Nitty Gritty Dirt Band continue to rock bluegrass tunes

You could look at the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 50-year endurance run as a sort of tutorial illustrating the last half century in roots and country music.

The group started in the late ’60s as hippies playing jug band music in the California sun (playing washboards and other primitive instruments), stumbled into a Top 10 pop hit with “Mr. Bojangles” in 1970, and a few years later, recorded “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” one of the foundational documents of what we now call Americana music.

On Sunday, the band ends its 2016 tour, celebrating the anniversary, with a concert at the MotorCity Casino’s Sound Board in Detroit. They are also touting their latest album, recorded at Nashville’s fabled Ryman Auditorium, “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Friends — Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years,” and a recent PBS telecast.

Back in 1966, when the group formed around native Detroiter Jeff Hanna, bandmates Jimmie Fadden, Jackson Browne and others were long-haired hippies who took a faintly humorous approach to the old-timey music they played.

But despite the washboards and long hair, Hanna insists they were always serious about the music, as were their idols, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band.


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