The Rio Grande Theatre is teaming up with the Branigan Cultural Center to celebrate the Grand Ole Opry. In conjunction with the Center’s month long traveling Grand Ole Opry exhibit, the Theatre will be showing a different episode of the acclaimed PBS series American Roots Music. All showing are free to the public. The first episode will be showed Tuesday, September 5 at 3 pm. Below is a schedule and a description of each episode that will be shown.
September 5 – Episode One: When First Unto This Country
When First Unto This Country traces the emergence of roots music in America from its European and African origins through its maturation into American musical genres such as spirituals, blues, country and gospel. For the first time, American “folk” music is defined as scholars and music industry entrepreneurs travel throughout the nation to record authentic cultural expression through field recordings, photographs, early newsreels, and ethnographic footage. “Hillbilly” and “race” records become profitable recording industry genres that popularize regional music. The emergence of radio broadens audiences and helps the cross-fertilization of various musical forms. Episode One explores such important turning points as the popularization of African-American spirituals by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the birth of country music with the recording of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers by Ralph Peer, the development of the Grand Ole Opry, and the creation of gospel music by Thomas A. Dorsey with commentary by Pete Seeger, Bonnie Raitt, Arlo Guthrie, Ricky Skaggs, Rufus Thomas and Keb’ Mo’ among many others.
- Tuesday, September 5, 3:00 pm
- FREE admission
September 12 – Episode Two: This Land is Your Land
This episode explores a period in which different strands of roots music become commercialized and visible through movies, television, radio and records. Concurrently, “folk music” is redefined to include newly written music for songs that often deal with social causes. Roots music is influenced by the labor movement, WWII, urban migration, progressive politics and the McCarthy era. During this episode, we see how roots genres, particularly country, are evolving. From the popularization of cowboy and western music through movies and radio to the development of western swing by charismatic bandleader, Bob Wills, the creation of Bluegrass by Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs and the innovations of “honky tonk” artists including Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams, country music is sprouting many branches from its roots. Episode Two also highlights the early folk revival with the emergence of Woody Guthrie and the recording of Lead Belly by John and Alan Lomax. Finally, we trace the origins of the blues scene in Memphis from a small radio station down in Helena, Arkansas where the blues were first broadcast to Elvis Presley’s first big hit with Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s blues song “That’s All Right Mama.” Commentary in this episode is provided by Earl Scruggs, Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart, Arlo Guthrie, Sam Phillips, Kitty Wells and B.B. King among many others.
- Tuesday, September 12, 3:00 pm
- FREE admission
September 19 – Episode Three: The Times They are A-Changin’
The Times They are A-Changin’ traces the continuing emergence of American roots music through a national awareness catalyzed by the folk and blues revivals. Gospel music’s golden years are explored in this episode, from the Golden Gate Quartet to Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, and the crossover success of the Staple Singers. Urban migration from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago fosters the electrification of the blues, producing such giants as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. During this period, folk music and the blues become intertwined with youth culture and social and political causes like the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. The Newport Folk Festival presents a mixture of traditional blues, gospel and country artists with popular “folk” and protest singers of the time. Blues bands integrate and begin playing for integrated audiences, and Bob Dylan, the most prolific singer/songwriter of the generation, goes electric, causing quite a stir in the “folk” community. Commentary in this episode is provided by Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Yarrow, Pete Seeger, John Sebastian, Keith Richards, James Cotton and B.B. King among many others.
- Tuesday, September 19, 3:00 pm
- FREE admission
September 26 – Episode Four: All My Children of the Sun
Episode four focuses on the reassessment of diverse ethnic musics previously excluded from American “folk” music, and their inclusion in a redefined “American roots music.” This episode describes the flourishing of Cajun culture in southwest Louisiana, the popularization of tejano music in south Texas, and the evolution of Native American music forms. Episode Four also rounds out the series by exploring the state of American roots music today – where the blues, country and gospel genres are now and where they are headed in the 21st century. Commentary in this episode is provided by Marc and Ann Savoy, Steve Riley, Flaco Jimenez, Edwin Hawkins, Robbie Robertson, Floyd Westerman, and Robert Mirabal among many others.
- Tuesday, September 26, 3:00 pm
- FREE admission