John McEuen

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John McEuen
File:John McEuen at Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City.png
McEuen after a show at
Knuckleheads Saloon
in Kansas City, Missouri, July 18, 2012
Background information
Born (1945-12-19) December 19, 1945 (age 75)
Origin Oakland, California
United States
Instruments Vocals, banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, lap slide guitar, bass guitar
Years active 1965-present
Labels Warner Bros.
Cedar Glen
Aix/>Rural Rhythm Records
Associated acts Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

John McEuen (born December 19, 1945), is an American folk musician and entertainer.[1] He is known for being a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.[2]


He played with the band from 1966 to 1986, and returned in 2001 to present. The group prior to that 'dissolved' a few times briefly, but none as long as in 1968, right after spending 4 months working on the Paramount Pictures film Paint Your Wagon. Then, Jeff Hanna went on to play with Linda Ronstadt, John did various solo gigs and worked in Vegas with Andy Williams (for a month), and frequented the L.A. music scene, occasionally running in to Jeff.

It was in a So. Cal club, the famed Golden Bear, one night in early 1969, where John and Hanna were watching Poco (in one of their first appearances) that they said "we can do this! let's put it back together and find a singing drummer...". The short search led them to Jimmy Ibbotson, fresh in from the Baltimore and Philly area, and whose participation with the group began in 1969. John is known as a multi-instrumentalist, entertainer, composer, and especially recognized as a pioneer stylist on the 5-string banjo and other acoustic colorings he adds to recordings with the other instruments.

Besides his career with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John McEuen has performed and recorded prolifically as a solo artist and in various group settings, as well as producing music CDs, film scores, and videos. He has his own show on Sirius/XM—The Acoustic Traveller, that runs seven times a month (now in its 7th year). He is CEO of http://SyndicatedNews.NET a news and entertainment media site.

McEuen is the only Californian musician to accomplish this combination of performances in Nashville on WSM's Grand Old Opry: perform solo many times, perform with his sons (Jonathan and Nathan), played there several times as a member of 'a band' (NGDB), and be invited as a featured guest for several of the Opry member acts to sit in with them. John has recorded with the Nashville's Country music creators, and had records in the pop and country charts.

McEuen initiated with the NGDB and producer/manager Bill McEuen what Rolling Stone (in 1972) called 'the' most important record to come out of Nashville, and what the 2004 ZAGAT survey called the most important record in country music, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken. When the Scruggs family came to see the NGDB play at Vanderbilt for their first Nashville appearance in 1970, on departing Earl made a casual comment "be nice to record with you boys sometime". The following June 1971, taking him back to his hotel after a show in Boulder, CO (at the famed Tulagi's), John asked Earl Scruggs if he would record with the NGDB. Earl said 'I'd be proud to' (Jeff Hanna was in the back of the car, but John says he could see his eyes light up in the dark at that answer!) One week later John invited Doc Watson (also at Tulagi's) to the yet to be scheduled 'session'. Eight weeks after those questions were asked, a whole concept had come together, the 'session' turned in to 6 days of recording, to come out by April 1972. With the immense help and credibility of Earl Scruggs, Earl and his wife Louise brought many others in to the historic sessions - Jimmy Martin, Vassar Clements, Roy Acuff, Junior Huskey, and Oswald Kirby.

As a multi-instrumentalist, he sings, and plays banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, piano, mandolin. When performimg as a solo entertainer, McEuen plays to the boomer 'hippie' crowd, the traditional/bluegrass and folk audience, as well as the older country audience, and now the younger crowd is showing up to see 'where it all came from'. (Twenty percent are under the age of 30.)

In 2010, McEuen won a Grammy Award for his production of Steve Martin - The Crow: New Songs for the five-string Banjo, which enjoyed a continuous run on the Billboard charts at No. 1 for seven months. He Played on seven cuts, did the musical arrangements (except for The Crow, arrg. by Steve and Tony Trischka), of this album of all original music written by Steve. This was followed by appearances with Martin on the finale of American Idol, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the Grand Ole Opry in the same week, the week it was released on Rounder Records.

