Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns isn't one to lend his name to colognes, designer jeans, spaghetti sauce or any of the other entrapments that sometimes come with fame.
But when Tauck, a leading tour company for guided land journeys and small-ship cruises, approached Burns and his partner, Dayton Duncan, about teaming up on a series of events and tours themed on American culture and history, he happily said yes.
That's how Ken Burns American Journeys came to be.
"We're in the business of history. And a lot of people have paid attention to those films we made," Burns said matter-of-factly. His documentaries include "The Civil War," "Baseball," "Jazz" and "The National Parks: American's Best Idea."
Burns said his and Duncan's goals in filmmaking pair extremely well with Tauck's mission of sharing America's story in a memorable and compelling way, adding, "We both try to engage our audiences, increase their knowledge and make strong emotional connections with the people and stories from America's past that help define who we are today."
Burns and Duncan have been friends for a long time and when they collaborated with Tauck, they came up with three components for travelers.
The first is a set of itineraries called "Crafted by Tauck & Ken Burns"; the second is a series of filmed narratives, "Stories by Ken Burns"; and the last is "Ken Burns Events."
The Crafted itineraries, one focusing on the Civil War and the other on national parks, while not escorted by either Burns or Duncan, have been carefully selected and, to use their word, "choreographed" by them.
"It's very difficult for people to do these things on their own," Duncan said.
Currently there are two journeys from which to choose. "Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest" is a 10-day journey from Grand Junction, Colo., to Las Vegas, through six national parks including the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park and Zion National Park.
The tours operate from May through October.
The other journey is "Most Hallowed Ground," an 11-day tour that focuses on places covered in Burns' "The Civil War" documentary. Beginning in Washington, D.C., and ending in Richmond, Va., and running only in September and October, the tour stops at historic places like Antietam, Gettysburg, Harper's Ferry and Appomattox. There are extras - guided visits, living history reenactments and exclusive presentations and talks by Civil War experts.
Travel aboard motor coaches on select Tauck tours in the U.S. and you'll be treated to "Ken Burns Stories," the next component of Ken Burns American Journeys that includes more than 30 unique, behind-the-scenes documentary films.
Burns and Duncan give their personal perspectives, experiences, stories and in-depth commentary on national parks, the Civil War, and jazz through destinations including Charleston, S.C.; and Savannah, Ga.; New Orleans; Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; the canyon lands of Arizona and Utah; and California's "gold coast" from Sonoma to Los Angeles.
The last of the collaborations is "Ken Burns Events," one-off shorter journeys for which Burns makes a personal appearance.
The Tauck Jazz Event in October will travel through New Orleans' French Quarter with live jazz throughout and including a special performance by Ellis Marsalis, a private steamboat cruise and a keynote address by Burns.
Plans are for a 2012 "Ken Burns Events" in Yellowstone.
"Who are we?" Burns asked in explaining why he chose to tag-team with Tauck. "Who are Americans? As we explore, we ask that question."
As for the places they've filmed Burns and Duncan want tour participants to see them the way they saw them: as filmmakers.
"Americans should be persuaded, encouraged and required to see these places," said Duncan.