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Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Founded in California during 1965, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has lasted longer than virtually any other country-based rock group of their era. Younger contemporaries of the Byrds, they played an almost equally important role in the transformation from folk-rock into country-rock, and were an influence on such bands as the Eagles and Alabama. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's beginnings lay with the New Coast Two, a folk duo consisting of Jeff Hanna (guitar, vocals) and Bruce Kunkel (guitar, washtub bass), formed while both were in high school in the early '60s. By the time the two were college students, they were having informal jams at a local guitar shop. It was there that they met Ralph Barr (guitar, washtub bass), Les Thompson (vocals, mandolin, bass, guitar, banjo, percussion), Jimmie Fadden (harmonica, vocals, drums, percussion), and Jackson Browne (guitar, vocals). This lineup became the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in late 1965, and began playing jug band music at local clubs. At that time, Southern California was undergoing a musical renaissance, courtesy of the folk-rock movement and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fit in with these other folkies-turned-rockers. Browne left after a few months to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by John McEuen (banjo, fiddle, mandolin, steel guitar, vocals), the younger brother of the group's new manager, Bill McEuen. With Bill McEuen's guidance, the group landed a recording contract with Liberty Records and released their debut album, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, in April of 1967. Their first single, "Buy for Me the Rain," became a modest hit and got the band some television appearances.

A second album, Ricochet, released seven months later, was a critical success but a commercial failure. The group now found itself at an impasse over the issue of whether to go electric. During the dispute, Kunkel, who wanted to add an electric guitar to their sound, exited the lineup. He was replaced by Chris Darrow (guitar, fiddle). Ironically, by mid-1968 the group had gone electric, and also added drums to their sound. Their first electric album, Rare Junk, released in June of 1968, was also a commercial failure. The band was barely working, a far cry from their success of a year earlier. The band persevered, however, and released Alive! in May of 1969. The album was another commercial disaster, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band closed up shop soon after.

The members scattered for several months, but six months later the group was back for another try; the new lineup included McEuen, Hanna, Fadden, Thompson, and Jim Ibbotson (guitars, accordion, drums, percussion, piano, vocals). They returned to their record company with a demand for control over their recordings and the record company agreed. Bill McEuen became the group's producer as well as its manager. The first result of this new era in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's history was Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy, issued in 1970. Rooted tightly in their jug band sound, the album had a country feel but no trace of the vaudeville and novelty numbers that had appeared on their earlier records. The album yielded what is the group's best-known single, their cover of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," and suddenly, the band had a following bigger than anything they'd known during their brief bout of success in 1967. Their next album, All The Good Times, released in early 1972, had an even more countrified feel.

By 1972, several rock bands, most notably the Byrds and the Beau Brummels, had gone to Nashville seeking credibility from the country music community there, only to be received poorly by that community and to have their resulting work ignored by the press and public. At the suggestion of manager Bill McEuen, however, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band went to Nashville in 1972 and recorded a selection of traditional country numbers with the likes of Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Mother Maybelle Carter, and other members of country and bluegrass music's veteran elite. Some of the veteran Nashville stars were skeptical and suspicious at first of the bandmembers and their amplified instruments, but the ice was broken when they saw how respectful the band was toward them and their work, and their music, as well as how serious they were about their own music. The resulting triple album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, released in January of 1973, became a million-seller and elicited positive reviews from both the rock and country music press. The band had, by now, eclipsed the competition as a "crossover" act, reaching country and bluegrass audiences even as their rock listeners acquired a new appreciation for musicians such as Acuff and Carter. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band succeeded with Will the Circle Be Unbroken because they were willing to meet country and bluegrass music on the terms of those two branches of traditional music, rather than as rock musicians.

During the year and a half that followed the success of Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Les Thompson left the group, reducing the Dirt Band to a quartet. Their next album, Stars & Stripes Forever, issued in the summer of 1974, was a peculiar live album, mixing concert performances and dialogue. Following one more original album, Dream (1975), the group received its first retrospective treatment, a triple-LP compilation entitled Dirt, Silver & Gold, issued late in 1976. Jim Ibbotson left the lineup at around this time, and was replaced initially by session player Bob Carpenter. The remaining trio of Jeff Hanna, John McEuen, and Jimmie Fadden shortened the band's official name to the Dirt Band. In this incarnation, the group became a much more mainstream, pop/rock outfit with a smoother sound, with Jeff Hanna guiding them as producer. Their records were far less eccentric, although they continued to be popular. The band's next albums were decidedly more laid-back than previous records, and didn't attract nearly as much attention. An American Dream, released in 1980, did relatively well, as did Make a Little Magic (1981). By 1982, however, they were back to their country roots, renamed the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Jim Ibbotson was playing with them again. Let's Go, released in the middle of 1983, heralded their return to country music, as a largely acoustic band. In 1984, after 17 years with Liberty/UA/Capitol, they switched labels to Warner Bros., and that same year made some headlines as the first American rock band to tour the Soviet Union. Their Warner albums sold well, but by the end of the 1980s the group was moving between labels.

