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Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The band in 1976.
|Also known as||The Dirt Band, The Toot Uncommons|
|Origin||Long Beach, CA, United States|
|Genres||Folk, country, folk rock, country rock, country pop, bluegrass|
|Labels||Liberty, EMI America, Capitol, United Artists, Warner Bros., Universal, MCA, Rising Tide, DreamWorks, Dualtone, Sugarhill|
|Associated acts||The Severin Sisters|
|Past members||Ralph Barr|
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, an American country rock band, has existed in various forms since its founding in Long Beach, California, in 1966. The group's membership has had at least a dozen changes over the years, including a period from 1976 to 1981 when the band performed and recorded as the Dirt Band. Constant members since the early times are singer-guitarist Jeff Hanna and drummer Jimmie Fadden. Multi-instrumentalist John McEuen was with the band from 1966 to 1986 and returned during 2001, staying 16 years, then departing again in November 2017. Keyboardist Bob Carpenter joined the band in 1977. The band is often cited as instrumental to the progression of contemporary country and roots music.
Country rock is a subgenre of popular music, formed from the fusion of rock and country. It was developed by rock musicians who began to record country-flavored records in the late-1960s and early-1970s. These musicians recorded rock records using country themes, vocal styles, and additional instrumentation, most characteristically pedal steel guitars. Country rock began with artists like Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons and others, reaching its greatest popularity in the 1970s with artists such as Emmylou Harris, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Nesmith, Poco and Pure Prairie League. Country rock also influenced artists in other genres, including the Band, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, and George Harrison's solo work. It also played a part in the development of Southern rock.
Long Beach is a city on the Pacific Coast of the United States, within the Los Angeles metropolitan area of Southern California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257. It is the 39th most populous city in the United States and the 7th most populous in California. Long Beach is the second-largest city in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and the third largest in Southern California behind Los Angeles and San Diego. Long Beach is a charter city.
List of notable events in music that took place in the year 1966.
The band's successes include a cover version of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles". Albums include 1972's Will the Circle be Unbroken , featuring such traditional country artists as Mother Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, Roy Acuff, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, and Jimmy Martin. A follow-up album based on the same concept, Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume Two was released in 1989, was certified gold, won two Grammys, and was named Album of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards.
In popular music, a cover version, cover song, revival, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded, commercially released song.
Jerry Jeff Walker is an American country music singer and songwriter.
"Mr. Bojangles" is a song written and originally recorded by American country music artist Jerry Jeff Walker for his 1968 album of the same title. Since then, it has been recorded by many other artists, including US country music band the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whose version was issued as a single and rose to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. Live versions of the song appeared on Walker's 1977 album, A Man Must Carry On, and his 1980 album The Best of Jerry Jeff Walker and he sang it with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their 2015 concert album entitled "Circlin' Back".
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was founded around 1966 in Long Beach, California, by singer-guitarist Jeff Hanna and singer-songwriter guitarist Bruce Kunkel who had performed as the New Coast Two and later the Illegitimate Jug Band. Trying, in the words of the band's website, to "figure out how not to have to work for a living," Hanna and Kunkel joined informal jam sessions at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Long Beach.[ citation needed ] There they met a few other musicians: guitarist/washtub bassist Ralph Barr, guitarist-clarinetist Les Thompson, harmonicist and jug player Jimmie Fadden, and guitarist-vocalist Jackson Browne. As Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the six men started as a jug band and adopted the burgeoning southern California folk rock musical style, playing in local clubs while wearing pinstripe suits and cowboy boots. Their first paying performance was at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California.
Jeffrey "Jeff" R. Hanna is an American singer-songwriter and performance musician, best known for his association with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. His professional music career has spanned six decades.
