Once upon a time, the scruffy, west coast hippies who called themselves the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band broached the subject of collaborating on an album with Nashville country music star Earl Scruggs. It made no sense, until it did. The project took a lot of pluck--on both sides-- to overcome fears about crossing generation and multiple culture gaps. Yet, cross they did. Thanks to their collaboration in the recording studio, it won Maybelle Carter a grammy nomination and introduced a whole generation of Nashville's country music royalty to young people who looked nothing like them but but who shared their love of singing and playing the fire out of their instruments. It also showed the tenacity of songs in our musical heritage: Circle dates back to 1907 followed by the Carter Family version of 1935, finally to explode in the national consciousness in 1972.
The Will the Circle Be Unbroken album was a groundbreaking catalyst for a new way of thinking about music amongst acoustic music lovers everywhere including dulcimer players David Schnaufer and his friends. (Many years later, the NGDB's John McEuen would invite David to perform on his album, String Wizards.)
If you'd like to hear a bit of the story behind the musicians involved, watch the short video below. Listen to the title song in the video below that one.
Some thirty years ago I attended a speech by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes in Chicago. He predicated, The greatest challenge of the 21st century will be learning to live with he or she who is different from you and me. Circle is one example of how amazing benefits shower down on us when diverse people screw up the courage to cross fear and culture gaps to discover what we have in common with each other.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is still going strong. Visit their website here.