"If Cork n'Bottle String Band: The Ken's Bar Story ever makes its way outside the friendly confines of Madison," wrote John Benninghouse in his review of the documentary's premiere screening at the Wisconsin Film Festival last month, "the opening mock newsreel showing the band as USOers circa 1942 keeping American wartime spirits high will serve as a good introduction to folks unfamiliar with Madison's original slapstick bluegrass band."
Similar sentiments were shared by Isthmus features editor Kenneth Burns in his review of the 89-minute documentary directed by Jeremy Gotcher and Cork n'Bottle String Band mandolin player Greg Dierks.
"The film's biggest and pleasantest surprise is the mock newsreel that opens it," wrote Burns, "a very convincing pastiche of World War II-era clips and footage that was, as Dierks told the audience after the screening, filmed on the cheap."
"This movie is a remarkable telling of the story which will make you laugh and appreciate the development of this special band, even if you never got to the claustrophobic confines of Ken's at the peak of popularity," declares Nancy Nikora, a volunteer with the Southern Wisconsin Bluegrass Music Association.
Cork n'Bottle String Band: The Ken's Bar Story is having its general premiere and DVD release at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 2 at the Orpheum Stage Door; the night also marks the band's 11th anniversary.
Now old fans of the band well beyond the city's confines and unable to attend the screening can catch this introduction to the group that made its home at the long-defunct bar on South Butler Street and the stories its members and fans wrought.
This opening mock newsreel to the documentary follows below.
"Hear the tale told by the band members, the fans and Ken himself," urges Nikora. "Don't deny yourself this guilty pleasure." Likewise from Benninghouse: "Cork n'Bottle String Band: The Ken's Bar Storyhas a built-in appeal for fans of the band, but it should also find an audience with general music lovers and beer drinkers too."