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John McEuen Reflects on Departure from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Lee Zimmerman | October 31, 2017

While parting ways with a band you co-founded after five decades may seem like something of a shock, multi-instrumentalist John McEuen’s announcement that he’s leaving the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was also a long time in coming. In announcing his decision last Friday, McEuen suggested that one reason for his dissatisfaction was the fact that two years ago he was dismissed from the band corporation he helped establish, and from that point on he was relegated to the role of an employee. “In assessing the situation and our musical, performance and business differences, the timing is appropriate for my departure,” he said in a prepared statement. “I will move forward with great pride in my personal and musical contributions to NGDB and now can fully concentrate on my independent endeavors.”

The independent endeavors McEuen refers to include six solo albums, the latest of which, Made in Brooklyn, received widespread acclaim, including the best reviews of his solo career. In addition, he’s been performing 50 shows a year all on his own, most recently in the company of original Dirt Band member Les Thompson, NGDB alumnus John Cable and longtime sideman Matt Cartsonis. At this point, he claims to have more than two dozen dates scheduled for 2018.

“I was never able to book myself more than two months in advance because I had to wait to see what the band calendar was going to be,” McEuen explains. “Most people book eight months or a year in advance. By opening the gate, I have flood of cool places saying yes. My agents are doing a great job.”

The separation apparently frees him up financially as well. McEuen claims he’s always made more money performing solo than he did with the band.