When Ken Burns' eight-part television documentary, "Country Music," first began airing on PBS in September, it put a fresh spotlight on some of the genre's iconic songs, artists, and moments in history — among them, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and its 1972 studio album, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
"Thanks to the Ken Burns 'Country Music' show, the 'Circle' album was No. 1 on three different Amazon (music) charts — Classic Country, Special Interest and Folk — and on the regular Country chart it's in the top 30," John McEuen, a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band said during a recent interview. He was interviewed for and appears in the "Country Music" documentary series.
Taking advantage of the album's renewed popularity, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" is the focus of a concert set to take place at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre Saturday, Nov. 16.
"We bring to the stage the story of how that album was made, along with the music," McEuen said. "It's a multimedia show."
McEuen added that some of the video footage used in the show was shot by his mother, on 8mm film, and shows the Dirt Band performing in a parking lot back in 1967, while other clips come from TV shows on which they performed.
"There's a lot of wonderful pictures that people have never seen," McEuen said of the multimedia displays that will be playing in the background during their performance.
A three-disc compilation first released in 1972, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" brought the Dirt Band together some of the true icons of bluegrass, country, and West Coast country rock music, including Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, Jimmy Martin, Roy Acuff, Junior Huskey, Oswald Kirby, Vassar Clements and Maybelle Carter.
Recorded during six hot August days in Nashville, Tenn., the album included a wide range of classic tunes, such as "I Saw the Light," "Nashville Blues," "Wabash Cannonball," "Orange Blossom Special" and many, many more.
Though the "Circle" album will be the focus of the concert, it will also include several other unique memories from the Dirt Band's 30-plus years together, such as their 1977 tour of Russia — where they became the first American band to tour behind the Iron Curtain, and played 28 sold out shows there. In addition, several songs from McEuen's most recent solo album, "Made in Brooklyn," will be featured.
Some of the moments captured in the show feature comedian and musician Steve Martin, whom McEuen says "is a lifelong friend of mine."
"The Dirt Band played on 'King Tut,'" said McEuen, referring to a novelty song released by Martin in 1978. "We were the band that backed up Steve (on the record)."
In addition to the concert Saturday, McEuen will be doing a seminar at Detroit Lakes High School.
"One of things I love to do is to let younger people know some things about the music business," he said. "I'll bring my guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin ... they're going to call me an old folk dude, probably, but I've been called that before."
If you go
What: John McEuen & the String Wizards present "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"
When: Saturday, Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Historic Holmes Theatre, 826 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes
Admission: Tickets are $35 for adults, $17.50 for students, and may be purchased by phone at 218-844-7469, online at www.dlccc.org/holmes-theatre.html or in person at the Holmes Box Office at 806 Summit Ave. in Detroit Lakes.