Nitty Gritty Dirt Band 50-year Special To Air
By Vicki Dean , Herald-Tribune | Thursday, March 10, 2016
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was Americana before Americana was cool, or even a thing.
In September, stars from pop, country and bluegrass gathered at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium for a sold-out show to commemorate the band’s 50-year anniversary.
Since then, fans have been eagerly awaiting details from PBS on the nationwide broadcast of the anniversary concert during the annual fundraising drive.
When the broadcast schedule came out earlier this month, Tampa and Sarasota-area fans were disappointed to learn that WEDU initially was not planning to air the show. After the Tampa-area station received several requests for the program, the show was quickly added to WEDU’s lineup.
The special will air at 11 p.m. Saturday, March 19 on WEDU-PBS.
“We’re thrilled so many people let us know they wanted to see the program!” Allison Hedrick, vice president of communications for WEDU, said in an email.
Two band members -- John McEuen and Jimmie Fadden -- now live in the Sarasota area and both have been playing at local venues like Fogartyville and the Blue Rooster when they’re not on the road with the Dirt Band.
The Ryman anniversary show featured musicians from all genres, including former band members Jimmy Ibbotson and Jackson Browne, Vince Gill, John Prine, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas.
Also performing was Jerry Jeff Walker, a singer and songwriter who penned “Mr. Bojangles,” a top 10 hit for the band in the early 1970s.
“It was wonderful,” McEuen said of the Ryman show in an interview earlier this year. “We had special guests of John Prine, Alison Krauss and Jerry Jeff Walker, and we did a couple of songs with each of them because those people have affected our musical career.”
The band that started out as jug band with bluegrass influences has been inducted into Grammy Hall of Fame, among other honors. And the trilogy of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” albums, especially the groundbreaking first recording featuring some of country and bluegrass music’s greats, has left its mark on music and musicians through the years.
The anniversary show at the Ryman, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, stirred “the ghosts in the rafters,” Ibbotson said before singing “Dance Little Jean,” one of the band’s biggest hits.
Vicki Dean is the Herald-Tribune’s digital editor. She writes about bluegrass music every chance she gets.