In 1989, both as a reflection of the changing times, and as though to make sure that everyone got the point that the band was once again mining its country roots, they made Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2 for MCA/Universal Records, reuniting with surviving country and bluegrass veterans from the original album and adding a whole roster of new players, including Johnny Cash, Chris Hillman, and Ricky Skaggs. This album won the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance (duo or group) and the Country Music Association's Album of the Year Award in 1989. By this time, the Dirt Band was working in their field alongside any number of country/bluegrass crossover artists whose career paths were made easier by that first record, including John Hiatt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Rosanne Cash. Their next several albums saw them never veering very far from their country/bluegrass roots. The group continued to record a new album every year or so, including a concert album, Live Two Five, celebrating their 25th anniversary as a band, and the self-explanatory Acoustic. In 1999, they returned with Bang Bang Bang. It was followed by the third installment of the Will the Circle Be Unbroken trilogy in 2002 and an album of all new material, Welcome to Woody Creek, in 2004. Ibbotson left after the record and tour, having had enough of the road. NGDB celebrated their 43rd anniversary with the stellar Speed of Life issued by Sugar Hill, recorded live in the studio with a few of Nashville's finest providing instrumental and vocal help, and the production assistance of George Massenburg and Jon Randall Stewart. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Will The Circle Be Unbroken Vol. III

Comments

I love this and love you Nitty Gritty Dirty Band
all the bar times have fun
I like this song because it reminded me of alot of good times I've shared with my family
love this some.
Good song y'all love it
S.O.S,
sounds like he's drunk sliring the words and miss pronouncing them this is why I like studio versions
Awesome!
2 concerts at the beach
The swon Brothers do a great version of this song!
One of my favorite bands!! Nitty gritty, Alabama and eagles would be a sick a** tour!!
Love nitty gritty bland

philgrimm1
They played a concert in my high school gym in 1968. It was the first major light show I'd ever seen. Too many strobe lights. Lots of vomiting, our gym floor had to be refinished and we had no more concerts while I was there.
Great songs and great live shows. Tight playing and sweet harmonies. They still take their craft seriously. Saw them in Escanaba, MI last summer.
Good one
i love fishin' in the dark :)
Fishin' In The Dark is my fav :)
Great music!
Absolutely love this song lisent to It as a little kid and i never will for get it
williamscaso n v
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However If you don't post this you will die in two days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it works!
THE BEST SONG EVER!!!
There picking and I am GRINNING ear to ear. :o)))
Love absolutely LOVE BLUEGRASS.:o ) ) )
listen i hate this chain stuff its so anoying!
ITS F-ING FAKE STOP SPREADING THE CHAINS
They are coming to rib fest
This freaked me out This isn't fake. Apparently, if you copy and paste this on ten comments in the next ten minutes, you will have the best day of your life tomorrow. You will either get kissed or asked out, if you break this chain you will see a little dead girl in your room tonight. In the next 53 minutes someone will say I love you or I'm sorry
i love this song if you love fishing in the dark then follow me
Ok
In the background after Uncle Charlie talks to Teddy in his interview , there is a song called Spanish Fandango playing. It is one of my favorites to play on the guitar.
They will be in St. Mary's PA in March 13. See you there !
yup, fishin in the dark was the definitve song for me at the time, still one of my all time favorites, always will be
i love it.im gonna playit forever
seeker231
yup
You left out my favorite- Symphonion Dream. I got to be part of the stage crew for a concert in Durango, CO. in 1981. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band shared the Bill with Michael Murphy and Quarter Flash. Had a few beers with them backstage. They and Michael Murphy were nice, real people. Thanks Pandora, for this new medium for my tunes.
awesome
They were great live(2011) They have a lot of songs that other bands covered (Fishing in the Dark being one of the most popular)
16 tracks
How do they not say anything about Fishin in the Dark?
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band also appears with the Chieftans on Another Country, an incredible combination of irish and Country music.
do what
First Noel
McCabe's guitar shop Oh I remember this place. I was a little young to be hanging out there. We would hear that so , so was going to be there and head over to see Jackson Brown...etc
Loved the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in it's day. Now I live far away from So.Cal.
Found memories of music... continues. Well the circle be unbroken, I hope not
bholler1
God bless the nitty gritty dirt band!
taria234
mrblackie the black cat just loves alabama
t_heath
Rocky Top was my Mom's favorite bluegrass song......
Very under-rated group.
juanita.eagl e
Saw them in concert in Hot Springs, AR this week. They were great and I did not see a jerk in the group. Perhaps you were the jerk for approaching them in a Airport.
cmkmass
not my favorite. but another example of where country was b4 IT DIED
headbonehead
ahhh my favorite band, when I see them in concert, it's like visiting old friends!
smsp2
there're in Asheville,NC
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