CLASSIC PERIOD NGDB PREVIOUSLY UNAVAILABLE LIVE RECORDING Founded in 1966 when Jeff Hanna and Bruce Kunkel - formerly of the West Coast Two and the Illegitimate Jug Band - were famously trying to figure out how not to have to work for a living, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band came together in their original initial line-up through informal jam sessions held at McCabe s Guitar Shop on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, California. Multi-instrumentalists to a man, the band consisted of guitarists and vocalists Hanna and Kunkel, guitarist/washtub bassist Ralph Barr, guitarist/clarinettist Les Thompson, and harmonicist/jug player Jimmie Fadden - with even a young Jackson Browne joining for the first few months.
Immediately leaping into the burgeoning Californian folk rock scene, the group toured extensively around the local area, becoming well known for their uniform of pinstripe suits and cowboy boots. After Browne left to concentrate on his solo career, the band was joined by the McEuan brothers: John on banjo, fiddle and mandolin, and older sibling William serving as manager.
It would be William that helped the group get a contract with Liberty Records, ultimately resulting in their eponymous debut album and first single, Buy for Me the Rain, in 1967, the latter becoming a Top 40 hit. By 1974, after a number of albums that had failed to set the charts alight, the band began to enjoy their greatest successes. Having scored a surprising 36 week stay in the charts in 1970 with their cover of Mr Bojangles, which peaked at No. 9, the group began work on their most ambitious offering to date: the triple album Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Released in 1972 and featuring guest appearances from Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Merle Travis, the record peaked at No. 4 in the US Country charts and was nominated for two Grammy awards.
Now reduced to a four piece, the band continued to tour worldwide through the 1970s, spurred on by their newfound fame. Stars & Stripes Forever - a live album recorded for a select, invited audience and released in 1974 - reached No. 28 in the Billboard 200 and spawned a number of successful singles. This set, recorded live earlier that year in Nashville and broadcast to the local area by WKDA-FM, captures the group during this period, a time that would be considered one of the defining highlights of a long and celebrated career.