The Colorado-based Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had been performing together for 14 years when they dropped the first two words from their name and changed their musical approach to formulaic pop music. Their efforts proved successful when their 1979 duet with Linda Ronstadt, "American Dream," reached number 13 on the Billboard charts and their 1981 single, "Make a Little Magic," featuring Nicolette Larson, reached the Top 20. The rechristened band provided the arrangements and musical accompaniment for Steve Martin's comic hit "King Tut."
The Dirt Band was built around the vocals and songwriting of founding members Jeff Hanna and Jimmie Fadden. Multi-instrumentalist John McEuen initially played a lesser role than he had in the past. Originally meeting when they hung out at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, CA, Hanna and Fadden began to perform together as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in late 1965. McEuen replaced original guitarist/vocalist Jackson Browne shortly before joining the group to record their debut album in 1967. Known for their 1920s' garb and cowboy boots, they wove a seamless blend of country, folk, jug band, pop, and rock influences.
While their vaudeville-esque pop tune, "Buy for Me the Rain" became a Top 40 hit, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band increasingly explored their musical roots after relocating to Denver, CO in 1969. Their 1972 triple album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken -- recorded with country music legends including Doc Watson, Merle Travis, Earl Scruggs, and Mother Maybelle Carter -- remains one of country music's greatest documents and has spawned three equally influential sequels.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band into a new era. Releasing a triple retrospective of their past recordings, Dirt, Silver and Gold in 1976, they became the first American band to tour what was then the Soviet Union.
Determined to cash in on their escalating success, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band re-organized itself as a country-pop band. Replacing guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Jimmy Ibbotson with John Cable and adding bass player Jackie Clark, they re-emerged as the Dirt Band in early late 1977.
The Dirt Band's last stand came when they were featured in an HBO special and video, Dirt Band Tonite, in early 1982. The group reverted to its original name a few months later, with Ibbotson's return.