Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jeff Hanna- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Jeff Hanna
 Jeff Hanna is a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, in which he is a lead vocalist and guitarist. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band began as the New Coast Two when Hanna and Bruce Kunkel joined together while they were still in high school. They soon met Ralph Barr, Les Thompson, Jimmie Fadden and Jackson Browne. They became the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in late 1965, and began playing jug band music at local clubs. Browne left after a few months to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by John McEuen. With Bill McEuen's guidance, the group landed a recording contract with Liberty Records and released their self-titled debut album in April of 1967. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has had seven CMA Award nominations and won the 1989 CMA Album of the Year Award for Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume 2. Hanna is one of the co-writers of the CMA Song of the Year nominated “Bless the Broken Road.” Hanna is married to songwriter Matraca Berg. 

From Jeff "Well, we started as a jug band—which is kind of a loose combination of old-timey, ragtime, blues, a little country, hillbilly music, a little bluegrass in there. Really we were all individual guys who played guitar and sang and did different stuff. But I had a jug band in high school called the Illegitamit Jug Band and when I graduated, another one of my friends—Bruce Kunkel, who was in that band in high school—we started hanging out at a guitar store in Long Beach, California, called McCabe’s.

So, we met a bunch of different guys in there who all thought that would be fun and a great way to just kind of hang out. The jug band music is really fun—that’s basically what it’s all about. So, that’s how we got started. We recorded a song that a friend of ours, Steve Noonan, wrote called “Buy For Me The Rain,” that went to the top of the charts in California (which is where we lived at the time). That song had nothing to do with jug band music—that was more of a folk-rock tune.

But there we were, a bunch of teenagers with a big hit on the radio, and we pretty much thought that was how it was gonna go for a while and it didn’t. But, you know, everything changes. In 1969 we morphed into a country rock band, which also used a lot of our roots from earlier with the bluegrass and the acoustic music that we started playing.

And we were hanging out at a club called the Troubadour in Los Angeles, with a lot of folks like the guys that would become the Eagles—Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey and Don Henley. So yeah, our whole thing started in Southern California with a sort of singer-songwritery hippiegrass. 

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