Dirt Band Paves Way for Country Rock

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Hank Williams Sr.


April 22, 2008 - With artists like Bon Jovi and Huey Lewis regularly finding their way from the pop and rock charts into country music, it's easy to forget the significance of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's early accomplishments. The band's place was "cemented" Sunday when they were inducted into the Music City Walk of Fame in downtown Nashville.

Formed in California, the Dirt Band earned its first hit with the pop single "Mr. Bojangles" in 1970, a time when kids with long hair were not found in mainstream country music. The band had an idea to visit Nashville and record what became the Will The Circle Be Unbroken album with country legends such as Roy Acuff, Maybelle Carter and Earl Scruggs, all of whom were fairly conservative in their public image.

The Dirt Band's John McEuen recalled during their acceptance speech that he stuttered and stammered as he asked Earl if he'd record with them.

"Jeff [Hanna] was in the back seat of the car, and his eyes got big when [Earl] said, 'I'd be proud to,'" John recalled. "That opened the door [to] the hospitality of Nashville, [which] we thought previously was a town that, before we went there, we needed to cut our hair. We didn't."

"It's great to be recognized for doin' what you love to do," the band's Bob Carpenter said prior to the induction. "It's like a double bonus, because you're already lovin' what you're doin'. For other people to give you that recognition is pretty cool."

The Dirt Band was also appreciative of joining the Walk of Fame alongside Hank Williams and Merle Kilgore. Having recorded with other members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, their reverence for Hank is well-understood. As it turns out, they also recorded one of Merle's compositions: A remake of "Wolverton Mountain" appeared on their 1980 album An American Dream.

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