It’s seldom that you find a band so passionate about their craft that they create music and tour together for decades; from artistic differences and burnout to drastic changes within the industry, keeping a band together for so long is not an easy feat. Thankfully for fans, the four members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Jeff Hanna (guitars/vocals), Jimmie Fadden (drums/harmonica/vocals), John McEuen (banjo/fiddle/guitar/mandolin), and Bob Carpenter (keyboards/accordion/vocals) – have found a way to do just that. “Being in a band is like a marriage,” Carpenter says prior the stepping out onto Warner Music Nashville’s “Pickin’ on the Patio” stage. “You’ll always have to be working at it. You’ve got your differences, you’re constantly in each other’s faces. That’s the biggest challenge: keeping it all together.”
Between being the first American group to tour in Russia, winning Grammy and CMA awards, recording songs with legendary artists including Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris, and most recently celebrating their 50th anniversary, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have proven what can be accomplished with the right drive and a bit of good fortune. “We’re lucky, what can I say? It’s a matter of loving what we do,” Carpenter continues, “and being very fortunate that we have the health to be able to sing and play.”
While the band is lucky to have beat the odds, it has not been without difficulty — though the hardships of traveling for so many years and arguing with bandmates could easily have tempted the four members to give up, their dedication to the fans has always been the driving force keeping them going. “We’re always up against trying to create new music or finding new ways to better bring music to our fans,” Carpenter says. “Our days are focused towards doing great shows because people paid money, they come out, and our aim is that they don’t go ‘oh, that’s pretty good for a bunch of 70 year olds.’ We want them to come out and say, ‘I’ve seen you guys 13 times over the past 20 years and this is the best show I’ve ever heard.’ That is our prideful moment, knowing we are just as good as we used to be.” As shows on their 50th Anniversary Tour steadily sell out, it’s safe to say the group has continued to impress their fans.
In recent celebration of their five decades (and counting) of success, the group performed at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. The iconic show, appropriately titled Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 years of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, included a multitude of guest stars including Vince Gill, John Prine, Sam Bush, Jerry Jeff Walker, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell, Byron House, and Jerry Douglas. Luckily for those who missed it or wish to relive it, the live performance, which features nearly 20 of the band’s biggest hits such as “Fishin’ in the Dark” and “Mr. Bojangles,” can now be purchased on CD and DVD on iTunes or Amazon.
After achieving so many impressive milestones in their career, Carpenter says that following the 50th Anniversary Tour, the band will to take their touring plans day-by-day. “There’s nothing definite yet because, as you know, it is all up to the grace of God… that is why we play every show as if it were our last; because it might be,” he shares. That is not to say the group is pessimistic about their future. “As far as the big picture goes,” Carpenter ensures, “there is always something coming up for us. It keeps us going. We trust that.”
For more information on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band visit NittyGritty.com.