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Let’s Turn That Song Into a Movie!

January 7, 2016

A lot of songs, particularly country music songs, tell stories. That makes them great fodder for movies.

  • As part of the 1970s fad surrounding truckers and CB radios, a song about a trucking convoy, “Convoy” went to #1 in 1975. Sung by C.W. McCall (the stage name of William Fries), the song was co-written by Chip Davis (who later started the electronic Christmas music band Mannheim Steamroller) and originated as a jingle for a Midwestern bread company. The story song got so popular that in 1978, it became an action film starring Kris Kristofferson and directed by legendary Western auteur Sam Peckinpah.

  • In 1968, Jeannie C. Riley became a one-hit wonder with “Harper Valley PTA,” a timely (at the time) song about a woman who scandalizes her small town by wearing a miniskirt to a PTA meeting. The mild satire of the song jumped to the small screen 10 years later when Harper Valley PTA became a B-movie starring Barbara Eden. (It became a TV show in 1981, long after miniskirts were considered scandalous.)

  • The Carol Burnett Show co-star Vicki Lawrence was another one-hit wonder, scoring a #1 hit with the strange, Southern gothic country tune “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” The song, about a murder and the innocent man framed for it, was later covered by Tanya Tucker and Reba McEntire…and in 1981, a low-budget movie starring Kristy McNichol and Mark Hamill.

  • In the early ‘80s, Kenny Rogers was such a big country star that he crossed over and became a pop star, too. That led to a series of made-for-TV movies based on his songs, including The Coward of the County and The Gambler (and four sequels). It’s an odd, brief chapter of TV history, but one that NBC is revisiting. This year, it will air several made-for-TV movies based on the songs of another country legend, Dolly Parton. Among the songs becoming movies are “Coat of Many Colors,” “Jolene” and “The Seeker.”

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