Nitty Gritty Dirt Band members Bob Carpenter, Jimmie Fadden, Jeff Hanna, and John McEuen come together here to discuss their “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” albums, and talk about encounters with their heroes and peers, during a 2015 program at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
In 1972, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released their first “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” album, which featured a multi-generational parade of country artists, including Roy Acuff, Norman Blake, Mother Maybelle Carter, Vassar Clements, Jimmy Martin, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis, and Doc Watson. The sound they made together in Nashville’s Woodland Sound Studios—staunch country traditionalists and the long-haired, rock-reared Dirt Band members—spawned two much-praised follow-up albums, and elevated “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” to its current status as a country music anthem.
The Southern California-reared band members explain how they came to love roots music, and how the approval of Country Music Hall of Fame member Scruggs helped get other artists—and their label—on board for the making of the first album. McEuen recalls Acuff’s initial hesitation, and how he came around as the sessions went on, saying the sound “ain’t nothin’ but country music.”
The program includes a mix of recording clips, including Jimmy Martin singing “Grand Ole Opry Song,” Johnny Cash on “Life’s Railway to Heaven” and “Tears in the Holston River,” John Prine on “Grandpa was a Carpenter,” “Togary Mountain,” and Mother Maybelle Carter in the studio, discussing how she wants to play “Wildwood Flower.”
Hanna shares the roots of the second “Circle” album: tour dates in Europe with Johnny and June Carter Cash, who, seventeen years after the first “Circle” record came out, requested inclusion if the Dirt Band ever made a follow-up. Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Chris Hillman, Bruce Hornsby, Roger McGuinn, and John Prine are among the other artists involved in the Grammy-winning “Circle II.”
The third “Circle” record, released in 2002, included many returning collaborators, as well as Iris DeMent, Del McCoury, and Dwight Yoakam.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s appropriate closer for the Museum program: a performance of “Will the Circle Unbroken.”
Presented in support of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibition “Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City” (March 27, 2015, through December 31, 2017).
Find out more about our public programming: https://countrymusichalloffame.org/plan-your-visit/exhibits-activities/public-programs/
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