In 1986, German television filmed a 13 part documentary series on songs and stories of the American West, hosted by Dale Robertson. It was filmed on location in iconic Western sites like Monument Valley, Death Valley, the Oregon Trail, Indian reservations, Green River, WY and elsewhere. The artists performing in the series included Rex Allen & The Reinsmen, Ken Curtis, Riders in the Sky, Burl Ives, Johnny Cash, Eddie Dean, Herb Jeffries, the Norman Luboff Choir and a number of other prominent performers. Many of us who knew of its existence thought this unique documentary was “lost,” and we figured we’d never get to see it. But the Bear Family folks came to the rescue, as they have so many times before, and now it’s available for all to enjoy.
Fans of Ken Curtis (who sings, tells tall tales and shares hosting chores with Dale Robertson), The Reinsmen (19 songs + 1 with Rex Allen), Johnny Cash (5 songs) and Riders in the Sky (8 songs) will be delighted to see the high profile their music is given in this series. Even though you may have most of the songs, these recordings were made specifically for this tv series and there are a few songs here that these artists did not record commercially.
The chapters follow the settling of the West from the early 1800’s, the days of the native Americans and their relationship with the land, the mountain men and the first explorers, and the first artists who captured the native cultures, wildlife and landscapes and brought the images back East. The series ends with Western movies made in Hollywood and the West today, but in between are the tales and songs of famous trails, the Gold Rush of ’49, the Pony Express, cowboys and cattle, the first trains, gunfighters and wars, all performed in picturesque Western settings. A masterful melding of Western history, scenery and music. And after you’ve watched it as a TV series, the DVDs are set up so you can go back and just listen to the music, if you wish. Highly recommended!