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God's Gift of Music: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Will the Circle Be Unbroken

How many of you remember the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? Well perhaps your not old enough but there's still time! They are still making music and over the years and the course of their career they have made music with many country music legends including Mother Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, Roy Acuff, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, and Jimmy Martin to name a few.

They trace their roots back into country, folk and rock music in the 1960s and 1970s which helped them to create their unique sound. Enjoy this blast from the past!

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Today
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Today

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Biography

"Lord, it was nearly sixty years ago.

Long Beach, California. Jeff Hanna was in high school, a holding zone where hormones and anxiety are left to fester until they explode like Langston Hughes’s dream deferred.

Suddenly, a sound burst through the middling morass at laser speed, deflating the balls of confusion that teenaged Jeff was holding. That sound came from the iron ore town of Hibbing, Minnesota, by way of Greenwich Village. It was Bob Dylan, a young man who at first recharged old folk and blues songs, but who became known for his own wild-eyed compositions.

Hanna didn’t know what was going on. But, at the same time, he knew Dylan was the man who would lead him to know most everything that was going on.

After school, he’d go home, lock himself in his bedroom, and haltingly play the picking pattern to Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” until the halting gave way to the feeling that he’d mastered a magic trick.

And when Dylan came to play at the Wilson High School auditorium, Hanna paid $4 to sit in the balcony with his girlfriend and a group of pals that included Bruce Kunkel, with whom he would soon start the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a fluid combo that would make a beautiful and necessary mark on American music. Another key member of that band was a boy named Jimmie Fadden, who would sit and play Dylan songs with Hanna, transfixed by the way Dylan’s music blended seemingly every roots music strain.." from their website

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (original album) Brief Documentary

Video from GRunHappiness

John McEuen Reflects on Will the Circle Be Unbroken in New Book

"For fifty years, John McEuen has been talking about Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1972 bluegrass magnum opus. Now he's written a book about it, and Will The Circle Be Unbroken: The Making of a Landmark Album is set to be released on Monday, August 1. The book is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and bookstore websites.

The record is considered by many to be the first Americana album, and McEuen says that he's been told through the decades how it has bonded families, or how some musicians have changed their whole style after listening to it.

“There are always questions about the Circle album,” he says. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘I got rid of all my rock-and-roll instruments and bought a mandolin,’ or ‘I quit playing the violin and started on the fiddle.’”

McEuen, who left NGDB in 2017, says the book should be interesting to anyone who enjoys bluegrass or country music. “I don’t think you need to be a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fan [to like the book],” he says. “You could be a Roy Acuff fan, or [a fan of] Earl Scruggs or Doc Watson or anyone. You’ll be opened up to another side of them, as well as the Dirt Band guys.” from the article: John McEuen Reflects on Will the Circle Be Unbroken in New Book

Will the Circle Be Unbroken: The Making of a Landmark Album, 50th Anniversary by John McEuen (link)

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Mr. Bojangles (Live at Farm Aid 1985)

Video from Farm Aid

"The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band performs "Mr. Bojangles" at Farm Aid in Champaign, Illinois on September 22, 1985. A performance from the first Farm Aid benefit concert. Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp founded Farm Aid and serve on the board of directors. The three agreed that family farmers were in dire need of assistance and decided to plan a concert for America. The show was put together in six weeks and was held on September 22, 1985 in Champaign, Illinois before a crowd of 80,000 people. It raised over $9 million for America's family farmers. Performers included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and many more. Dave Matthews joined Farm Aid's Board of Directors in 2001 to help further Farm Aid's mission of keeping family farmers on their land." from video introduction

'Mr. Bojangles': The Story Behind the Jerry Jeff Walker Classic

"Mr. Bojangles" was written by Grammy-nominated country music artist and American icon from Austin, Texas, Jerry Jeff Walker for his 1968 album of the same name. It's been covered by multiple artists, including Bob Dylan, John Denver, Nina Simone, Whitney Houston, Neil Diamond, Sammy Davis Jr. and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whose 1970 cover rose to number nine in the 1971 Billboard top 100 charts. The covers have been as diverse as they have been impressive.

Who was the original "Mr. Bojangles" who inspired Walker to write this well-known country music song? Believe it or not, it was based on a homeless man he met in a New Orleans jail. The man referred to himself as "Mr. Bojangles" and regaled Walker with various stories about his life. While in the cell, Mr. Bojangles talked about his dog who had died. When one of the other men requested for someone to cheer everyone up, "Mr. Bojangles" hopped up and performed a tap dance.." from the article: 'Mr. Bojangles': The Story Behind the Jerry Jeff Walker Classic


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