Narrated by Garrison Keillor, The Hayloft Gang is a one-hour documentary film that tells the story of a changing America, through the lens of one of early radio's most popular and influential programs. From the Great Depression through the hardships of World War II, the National Barn Dance celebrated the folk traditions that were fading in an increasingly urbanized America.

For rural citizens unsure of the future, or homesick transplants confronting the city, the National Barn Dance served as a touchstone, from its first broadcast in 1924 to its last in 1960. In finding and serving this national radio audience, the National Barn Dance was a marketing pioneer, making millions for network sponsors like Alka Seltzer.

As the nation's most popular country music radio show during the 1930s and 1940s, the National Barn Dance essentially defined country and western entertainment until after World War II, when it was eclipsed by the Grand Ole’ Opry in Nashville.

On any given Saturday night, listeners could tune into the National Barn Dance and hear everything from a cowboy crooner to a barbershop quartet, from a hillbilly string band to a polka trio. The film uses musical performances and broadcast recordings to suggest the experience of listening to the live radio show, and brings out the personalities of key characters like Bradley Kincaid, Gene Autry, Pat Buttram, Lulu Belle and Scotty, Patsy Montana and the DeZurik sisters.

The Hayloft Gang weaves rare performance footage, home movies, and candid photographs with first hand accounts from fans and performers. Interviews with historians, folklorists, and media experts reveal historical and cultural perspectives on the story. Garrison Keillor’s voice-over narration conveys the cozy; “gather-’round” feel of an old-time radio show.

Check Local Listings to see when it is airing on your local PBS station.



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