Country music experienced two farewells recently, one from Kenny Rogers and another from John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Rogers completed his farewell performance to Nashville Oct. 25, All In For The Gambler, which reflected the amazing impact his musical career has had upon many genres and several generations.
An all-star cast of Rogers’ contemporaries – and many of today’s hottest musical artists – turned up Oct. 25 at the Bridgestone Arena in Music City to pay tribute to the Country Music Hall of Fame member, who is in the midst of his farewell tour, “The Gambler’s Last Deal.”
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night belonged to Dolly Parton, who teamed with Rogers one last time on their 1983 hit “Islands In The Stream” after surprising both Rogers – and the audience – with a heartfelt performance of “I Will Always Love You” to her friend and collaborator. The two also reminisced about their lengthy friendship – which dates back to a Rogers appearance on her syndicated TV show from the mid 1970’s – almost a decade before they first teamed up. The two also closed out their performing career together with the Grammy-nominated “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” a single from 2013.
Star after star performed Rogers hits as the evening progressed beginning with earliest songs from the First Edition throughout his solo career. There were spellbinding performances taking place from The Oak Ridge Boys (“Love Or Something Like It”), Chris Stapleton (“The Gambler”), and Lady Antebellum (“She Believes In Me”). Many of the 80’s and 90’s hits of the singer were featured during The Gambler’s Last Deal as well. Billy Currington delivered a sensual take on “Morning Desire,” with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and Idina Menzel teaming up for “We’ve Got Tonight,” a 1983 Rogers hit with Sheena Easton. Two of the singers’ most frequent collaborators figured prominently in this era with appearances with Lionel Richie giving a beautiful take on “’Lady,” a number one Pop and Country hit that he wrote for Kenny’s Greatest Hits album in 1980, and Alison Krauss saluted the singer with a pristine version of his romantic ballad “Love The World Away.” Another incredible performance came from Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and mother Linda Davis – who has toured extensively with Rogers over the years – uniting on stage for the singer’s 1987 chart-topper “Twenty Years Ago.”
There were several other great musical moments during All In For The Gambler, with Naomi and Wynonna Judd reuniting for “Back To The Well,” and an all-star group of Rogers’ former opening acts paying tribute to the icon with a sing-along performance of his 1982 hit “Blaze Of Glory,” including Travis Tritt, The Gatlin Brothers, Kim Forester, T.G. Sheppard, Crystal Gayle, Lee Greenwood, T. Graham Brown, and Billy Dean.
John McEuen, one of the founding members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGDB), has announced his immediate departure from the iconic group stating “enough is enough,” McEuen exited upon the conclusion of the NGDB 2017 tour in October.
“In assessing the situation surrounding our performances, business disagreements and ongoing difference of opinions, the timing is appropriate for my departure. As a catalyst to my decision, in December 2015, I received confirmation from Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Inc. that I was an ‘employee’– no longer a member of the corporation that I helped to build,” McEuen said.
He however is not ending his career but expanding his own solo career.
McEuen was instrumental in the NGDB band formation in 1966 and has celebrated groundbreaking and historical success alongside his counterparts over the past 50 years for the group’s significant contributions to the expression and expansion of American music worldwide. McEuen is most-widely recognized for his signature talents as “an extraordinary, multi-instrumentalist;” he has recorded more than 30 NGDB albums and created a lasting legacy for his seminal work on the Will the Circle Be Unbroken album, which McEuen initiated in 1971. Circle has been noted as “the most important record to come out of Nashville” by Rolling Stone and “the most important record in country music” (ZAGAT Survey/2004).
“It has been a great privilege to work alongside the others; together, we made history. After 50 years, the time has come for me to bid adieu to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band stage,” said John McEuen. “I will move forward with great pride in my personal and musical contributions to NGDB and now can fully concentrate on my independent endeavors. I have much to do and many more creative ideas to pursue. Because of this relationship, I have more stories than you can shake a pick at. (…That will come later!)”
McEuen has enjoyed a successful solo career with six albums to his credit; his most recent MADE IN BROOKLYN. McEuen has assembled an exquisite band of talented musicians to join him: Les Thompson (original founding NGDB member), John Cable (NGDB alumnus) and Matt Cartsonis. The foursome has created a multi-media show catering to some of the country’s most breath-taking opera houses and performing arts centers. He was recently inducted in the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame. Visit johnmceuen.com for more information.