A jam session is a relatively informal musical event, process, or activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play improvised solos and vamp on tunes, songs and chord progressions. To "jam" is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements, except for when the group is playing well-known jazz standards or covers of existing popular songs. Original jam sessions, also 'free flow sessions', are often used by musicians to develop new material (music) and find suitable arrangements. Both styles can be used simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression or chart suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from very loose gatherings of amateurs to evenings where a jam session coordinator or host acts as a "gatekeeper" to ensure that only appropriate-level performers take the stage, to sophisticated improvised recording sessions by professionals which are intended to be broadcast live on radio or TV or edited and released to the public.
Browne was in the band for only a few months before he left to concentrate on a solo career as a singer-songwriter. He was replaced by John McEuen on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and steel guitar. McEuen's older brother, William, was the group's manager, and he helped the band get signed with Liberty Records, which released the group's debut album, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band during 1967. The band's first single, "Buy for Me the Rain," was a Top 40 success, and the band gained exposure on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson , as well as concerts with such disparate artists as Jack Benny and The Doors.
Singer-songwriters are musicians who write, compose, and perform their own musical material, including lyrics and melodies.
John McEuen, is an American folk musician and founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
The banjo is a four-, five-, or six-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity as a resonator, called the head, which is typically circular. The membrane is typically made of plastic, although animal skin is still occasionally used. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by Africans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk, Irish traditional, and country music. Banjo can also be used in some rock songs. Many rock bands, such as The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. The banjo, along with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz.
A second album, Ricochet , was released later during the year and was less successful than their first. Kunkel wanted the band to "go electric", and include more original material. Bruce left the group to form WordSalad and Of The People. He was replaced by multi-instrumentalist Chris Darrow.
Ricochet is the second album, by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and their second album release of 1967, being released only four or five months after their first album, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which was released in February or March, 1967. It appears that this album may have been released rather quickly after their first album because that album had been only the second Liberty Records release of 1967 to actually make the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, the first being Gary Lewis & the Playboys You Don't Have To Paint Me A Picture LP, which charted in February. Unfortunately, Ricochet would fail to make the charts.
Christopher Lloyd Darrow is an American multi-instrumentalist. He is considered to be a pioneer of country rock music in the late sixties, and performed and recorded with numerous groups including Kaleidoscope and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
By 1968, the band adopted electrical instruments anyway, and added drums. The first electric album, Rare Junk , was a commercial failure, as was their next, Alive .
Rare Junk is the third album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, released in 1968. In an attempt to update their sound the band included electric instrumentation on the record, but it still was a commercial failure.
Alive is the 1969 album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Liberty Records released this album after the original version of the band broke up and before the next version of the band re-signed with them. John McEuen would later recall that "we did [the album] at the Troubador and there were mountains of equipment on stage because Poco were on the same bill with us." Given McEuen's comment, it appears that the documented performance occurred on either December 6 or 7, 1968. The band would break up within weeks of this show.
The band continued to gain publicity, mainly as a novelty act, making an appearance in the 1968 film, For Singles Only , and a cameo appearance in the 1969 musical western film, Paint Your Wagon , performing "Hand Me Down That Can o' Beans". The band also played Carnegie Hall as an opening act for Bill Cosby and played in a jam session with Dizzy Gillespie.
The group was inactive for a 6-month period after Paint Your Wagon, then reformed with Jimmy Ibbotson replacing Chris Darrow. With William McEuen as producer and a renegotiated contract that gave the band more artistic freedom, the band recorded and released Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy , issued in 1970. Embracing a straight, traditional country and bluegrass sound, the album included the group's best-known singles; a cover version of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles", Michael Nesmith's "Some of Shelley's Blues", and four Kenny Loggins songs including "House at Pooh Corner", the first recordings of Loggins's songs. Their version of "Mr. Bojangles" became the group's first hit, peaking at #9 on Billboard's all genre Hot 100 chart, with an unusual 36 weeks on the charts.
