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The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Founded in California during 1965, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has lasted longer than virtually any other country-based rock group of their era. Younger contemporaries of the Byrds, they played an almost equally important role in the transformation from folk-rock into country-rock, and were an influence on such bands as the Eagles and Alabama. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's beginnings lay with the New Coast Two, a folk duo consisting of Jeff Hanna (guitar, vocals) and Bruce Kunkel (guitar, washtub bass), formed while both were in high school in the early '60s. By the time the two were college students, they were having informal jams at a local guitar shop. It was there that they met Ralph Barr (guitar, washtub bass), Les Thompson (vocals, mandolin, bass, guitar, banjo, percussion), Jimmie Fadden (harmonica, vocals, drums, percussion), and Jackson Browne (guitar, vocals). This lineup became the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in late 1965, and began playing jug band music at local clubs. At that time, Southern California was undergoing a musical renaissance, courtesy of the folk-rock movement and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fit in with these other folkies-turned-rockers. Browne left after a few months to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by John McEuen (banjo, fiddle, mandolin, steel guitar, vocals), the younger brother of the group's new manager, Bill McEuen. With Bill McEuen's guidance, the group landed a recording contract with Liberty Records and released their debut album, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, in April of 1967. Their first single, "Buy for Me the Rain," became a modest hit and got the band some television appearances.

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