The National Barn Dance Documentary Coming to PBS this Fall

Before the Internet, hell before TV, radio held great sway over American culture and nothing introduced Great Depression and World War II era Americans to country and roots music like national “barn dance” packages like the Grand Ol’ Opry and the Louisiana Hayride. These programs drew on a rural and Southern cultural heritage of the listeners and made millions for thier spnsors. I was not aware of the National Barn Dance broadcast from Chicago on WLS-AM which was  a direct predecessor of many of these country music radio shows including the Grand Ole Opry.

This Fall PBS and ITVS will present The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance (1924 – 1960.) Narrated by Garrison Keillor (no stranger to radio and roots music himself) will document of the history of the program and will feature “rare performance footage, home movies, and candid photographs with firsthand accounts from fans and performers. Interviews with historians, folklorists, and media experts reveal historical and cultural perspectives of this unique period in America’s history.”

The National Barn Dance launched the careers of Gene Autry, Patsy Montana, Bradley Kincaid, George Gobel, Pat Buttram, Andy Williams, and Lulu Belle and Scotty. Produced and directed by Stephen Parry with supervisory producer Bob Hercules,The Hayloft Gang will premiere on PBS nationwide beginning September 1, 2011

In addition to the national broadcast, The Hayloft Gang Video Contest allows participants and viewers to experience a fresh take on the popular music of the times. Audiences can watch performance videos, interpret the songs themselves, and upload their videos for prizes. Participants will urge friends and family to vote for them via email, Facebook, and Twitter. To coincide with the broadcast, the contest launches at on August 15th, 2011. Winners will be announced in October.