A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

KET putting state’s signature bluegrass music into national spotlight via documentary on PBS


One of Kentucky’s most popular exports — bluegrass music — will get the star treatment later this month.

Ricky Skaggs

That’s when PBS stations across the country are scheduled to air the KET-produced documentary Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music, placing the state’s signature music into the national spotlight.

The two-hour film, dubbed the most comprehensive documentary on bluegrass music ever made, traces the genre’s unique musical history.

It explores the life of the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, who moved with his brothers from his home in Rosine, Ky., to Chicago to find work during the 1930s. Monroe got his start on WLS, at the time the largest radio station in Chicago, before ultimately moving to Nashville, where he soon became a hit on the Grand Ole Opry stage.

The film, narrated by actor and bluegrass aficionado Ed Helms, features performances and interviews from dozens of bluegrass’ biggest names: Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs, Chris Thile, Alison Brown, Sam Bush, JD Crowe, Del McCoury, Bobby Osborne, Laurie Lewis, and many more.

Bela Fleck

Viewers will travel from Monroe’s hometown of about 100 people to downtown Tokyo, where members of Bluegrass 45, a popular contemporary Japanese bluegrass band, demonstrate how the music transcends not only generations but cultural and geographic boundaries as well.

The film, written by Teresa Day and produced by Matt Grimm and Nick Helton, originally was slated to air locally on KET. But the documentary found a receptive audience at PBS, which agreed to distribute the film nationally, making it available to hundreds of public television networks across the country.

The film is scheduled to premiere on Friday, Aug. 30. In Kentucky, it will air on KET at 9 p.m. eastern time.

It will also be available for streaming during the month of September at PBS.org.

From KET


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