Colorado Music Hall of Fame honors Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

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Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. From left to right, John McEuen, Jimmie Fadden, Jeff Hanna, and Bob Carpenter.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band formed in southern California in 1966, and four years later, they scored one of their biggest hits, a Jerry Jeff Walker song called, “Mr. Bojangles.” By 1971, however, the group had soured on Los Angeles and decided to move to Colorado, where they had performed to enthusiastic audiences.

Several members settled in Aspen, and the band became regulars at the Aspen Inn, at the base of Aspen Mountain.

“We got to know this state,” says founding member John McEuen, who lived in Clear Creek County for 20 years (he now lives in Sarasota, Florida). “I’m not sure if the state adopted the us, or we adopted the state. Because the things that happened to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band over the years, well, I kind of feel like they wouldn’t have happened had we not been in Colorado.”
On Friday, Jan. 9, at Denver’s Paramount Theatre, the band will be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, along with several other groups that defined what director G. Brown calls the “Colorado Sound” of the 1970s: Poco, Firefall, and Manassas.

Interview highlights:

On Aspen in the 1970s:

“The Aspen of today and the Aspen of then are two different places. When we started playing there, it was really fun in those first couple of years to be the only national act, the only group with a record on the radio, to be playing in town. And people were so glad to see you. ‘Come eat at my place and I will pay for it.’ And we skied for free. I talked Aspen Highlands into giving the Dirt Band two years of season passes for 18 people.”

On Steve Martin’s 1978 novelty song “King Tut,” which features members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band:

“We worked it up in about a half hour before a show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. We couldn’t wait to do it. You know that Paul Simon song where he goes, ‘And he blew the room away?' Well, Steve blew the room away. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion had never seen anything like that. We were in Aspen a week later, at my brother’s recording studio, and in about eight hours, ‘King Tut’ was recorded and done.”
On asking legendary bluegrass banjo player Earl Scruggs to play on the band’s landmark album “Will the Circle Be Unbroken:”

“He loved the Dirt Band… Well, Earl ended up playing Tulagi’s in Boulder, booked by Chuck Morris. I was there every night for five nights. I was taking Earl back to the hotel every night. Finally, I got up the nerve to say, ‘Earl, would you consider, would you maybe think, would it be possible, would you record with the Dirt Band maybe on a song, huh?’ And he said, ‘I’d be proud to.’”