Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Producer Bill McEuen Dies At 79

Record, film and TV producer Bill McEuen died on Sept. 24 in Kona, Hawaii at age 79.

He is best known as the producer and mastermind behind The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s landmark 1971 album Will the Circle Be Unbroken. The record featured the group collaborating with legends of old-time country music. It is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame and is considered to be a foundational work of what became known as Americana Music.

McEuen also produced the Dirt Band’s 1970 hit “Mr. Bojangles,” which is in the Grammy Hall of Fame as well. He managed the group for a time and arranged for it to become the first American band to tour the Soviet Union (1977).

Among his other clients were Pee Wee Herman, Steve Martin, LeRoux, Robert Shimmel, The Sunshine Company, John McEuen and the pre-Allman Brothers rock group Hourglass.

Bill McEuen produced four comedy albums for Steve Martin, which sold an estimated 10 million units. He also produced the comedian’s million-selling 1978 hit single “King Tut,” as well as Martin’s movie The Jerk.

McEuen’s Aspen Film Society company also produced the films Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Big Top Pee Wee, The Man with Two Brains, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Lonely Guy, Cold Dog Soup and The Big Picture, as well as a number of television specials.

He owned the Aspen Recording Society studio. He is the older brother of recording artist John McEuen, formerly a member of the Dirt Band.

William Eugene “Bill” McEuen is survived by his wife Alice and his brother John McEuen.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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