The next album, All The Good Times, released during early 1972, had a similar style.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band next sought to solidify its reputation as a country band when band member John McEuen asked Earl Scruggs if he would record with the group. Earl's "yes" was followed the next week when John asked Doc Watson the same question, receiving the same answer of 'yes'. This set in motion the further addition of other artists, and with the help of Earl and Louise Scruggs, they set to traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, and recording what was to become a triple album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken with Nashville stalwarts Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, and Jimmy Martin, country pioneer Mother Maybelle Carter, folk-blues guitarist Doc Watson, Merle Travis, Norman Blake, and others. The title is from the song, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)", as adapted by A. P. Carter, and reflects the album's theme of trying to tie together three generations of musicians: long-haired boys from California and older veterans of the middle American establishment. The track "I Saw the Light" with Acuff singing, was a success, and the album received two nominations for Grammy Award. Veteran fiddler Vassar Clements was introduced to a wider audience by the album, and a new career. The band also toured Japan twice soon after this period.
After the next album Les Thompson left the group, making the band a foursome. Stars & Stripes Forever was a live album that mixed old successes such as "Buy for Me the Rain" and "Mr. Bojangles" with Circle collaborations (fiddler Vassar Clements was a guest performer) and long storytelling spoken-word monologues. A studio album, Dream, was also released.
During July 1974, the band was among the headline acts at the Ozark Music Festival at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri. Some estimates put the crowd at 350,000 people, which would make this one of the largest music events in history. At another concert, the band opened for the rock band Aerosmith.
Jimmy Ibbotson left the band at the end of 1976, leaving Fadden, Hanna, and McEuen to add John Cable and Jackie Clark, brought in on guitar and bass. In May 1977 the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band became the first American group allowed to tour Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Latvia — the Soviet Union — playing 28 sold-out concerts and a televised appearance that is estimated to have been watched by 145 million people. In 1977, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band first appeared on the second season of the PBS music program Austin City Limits.
After returning from Russia, the band released its first 'greatest successes' compilation, another now rare triple album Dirt, Silver & Gold, in 1978. After that release, the band shortened its name to The Dirt Band, and the group's sound became more pop and rock oriented. Saxophonist Al Garth, drummer Merel Bregante, and bassist Richard Hathaway were also added to the lineup in 1978 and Jeff Hanna became the group's producer for a few albums.
Keyboardist Bob Carpenter (who would occasionally sit in with the band from 1975 on) contributed to their 1978 album The Dirt Band and joined the band permanently in 1980.
Albums during this period included The Dirt Band and An American Dream. The single "American Dream" with Linda Ronstadt reached No. 13 on the popular music charts. The band also appeared on Saturday Night Live in their own slot (performing the instrumental penned by John, "White Russia'), and separately, billed as The Toot Uncommons, provided backing for Steve Martin on his million-selling novelty tune, "King Tut." They also played on that hit, recorded in Aspen earlier that year.
In 1979, Bregante left the group and drummers Michael Buono and then Michael Gardner replaced Bregante on stage with the group on tour, only to be succeeded by Vic Mastrianni in 1981. Al Garth moved on to Pure Prairie League and later the Eagles.
The albums Make a Little Magic and Jealousy were released in 1980 and 1981, with the single "Make a Little Magic" featuring Nicolette Larson reaching the Top 25 on the pop chart. The group also performed the song on a 1980 Steve Martin television special, All Commercials, with an added comic element in which Martin lip-synced the Larson vocal for the last segment of the song.
The band returned to its original name and its country roots in 1982. With the lineup paring down to Hanna, Fadden, McEuen, Carpenter and Ibbotson rejoining for recording sessions in Nashville, Tennessee, they recorded the album Let's Go, which yielded the success "Dance Little Jean" which became a Top 10 country hit. The next album, 1984's Plain Dirt Fashion had the band's first No. 1 success, "Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper's Dream)".