McEuen has made over 40 albums (six solo) that have earned four platinum and four gold recognition awards, Grammy nominations, CMA and ACM awards, Western Heritage Award, Emmy nomination, and IBMA record of the year award. In addition, John has performed on another 25 albums as guest artist. He has produced over 200 concerts (his first one being with Bob Dylan in 1965). John created and ran The Deadwood Jam in South Dakota for its first 15 years.

John has known and worked with Steve Martin since high school to the present, and was featured on a two-hour A&E TV special about Steve in February, 2006. In 'the early daze' he accompanied him on banjo or guitar a few shows prior the NGDB starting. John scored Steve's first two NBC television specials; The NGDB was the band on Steve's hit song, "King Tut." In May, 2009 Rounder Records released the now highly acclaimed music album by Steve Martin, produced by John, "The Crow."(2009 Grammy winner for Best Bluegrass Album) Although Steve has often said "John McEuen taught me a lot of how to play the banjo when we started..."John adds that he 'showed him a few licks every now an then, and then he took off writing his own.. and has been as much an influence on me as I may have been on him. I think it is amazing how a couple of guys from Orange County, CA, went and played on the Opry and won a bluegrass Grammy. Never would have guessed that would happen." McEuen attributes a huge influence to Pete Seeger's 'How to Play the 5-String Banjo' book and Doug Dillard, Bill Keith, and J.D. Crowe.

John's own XM Satellite radio show, Acoustic Traveller, runs seven times a month (the Bridge, ch 32 and online at siriusxm) and has been on since 2005. You can also find him on with his Americana Music Show.

He created the music scores for fourteen film/television projects, including the Emmy nominated 10-hour mini-series for Warner Bros. 'The Wild West.'John earned an Emmy Nomination for the music score of National Geographic's "Braving Alaska" (with David Hoffner) in 1992.

John has also raised his six children (five boys and a girl) ages between 33-43, and a 29-year-old stepson.

Some of the artists John McEuen has performed or recorded with include: Levon Helm, Dolly Parton, Steve Martin, Willie Nelson, Bill Wyman, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Jerry Garcia, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Phish, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kevin Nealon, Alison Krauss, Bill Cosby, Stephen Wright, Mark O'Connor, Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek, Linda Ronstadt, Leon Russell, Maybelle Carter, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan, Kenny Rogers, Steve Vai, Doc Watson, Jimmy Buffett, The Smothers Brothers, Rowan & Martin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bobby Sherman, Jose Feliciano, Allman Brothers, John Denver, Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Jack Benny, Glen Campbell, Steve Goodman, Waylon Jennings, Robin Williams, Little River Band, Marshall Tucker Band, Doobie Brothers, Andy Williams, Merle Travis, Vassar Clements, Dizzy Gillespie, The Osmond Brothers, Everly Brothers, Crystal Gayle, Gary Morris, Doug Kershaw, Michael Martin Murphey, The Doors, Donovan, Lee Marvin, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, David Amram, Arlo Guthrie, America, Bill Monroe, and Asleep at the Wheel.

In 2016 he is expected to release an illustrated version of The Mountain Whippoorwill and a new album recorded in New York City with an all star ensemble (for HD Tracks), as well as tour with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band throughout their 50th year.



Year Album US Country Label
1985 John McEuen 49 Warner Bros.
1991 String Wizards Vanguard
1993 String Wizards II
1996 Acoustic Traveller
1997 String Wizard's Picks
1999 Round Trip: Live in L.A. Cedar Glen
2000 Stories and Songs Planetary
2002 Nitty Gritty Surround Aix
2007 Vanguard Visionaries Vanguard
2012 The McEuen Sessions: For All The Good MesaBlue Recordings


Year Single US Country Album
1985 "Blue Days Black Nights" 81 John McEuen

Martha Redbone Garden of Love Roots


  1. Bio page at official website
  2. Boone, Jerry F. (November 27, 2006). "McEuen lives his dream, lets us listen along". The Oregonian. pp. C1. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

John McEuen hosts what are more commonly known as "pickin' parties" at his Florida property. There are sometimes up to five musicians circles playing varieties of bluegrass, country and folk music