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Ken Burns previews 'Country Music' documentary at sold out event

Posted at 1:19 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 23:56:58-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Hundreds of fans packed into Belmont University's Curb Events Center Wednesday night to get an exclusive first look at acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns' latest documentary: 'Country Music.'

Burns, who is known for other documentaries like 'Baseball' and 'The Civil War,' said he worked on 'Country Music' for the last eight years.

Back in March, he embarked on a bus tour across the state and stopped in Nashville.

The film highlights the genre, its stars and its impact on Nashville. Wednesday's sneak peek showcased about 48 minutes of the 16-hour-long documentary.

Burns introduced the clips after a brief performance with Kathy Mattea. Mattea is one of 101 country music artists interviewed for the documentary. Many of those legends lent their signatures to two Martin guitars as well.

"Every time we had a country artist, we asked them to sign one of what eventually turned out to be two Martin guitars to just get a signature, and today we're going to donate it to the collection here," Burns explained. The guitars will hang on the Belmont University Campus.

Belmont, along with the City of Nashville and the State of Tennessee, helped sponsor the creation of the documentary.

While the film focuses on country music's past, Burns said he hopes it will have an impact on the genre's future. Clips and interviews that were not used in the final product will be made available to students in an effort to preserve country.

"A good deal of our material, the outtakes of our material, will be available for students and scholars to look at, so the film is really the tip of the iceberg," Burns explained.

The famed documentarian also gave the university two Martin guitars that feature a collection of signatures from artists interviewed in the film, including: Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire.

According to a release from Belmont, 37 of those who signed the guitars are Country Music Hall of Fame members -- 15 have since passed away.

The eight-part documentary will debut on PBS stations nationwide on September 15.