There were two more country No. 1's: "Modern Day Romance" (1985) and "Fishin' in the Dark" (1987), the latter of which became the band's biggest-selling single, eventually being certified platinum in 2014 despite never reaching the Hot 100. Other successful songs were "Dance Little Jean" (1983); "I Love Only You" (1984); "High Horse" (1985); "Home Again in My Heart," "Partners, Brothers and Friends" and "Stand a Little Rain" (1986); "Fire in the Sky," "Baby's Got a Hold on Me" and "Oh What a Love" (1987); "Workin' Man (Nowhere to Go)" and "I've Been Lookin'" (1988); and "Down That Road Tonight" and "When it's Gone" (1989).
Performances included the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and the inaugural Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois. A 20-year anniversary concert at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado featured such guests as Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, and John Prine.
John McEuen left the band at the end of 1986, replaced by Bernie Leadon, formerly of the Eagles. He was with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1987 and 1988. The band's 19th album, Hold On featured the No. 1 singles "Fishin' in the Dark" and "Baby's Got a Hold on Me." The band appeared on the Today Show and The Tonight Show in the same week, and toured Europe.
During 1989, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band again returned to Nashville, to record Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume Two . Returnees from the first Circle included Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clements, and Roy Acuff. Johnny Cash and the Carter Family, Emmylou Harris, and Ricky Skaggs joined the sessions, as did John Prine, Levon Helm, John Denver, John Hiatt, Bruce Hornsby, and former Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. This album won two Grammy Awardsand was named Album of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards for Best Country Vocal Performance (duo or group) and the Country Music Association's Album of the Year Award in 1989.
As a foursome of Hanna, Fadden, Ibbotson and Carpenter, the band again toured the former Soviet Union, as well as Canada, Europe, and Japan. A 25th anniversary concert was recorded on Live Two Five in Red Deer, Alberta, produced by T-Bone Burnett.
During 1992, the band collaborated with Irish folk music's The Chieftains for the Grammy Award-winning Another Country. Other efforts included the album Acoustic, spotlighting their "wooden" sound, a duet with Karla Bonoff, "You Believed in Me" for the MCA Olympic compilation, One Voice, and a cover version of Buddy Holly's "Maybe Baby" for the Decca tribute album, Not Fade Away. The Christmas Album was released in 1997, followed by Bang! Bang! Bang! in 1999.
During April 1992, they were the unwitting subject of one of George H. W. Bush's malapropisms when he referred to the group as the "Nitty Ditty Nitty Gritty Great Bird" at a country music awards ceremony in Nashville:
This unusual phrasing was repeatedly used as an example of Bush's garbled syntax (notably, in Dave Barry's book Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway and in Barry's only non-audiobook album, A Totally Random Evening with Dave Barry), which in turn helped publicize the band.[ citation needed ]
John McEuen rejoined the band in 2001. During 2002, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band celebrated the 30th anniversary of their landmark Will the Circle Be Unbroken with a remastered CD reissue of the 1972 album and a new compilation, Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume III . An album of all-new material, Welcome to Woody Creek, was released in 2004. Jimmy Ibbotson again left the band a few years later.
Also during 2004, country group Rascal Flatts released a cover of "Bless the Broken Road," which the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had recorded on Acoustic, from 1994. Songwriters Jeff Hanna, Marcus Hummon, and Bobby Boyd won a Grammy for Best Country Song for this work in 2005.
During 2005 the band donated use of the song "Soldier's Joy" for the benefit album, Too Many Years to benefit Clear Path International's work with landmine survivors. Also in 2005, the band was recognized by the International Entertainment Buyers Association for 40 years of contributions to the music industry.
In 2009 the band released a new album, Speed of Life . Produced by George Massenburg and Jon Randall Stewart, Speed of Life is composed of a series of live, freewheeling studio recordings that purposefully avoid overproduction and demonstrate the band's collaborative spirit and spontaneity. Of the 13 tracks on Speed of Life, 11 are new songs penned by the band, and two are classic covers: Canned Heat's Woodstock hit "Going Up the Country" and Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle".
