From Three on a String to Ken Burns documentaries, this Alabama Music Maker is making history
Bobby Horton has been interested in the Civil War since he was 9 years old, igniting his lifelong love of history.
“Every adult male in my life, from my dad to my uncles to my baseball managers and even my band director were all World War II veterans,” said Horton. “When you understand that history is a story of real people, it pulls you in like nothing else.”
His passions are music and history, and Horton has built a career weaving the two together. He especially loves film recording. Horton plays with the country-bluegrass band Three on a String and provides music for Public Broadcasting Service documentaries by Ken Burns.
Burns’ new 16-hour PBS series “Country Music” will be released by Florentine Films Sept. 15. It tells the history of country music from the early 20th century through the 1990s. Horton is credited with about 40 minutes of his music in the upcoming documentary.
Horton and Burns have worked on many projects together since the ‘90s. They connected through Richard Snow, the editor of American Heritage magazine, who had published an article about the work Horton was doing. Horton had produced a series of recordings sung by people who lived during the Civil War.
Snow ran into Burns on the streets of New York City. When Snow heard Burns was working on the Civil War documentary, he told Burns “there’s a guy in Alabama you need to listen to.”
The director-producer Horton is a Birmingham musician and historian. For about 20 years, his home studio in Vestavia Hills has been a one-man music workshop.
Over the years, Horton has produced and performed music scores for 18 PBS films by Ken Burns, including “The Civil War” and “Baseball,” two films for the A&E network, and 25 films for the National Park Service. Horton’s series of recordings of authentic period music has been acclaimed by historical organizations and publications throughout America and Europe.
Horton is widely recognized as one of America’s leading authorities on music from the Civil War period. Horton was a bugler for the Marine Corps when he was in high school. He has played taps for more than 60 burials of Marines. He is still active in Bugles Across America, an organization that provides a live rendition of taps by a bugler for veterans during their funerals.
Horton has been in a band since he was in the seventh grade. Jerry Ryan, the founder of Three on a String, approached him to play the banjo at the Horse Pens 40 music festival in the ‘70s. They’ve been playing together for nearly 50 years.
Horton can’t imagine doing anything else. “There are very few jobs you look forward to going to,” he said. “It’s still pretty fun.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)