rich period for its music.

Tammy Wynette Idolized George Jones

While many associate the name Tammy Wynette with George Jones, quite a few viewers might've been surprised last night to learn that she was 11 years younger than her future duet partner and husband. Before charting her own career, Wynette collected Jones' albums and kept his lyrics hand-written in a notebook. The series makes up for skimming Jones' 1950's influence with this story plus plenty of additional coverage in the final two episodes.

Seeing Johnny Cash Live Changed Kris Kristofferson's Life

It's clear that Burns and his team really love Johnny Cash, and tidbits like this one prove they're not wrong for making the Man in Black a focal point. A few episodes back, viewers were reminded that one of Cash's earliest prison concerts moved a young San Quentin inmate named Merle Haggard. Last night, renaissance man and songwriting genius Kris Kristofferson got added to the impressive list of performers inspired to chase country stardom after seeing Cash's live set.

Felice and Boudleaux Bryant's Secretary Inspired "Me and Bobby McGee"

The Bryants, a songwriting team getting their just due lately from Burns and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum programming, play an indirect role in a classic hit written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster. "Me and Bobby McGee" was named after the Bryant family's secretary, Bobby McKee. The above Associated Press video tells a more thorough story of the future Janis Joplin hit with the help of McKee herself.

Kathy Mattea's Uncle Really Wanted to See Her on Hee Haw

It's Not The Shirt, It's The "Overall" Effect. Hee Haw Episode from 1990.Victoria Hallman Victoria Hallman Traver Irlene Mandrell

Posted by Randall Hamm on Monday, May 28, 2018

It's cliche for baby boomers raised in rural America to joke about older relatives' fixation with the unabashed corniness of Hee Haw. Yet as she's known to do, Kathy Mattea turns a familiar tale into something captivating when she explains how her uncle "Pappy" needed to see her on his favorite television show before he'd consider her a celebrity. This segment sticks out in part because Burns' team tracked down Mattea's hometown salute from the show.

A Grand Ole Opry Announcer Once Flubbed What's Now a Household Name

One of the funnier moments in the series came when we all learned that when Willie Nelson first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry stage, he was introduced as "Woody Nelson." Decades later, even non-fans know Nelson's name. Back then, the slip-up was understandable, considering he was just another hungry, young talent trying to make it in Nashville.

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Ken Burns' 'Country Music': 5 Things We Learned From Episode 6