RFD-TV: The Best Thing Ever?

Like many country fans who discovered the genre in the nineties, CMT and TNN were central to my experience of discovering music.  When CMT shifted to non-music programming, GAC quickly became the channel of choice.   But as that channel grew in popularity, it shifted its emphasis to only mainstream country music, losing the diversity that defined it in its early years.

When moving late last year, I switched cable companies. Initially, I thought the best country-related channel I’d gotten in the switch was CMT Pure, which plays only music. Unfortunately, older videos are limited to a 1/2 hour of programming called “Pure Vintage”, a pale comparison to the three-hour early morning extravaganza “CMT Classic” that once ran on CMT proper in the wee hours of the weekend.

By a fluke, I discovered RFD-TV, which bills itself as “Rural America’s Most Important Network.” I could care less about the horse and agriculture shows, but with country music, this channel has hit the jackpot.

Currently airing regularly: vintage episodes of The Porter Wagoner Show, Pop Goes the Country, and Crook & Chase. It’s like going back into the seventies and eighties with the benefit of DVR! To see Don Williams appear as a young artist just getting his start, all skin and bones and sideburns. To see Dolly Parton at the peak of her songwriting talent, expressing it through the confines of the “girl singer” slot on Wagoner’s classic show, outshining everything else by such a wide margin it’s a wonder they didn’t turn the whole show over to her. Or even just to see the legendarily slow-talking Ralph Emery interviewing stars in his youth, and learning that his slow pace wasn’t a product of aging – he’s always talked that way.

I’ve even seen a female artist I didn’t recognize. That’s right, the guy who wrote this didn’t know who this woman was:

That’s Susan Raye, by the way, doing her best to sing a song of seduction while buttoned up from neck to toe. I’d read about her, but there’s no way I would’ve heard this #53 hit “Saturday Night to Sunday Quiet” if not for RFD-TV.  Much like I never would’ve asked for the Emmylou Harris box set for Christmas if I hadn’t seen the “High-Powered Love” video on CMT, a song that made it to #63 at radio.

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14 Comments

Filed under Classic Artists, Miscellaneous Musings

14 Responses to RFD-TV: The Best Thing Ever?

  1. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar

    Someone had mentioned this channel to me a while back, and had pretty much the same interesting things to say about it as you.

    Id like to get the channel, I spent my entire childhood sitting infront of TNN and hitting record each time a video I enjoyed came out. I probally started that in 89 or 90? Its almost worth still having a VCR player alone just so I can go back now and then.

  2. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this channel. I’d love to see those old shows. If it was included with our only cable choice, I’d have more than the basic cable package that we have now. As it stands, GAC and CMT just aren’t worth it, though GAC is better than CMT.

  3. bllNo Gravatar

    We have this station now but TW only offeres it as a Digital Choice package and I can’t justify paying an extra 30 quid a month for one channel as I would never watch the other 14 channels on that tier. TW sucks.

  4. travis in virginiaNo Gravatar

    I love that channel. They had shows on last year that showed preformances from the tnn awards from the 70′s and 80′s. I loved it. Now i always record pop Goes The Country, and Hee Haw, to watch every week. This is a goldmine for classic country if you are young lik emyself and didn’t grow up in the 70′s or 80′s.

  5. Paul DennisNo Gravatar

    Unfortunately my cable system does not offer this channel. Some of the shows I remeber seeing the first time around – during the 60s and 70s artists such as Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner, Ernest Tubb Carl Smith, Buck Owens and The Wilburn Brothers all had syndicated shows

    I don’t know that I would characterize Dolly Parton as outshining everything else on Porter’s show. She had her moments, but it was such a talented cast that others had episodes where they dominated the spotlight. For me the highlights were the Porter – Dolly duets , for me the best music EITHER of them ever made. I don’t know if RFD is showing the older episodes with Norma Jean , but they should

  6. I really enjoy this channel when I get a chance to sit down and watch it. I was really happy to see the heavy-hitters from TNN come back on this network, namely Ralph Emery and Crook & Chase. You’re right that watching RFD is like going back to the golden age of country music cable programming.

  7. I would just like to say that anyone who has cable and can’t receive RFD-TV should consider either Dish Network or Direct TV, the satellite companies. They both carry RFD-TV. Saturday evenings is outstanding if you love traditional country music. The Marty Stuart show is simply the very best in my opinion. Marty not only has Connie Smith on his show, he has a special guest each week. Most always one of the Super Stars from out of the past. I personally think that RFD-TV rivels TNN when that channel was at it’s best as far as music goes. My only complaint is that neither Dish Network nor Direct TV will carry the channel in High Definition. I e-mailed both satellite companies but so far it has done no good. I think it’s worth the price of the satellite subscription just to get to watch RFD-TV on Saturday evenings……almost as good as going to the Grand Ole Opry used to be in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s.

  8. SharonNo Gravatar

    We watch RFD-TV all the time we are in our 60′s and it brings back a lot lf good memories. My husband hear a song the other night on one ofthe old time songs and someone sang it. My husband used to sang it but can not remember the name or the artist. Some of the words were ” I sell the morning paper, sir my name is Jimmy Brown, my daddy died a drunkard thats what my mother said.” would someone that knows the name and artist of this song please let me know. Thanks

  9. LW MorrisNo Gravatar

    When we are over at our daughters house…. we can watch RFD TV. COMCAST in their superb command of what viewers really need, has not given the rest of us the opportunity to have this to enrich our lives, enjoy the more rural way of life, and even go a little green in the process. I do wish Comcast would W A K E U P !

  10. LW MorrisNo Gravatar

    You know there are an awful lot of us “baby Boomers” out there that want a cleaner way of watching television. High Definition, Plasma, huge and huger and covering a wall with a TV set is not where we want to be. Get it ?

  11. Keep it up and in 2011 : ]

  12. Do you know how far wide this channel is available. I live in the UK and was wondering if we would be able to get it here, or at least stream some of it off the web. Any help would be great!

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  14. A very informative guide, as always. Thank you. Great post as usual.

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