American Epic is a documentary series that ‘explores the pivotal recording journeys at the height of the Roaring Twenties.’
The premiere episode of American Epic, The Big Bang, explores music captured by traveling recorders – music by The Carter Family, Jimmie Rogers and the Memphis Jug Band.
Rapper Nas talks about the Memphis Jug Band and their music still sounds contemporary because of its content, ‘These guys are talking about carrying guns, shooting something, protecting their honor, chasing after some woman who’s done them dirty…it’s the same as rap music today, so it just tells you something about American culture, American music…’
American Epic premieres on PBS on Tuesday, May 16th. Concert film American Epic Sessions will premiere on Tuesday, June 6th.
WATCH RAPPER NAS PAY TRIBUTE TO MEMPHIS JUG BAND IN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW AND PERFORMANCE CLIPS FROM NEW PBS DOCUMENTARY AMERICAN EPIC AND CONCERT FILM AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS
May 11, 2017 — AMERICAN EPIC, a fascinating new three-part historical documentary film series produced by Allison McGourty, Duke Erikson and director Bernard MacMahon, and executive produced by Jack White, T-Bone Burnett and Robert Redford, premieres on PBS beginning May 16. The series explores the pivotal recording journeys at the height of the Roaring Twenties, when music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology captured the breadth of American music and discovered the artists that would shape our world. THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS is a feature-length film showcasing an all-star roster of contemporary artists, led by Jack White and T Bone Burnett, replicating this early recording process on an original 1920s electrical recording system, reassembled from original parts by engineer Nick Bergh, and paying tribute to those great artists of the past.
Episode One, entitled “The Big Bang,” travels to 1920s Tennessee as the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Memphis Jug Band make their first records with producer Ralph Peer on a revolutionary portable recording machine, creating the first recordings of R&B and country songs. Acclaimed rapper Nas, who speaks in Episode One of AMERICAN EPIC about the impact of the Memphis Jug Band and also records the Memphis Jug Band’s 1928 song “On the Road Again” in THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS, said “When you hear me saying it, you might think I wrote it, because it sounds like something today. These guys are talking about carrying guns, shooting something, protecting their honor, chasing after some woman who’s done them dirty…it’s the same as rap music today, so it just tells you something about American culture, American music…It didn’t start with hip hop, it started a long time ago. It started with America.”
Watch a special preview clip featuring Nas talking about the Memphis Jug Band and performing “On The Road Again” here:
AMERICAN EPIC will air in the U.S. on Tuesdays May 16, 23 and 30 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and on May 21 in the U.K. on BBC. THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS will air in the U.S. on PBS on Tuesday, June 6 at 8 p.m. (check local listings) and in the U.K. on BBC in June.
Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, will release AMERICAN EPIC: The Collection, a 5-CD/100 song deluxe box set, and AMERICAN EPIC: The Soundtrack, a single disc anthology of 15 songs featured in the AMERICAN EPICthree-part historical documentary (1LP or 1CD), on Friday, May 12.
Legacy also will be making available, as digital releases, compilations of artists featured in the AMERICAN EPIC films including,AMERICAN EPIC: The Carter Family, AMERICAN EPIC: Memphis Jug Band, AMERICAN EPIC: Mississippi John Hurt, AMERICAN EPIC: Blind Willie Johnson and AMERICAN EPIC: Lead Belly as well as thematic collections including AMERICAN EPIC: Blues and AMERICAN EPIC: Country.
On June 9, Columbia Records will release AMERICAN EPIC: The Sessions the soundtrack to “THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS”directed by Bernard MacMahon. The soundtrack features: Alabama Shakes, The Americans, Ana Gabriel, Ashley Monroe, The Avett Brothers, Beck, Bettye LaVette, Bobby Ingano, Elton John, Frank Fairfield, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, Los Lobos, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Nas, Pokey LaFarge, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Giddens, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Taj Mahal, Jack White, and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
On June 16, Third Man Records is slated to release a Triple LP version of AMERICAN EPIC: The Sessions on 180 gram vinyl as well as 12″ audiophile vinyl versions of AMERICAN EPIC: The Carter Family, AMERICAN EPIC: Memphis Jug Band, AMERICAN EPIC: Mississippi John Hurt, AMERICAN EPIC: Blind Willie Johnson and AMERICAN EPIC: Lead Belly, as well as thematic collections including AMERICAN EPIC: Blues and AMERICAN EPIC: Country.
AMERICAN EPIC will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on June 13 from PBS Distribution; visit shopPBS.org or call 800-PLAY-PBS, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The series will also be available for digital download.
PBS International, the co-production and distribution arm of PBS Distribution, is distributing AMERICAN EPIC to broadcasters and media companies worldwide.
AMERICAN EPIC is a production of BBC Arena, Lo-Max Films Ltd., Wildwood Enterprises, and THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Director: Bernard MacMahon. Producers: Allison McGourty, Bernard MacMahon, Duke Erikson, Adam Block, and Bill Holderman. Executive producers: T Bone Burnett, Robert Redford, Jack White, Anthony Wall for the BBC, and Julie Anderson for WNET. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge for WNET. Bill Gardner, VP of Programming & Development, oversees the project for PBS. The series is written by Bernard MacMahon & Allison McGourty & Duke Erikson and William Morgan.
Funding for AMERICAN EPIC is provided by the Anne Ray Foundation, The Family of Mackinley Sillerman, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, Pacific Islanders in Communications with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Jody and John Arnhold, The V & L Marx Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, and public television viewers.