Carter Family’s Music Alive and Well in Willie Nelson

Historic Recordings Are Revisited in American Epic on PBS

A song’s enduring popularity is hard to predict, but Willie Nelson still routinely performs “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” in concert almost a century after A.P. Carter wrote it.

Nelson’s love of the Carter Family is a key element in American Epic, a three-part historical documentary premiering Tuesday (May 16) on PBS.

“I grew up hearing all their songs. I was a huge fan of theirs all my life,” Nelson says in the first episode, titled “The Big Bang,” which tells the story of the Carter Family — A.P. and Sara Carter along with Sara’s cousin, Maybelle.

Noting that the original trio essentially helped form the foundation of country music, Nelson adds, “I think once you hear the original Carter Family, you don’t have to explain why they were special.”

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