Ken Burns’s “Country Music”
...and Lord of the Mountain
On September 15, Ken Burns’s eight-part documentary series Country Music will premiere on PBS. Country Music, like Burns’s previous series The Civil War, Baseball, The National Parks, and Jazz, tells the story of a uniquely American tradition that has shaped us in deep and important ways.
Part 1, “The Rub (Beginnings-1933),” tells the story of the Bristol sessions, the so-called “big bang” of country music, which is the setting for my latest novel, Lord of the Mountain.
In the summer of 1927, Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company packed up his recording equipment and headed to Bristol, a little town on the Tennessee-Virginia border, where he issued a call for musicians to come down from the mountains and audition. Among the people who came were the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Stonemen, and dozens of others who became the mothers and fathers of country music.
My fictional characters, thirteen-year-old Nate Owens and his friend Sue Dean Baker, live in Bristol and witness the sessions. They meet the Carter family, and that encounter sends them off on adventures that take them over the mountains and into a musical mystery at the heart of Nate’s family.
Watch the Ken Burns series to explore the beginnings of country music, then read Lord of the Mountain to live them.