The Hayloft Gang
- Crafts & Traditional Arts
Narrated by Garrison Keillor, The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance is a one – hour documentary that tells the story of a changing America, through the lens of one of early radio's most popular and influential programs. The film’s lively soundtrack features over 70 songs, spanning from the mid 1920s to the Great Depression, through World War II. The radio show was a melting pot of Americana music; listeners could hear everything from mountain string bands and polka trios, to folk balladeers and cowboy crooners.
For rural listeners 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. Preceding the success of the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, by nearly two decades, The National Barn Dance made Chicago the capital of country music prior to World War II. The radio program was a marketing pioneer, making millions for network sponsors like Alka Seltzer. Moreover, it launched the careers of matinee idols, national radio queens, and cowboy’s sweethearts.
I began work on The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance in 2003. The production process for this film has been an incredible learning experience, and a period of tremendous growth for me as a filmmaker. This was truly a labor of love, taking on the challenge of pulling together a story that spanned 50 years, and clearing rights for a program that had wall-to-wall music and archival materials, combined with the struggles of raising funds for an independent film. We’re grateful to have received production funding from The National Endowment for the Arts and ITVS, along with other arts, humanities and foundation support, but with recent cutbacks in arts funding, this just hasn't been enough.
Our goal has always been to bring The Hayloft Gang to the widest, most diverse audience possible; it needs to be used in schools and libraries and available to the general public. Unfortunately our production funding only covers the costs for licensing the music for public television broadcast. We have to pay the music publishers and record companies for the additional rights for DVD and digital media distribution.
Please help us to complete the final phase of this important media project. Your tax-deductible donation will bring the music and folk culture of this forgotten era of barn dance radio to new and diverse audiences. Your support will ensure that The Hayloft Gang documentary lives on for future generations to understand and appreciate this important untold chapter in American music and popular culture. If we are fortunate to go beyond our minimum funding goal, these dollars will be used for development of a teacher's study guide and enhanced DVD content, allowing The Hayloft Gang to reach even wider audiences.