Ken Burns’ Country Music, which premiered on PBS in September 2019, was shut out in last year’s Emmy nominations, but it will be recognized at the ACM Honors on Aug. 25 with the Tex Ritter Film Award. That award generally goes to feature films with a country music connection, but it has gone to a couple of previous TV productions, namely Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors and the series Nashville.
Burns is taping an acceptance speech for the event, which will be held at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Sam Williams will perform a song composed by his grandfather, the legendary Hank Williams.
Ritter was the star of many Western films in the 1930s and ’40s. He also had numerous country hits from the ’40s into the ’60s, including “I’m Wasting My Tears on You,” “You Two Timed Me One Time Too Often” and “I Dreamed of a Hill-Billy Heaven.” Ritter was the father of John Ritter, the late star of Three’s Company.
Here’s the complete list of the winners of the Tex Ritter Film Award:
1979: The Electric Horseman – Robert Redford and Jane Fonda starred in this film, which also featured Willie Nelson, whose songs were grouped on side one of the soundtrack album. The soundtrack reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. Nelson’s “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” reached No. 1 on Hot Country Songs in March 1980. His version of Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider” reached No. 6.
1980: Coal Miner’s Daughter – Sissy Spacek won the best actress Oscar for for playing Loretta Lynn in this biopic, titled after a Lynn classic that topped Hot Country Songs in December 1970. The film was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture. The soundtrack reached No. 2 on Top Country Albums. It was nominated for album of the year at the ACM Awards and won in that category at the CMA Awards.
1981: Any Which Way You Can – Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke, the stars of 1979’s Every Which Way but Loose, reteamed for this sequel. A song from the soundtrack, “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” by David Frizzell and Shelly West, hit No. 1 on Hot Country Songs in April 1981. The film’s title song, performed by Glen Campbell, reached No. 10. The soundtrack reached No. 5 on Top Country Albums.
1982: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas – Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton teamed in this broad comedy, which also featured Charles Durning in an Oscar-nominated role. Parton recorded a new version of her 1974 classic “I Will Always Love You,” which topped Hot Country Songs in October 1982. The soundtrack reached No. 5 on Top Country Albums.
1983: Tender Mercies – Robert Duvall won an Oscar for best actor for this film. The film was nominated for five Oscars, including best picture and best original song for “Over You,” written by Austin Roberts and Bobby Hart. Lane Brody’s recording of the song reached No. 15 on Hot Country Songs.
1984: SongWriter – Nelson teamed with Kris Kristofferson in this film and on the soundtrack. The film brought Kristofferson his only Oscar nomination (for best original score). The soundtrack, Music From SongWriter, reached No. 21 on Top Country Albums.
1985: Sweet Dreams – Jessica Lange received an Oscar nomination for best actress for playing country legend Patsy Cline. The soundtrack, Patsy Cline – The Life and Times of Patsy Cline, reached No. 6 on Top Country Albums. It included such Cline classics as “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Crazy,” “She’s Got You” and “Sweet Dreams (of You),” the posthumous 1963 hit that provided the film’s title.
1992: Pure Country – George Strait starred in this film and headlined the soundtrack, which reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums. “I Cross My Heart” and “Heartland” both topped Hot Country Songs in 1992-93. “When Did You Stop Loving Me” reached No. 6.
2001: O Brother, Where Art Thou? – George Clooney starred in this Coen Brothers film that spawned a soundtrack album that became a phenomenon. The soundtrack logged 35 weeks at No. 1 on Top Country Albums and two weeks at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200. It swept the Grammy, ACM and CMA awards for album of the year.
2005: Walk the Line – Joaquin Phoenix received an Oscar nomination for playing Johnny Cash in this biopic. Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for playing his wife and musical partner, June Carter Cash. The film, titled after Johnny Cash’s 1956 classic “I Walk the Line,” received five Oscar nominations. The soundtrack reached No. 3 on Top Country Albums.
2008: Beer for My Horses – Toby Keith starred in this film based on his 2002 smash of the same name, which logged six weeks No. 1 on Hot Country Songs. Nelson, with whom Keith collaborated on the hit, also appeared in the film.
2009: Crazy Heart – Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for best actor for playing Bad Blake in this film. Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett (who produced the aforementioned O Brother soundtrack) won an Oscar for best original song for “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart).” Maggie Gyllenhaal was also Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in the film.
2010: Country Strong — Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester starred in this film. “Coming Home” received an Oscar nomination for best original song. The soundtrack reached No. 2 on Top Country Albums.
2015: Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors – This made-for-TV drama, based on Parton’s 1971 classic “Coat of Many Colors” (No. 4 on Hot Country Songs), premiered on NBC in December 2015.
2016: Nashville—This series, created by Callie Khouri (who won an Oscar for best original screenplay for the 1991 classic Thelma & Louise), ran on ABC from 2012-16 and on CMT from 2016-18. Series star Connie Britton received an Emmy nomination for outstanding lead actress in a series in 2013. Nine soundtrack albums tied to the series made the top 10 on Top Country Albums.
2018: A Star Is Born – This film received eight Oscar nominations, including acting nods for Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott. “Shallow” won for best original song. The soundtrack logged four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. “Shallow” and another song from the soundtrack, “I’ll Never Love Again,” won Grammys for best song written for visual media in successive years – the first time anything like that had ever happened. Gaga co-wrote both songs.
2020: Ken Burns’ Country Music – The eight-episode series presented country music from such early pioneers as The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers through such stars of the 1980s and 1990s as Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam and Garth Brooks.
Though he got no Emmy love for Country Music, Burns has won five Emmys over the years, for The Civil War (1991, two awards), Baseball (1995), Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise & Fall of Jack Johnson (2005) and The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2010).
soul, classic soul, motown,