In September 2015, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band commemorated their 50th anniversary with a sold out show at the Ryman Theater. Taped for a PBS special which debuted in March 2016, the concert included guests John Prine, Sam Bush, Vince Gill, Jerry Jeff Walker, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell, Byron House, Jerry Douglas and Jackson Browne in addition to former member Ibbotson. On September 30, 2016, Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years, a live CD and DVD was released. In a 2016 review, the Los Angeles Times wrote that the original release "helped knock down barriers then separating the traditional country and rock music communities, setting the stage for the eventual emergence of what came to be known as Americana music."John McEuen announced his departure from the band in December 2017 at the conclusion of their 50th anniversary tour. John currently performs as a solo artist. In 2018, Jaime Hanna (Jeff Hanna's son) and Ross Holmes joined the band on tour, along with Jim Photoglo, who began touring with the band in 2016. Jim is the co-author of "Fishin' in the Dark."
Jeff Hanna and John McEuen's sons, Jaime Hanna and Jonathan McEuen, recorded for DreamWorks Records in 2005 as Hanna-McEuen.
Will the Circle be Unbroken is the seventh album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, with collaboration from many famous bluegrass and country-western players, including Roy Acuff, "Mother" Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Randy Scruggs, Merle Travis, Pete "Oswald" Kirby, Norman Blake, Jimmy Martin, and others. It also introduced fiddler Vassar Clements to a wider audience.
Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy is the 1970 album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that contains the hit song "Mr. Bojangles". The album reached #66 on US charts. Three singles charted: "Mr. Bojangles" reached #9, "House On Pooh Corner" reached #53, and "Some Of Shelly's Blues" reached #64.
Symphonion Dream is the ninth album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They were joined by guest musicians Leon Russell and Linda Ronstadt, along with actor Gary Busey, who was credited as "Teddy Jack Eddy", and played various percussion instruments.
Hold On is an album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The album includes the third and final number one hit single by the band, "Fishin' in the Dark".
Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume Two is a 1989 album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The album follows the same concept as the band's 1972 album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, which featured guest performances from many notable country music stars.
Dirt, Silver and Gold is a 1976 compilation album by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that contains some of the band's greatest material to that point. It also includes 12 songs not previously available. It was originally released as a three LP album, and was released in 2003 as a two compact disc set by BGO Records.
Speed of Life is the 2009 album from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It reached number 59 on the U.S. Country charts.
Welcome to Woody Creek is the 2004 album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume III is the 2002 album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. This album reached 18 on the US Country chart. Earlier albums in the series include Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume II.
Acoustic is the 1994 album by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Live Two Five is a live album recorded during three shows at the Red Deer Fine Arts Center in Alberta, Canada, in 1991. The concert recording marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band despite the absence of founding member John McEuen. The tracks on this collection are live versions of songs that charted.
Partners, Brothers and Friends is the sixteenth album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The album reached #9 on the US Country charts. The three singles from this album were top 10 on the US Country charts. "Modern Day Romance" went to #1, "Home Again in My Heart" went to 3, and "Partners, Brothers and Friends" went to 6.
All the Good Times is the sixth album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, released in January 1972.
Stars & Stripes Forever is the eighth album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Let's Go is the fourteenth album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. This album marks the return of Nitty Gritty to the band name and Jim Ibbotson to the band. This album reached 26 on the US Country charts. Two singles from this album also charted. "Shot Full of Love" reached 19 on the US Country charts. "Dance Little Jean" reached 9 on the US Country charts.
The Christmas Album is the 1997 album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is notable for having many charting albums and singles. This album reached 93 on the US Country charts.
Twenty Years of Dirt is the second compilation album from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It is a collection of hits from their 20-year career. The album contained one new song, "Stand a Little Rain", which reached #5 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. The album reached 10 on the US Country charts and went Platinum.