Lists

Ken Burns' Country Music: 5 Things We Learned From Episode 7

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File

The longest episode of Ken Burns' Country Music, "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? (1973-1983)," needed an extra 25 minutes to do justice to a time period known for outlaw country yet chock-full of other musical and cultural developments.

In those years, Nashville nearly lost The Ryman while the city's most talented outsiders gained new footing as tradition-bound singer-songwriters and musicians. This more creatively rich departure from the Nashville Sound only lasted so long, as by the beginning of the '80s, the film Urban Cowboy ushered in a new wave of pop-friendly hits. Country music's chess game between crossover acceptance and traditional-sounding artists is hardly new, and you'll hear about it in different terms before the series ends.

These are our five favorite takeaways from last night's episode, aside from that brilliant tying of loose ends that led to Willie Nelson's 60th birthday party.

Garrison Keillor Covered the "Last" Grand Ole Opry Show at The Ryman

Count humorist, radio personality, author and A Prairie Home Companion creator Garrison Keillor among the fortunate few to attend the Grand Ole Opry's final broadcast from the Ryman for over 24 years. The Opry left the Mother Church on March 15, 1974 for its current facility. Keillor covered the show for New Yorker Magazine, not knowing that The Ryman would reemerge in 1998 as a key part of Nashville's live music scene.

JD's Paid Waylon Jennings Handsomely

For many collectors, an original copy of Waylon Jennings' pre-fame 1964 album At JD's is one of the holy grails of rare LPs. JD's was a spot near Phoenix, Ariz. where Jennings allegedly made over $1,500 per week as leader of the house band. A lot of artists with hits would probably take that kind of paycheck now, without 55 years of inflation.

Jessi Colter Inspired the Outlaw Movement's Pursuit of Creative Control

While hanging out on the West Coast with her first husband Duane Eddy and other rock stars, Jessi Colter witnessed a level of creative freedom in the studio that was rarely allowed in Nashville. After marrying Waylon Jennings and while running with the same crowd as the Willie Nelson and the Glaser Brothers, she sold her new crew on challenging the status quo.

Vince Gill's High School Band Opened for KISS and Bombed

People joke about the tour that paired Jimi Hendrix with The Monkees (although The Monkees were super psychedelic at the time), but few odd pairings match an Oklahoma bluegrass band called Mountain Smoke, featuring a teenage member named Vince Gill, opening for KISS. As you might expect, the boo birds embarrassed Gill and his band mates. Ironically, many in that crowd would probably pay handsomely now to see Gill now as a member of The Eagles.

Emmylou Harris Opened for Elton John at Dodger Stadium

This brief fact put over Harris' acceptance by a broader pop audience. It stands out in the bigger picture because Sir Elton's consecutive sellouts at Dodger Stadium in October 1975 remain iconic if only because of his custom, sparkly Dodgers uniform. So, when you fondly revisit Harry Styles' 2018 Halloween costume, remember that Emmylou was there for a crowning moment in rock 'n' roll fashion.

Now Watch: Country Music's Most Shocking Legal Battles

recommended for you

Ken Burns' Country Music: 5 Things We Learned From Episode 7