Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Featuring a long list of fine American musicians through the years since their formation in California in 1966, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band played a major role in the modernisation of country music, helping to bring it to wider attention and make it cool and relevant to rock audiences. Achieving a status as country rock royalty, they also helped to inspire bands like The Byrds and The Band. They were initially formed by singer/guitarist Jeff Hanna and singer-songwriter Bruce Kunkel, playing informal jam sessions at McCabe's Guitar Shop, which brought them into contact with a host of other like-minded musicians and they initially evolved into a jug band featuring Jackson Browne, Jimmy Fadden, Ralph Barr and Lee Thompson, developing a distinctive Californian folk rock style. After the early departure of Jackson Browne to launch his highly successful solo career he was replaced by John McEuen and they came to characterise the new music becoming popular in Southern California and landed a deal with Liberty Records, releasing their self-titled debut album in 1967 and scoring a minor hit with their debut single 'Buy for Me the Rain'. They followed it with second album 'Ricochet' but internal disputes over whether they should go electric resulted in further line-up changes. The new electric line-up resulted in the release of 'Rare Junk', adding drums for the first time, and they appeared in cameo roles in the movies 'For Singles Only' and 'Paint Your Wagon'. But it was when they embraced a more traditional country sound that they enjoyed their biggest success with a cover of Jerry Jeff Walker's 'Mr Bojangles' which broke into the US top ten. Other hits included 'Some of Shelley's Blues' and 'House at Pooh Corner'. They then threw themselves totally into the country music tradition, going to Nashville to record the triple album 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken' with some of the greatest legends of music city including Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin and Mother Maybelle Carter. Different personnel came and went but they continued having great success linking old-time country music with modern rock and, after a hiatus which found them performing as The Dirt Band and The Toots Uncommons, they were back in the charts with 'Modern Day Romance' and 'Fishin' in the Dark', while they also played at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois. They won numerous awards after returning to Nashville to record 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken Vol. 2' in 1989 with various country greats including Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris and The Carter Family and in 1992 expanded their horizons further, working with the great Irish folk group The Chieftains. They continued to retain their popularity into the new millennium, settling on a line-up that featured longstanding members Jeff Hanna, John McEuen, Jimmy Fadden and Bob Carpenter.

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