Three years before he became a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, teenage Disneyland Magic Shop magician John McEuen discovered that he liked being in front of people.
In his last months of high school ‘music’ showed up and put him on stages of the area’s many folk clubs. Playing solo and with others (Michael Martin Murphey, Jose Feliciano, and his first group, Wilmore City Moonshiners) would lead to Grammys and entertainment business recognition, and a list of fans around the world, from a career that has spanned 45 years.
When “a bunch of guys playing together at McCabe’s Guitar Shop (where John was teaching banjo during a 1966 Southern California summer) in Long Beach, California, joined forces as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a jug band that headed out to play everything from “folk to rock to country...” and are still touring at the 44 year mark! With the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, he’s made 34 albums, including the platinum-selling Will The Circle Be Unbroken, which was instigated by John and produced by (John’s brother) Bill McEuen in 1971 for United Artists Records. Indisputably “one of the most important recordings ever come out of Nashville” (Rolling Stone, 1972), “...Circle...” is recognized today as a music milestone and integral part of Americana history. It was declared by the 2004 Zagat survey “the most important album in Country Music” and inducted in to the Library of Congress as “one of America’s most important historic recordings.”
Multi-instrumentalist McEuen has ventured into varied musical genres simultaneous with band pursuits, making six of his own CDs and producing ten others. Taking his music and other talents to different formats including television specials (writing and producing), film scoring, unusual award winning CDs and concert production, John has received recognition and awards in all the fields. Keeping up an active concert schedule, both solo and with his lifetime partners in Dirt Band music, he also recently won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album for his production of The Crow - New Songs for the 5-string Banjo by Steve Martin n Rounder Records.
His love of acoustic music history and being onstage is evident to all those who see him putting his banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, lap steel, and piano together with songs and comedic storytelling. This has led to his recently him being honored with 2010 Best in he West Award by the Folk Alliance.
After doing over 10,000 interviews McEuen started his Radio show, Acoustic Traveller, on XM’s The Village, now in its fifth year. The music John performs today evolved from early inspiration from seeing The Dillards in his native Southern California, and music he made going down that early road with various artists.
Initially, searching for a path to showbiz in 1965, with borrowed money McEuen booked Bob Dylan for a concert in a Long Beach high school auditorium. It sold out! He paid back the loan and bought a new banjo. By 1970, he convinced his brother (then manager/producer of NGDB) to also manage high school buddy, Steve Martin, with whom John had worked with in Disneyland’s Magic Shop (“Steve says he learned a lot of banjo from me. I could just steal notes off records quicker was all; and he has written some of my favorite banjo tunes. But, I think I learned more from him, and not all music”).
For All the Good, the 2012 release from Folk/Bluegrass/Rock legend John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and his sons Jonathan and Nathan, was recorded at incredible Tree Sound Studios in Norcross, Georgia, over a period of six days, the best category to put this recording in might be Americana. Influences from Classic Rock, Bluegrass, traditional Folk, The Beatles, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band come together with this combination of both classic and original songs. All vocals are by Jonathan and Nathan, (they sing like brothers) backed with by all three playing piano, acoustic guitars, high-strung acoustic guitars, open-tuning guitars, electric guitar, electric bass, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, dobro and some of the percussion.
In his career so far John has played over 8,000 shows around the world.
John McEuen has performed and/or recorded with: Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Bill Wyman, Johnny Cash, Marshall Tucker Band, Steve Martin, The Smothers Brothers, Rowan & Martin, Clint Eastwood, Phish, Crystal Gayle, Michael Martin Murphey, Hans Olson, Tammy Wynette, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Leon Russell, Kevin Nealon, Tom Chapin, Pete Seeger, Mary McCaslin, Vassar Clements, Jose Feliciano, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Andy Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, The Band, The Doors, Foreigner, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Little Richard, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Robin Williams, Albert Gore, Robert Schimmel, Tom Petty, Stephen Wright, Little River Band, Air Supply, Doobie Brothers, Bill Cosby, Martha Redbone, Hootie and the Blowfish, the list goes on, and there are stories about all of them.