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KOSU Listeners Share Their Favorite Country Songs

Ken Burns 'Country Music' documentary premieres on PBS stations this Sunday at 7pm. And this summer, we've been asking listeners to tell us about a country song that made a big impact on their life.

We received hundred of responses, detailing childhood memories, first kisses, songs that made them think, and how hearing the music of folks like Garth Brooks and Willie Nelson helped them do an about-turn on country music.

Nathan Buchanan of Oklahoma City says country music holds great memories from when he was a child staying over at his grandparents house in Pawnee, Oklahoma. He says "when I would wake up, my grandpa would be in the kitchen reading the paper, drinking coffee, and listening to his cassette tapes.

Nathan says the song "Hey, Good Lookin'" by Hank Williams, Sr. reminds him of smelling bacon, eggs, cigarettes, and coffee and riding with his grandpa while they drove out to the pasture and tended to livestock.

Memories of a grandfather were also on the mind of Rachael Knight of Tecumseh. Together, they would listen to old records by John Denver, Johnny Cash, and Charley Pride.

While they listened, she says "Papa would tell me stories of his time growing up in the Depression and in the Army. We'd talk about life and spirituality. Every song had a story associated with it. I learned so much from his stories and those songs. They helped me grown up to into who I am today. When he passed away in 2012, I was 22. The world went silent for a very long time after that."

But Rachael says the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver feels like going home after a long time away. She says it's "like my grandpa is just outside on the porch, with his radio or records playing, chickens clucking in the yard, and the mimosa tree in full bloom. It's my childhood summer song."

Listeners also told us how country music had the power to turn their day around. Jenee' Hensley from Muskogee told us that in the summer of 1993, she was a waitress at a mom & pop restaurant in Vian, Oklahoma.

It was generally just the cook and her working. She says that meant that in addition to waiting tables, she also did dishes, cleaned bathrooms, and other undesirable tasks. She says that as a typical teenager, "I was quite good at throwing myself a pity party about my hard life. But whenever I heard "Chattahoochie" by Alan Jackson on the drive home, I would always crank it up, sing at the top of my lungs, and shake off the troubles of the day. I still crank it up when it comes on the radio more than 25 years later."

Garth Brooks was a name that we kept hearing from listeners. One listener said their first kiss was to his song "The Dance." Another listener said his music always reminds them of Justin lace-up boots and black denim jeans.

Ali West of Choctaw also had a story about a Garth Brooks song. She told us that in 1990, she was two-years-old and attending bible class at a traditional Christian church in Kokomo, Indiana. The class was asked if anyone knew a song about friends, and she stood up and performed every word of Garth Brooks' song "Friends in Low Places."

Ali says, "You can probably imagine the surprise on the face of my 70-year-old bible class teacher."

A big thank you to everyone who shared their stories of country songs.

Ken Burns 'Country Music' documentary premieres on PBS stations this Sunday at 7pm.

Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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