Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen and John Carter Cash, above, son of the late Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, will perform a free concert Sept. 15 at Greeneville’s Dogwood Park. (Contributed photo)
Four decades ago, a group of long-haired folk/country-rockers from the West Coast teamed up with some of the most notable names in bluegrass and traditional country music to record a groundbreaking album whose cross-generational success could never have been anticipated.
Met by international critical acclaim as a modern classic upon its release, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s multi-platinum “Will the Circle be Unbroken” featured performances by Mother Maybelle Carter, Roy Acuff, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis, Jimmy Martin and others, all of whom gathered at Nashville’s Woodland Sound Studios over six consecutive days in August 1971 to create the seminal recording.
“We recorded live to two-track,” explained founding Nitty Gritty member John McEuen. “There could be no mixing or overdubs. ‘Get it right the first time, an’ t’hell with the rest of them’ was Roy Acuff’s policy in the studio. With ‘Will the Circle be Unbroken,’ we are told we all got it right.”
McEuen will share stories about and songs from the classic American recording when his “Will the Circle be Unbroken” tour rolls into Greeneville on Sunday, Sept. 15 for a free concert at Dogwood Park, located directly behind Tusculum View Elementary School at 1725 Lafayette St. Show time is 6 p.m.; gates open at 4.
The concert is sponsored by Rural Resources and Greeneville Parks and Recreation.
Dishes featuring home-grown foods from local farms will be available for purchase, and there will be farm-themed games for children, including corn hole and watermelon seed spitting contests.
Joining McEuen for the show will be John Carter Cash, son of the late Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and an accomplished musician and producer in his own right. Other special guests, along with local band Who Shot Sally, will also perform.
The multimedia concert uses storytelling, never-before-seen photos and songs to celebrate the music of the Carter Family and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and explore how the paths of the two legendary music makers crossed during the recording of the landmark “Circle” album.
McEuen begins the show with some of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s early hits, backed by projections of photos taken by his brother William E. McEuen, the band’s manager and producer at the time, and film from McEuen’s own archives. McEuen’s enthusiastic storytelling and music lead up to that magical week in August 1971 when “Will the Circle be Unbroken” was recorded.
Cash relates the Carter family’s side of the story with music, narrative and historic photographs from his personal collection. He’ll share with audiences what it was like growing up with “Grandma Maybelle Carter” and how A.P. Carter and his father influenced his life’s path.
Audiences will be treated to a treasure trove of songs from the “Circle” album’s artists, including “Wildwood Flower,” “Keep on the Sunny Side,” “I Am a Pilgrim,” “Cannonball Rag,” “Wreck on the Highway,” “Earl’s Breakdown” and, of course, “Will the Circle be Unbroken.”