Book by John McEuen on the making of Will The Circle Be Unbroken in August

The very famous Will the circle be unbroken, the seventh and perhaps most important album released by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in November. To mark this golden anniversary, John McEuen is releasing a book detailing the making of the star-studded 3-LP set released in 1972.

John wasn’t just the banjo player with the Dirt Band, he and his brother, William (Bill) who produced the recordings, were the driving force behind the whole project. John I sat down for a phone interview a few weeks ago about the book. If you ever get the chance to talk to John, it’s best to just listen as his memory is impeccable and his thoughts from yesterday, as well as his future plans, are always front and center in his mind. However, part of our conversation is what I especially want to share with all bluegrass lovers, like me.

“It took fifty years to prepare. Will the circle be unbroken was a collaboration of many famous bluegrass and country-western players. In fact, the album played an important role in promoting Vassar Clements to a much wider audience,” John said.

This book is filled with memories highlighting the recording of this album. Stories are shared by John McEuen, Marty Stuart, members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many more. Photos that Bill had taken during the recording sessions are included, which have never been seen until now.

John shared that, “I’ve always wanted to meet two artists. Mother Maybelle and Earl Scruggs. Bill and I went to Nashville hoping to see them play. The old Ryman was sold out that night. On the west side of the building, people lined up and looked out the windows, which were open. When it was our turn, Earl Scruggs introduced Mother Maybelle. I stood there looking at her and knew I was in the right place.

The McEuens eventually met Earl and Maybelle, and when they agreed to be on this next Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album, it exploded into a once-in-a-generation project that also included luminaries like Roy Acuff, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, Jimmy Martin, Vassar Clements, and Earl’s sons Randy and Gary Scruggs.

So in August 1971, this group of stellar musicians reunited with the rest of the Dirt Band at the old Woodland studio, which was around a corner in East Nashville. And the magic was captured.

Magic is an apt term when it comes to McEuen, as magic was his first stab in the entertainment world and where his path first crossed that of fellow banjo player Steve Martin. Both John and Steve were magicians at Disneyland in Anaheim, California when they were younger.

In 1971, the NGDB had a “hippie” look with authentic country/rock sounds, layered with lots of fiddle and banjo. They had enjoyed some success with previous albums, but Roy Acuff described them as “a bunch of long-haired West Coast boys”. In this circle of established country actors, most of the artists were much older than these boys, but they all had one thing in common. Their undying love of music, both bluegrass and country. Acuff had reservations about being part of this album, but later agreed, and his contributions are now those of the history books.

John told me that every track on the Circle album was recorded on a first or second take, directly on two track masters (which McEuen is proud to have kept).

During our conversation, I asked John about a Circle memento album I had acquired at an estate sale in Guthrie, OK (the hometown of Byron Sedan), which had baffled me since my purchase. It’s a 12″ x 6″ section of an old railroad tie, and on top is a rail spike with “Will The Circle be Unbroken” stamped on it, and “Nitty Gritty Dirt Band” on it. small letters. On the front is a cut out black and white photo of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. John McEuen is dressed in a leather suit, and his reaction when I mentioned it was, “I don’t know how long I wore this suit before I had it cleaned.” On the back of this old railroad tie is a black and white photo of the iconic album cover.

The story of this rare find blew me away. “Do you have one?” John asked in surprise. “Bill was always offering promotional items and this is one of them. I don’t even think I have one. He had only done 200-250.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken – the making of a historic album is slated for release in August. Pre-orders are now enabled at popular online bookstores.

It is introduced by Richie Furay, John’s contemporary, who was a member of Buffalo Springfield and founder of Poco.

“After reading John’s book, Will the circle be unbroken (behind the scenes of the recording of the album of the same name), we feel like we’re there! The album was truly a historic moment in American music history, and John takes us on a journey of how it all happened in real life: you can “meet” the musicians and hear them talk about the project and tell their stories, as if you were a “fly on the wall” of each session. Listening to the album again while reading the book gave me goosebumps. It’s more than just a musical journey the Dirt Band was on, it brings to life a historic moment in time.

Hop on the train, read the book and enjoy the ride with John McEuen. He is clearly a man of many talents.


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