6 user 2 critic

Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story (2003)

Like a warped fun-house mirror, the song-poem industry has run parallel to the mainstream music business for close to a century; it's estimated that over 200,000 song-poems have been ... See full summary »


Jamie Meltzer

On Disc

at Amazon




Credited cast:
Tom Ardolino Tom Ardolino ... Himself
Sonny Cash Sonny Cash ... Himself
Del Casher Del Casher ... Himself
Jo Comberiate Jo Comberiate ... Herself
Ellery Eskelin Ellery Eskelin ... Himself
Gary Forney Gary Forney ... Himself
David Fox David Fox ... Himself
Van Garner Van Garner ... Himself
Will Gentry Will Gentry ... Himself
Art Kaufman Art Kaufman ... Himself
John Lewis John Lewis ... Himself
Gene Merlino Gene Merlino ... Himself
Jean-Paul Monsche Jean-Paul Monsche ... Himself
Nilson V. Ortiz Nilson V. Ortiz ... Himself
Caglar Juan Singletary Caglar Juan Singletary


Like a warped fun-house mirror, the song-poem industry has run parallel to the mainstream music business for close to a century; it's estimated that over 200,000 song-poems have been recorded since 1900. The genre's durability can be traced to three of our deepest American desires - to be in show business, to get rich quick, and to share and express our deepest feelings. We meet several of the "songwriters" - from an elderly woman to a young African-American man to a small-town Iowan with big-time dreams - each of whom has been in the "business" for awhile, churning out odd compositions that cover the waterfront of American obsessions, from Jesus to genitalia, from politics to Elvis. We also meet the producers (often known as song-sharks) who hold out the tantalizing promise of fame to their eager customers, and the has-been musicians who sit in studios, day after day and year after year, interpreting some of the weirdest lyrics ever written. Through fellow musicians and his son, ... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Official Sites:

PBS [United States]





Release Date:

11 February 2003 (USA) See more »


Box Office


$150,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Complex Corporation See more »
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Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ray and Lillian Reynolds
Music by Rodd Keith
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User Reviews

28 July 2011 | by JoshuaDysartSee all my reviews

This was absolutely fantastic. One of the best documentaries I've seen in ages. Certainly one of the best about music. I tried to find more info about the flick, but there's just one PBS interview with the filmmaker. So definitely clue into this if you dig on quirky, honest filmmakers like Les Blank or Ross McElwee. The work is warm and respectful and revealing. Everything a cultural doc should be. Sometimes it seems to come dangerously close to mocking its subjects but then a humanist beat equalizes everything and film skirts back into a position of measured observation. As far as I'm concerned this is up there with "Sweet Grass", "Grey Gardens", "Gimme Shelter", "Sherman's March" and "Harland County, USA". It's just that good.

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