Ken Burns opens Tennessee Tour in Cookeville

Pictured: Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton, Ken Burns, WCTE Board Chair Mike Galligan and WCTE CEO Becky Magura. Photo courtesy of Ricky Shelton.

COOKEVILLE – Award winning American filmmaker Ken Burns opened his Tennessee press tour for his newest documentary, COUNTRY MUSIC, in Cookeville Sunday morning for a crowd of over 400 at the Cookeville Performing Arts Center.  

Known for his style of using archival footage and photographs in documentary films, Burns left Nashville at 5:30 a.m. for his Cookeville appearance. Burns and his entourage arrived by police escort in a large tour bus wrapped with COUNTRY MUSIC themed artwork made especially for the tour.

The 7 a.m. presentation opened with Mayor Ricky Shelton presenting Burns with a key to the city. Guests then watched a six-minute preview from his 18-hour COUNTRY MUSIC documentary and heard from Ken Burns, his lead writer Dayton Duncan, co-producer Julie Dunfey and Old Crowe Medicine Show founding member Ketch Secor, in a session moderated by WCTE CEO Becky Magura. Magura also recorded her season premier show One on One with Becky Magura earlier Sunday on the tour bus in transit to Cookeville, interviewing Burns, Duncan and Secor who is featured in the documentary. The event concluded at 8 a.m. with Chair of the WCTE Board of Directors Mike Galligan presenting Burns with a signature ceramic heart created by local artist Marilee Hall.  

A number of guests had books autographed, photos taken and even a banjo received a Ken Burns signature. “We couldn’t have been more pleased with the turn out,” said Avery Hutchins, Director of Development and Marketing for WCTE. “Ken brought with him a genuine and welcoming attitude that continued to be the buzz around town and on social media.” Prior to leaving for Bristol, the birthplace of Country Music, Burns and his team received a standing ovation and cheers from the audience. 

The COUNTRY MUSIC film project has been in the works for eight years, with over 100,000 old photos collected, 30,000 of those scanned into a database, and 3,300 making it into the final product.  The film roughly took 700 hours of archival footage to make, and includes a prestigious line up of Country Music artists including Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson as part of the more than 100 people interviewed. The film features a total of 40 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, 17 of who have since passed away. Dating back to his first film in 1981, Burns is known for his films such as Vietnam, Civil War, ProhibitionBaseball and more, and this film is Burns’ 32nd documentary.

COUNTRY MUSIC will air on WCTE PBS September 15-18 and continuing Sept. 22-25. 

WCTE has served the Upper Cumberland for 40 years as the region’s premier storyteller, and is the only television station in a 75-mile radius of Cookeville, TN.  WCTE is a proud strategic partner with educators, health services, government, arts and music organizations across the Upper Cumberland. WCTE is a 501-(c) 3, and is owned and operated by the Upper Cumberland Broadcast Council. WCTE is one of only 350 PBS member stations nationwide. 

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